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What is the future of esports?

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Matthew Taylor
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Esports, women’s sports, and insights from a living legend – these are just some of the sporting highlights from the 2023 event in Lisbon. Here’s what some of our speakers had to say about them. 

Web Summit 2023 brought together speakers from across the globe to discuss not just tech, but many of the things impacting society and the economy. 

Sports is big business, representing US$13 trillion of value to the global economy in 2023, and growing. Increasingly, sports is both reliant on and driving technological changes as athletes and gamers seek the competitive edge.     

Here are some of the sports highlights at Web Summit 2023, from speakers including the footballing legend Cesc Fabregas, Craig Levine, co-CEO of ESL Faceit group, one of the world’s leading esports gaming groups, and Mercury 13 founder and CEO Victoire H. Cogevina Reynal.

The democratisation of esports

The combination of high-speed 5G networks and global access to smartphones has solidified mobile gaming as esport’s largest sector.

According to Craig Levine – co-CEO of one of the world’s leading esports gaming groups, ESL Faceit group – 2.6 billion out of the 3.2 billion global gamers play on mobile devices. That’s a whopping 80 percent of users. But why?

Craig claimed this is down to three factors: richer, more exciting games; a wider range of options available at your fingertips; and a more diverse audience.

“When you look at the entire market, on top of seeing richer, more immersive games, there are so many different types, and that’s really creating a more diverse audience,” said Craig.

And while mobile gaming has been around since the popularisation of Nokia’s Snake in 1997, there has been a huge jump in the number of users in recent years.

According to Qualcomm CMO Don McGuire, “mobile platforms have been delivering console-level gaming experiences … for the past five years”. 

But the major difference is the cross-platform accessibility of those games. “You can now game between devices, like the case of an esports player playing against someone in a BMW off a 31-inch screen,” said Don.

Cesc appeal

Football legend Cesc Fábregas utilised the Web Summit stage to announce an entry into management, taking over Italian team Como 1907. 

The former Arsenal, Chelsea, Monaco and Barcelona midfielder – who is an investor in the club alongside Thierry Henry – was a player at the Serie B side last season. Cesc admitted the move to management “has been quick, even for me”.

“It’s about the project,” said the World Cup and double-European Championship winner. “There are very competent people here. The staff are great. The players know exactly what the shirt means. I fell in love with the project straight away.”

Arguing that the job is a long-term decision – “I’m not here for two days or two months” – Cesc said the ultimate aim is for the club to reach the Champions League: “It’s one of the objectives of the club. We dream big; we’re ambitious.”

When reminiscing about his playing career, which ended with three league titles across a 20-year career, the Spaniard hinted that his move from Arsenal to Barcelona was the one decision he regretted: “I think if I could go back now in time, I would wait a little bit more and go a little bit later.” 

Is women’s football where the money is?

2023 truly feels like the year for women’s football. From a hugely successful Women’s World Cup down under to the soaring NWSL franchise fees in the US, worldwide attention on women’s football is at a fever pitch. This, and more, is why Mercury 13 is focusing on new opportunities arising in the game. 

Mercury 13 founder and CEO Victoire H. Cogevina Reynal runs a business that is “looking to acquire majority stakes in professional women’s football clubs across Europe and, hopefully, the rest of the world”.

Not just straight investment – the company is reported to have a US$100 million fund – Victoire is hoping to commercialise more and more clubs in anticipation of the “new wave of fans coming into the game”.

“Men’s football has been incredibly successful, but there have been things that made it an unsustainable business,” said Victoire. “We are looking to better that, bring a new sustainable future to these clubs by depending on revenue streams that are not out of our control, but within our control.”

“Any entrepreneur can see the value that there is”, said Victoire, in a sport that’s shaped “like a hockey stick” in terms of growth. 

However, for those thinking that Lewes FC in England would be one of the first to join the Mercury 13 stable, no such luck. In the weeks following Web Summit, both parties “mutually decided to bring conversations about a potential investment partnership to an end”.


Web Summit Qatar takes place in Doha from February 26-29. Book your tickets now.

Main image: Web Summit

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