Esports News UK’s Craig Robinson had the opportunity to speak with Adam Jessop, owner and CEO of recently rebranded UK org Endpoint, during Meltdown Sheffield’s DreamHack Anaheim viewing party last Friday.
We spoke about CSGO, the state of UK esports including success in tier 2 esports, their female Rainbow Six team and more.
So, Endpoint is at DreamHack Anaheim. How does it feel to be a UK team that made it out to attend international events through the ESL Pro Tour?
It’s not our first international event but it’s the first one at this level, certainly for Counter-Strike, anyway. It is right where we want to be. You know, when we picked up this team, we picked one with international experience. So Surreal and CRUC1AL have both played internationally, Thomas has obviously been at the minor. We have guys that we know in Max (MiGHTYMAX) and Robiin.
So… this is the goal. We want to be competing at DreamHack and WESG, which hopefully happens later in the year. We will be going to Copenhagen Games. We want to be pushing and flying that flag for British esports, not just in CSGO, but at various international competitions. Thanks to the ESL Pro Tour, they have given us the opportunity to do that at Anaheim. I know we have just lost, but we can make the most of it, make a name for ourselves and not come away with our heads held low.
(This interview took place after Endpoint’s bo1 defeat to FURIA. They went on to get knocked out but put up a good fight)
What do you see in players like Thomas and Crucial who have the international experience? What do they bring to Endpoint that can elevate you further?
I think it is a level of experience and a level of skill that stands out. Which is why we picked them up. Surreal has got that experience from playing on Complexity for such a long time. Thomas has been on Endpoint before and for a while. He has always kinda stood out as a frag heavy player. He is the guy whose stats always stand out and so it is no surprise he stood in for teams at the minor and things like that.
Really, we want to pick up great British players and bring them together, so we have a great British team – not just players dotted around. Because historically all the best players have had to go and join other teams internationally, because, being honest, we haven’t had that infrastructure.
We are kind of at a point where we feel we can provide it and bring the best UK talents together and have them compete on an international level.
Speaking about the infrastructure of CSGO in the UK, you got your DreamHack invite through the ESL Premiership. Is this the start of the infrastructure coming into the UK, or do we need a bit more work?
I think ESL have done a great job with the Pro Tour and they have given us the opportunity to go to DreamHack. So that is one side of it. The other side is teams in general. There is no denying that the funding and the level of sponsorship and things like that is much lower than Scandinavian countries and North America etc.
It is a real balance for teams giving their players proper support and facilities to train. That is something we are working hard towards.
As you mentioned with areas like NA and Scandinavia, what specifically do you reckon the UK scene exactly needs?
It is a good question. It is one that has been an internal thought process for me for a long time, in terms of what we can do in the UK to get out there and bring in more deals. Ultimately, I think its recognition. The more stages like DreamHack Anaheim that we can compete in, the more eyes we get on us as a brand.
Historically in the UK, we have always had good players that unfortunately the organisations haven’t done a great job of making the most of. I think a lot of bridges have been burnt. We see that in sponsors as well – both endemic and non-endemic. I think right now it is an educational process, where we tell brands that actually there is a big esports audience in the UK.
Sure, we might not be competing at the highest level of some of these international teams, but fans are here. They are tuning in to Twitch, they are watching Rocket League, Counterstrike, whatever it may be. It is the right place to put your money and we will look after you. I think in the past that hasn’t always been the case.
Unfortunately, we have seen a lot of organisations come and go in a short space of time. Perhaps they burnt sponsors’ figures with that.
But this process is slowly changing. Esports on an international stage is getting bigger and bigger and it’s the same here in the UK. But we don’t have the recognition from a government point of view. We are not a thing yet here in the UK. But, also from a brand point of view. That education needs to be worked on across the board, really.
On opportunities with branding, CSGO is changing with the BLAST, ESL and Flashpoint stuff. As a grassroots org, what are your thoughts on these pathways in 2020?
I think the more competition the better. Like, you don’t really get anything out of a monopoly. If there was just one league trying for that fanbase then it would be much harder to get into that league.
Now that we have Flashpoint and ESL trying to do their own thing, I think it’s good. However, I do think it has brought in an issue with it being harder for teams like us to get to that top level. It is well publicised that Flashpoint teams are paying $2m to be a part of that business model. Yeah, there are qualifiers to get into that and we were unfortunate not to make it through them.
So genuinely, the more competition the better. I just worry that it’s going to become an elitist club that becomes harder and harder to get into. That is what we are seeing with the ESL Pro League spots. They have gotten smaller, got rid of teams that have been in there for a number of seasons. The way they handled that was a little bit bad. Hopefully, it all comes good.
We are certainly not in a position where we can pay $2m for a guaranteed spot.
Speaking of investment, Excel Esports! Is this the sign that the UK scene can get there?
Yeah. It is something we are working hard towards. We’ve got a great partnership with CeX, who recognise the growth of esports, certainly here in the UK. It kind of goes hand in hand of what they (CeX) are trying to do. They are gamers at heart, and they put ttheir money where their mouth is.
We are working on a number of things behind the scenes, we want to open our own offices, training facilities and build up infrastructure around the teams. That is something we are very much looking forward to doing.
So yeah, times are changing, and we are seeing more money coming in the scene. It is just a case of people knowing how to manage that and not be a bubble – a flash in the pan so to speak.
Is this part of the reason why you are investing in partnerships and growth so much? You have your CeX sponsorship, we are here at Meltdown Sheffield for a viewing party, you’ve rebranded and brought on a top Rocket League team… Are you trying to make a proper core and solid UK fanbase?
Yeah. I think that us being based in Sheffield (and not London where you compete with Fnatic and Excel) is what we want to leverage. Sheffield has a large student population, there are two big universities here. So, we are trying to make it our home ground so to speak and do more home ground activations such as this.
We are here at Meltdown, we have our CSGO team, a boot camp at an esports facility just up the road. We are very much trying to bang that drum and say there are teams local to you that are competing on the international stage. This is really what this viewing party is about. It is about getting the word out there that there are British esports teams that are right on your doorstep, and you just don’t know about it.
Out of personal interest, I’m from the North West and there isn’t much of this sort of stuff. What is so special about Yorkshire? Because Leeds has Pixel Bar and you have Meltdown. Then there are orgs like MnM, Endpoint, big UK orgs based near here (Sheffield). North West has Barrage and Vexed. In terms of expanding reach in the North, it feels there is an open market still. Do you reckon this will become more solid in the future?
I do, yeah. I think what we will see in esports as it matures is the fact that orgs will start land grabbing in terms of offline activity. We are situated in South Yorkshire and we want to capitalise on the fact we are the biggest in that area.
Over in Manchester, there is Vexed, Barrage in Blackpool, I think MnM is somewhere that way as well. I do think it will become more and more important as esports gets more popular. I think we will start seeing a traditional sports model if you like where orgs have a home base and a local fanbase.
Obviously, the beauty of esports is that it is predominantly online, and you can be a fan of a team wherever you are. And that is great. But certainly, it would be harder for us to exist if we were in London because you become instantly comparable to Excel and Fnatic. And we just don’t have that budget or popularity.
In terms of where Endpoint is going, what about other games? Rocket League and Rainbow Six, for example, are ‘tier 2’ esports pushing ‘tier 1’? You’ve had a team in Rocket League, are doing stuff with Battalion, Rainbow Six is pushing national leagues with the latest news from the Six Invitational…
You talk about these games and they are where the UK has a strong representation. There are a lot of really good players in those games. So, I certainly think there is an opportunity for a British esports organisation to go in and own that space. MnM has done a great job in Rainbow Six and made a name for themselves a number of times. Every team they pick up seems to do phenomenally well.
With Rocket League you have got Veloce Esports in RLCS. There are British players competing on FC Barcelona, Team Vitality and now we are in RLCS too.
There are other games we are interested in going into. You mentioned Battalion and we were world champions and almost untouchable in that game. But unfortunately, the scene has kind of died down. But what we are doing is those guys are sitting back and waiting for Riot’s Project A.
It is about keeping your ear to the ground to see what that next esport title could be. It’s all about how we could hit the ground running in another title
We may have missed the boat with Siege. It is something I am interested in. But when you have people like MnM doing so well and there are other teams around us, we may have just let Siege slip past by.
We do have a female Siege team, and that is very important to us. We do want to push inclusivity in esports and female gaming in general. That is the way we have kept involved with Siege and have that female team, and they are doing a great job of representing us in that aspect. But whether we pick up a male team, I don’t know, it’s highly unlikely at this point, because we would rather support the females.
What is it you specifically see in the female team? I believe it is only the CCS League in Siege that does female tournaments and they have good community traction. So, in terms of women’s esports where do you think this will push it in the future?
I think we will see more and more female esports. You certainly see it in Counter-Strike. For example, there is a lot of female-only competitions. You mentioned the CCS league for Siege and I certainly think we will see more of that. They did a great job in pushing CCSW. The viewership figures were going up. The fanbase was right behind it, and thankfully, the girls did well.
I do think we will see more female gaming events; I think one was just announced supported by non-endemic beauty brands. I think women in esports is generally getting more important and people are realising that they need to do more in supporting women, being more inclusive and getting them involved whenever they can. I am certainly proud we are doing our part in that.
On a final note for a bit of fun. I have noticed walking around Sheffield the BT boards that spin to an Excel jersey. Do you guys want to be that in the near future?
Yeah, absolutely. I mean that is where any team aspires to be. We want a mainstream non-endemic sponsor. If we can have Virgin Media front and centre of our jerseys, then sure let’s do that guys, pick up the phone. It doesn’t really matter who it is. It is about working with the right partner.
I think Excel have done a great job. They have obviously invested a lot of money into what they have done and built this infrastructure around the team and built their fanbase. They are seeing the rewards of that with the BT partnership. So, hats off to them. In a way we are proud of them and what they have done for the UK because we know it is hard.
We know how hard it is to get to that level and so we are proud of them even if they are a rival team. We don’t really see them as rivals as we compete in different games, we see them as friends. If we can get to that stage where we represent a household name like BT, then great. That is absolutely where we want to be heading.