Electronic sports (eSports) is a big business which is growing exponentially, and there is tremendous potential for Barbados to get in on part of that action.
Co-founder and Executive Director of AnimeKon, Omar Kennedy, explained that the global eSports industry is worth over USD 1 billion and expected to double by 2024. Therefore, he believes it is an opportune time for existing and budding eSports athletes in Barbados to make their mark.
With sponsorship from Export Barbados, Kennedy participated in the Embassy Day tour at the Barbados Embassy in Washington D.C. as part of the ESports Insider Conference, held in the U.S. capital from May 16 to 18, 2022. His presentation centered on how Barbados’ eSports industry is evolving and the opportunities for even more growth with the right partners.
“I was able to discuss how AnimeKon has helped eSports to grow, how we help different organizations within eSports to get where they want to go, by giving them a platform to really showcase themselves; to recruit new members; to show that eSports is just not about persons who have nothing to do with their time, just sitting down playing video games. It is a viable industry, there’s lots of money behind it. There are lots of celebrities who sponsor teams, and these teams are sponsored with hundreds of thousands of dollars, sometimes even millions of dollars,” Kennedy said.
He explained that AnimeKon is also involved in video game development, creating Caribbean-themed video games from any genre. He further explained that the global gaming industry is even bigger than the eSports industry and worth hundreds more. Kennedy added that there are job opportunities for young Barbadians in this area. They do not need to be in the same country as their employer; they would require a secure internet connection to protect their intellectual property and a computer that has enough processing power.
As major universities look at adding eSports to their curricula, AnimeKon hopes that education authorities in Barbados will also get on board. Kennedy explained that the infrastructure needed to establish an eSports program is not as intrusive as other programs, and it is just as or even more lucrative as it is a burgeoning, new industry.
“In Barbados we always think about our students in terms of traditional academia, being a doctor, a lawyer, a bank manager, something like that, but not everyone is built that way. So, if we can have some young persons who are not in to that, who know there is an avenue for them that is non-traditional, that runs counter to the regular culture of what is expected in Barbados; if we can get more persons interested in this, we will save a lot of frustration among more young people and give them avenues where they can practice in the open and not have to hide. They can really get to the meat of their strong points and go pro, international”.
He is confident that many eSports athletes can make it big in Barbados, contribute to the island’s foreign exchange earnings through their winnings and gain recognition for the island in that field.
“These guys have, and ladies, of course, have lots of potential, they just need the opportunity to be able to get themselves out there, focus on their craft, and win big,” he stated.