Why esports bring so many fans together in France

Saturday, May 7, the French of Karmine Corp won the European Masters (EUM), the European Championship of the game League of Legends† A total of 296,000 people watched their performance live on Twitch, including more than 200,000 from the OTP channel, the official tricolor channel. A craze for e-sports – video game competitions – that has been confirmed year after year in France: during the last two editions of the European tournament, the encounters that attracted the largest audience were systematically those of French clubs.

An unparalleled diligence first coupled with excellent results. This year, three French teams made up the last four of the EUM. “Going through the LFL [la League française de League of Legends, le championnat national]it’s a bit like going through Arsenal once”, explains the sociologist and specialist in e-sports, Nicolas Besombes. But France is also establishing itself as a dominant nation in other games: the French team Vitality is considered one of the best in the world in Rocket League † reigning European champions, the French also climbed to the top step of the world podium in 2019; and on the shooting game Counter-Strike: Global Offensiveit is Lensois Zywoo (real name Mathieu Herbaut), who was voted the best player in the world in 2019 and 2020.

The French “esportainement”

“In France, we have had a very dynamic ecosystem since the late 1990s. There are many competitions. We have an associative fabric with many actors scattered throughout the territory”, analyzes Nicolas Besombes. More than 80 meetings take place every year, some of which have revealed talents: Kinstaar and Hunter, for example, made themselves known to the general public in 2018 on the Lyon esports, before qualifying for the Fortnite world championships a year later . Tournaments with a central role, therefore, to which a large pool of players must be added: in 2021, 4.2 million French people played video games at a competitive level, according to the France Esports association, an increase of 900,000 compared to 2020. In three years this number has increased. even doubled since the discipline garnered just 2 million followers in 2018.

Also read: Karmine Corp, an atypical club at the top of French esports

In addition to sports achievements, French e-sports is also distinguished by its community aspect, much more pronounced than among its European neighbours. And it is not without reason that many structures have developed in recent years around personalities that are already known and appreciated by the youngest: streamers. For example, the Karmine Corp was built under the impulse of Kameto and Prime, two figures of the French-speaking Internet.

Kamel Kebir, aka Kamet0, and Amine Mekri, aka Prime, after an interview with Le Monde.  They pose for a few minutes in front of a Karmine Corp stream in Paris on May 12, 2021.

“If there are people you like who are launching a project, you will definitely take a look. And if people behind the project like it, it’s easier to be a federation than if it were a stranger,” explains Sakor Ros, president of Solary. Created in October 2017 by several recognized streamers, such as Chap or Jbzz, the structure today brings together several hundred thousand supporters. “A lot of people said to us, ‘I didn’t necessarily look at esports, but when you launched the project, I got attached to the team, which makes you want to support'”, he says. Older structures also use this lever, such as the Vitality team, founded in 2013, which now has ambassadors on social networks. “They let the values ​​of the team propagateexplains Fabien Devide, president of Vitality. Telling a story, creating a sense of belonging and sympathy. †

With communities reaching over a million viewers, streamers have revived the discipline and created what Sakor calls“sporty”, a mix of competition and mainstream entertainment. E-sport touched before “mainly from fairly wealthy social classes, who were hungry for computers and video games”, notes Nicolas Besombes. Now, aided by easier access to matches (most are now live on Twitch or YouTube), streamers “reached a more popular, diverse audience”

Integration into everyday life

With them, these new fans bring the culture of supporterism and the ultra. With placards and anthems prepared in advance, they give a voice and person to their favorite team. The atmosphere, now reminiscent of that of major football matches, gives a whole new dimension to the tournaments. This is one of the reasons that motivated global superstar Rekkles to sign with Karmine Corp: “I watched them and supported them on the French current and the feeling was so pleasant. I knew it was going to be crazy when I joined them, but never at this point.”he testifies with the journalist Laure Valée.

During the interim rounds of the presidential elections, Emmanuel Macron entrusted the site: The Great Whale his wish to give e-sports more space: “In this regard, we have a historic opportunity: that of the 2024 Olympics. It is up to us to take advantage of this to make the link between the Olympiads of the two worlds by hosting the biggest e-sports events in the world that year » Even if this statement was made in an electoral context, it remains revealing about the integration of discipline into the everyday life of the French. More and more cities in France are organizing competitions, such as Strasbourg, which hosted the 2019 Trackmania Cup final, or Boulogne-Billancourt (Hauts-de-Seine) which a day LFL 21 July. Traditional sports clubs are also pushing the boundaries with online sports. For example, Olympique Lyonnais has been a partner of the French team LDLC since January 2020.

It must be said that the potential of the sector is attracting more and more investors. While they injected just 5 million euros in 2017, this figure rose to 29 million in 2019, according to a study by the Interministerial Center for Exploration and Anticipation of Economic Change. A financial vitality that makes it possible to attract talented players from all over Europe and offer the fans more and more performances. A vicious circle that shows that, in the words of Nicolas Besombes, e-sports have succeeded in just a few years: “a total social fact”

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