Not to toot our own horn, but since the first event back in 2016, The Esports Awards have grown into THE awards platform in the gaming industry. From humble beginnings hosting a small event in London to packing out The Esports Stadium in Arlington and hosting the first-ever awards show at Resorts World Las Vegas, the most expensive building on the Vegas strip, the journey has been wild and it is not slowing down.
Once again, The Esports Awards return to Resorts World in Vegas this November, and we have some incredibly special things planned that will make this the most memorable show yet. But before we get there we thought that the launch of our LinkedIn newsletter would be the perfect place to look back at the history of the awards, and how it has grown so much thanks to the support of the community.
“We were almost too early,” says Mike Ashford, CEO of The Esports Awards. “We were there pre-franchising, pre-Fortnite and some of the big shifts that led to large amounts of VC funding coming into the space. We were almost there as a prelude, at a point where esports was becoming very exciting, and had large-scale fandom, but the revenues weren’t following it. I think the events we ran in London were very good from an outcome perspective and a sort of sentiment and feeling perspective. But it was very hard at that point to generate the revenue needed to sustain the platform long term and build it out.”
The first three events were held at The Brewery in London and while starting out small in scope, always pulled in thousands of viewers online. Each year things grew bigger and bigger, with more top stars from the world of esports attending, adding to the prestige of the platform. Soon everyone in the industry wanted to come, especially if they were up for an award and could get the experience of accepting it in person, but for many, it was one of the few chances each year to see friends from across the industry.
“An awards platform is so much more than the event and trophies that get handed out, it is a bridge between different facets of the industry,” says Ashford. “I think everyone would agree that esports has a fragmented approach, as an industry there is no one size fits all. Our event is probably the only one where everyone is at the same place at the same time and can network and interface and share war stories, innovations and ways forward. And that’s been something that’s been incredibly important to me since our move to America, back in 2019, understanding that the awards are a central point for celebration and recognition, but also the wider platform is something that can bring the industry together.”
In 2019 The Esports Awards jumped over the pond to The Esports Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The big move to the States was a calculated move, with the team at the time knowing there was greater opportunity but also much greater risk. A significant portion of the online viewership for each of the previous award ceremonies was from the US, and that created a bit of a disconnect for UK brands sponsoring a platform in the UK, if they didn’t already have a presence in the US a significant portion of the viewers wouldn’t even have access to their products.
“For us to be a British brand with big American viewership numbers, it made it very hard to balance,” says Ashford. “Then we got a call from the Arlington CVB and they were pitching that they were building the first ever dedicated esports arena and it was a $10 million facility, and they wanted us to come and be the flagship event. We saw it as sort of the American dream.”
After a brief pandemic-enforced online experiment the awards have been held in the USA ever since and have only grown in size. With more awards, bigger personalities and some awe-inspiring broadcasts the show is now a must-watch, not only for the industry itself but also for any esports or gaming fan. It’s a way to celebrate the achievements of the fantastic people who provide us with hours of entertainment, mostly for free.
“I do think the validation is very important, to have a platform that is agnostic and holistic and all-encompassing, for better or worse, to be able to celebrate what you’re doing,” says Ashford. “We’re all perfectionists, we all like to think we’re high achievers, and we’re not very good at celebrating each other’s achievements, let alone our own. And that’s where we are able to come in with a panel of experts that span the start of the industry being built 20-30 years ago, all the way to people just getting their big break now who are very informed on the different titles and the different award criteria, that can basically come together and give that nod of appreciation and recognition to people.”
And that brings us to 2023 and what will be the biggest iteration of The Esports Awards to date, in more ways than one! We’ve got some amazing things planned that you will hear about very soon, and a list of finalists that would make the Oscars jealous. Once again it will be held at Resorts World Las Vegas, but this time we are broadcasting live from Zouk, which is the perfect venue for a platform like this.
“The Esports Awards has always been an iterative process, we certainly got things wrong along the way,” says Ashford. “We’ve always held our hands up, but learning and building has always been the way that we’ve been able to build hopefully a bigger and better esports platform. This year we’re going back to our esports roots a little bit, we’re taking over Zouk. It has $45 million worth of LED panels that will allow us to build some strong moments around the biggest moments, the best gameplay and the biggest players. My catchphrase for it is that it will be the most technologically advanced award show of all time.”
The Esports Awards will be broadcast live on November 30th 2023. Tickets are available now, so be sure to get yours before they sell out.