For years, the esports business has been undergoing rapid growth across the board
If we look back in history, to a little more than a decade ago, we can safely say that ‘esports’ was, at the time, a fledgling, underpowered industry. It was a misunderstood niche; a stigmatised concept scoffed at by the ill-informed. Today, the esports industry is worth some $1.38 billion, according to Newzoo‘s global esports report, and there are expectations that, by 2025, it’ll boast an audience of more than 630 million people.
For years, the esports business has been undergoing rapid growth across the board. From sponsorships and salaries to viewership figures and broadcast rights, esports as an industry is quickly becoming an absolute titan. It’s an international ecosystem, powered by the world’s most popular video games and by hundreds of millions of dollars of investments.
And at the moment, there’s remarkable potential for Malta to be at the heart of that rapid growth.
Could Malta be the Next Big Thing in Esports?
In 2019, it was suggested that Malta could become ‘Europe’s central hub for esports’, and shortly after, a deal was signed between GamingMalta and the Electronic Sports League (ESL). Later, in 2022, this deal was reinvigorated and extended, bringing one of the biggest esports leagues in the world to Malta until 2024.
It was made clear in a statement issued by the Commissioner of the ESL Pro League, Alex Inglot, that Malta could certainly be a long-term home for esports:
“Malta meets and exceeds our expectations and we’re very happy with this partnership. Two things stand out: firstly, it’s a beautiful place, full stop. As a summer venue, it gives six beautiful weeks, and our teams and players love being there. It’s just a glorious place to be.”
At present, there are no specific venues dedicated to hosting large esports tournaments, but that is something that could certainly be on the horizon. This year, the Malta Esports Association (MESA) was founded, created with the goal of overseeing the ‘ongoing growth story’ for the esports scene in Malta. At the heart of MESA’s mission sits the desire to mould esports into a viable and thriving economic pillar for Malta, and it’s a goal that, at the moment, seems extremely achievable.
Michele Magro, the President of MESA, explained in simple terms the overarching mission of the organisation:
“The Malta Esports Association aims to be a unifying body for esports in Malta, seeking to standardise, professionalise and help esports on its journey towards a stable, sustainable and reliable competitive activity, educational tool, and an attractive economic niche and advertising medium.”
To Build an Industry
As the quote goes, ‘inventing a job is better than finding one’. As the esports industry continues to swell, it’s tapping into new and developing markets all around the world, and many nations are rushing to play catch-up. For Malta, becoming an esports hub could be as simple as adopting a ‘build it and they will come’ mentality.
Currently, there is no ‘set home’ for the esports industry – it remains a diverse, dynamic, and versatile beast that can realistically be deployed anywhere, at any time. There’s an intense volume of work going on right now behind the scenes to properly regulate and govern the industry, but for the most part, it remains fluid and ever-changing.
If Malta could capitalise on that fluidity and slip into the fast-flowing stream of growth that the esports industry is experiencing, it could quickly establish itself as a key player in the European scene.
There are several key advantages that make Malta an attractive target for esports industry investors. Firstly, there’s the super-stable and resilient internet infrastructure that the country boasts, which is arguably the most important factor for a digitally-focused industry.
As a popular tourist destination, Malta already offers a high level of accessibility, an extensive network of hotels, conference centres, entertainment facilities, and of course, unbeatable Mediterranean scenery. It’s an attractive location to visitors even without being a hub for an industry that boasts hundreds of millions of fans.
If MESA, GamingMalta, and the government were to work together to ‘invent the job’, making Malta a home for esports, it would likely open up hundreds of jobs and opportunities across the island. From suppliers to equipment vendors and from broadcast talent to caterers, security staff to talent managers, and from technical workers to the players themselves, esports remains a blossoming pot of potential.
That’s an image and an ecosystem that any country would be proud to project.
What Does Malta Need to Do?
There is a mass of initiatives and strategies ongoing as you read this article, but there’s always more to be done. From grassroots projects to top-tier tournaments, Malta can work to become the target destination for more esports events. In the esports industry, the biggest drivers for revenue are the sponsorships made by those investing in the industry. As more events surface, sponsors will become much more attracted to the country as a long-term venue, and deals will be struck.
With partnerships and sponsorships comes visibility, and with visibility comes events and footfall. There will be merchandising initiatives, cross-industry opportunities (tourism, gambling, hospitality), and even relocation potential for existing organisations, professional players and entities.
Of course, a lot of those aspects of becoming an esports hub are far in the future, but those working to achieve them are optimistic. In an interview, Ivan Filletti, well-known COO at GamingMalta, spoke positively on the future of the venture:
“We’ll continue to build our local esports ecosystem, the infrastructure, and one has to see the results that one gets after three years. We’ll assess that and see how best to move forward. Depending on the budgets we have, we’re open to any organizations to partner with on esports. Malta is open for business.”
Could Malta truly become a home for esports at some point in the near future? It’s an ambitious mission, but given the growth of the industry and the fact that Malta has already made waves across the scene, it seems ever-so-possible that it could be.
This article is brought to you by Gianfranco Capozzi, Head of Esports & Growth at Catena Media, operating esports.net, esportsbets.com