The best lines & lessons from IM电竞 London鈥檚 panel tracks

IM电竞 London BOXPARK Wembley
The exterior of BOXPARK Wembley during IM电竞 London 2021, November 8-9. Image credit: IM电竞-Inplay Matrix

The digitally-native esports industry pivoted leagues, tournaments, workplaces, and conferences online last year, shifting business models with them. This adaptability earned the industry headlines across major publications during the shifting phases of the pandemic.

But the physical element has been sorely missed 鈥 expressed ad nauseam by IM电竞 London attendees. The return of IM电竞 London brought with it the comforting return of physical events, physical networking, and physical opportunities to keep up- to-date with the latest and greatest trends in the esports industry.

IM电竞-Inplay Matrix collated some of the brightest minds in the competitive video game sector to talk about sustainability, diversity, emerging opportunities and future trajectories聽 鈥 with full intent to repeat the experience across the globe in 2022.

For those who missed the event, or want to relive it 鈥 read on for a selection of the best quotes, lessons, and themes from the five panel tracks during IM电竞 London 2021. The official event after movie and photo gallery might also help alleviate the post-event blues.

IM电竞-Inplay Matrix
Over 350 delegates attended IM电竞 London’s 2021 triumphant return, featuring two days of networking, debate, education, and play. Image credit: IM电竞-Inplay Matrix.

RELATED: Five key takeaways from IM电竞 London

The Dotted Line

The Dotted Line track centred around commercialisation, partnerships and revenue growth. Unsurprisingly, authenticity remains ever-green as a key theme.

During a brand showcase, G2 Esports鈥 Commercial Director Sabrina Ratih highlighted the importance of standing out and staying 鈥榬eal鈥 in esports. She said: 鈥淲e always want to be relevant, we always want to be authentic, we don鈥檛 want to tick boxes.鈥

Authenticity and relevance were further reinforced during IM电竞鈥檚 fashion and esports panel. As luxury brands pour themselves (and money) into esports, We Are Nations CEO Alex Romer reminded the attendees to keep the audience in mind; 鈥淚t鈥檚 not just about the product 鈥 it鈥檚 about the design, and what it means to them.鈥

During this panel, Fnatic鈥檚 Senior Partnerships Manager, Edward Gregory also summarised esports鈥 quintessential lesson: 鈥淓veryone in this room knows in esports, if you鈥檙e not authentic, your audience will eat your hand.鈥

YouGov鈥檚 Michael Heina shone a new light on esports audience metrics in his presentation on gaming influencers. 鈥淭he trend is your friend,鈥 he explained, in reference to the upward trend of gamers (especially younger ones) showing increasing interest in esports.

IM电竞-Inplay Matrix
Pictured left to right: Mark Donovan, Epics Collectibles; Nuno Fernandes, Exeedme; Kal Suurkask, TAAL; Fabio La Franca, Blueverse Ventures; Rebecca Liggero, CoinGeek. Image credit: IM电竞-Inplay Matrix

Angels & Unicorns

Big names and clever thinkers weighed in on longer-term trends during the Angels & Unicorns esports investment-focused panels.

On the increasing importance of physical esports venues, Guild Esports CCO Michelle Tierney said: 鈥淒igital community is very powerful, but we鈥檙e all humans, and humans have connection.鈥 However, a venue means little without an ecosystem behind it, explained Matthijs Vink, Co-Founder & CCO at the H20 Esports Campus: 鈥淚f you want to build a big venue, you have to build a big community first.鈥

Should your investor be your biggest fan? Or your biggest critic? Fosun Sports Group CFO Emeric Hudault and Spike Laure, Venture Director at Hiro Capita, disagreed in a lively panel ruminating on best practices for investor and start-up strategy in the space.

Laurie also reflected on the substantive rise of cryptocurrency, and its implications for esports. 鈥淓sports is no longer the golden child,鈥 he opined. 鈥淏lockchain is the golden child, and esports is the redheaded stepson.鈥

IM电竞-Inplay Matrix
Pictured left to right: Michelle Tierney, Guild Esports; Marie Mejerwall, Femina United; Rhys Courtney, Populous; Matthijs Vink, H20 Esports Campus; Rory Nicklin, The Story Mob. Image credit: IM电竞-Inplay Matrix

Esports Communities

The Esports Communities track panel focused on the collectiveness of esports consumers, and the opportunities presented by that collectiveness.

For Oliver Weingarten, Founder & CEO of LDN UTD, putting esports and its communities on the right path means oversight is needed. 鈥淲hat we鈥檙e crying out for,鈥 Weingarten believes, 鈥渋s an independent body that all the stakeholders can align with.鈥

On the topic of Esports Business in the UK, panelists discussed the UK鈥檚 comparative strengths in the sector, but also its weaknesses. 鈥淲e are definitely behind in terms of culture of using technology. We still use fax machines 鈥 that鈥檚 insane, it鈥檚 2021,鈥 derided Kalvin Chung, Director of MnM Gaming.

Icelandic Esports Association Chairman 脫lafur Steinarsson聽shared the details behind how Iceland introduced a grassroots esports model that actually works 鈥 and is financially viable, too. For Steinarsson, esports isn鈥檛 just video games; it鈥檚 the 鈥healthy pursuit of organized video game competition.鈥

Women In Games International (WIGI) pushed forward discussions around diversity in esports, and asked whether things were changing. Mitsouko Anderson, Morgan Sports Law鈥檚 Head of Partnerships in Esports, made a strong case: a forward-thinking diversity policy doesn鈥檛 just make moral sense, it also makes business sense 鈥 those without one are quickly going to lose rising talent.

Post pandemic revenue streams - what lessons will stick from 2020-21?
Pictured left to right: Alexander Lewin, BLAST; Heather Dower, Hotdrop; Claire Hungate, Team Liquid; Chris Kissack, Digital Isle of Man. Image credit: IM电竞-Inplay Matrix.

In Play

One major topic of discussion at IM电竞 London was the development of esports betting and how the gambling sector is integrating into esports. Discussion highlighted pressing points within the sector: gambling sponsorships, and betting鈥檚 complicated future in the US.聽

“It’s really expensive to get in [the US esports market] right now, especially for us being fairly recently listed publicly traded,鈥 highlighted Thomas Rosander, CEO of Luckbox. 鈥淲e have to find another way to come in.鈥

Nevertheless, Anton Jan茅r, Abios鈥 Founder and CTO, had optimism for the future of esports betting in the US: 鈥淭here was a time when esports was a really hot topic in the sports betting world. But as soon as the US started to lift the lid a little bit, everyone just ran away from esports and straight over to the US.

鈥淏ut given that esports has now become a part of how betting is regulated and introduced in the US, it is definitely a hallmark for how far and how accepted esports has become in this business.鈥

Gambling sponsorships also saw its share of attention during the panels. Adam Savinson, Esports Director for Betway Group, highlighted that no matter the brand, it鈥檚 imperative that marketing efforts need to be authentic.

鈥淓sports is a complicated industry,鈥 he said. 鈥淭his isn’t something that’s easy. There is long planning, strategic thinking that goes into making sure you’re doing the best marketing campaign.鈥

Esports? Gaming? Opportunity! - sponsored by YouGov
Pictured left to right: Kerry Waananen, IM电竞-Inplay Matrix; Michael. Heina, YouGov. Image credit: IM电竞-Inplay Matrix

Reaching new audiences

The ways that esports can be a powerful tool to access audiences otherwise notoriously difficult to reach were explored in the Reaching new audiences track.

鈥淓sports is a catalyst for digital skills, it鈥檚 better than any I鈥檝e ever seen, and that鈥檚 why it鈥檚 important for students,鈥 said Jack Fenton, Head of Esports at the University of Warwick. Esports is a great educational tool because it lets you 鈥渓earn how to learn,鈥 added Matt Watson of the IFoEC.

鈥淚f you are 12 or 13, you have used Roblox to hang out with your friends, that game played a similar role social media played when I was a kid,鈥 said Erik Londre, Founder of Karta, during a panel about in-game advertising. With 鈥榤etaverse鈥 being the year鈥檚 top buzzword, we鈥檙e all set to start thinking more about marketing in the changing digital landscape.聽

Alex Coulson, Managing Director of NSE, noted the distinct advantages of investing at the grassroots level. 鈥淎ctive players over eyeballs,鈥 Alex remarked, arguing quality trumps quantity when it comes to reaching and engaging an esports audience.

Gaming releases more dopamine than sex was the flashy takeaway from MADMONQ Founder & CEO Michal Noga鈥檚 presentation. Typical gamer lifestyle choices are often detrimental to health, and it鈥檚 going to come back to haunt us, he warned.

Though IM电竞 London concluded just weeks ago, December 1st and 2nd will see IM电竞 Digital Winter round off IM电竞-Inplay Matrix鈥檚 2021 event circuit. The digital event will host a range of panels, Brello鈥檚 top-of-class networking platform, and the fourth edition of the IM电竞-Inplay Matrix Hall of Fame presented by GamingMalta.

IM电竞's 2021 Events Calendar