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Fnatic: 15 years at the forefront of esports

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July 27, 2019 1:05 pm

Fnatic: 15 years at the forefront of esports

According to Fnatic founder Sam Mathews, the growth of e-sports in the last 15 years has been “crazy, honestly amazing”. He was 19 years old when he founded the London-based organisation in 2004.

Today Fnatic is one of the most famous teams in the world and wins trophies all over the world. After an investment of 15 million pounds and before the anniversary celebrations, Sam spoke to Newsbeat about the future.

“When I was 19, it was a dream to play video games, let alone run a company where they only play video games,” says Sam.

“I think we knew early on the vision for what was to come, it was inevitable that the devices would get there and the Internet connection would grow. It took a long time, and only with streaming, YouTube and the ability to see it live did it start.”

“Because it was not only the thrill of the game but also the thrill of watching people who are much better at this than you could ever be. I think that’s what’s so exciting now. It’s the new TV.”

Esports is expected to become a billion-dollar industry by 2020

Fnatic has players and teams playing in a number of titles like League of Legends, Counter-Strike and FIFA, Sam says, “The scale is crazy now, though – it’s amazing.”

Given the popularity of e-sports – with millions of online events and the amount of money they generate growing all the time – more and more people are starting to pay attention.

Sam tells us: “Other sports organisers naturally consider it a threat – and rightly so. It’s like before Spotify; there were CDs, and before this vinyl.”

“In my opinion, the sport is similarly disturbed by this always online appealing experience you get from playing. I think that’s something the sports out there will hopefully adapt to – and change to be part of this new wave.”

As attention increases, especially in the care and treatment of players by the esports organisations, Sam says it’s something Fnatic and other established teams are ready for: “If you look at what Riot Games does with League of Legends.”

“They rule this game very strongly and watch everything that happens. There is a centralised contract database, and there are all these things that are publicly available.”

“If there were any situations of manipulation, they would take action.”

“There’s more risk with newer titles because suddenly there are a lot of new organisations taking care of the players – but if we get bigger and bigger and there are more unions, those things won’t cause problems anymore or at least they won’t decrease. I don’t necessarily encourage governments to try to start regulating, because suddenly it’s like something that is inherently a free market and an open ecosystem in Europe or Asia.”

“If there are blockers, it could start to get really hard to thrive as an evolving sport. Anything that gains profile will have critics, and there will be things where people will look at it and say, “Is that healthy?”.”

15 years this week, since founding Fnatic together with Anne Mathews, Sam hopes the company will continue to grow in another 15 years.

He says: “In the next 15 years everything will be about talent, we want to be here to strengthen e-athletes, but also creative people.”

“I also think that mobile e-sports are the future, people used to be like ‘ohhh, I’ll just play on my console or my PC’, but in reality, it’s what everyone has, and it’s getting more powerful.”

“It will bring the masses to play, and I think I’d like to be world champion in a mobile game for us.”

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