Charlotte Kenny, Managing Director of BLAST Premier in conversation with Games MEA talks about her experience and exuberance of venturing into the Middle East to dish out world-class esporting events to one of the fastest growing gaming and esports markets on the planet
Welcome to the region, kindly share your thoughts about the esports landscape in the Middle East, and what drove you to venture into this region.
Thank you for the welcome. It’s a pleasure to get to know the region better. We’ve seen huge growth of gaming and esports across the world in recent years, and the Middle East has become one of the fastest growing markets. Knowing there is a core community of gamers and fans interested in our world class events of course is a huge draw for us to come here. We’ve been blown away by the passion for gaming in the Middle East, and the incredible reaction we’ve had since announcing our intentions to bring the World Final to Abu Dhabi this December.
Besides a hyper-engaged gaming community, there is a wealth of facilities and infrastructure that is ready and waiting for the esports industry to explode in the Middle East. With this thriving gaming community in the UAE and Middle East, comes a number of exciting opportunities, in the form of more world-class events, increased career openings, a deeper talent pool of players starting to develop and more organisations starting to realise the true power of esports.
What is the most striking thing that you notice, while entering the Middle East region, and why do you think it is so significant?
On a personal level, the most striking thing you notice is the hospitality and hugely warm welcome from everyone you meet. Add to this, the world class infrastructure and facilities – everything from the hotels, state-of-the-art venues like the Etihad Arena, transport links etc, these all make the UAE a great place to visit.
From a professional viewpoint, the most striking impression is the massive potential the esports industry has here – the sky truly is the limit when it comes to the region’s future in the industry. For example, the UAE topped a recent survey that reported 90 percent of adults play video games in the country, and 23 percent are frequent gamers. This passionate local community coupled with strong governmental support from organisations such as ADGaming, means we’ll see the industry go from strength-to-strength in the future and more opportunities will be provided for all gamers.
It’s a hugely exciting space to be a part of, that appeals to so many in ways traditional sports perhaps do not. I am sure, in a few years we’ll be sitting back reflecting on a Middle East gaming and esports community bursting with incredible experiences and talent.
How would you quantify the quality of players in the Middle East and what can be done to further enhance their skills?
There is no doubt the level and scale of talent in the region has improved over the last few years globally as well as in the Middle East. But of course, there’s always room for growth and improvement. The standards are always increasing and the skill and dedication from our professional teams and players is outstanding. We need to provide more education, more opportunities and more support for communities, teams and leagues across the world to learn from each other in order to improve competition tension and skill.
Hosting the BLAST Premier World Final in the UAE will do just this, giving gamers who are aspiring to be professional esports players an opportunity to see and experience a first-class esports event with the world’s best Counter-Strike players competing in their backyard. We hope that the World Final and our partnership with ADGaming can have an important role to play in years to come, and in turn, create a thriving grassroots infrastructure with increased access to the global events.
What is the biggest differentiator between BLAST Premier and other esports tournaments? What special does it offer to players and the fans?
I am proud to say that BLAST Premier stands out from the rest due to a number of key points:
- Our unparalleled and unrivalled production quality
- Our game changing fan-first moments, that allow fans to be really immersed and part of the action, that attracts thousands of fans to our live events in big arenas, with millions more watching at home on our global broadcasts.
We pride ourselves on giving players and fans the best experience possible. BLAST Premier events travel to all parts of the world and unite people through their shared love of CS:GO and esports in the process. We promise you won’t want to miss next month’s World Final in the Etihad Arena, the experience will leave you seeing esports, gaming and entertainment, in a completely different light!
How would you define your partnership with Abu Dhabi Gaming and what can fans expect from this year’s BLAST Premier finals in Abu Dhabi?
The BLAST Premier and ADGaming partnership is centred around providing first-class esports and gaming experiences and opportunities for the local gaming community. Bringing the BLAST Premier World Final to Abu Dhabi is a significant moment as it’s the most high-profile esports tournament to arrive in the region.
An esports tournament of this scale has never happened before in Abu Dhabi and it is something that BLAST is very proud of. This is what the UAE is working towards and ADGaming, a pioneering gaming and esports initiative, is helping deliver the BLAST Premier World Final is a perfect example.
Fans can expect the best esports production in the world along with the best teams and biggest superstars fighting it out for glory and a multi-million dollar prize pool on a global stage. AD Gaming, since they were founded in 2021, have brought over 30 game developers into the UAE capital. The work they are doing overall in this space perfectly aligns with our vision of growing the esports landscape worldwide.
What do you have to say about girl power in the gaming and esports domain? Have we seen enough girl players seeking to play at this year’s BLAST Premier finals in Abu Dhabi?
Girl power doesn’t start at the console or keyboard – it transcends to all levels and areas in esports – production, business, management, sports science and so much more. This is why esports is so powerful – gender is not a barrier. We are seeing a growing number of female faces and personalities on the global esport scene – from our very own broadcast host Freya, to numerous all-female Counter-Strike teams and other leading organisational faces such as Team Managers and CEOs.
This growing female presence is undoubtedly impacting the global grassroots scene and giving young gamers idols to aspire to – we’re seeing female gaming enthusiasm overtake male interest in key MENA regions. In the UAE specifically, female gamers make up 58 percent of online adults. What’s important to illustrate here is that esports provides a gateway for everyone.
What are your plans for the Middle East beyond this tournament?
We have a three-year partnership with ADGaming where we want to make a lasting legacy on the gaming and esports community in the UAE and wider Middle East. We will host each of our next three World Finals; our most prestigious event with the biggest and best teams in Abu Dhabi.
In-between these events we will be working on various initiatives to provide further opportunities and experiences to help the local scene grow and develop. This will be in the shape of vocational programmes, developing curriculum based content with schools and universities, offering work placements across a range of areas, behind-the-scenes tours, collegiate gaming and seminars – all with the aim of looking to inspire the next generation of gamers.
Last but not least, how can people watch their favourite stars in action?
People can buy tickets to watch the BLAST Premier World Final by visiting https://www.etihadarena.ae/en/event-booking/blast-premier-world-final-2022