You’ve probably heard the term »e-sports« before. But do you know what it actually means? – Attention spoiler: It’s not just about computer games and nerds ;-) In this A1 Story, we let the insiders in our company have their say. They explain what is possible in e-sports, what skills are needed to be successful and of course the role of A1.

So, the most important thing first:
What´s on your mind when thinking about eSports?

… that´s what Wikipedia says.

… but what do our international e-sports officials say?

Generally speaking, e-sports is still a young segment. Many people can’t do anything with it yet. According to Irina Kuntze, who has turned her passion for e-sports and gaming into a career at A1 Austria, the topic must be widely spread.

»You have to show
people how awesome
e-sports is.«

Irina, A1 Austria

Natalia Safonova, who is responsible for e-sports at A1 Belarus, also knows: »It’s never easy for pioneers. But it’s a joy to overcome these hurdles in the end.« For her, it was also difficult to find like-minded people for her team in the beginning. But in the end, the hard work paid off with innovation, teamwork and collaboration with expert groups.

Kristian Mladenov

In Bulgaria, Kristian Mladenov is an e-sports product manager with heart and soul, driving the development of the Gaming League in his role. »As a former non-professional gamer, I have felt the thrill, emotion and passion for e-sports. That I now have the opportunity to combine my work with this field makes me very happy and grateful.« In addition to the passion for the sport, success – as with many other sports – is due to the material issue: For e-sports, you need the right infrastructure & equipment. And this is where A1 comes into play. Because with the appropriate network, A1 also brings decent Internet speeds to the online game, and that’s what you need for successful e-sports.

»Every day we do something new regarding e-sports, that no one else in our country has done before.«

Natalia, A1 Belarus

Marijana Zagorac

Copied from e-sports

But e-sports are not just about computer games and fast Internet. As with other team sports, team play is important. It’s about team dynamics, management skills, stamina, strategy, tactics and intercultural understanding. These are some of the skills that Irina has also been able to take with her for her professional career. »Almost every electronic game has the dynamics of soccer and chess strategies. In my opinion, through e-sports you develop additional skills, such as making the right decisions in extreme situations,« Kristian. Marijana Zagorac (Gaming & Sponsorship Principal, A1 Croatia) also knows about the cool sides of her job in e-sports: »You learn something new every day and work with young, talented people. They are very inspiring for me and make my job exciting every day«

What does our international e-sports team do after duty?

Old but Gold – Marijana likes to play good old solitaire. And away from the screen, she’s outdoors, doing Pilates and loves to travel. Irina likes it similar: she spends her time balancing in nature, hiking in the mountains. Privately, she enjoys playing Teamfight Tactics »TFT«, which reminds her a bit of chess. For Kristian, DOTA 2 is one of his favorite games. When DOTA 2 tournaments are played in the A1 Gaming League, he naturally watches them with great interest. But it’s not always all about e-sports and computer games. Kristian also loves being outside. He spends his free time playing soccer and table tennis. Every Saturday, he goes fishing. Natalia admits, »I don’t really play that much. When I’m sitting in front of the screen, I’m mostly busy working through my emails and preparing e-sports presentations.« But if time is left, she likes to play a quick game of Clash Royale.

The A1 e-Sports Leagues today and in the future

Bulgaria has seen incredible growth rates since the launch of the A1 Gaming League in 2018. Over 25,000 players have now joined the League. – With rising tendency! In the meantime, the A1 Gaming League has become the most important in Bulgaria for all ambitious players. The pandemic was not detrimental to the successful development in Bulgaria either: In 2020, there was a huge increase in viewers at the live streams of the shows. In some cases, the audience records of the offline events of the previous year were broken during the competitions in March and April 2020.

Natalia Safonova

A1 in Belarus initiated the non-profit organization »Belarusian Federation of Computer Sports« in February last year. The goal is to bring e-sports to the masses, to offer e-sports fans a platform, and of course to organize events. In addition, the topic should also reach the A1 team in Belarus. And that is indeed what is meant. Without further ado, a corporate e-sports school was opened in Belarus: 6 weeks of intensive training, theoretical basics and the development of appropriate skills with professional coaches. At the end, of course, there was a tournament and a trophy for the winning team!

Irina Kuntze

A lot has already happened in Austria since the founding of the A1 eSports League Austria. Irina is right in the middle of building up this new area sustainably and helping to shape it. She also takes care of sponsorships and our training centers, the A1 eSports Hubs.

In 2017, the A1 Adria League was established at A1 Croatia. A regional league that, as the name suggests, connects several countries (Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo) in the Adriatic region and Marijana is responsible for it. In Croatia, we also recorded 2020 as a successful e-sports season. In addition to the e-sports competitions, 5,000 euros in donations were collected for a children’s home in Sisak.

Frosina Boshkova

A1 Macedonia also works intensively on the topic of e-sports. For the past three years, A1 Game Fest, the most popular gaming event in North Macedonia, has been organized by A1 Macedonia in cooperation with GG.MK, a company specializing in events, podcasts, content, etc. related to e-sports. We interviewed Frosina Boshkova (Marketing Communications, A1 Macedonia) and Gorast Cvetkovski from GG.MK about A1 Game Fest. The third edition of the event took place in December 2020 as an online edition. After a short period of uncertainty, those responsible decided to allow the event to take place, in compliance with all COVID security measures.

»We took up the challenge and organized an event according to all global standards.«

Frosina, A1 Macedonia

And it paid off: As in previous years, the turnout was huge. In addition, this year there were an incredible 15,000 viewers via the live stream. Gorast: »We wanted to outdo ourselves this year and set the bar even higher. We managed to increase the prize pool, so there were even bigger prizes for the players.« The online edition also became the first online cosplay competition in North Macedonia (cosplay = participants represent a character from a manga, anime, movie, video game or other media as faithfully as possible through a costume). Frosina and Gorast are ambitious and have a clear vision for the future of the A1 Game Fest, namely to become an important address in the European e-sports scene.

Irina is also convinced that e-sports has a great future ahead of it: »e-sports is already bigger than other industries internationally and breaks its own records every year. The topic is innovative, exciting, has its finger on the pulse and it’s hard to imagine our everyday lives without it.« In five years, it may be just as normal to go to an e-sports event as it is to attend a concert, or go to the movies. Natalia is equally sure that in the future, e-sports players will no longer be perceived as something peculiar, but as real pros. Kristian shares Natalia’s opinion: »In the future, it will be about bringing e-sports into a more ‘normal’ framework.«

»It’s a privilege and a real challenge to be a part of this growing community and work on the limitless opportunities we have. e-Sports & Gaming have turned the entertainment industry upside down!«

Marijana, A1 Croatia