Launched in 2016, under the name Xbox One Scotland, as a place for Esports Scotland owner, James Hood, to talk to like-minded gamers in Scotland. He later realised Scotland had a passion for esports and he jumped on it.
Fast forward to 2018, and the launch of the Scottish Esports League Season 1 and Esports Scotland made it official. With the goal being to ‘provide opportunities for esports talent in Scotland to be scouted by professional teams through hosting and sponsoring tournaments nationwide with the focus always on Scotland’.
Scotland Esports is now in full flow, with the LAN finals planned for Edinburgh, the recently announced an Overwatch Cup on Xbox One, Esports Scotland are looking to make their first year an important one.
We spoke with Brian Houston, Operations Manager at Esports Scotland about the future, the challenges and what drives the team.
Esports Insider: Tell us a little about what made you start Esports Scotland.
Brian Houston: Esports Scotland started in January 2016 when James Hood decided that something needed to be done about the Scottish esports scene.
It began as a community on Facebook and has since grown into an organisation with over 20 volunteers, an esports league covering ten games and reach across multiple social media. We are hoping to unite all the players, teams, organisations and tournament organisers across all of Scottish esports as well as promote the Scottish video game industry.
ESI: Who is the team made up of and what is their history in esports?
Brian Houston: We have quite a large team now with over 20 volunteers. These range from David Barrett and Iain Livingstone who were some of the team that organised the biggest fighting game tournament in Europe with Hypespotting, to Craig and Emma McNeill who have run a successful gaming show called MarriedWithXbox for a number of years now.
If we named all of our amazing volunteers, it would take up most of the article but every single one of them is extremely talented and passionate about not only helping the Scottish esports scene but the UK’s esport scene in general.
“That’s the end goal of Esports Scotland. To support players from the grassroots to the professional level while never forgetting where we came from”
ESI: How has the reaction been to Esports Scotland so far?
Brian Houston: Simply phenomenal.
Reading messages from the community has been a joy. In one month we had over 1,500 visitors to the website and we doubled our Discord. The community is everything to us so seeing all the new faces join us and interacting with each other is one of the best parts of Esports Scotland. We attended EGX Rezzed and talked to a number of developers about our streaming plans and how we could support them. The feedback we got from them was outstanding especially two Scottish devs called Hexterion and Bounder Games who we are planning on supporting with streams and promotion.
ESI: The UK esports scene is growing, how do you aim to have Scotland be a big part of that growth?
Brian Houston: Currently, there has never been a professional Scottish esports team.
There have been professional players, but never a team. We want to start getting Scottish players playing against other teams and players from around the world. SEL is how we are starting the journey. Once the teams are formed, we will support them with content, promotion and other opportunities while helping them to get sponsored. There are also a number of regional tournament organisers in Scotland as well but few are working together. We hope to start uniting them and working with them to make Scotland an esports powerhouse similar to other European countries.
ESI: What makes Esports Scotland different, how are you looking to build a scene and make a success of the region?
Brian Houston: While we are still a grassroots organisation, we have a very professional approach. In our streams which are done through a two-way stream from caster to stream coordinator, usually Mark Bishop, then to our Twitch.
Also, while we want a professional scene in Scotland to emerge and grow, we have embraced the grassroots market fully for now. All there is in Scotland are various grassroots scenes, with players of unbelievable talent, who we know can compete with players and teams around the world with the right support. That’s the end goal of Esports Scotland. To support players from the grassroots to the professional level while never forgetting where we came from.
ESI: You have announced a decent scope of games already, with some less common additions. What was the process around decided which games made the cut?
“They were one of the first publishers to fully back not only SEL but Esports Scotland as well. When publishers declined, we’d add in a Switch game since Nintendo offered us prizes for all of them”
Brian Houston: The original list of games we had planned for SEL was very different and we were planning on launching it early February (when in fact it launched end of March).
The reason behind this was because we decided we needed to get permission, for every game in SEL, from its publisher. In this process, some publishers declined while others offered support. Nintendo especially. They were one of the first publishers to fully back not only SEL but Esports Scotland as well. When publishers declined, we’d add in a Switch game since Nintendo offered us prizes for all of them. Other publishers which replied to us were Capcom, Riot, Sega and Ubisoft. We even got a reply from someone at Valve which had me on the floor when I saw it.
One of the publishers we value working with the most is Blizzard. Where other publishers declined, Blizzard negotiated and we ended up working out a plan for Overwatch Esports Scotland Cup on Xbox One. I’m a massive Overwatch fan and an even bigger fan of Blizzard as a company, so to be working with, and be granted a Custom Tournament License from them is beyond anything I could have ever imagined. The entire team is so excited about OESC and we can’t wait to show Blizzard, and every other publisher mentioned, just how much love there is in Scotland for them.
“Scottish or not, I want you to know that you do have a voice and Esports Scotland will be doing everything we can to make sure it’s not only heard but acted on.”
ESI: What are your plans for the future?
Brian Houston: There are big content plans being worked on in the background. We are planning more streams and videos in the coming months as well as community tournaments. Our finals for SEL and OESC are on October 6th and 7th. Our events team, David Barrett and Fraser Watson, have been finalising plans for the event and will be announcing details in the coming months. We’ll also be fully revealing plans for our ambassador program very soon.
There’s so much happening in the background that I can’t talk about yet but the best is yet to come. Esports Scotland has been gathering steam all year and we don’t plan to slow down anytime soon.
ESI: Do you have any closing statements?
Brian Houston: As someone who has worked in the grassroots UK esports scene for some time now with Perilous Gaming and Epic.LAN, I know all too well the pitfalls that face many players and organisations out there. Scottish or not, I want you to know that you do have a voice and Esports Scotland will be doing everything we can to make sure it’s not only heard but acted on.