The European esports scene, across a variety of titles, has undergone some major developments over the last few years.
In particular, League of Legends in Europe has blossomed since the introduction of the ERLs (European Regional Leagues). Teams such as Karmine Corp, KOI and Eintracht Spandau have managed to develop a fanbase despite never being a part of the franchised LEC system.
In total, over 296,000 viewers tuned in at one point to witness the Amazon European Masters’ 2022 all-French final. However, throughout the event one team caught the attention of fans.
Hailing from the Isle of Man — representing the UK and Nordic scene — X7 Esports surprised audiences with its unusual, native flag. Combined with its Korean-hybrid roster, X7 Esports has adopted an unconventional approach to the League of Legends’ European ecosystem.
Despite the organisation competing in the Nordic, UK and Ireland scene (NLC), X7 fielded two Korean natives within its squad. The reasoning for this was to establish themselves as the facilitator for Korean players from Eastern leagues when entering the Western ecosystem.
“We recognised that, by becoming a feeder-like team in Europe, we’d be able to help meet the demand from Western franchise teams when they’re looking to sign high-calibre Korean or Chinese talent.” Said X7 Esports’ CEO and Founder Josh Kingett when asked about its business model.
“We’ve proven our competency with the introduction of Haru and Tempt. We continually liaised with agencies in Korea; helped finalise their visas; secured their insurance; provided them with English lessons; and ensured they were well looked after and their welfare was taken care of. Once we’ve demonstrated this again in the future, not only will it give us added credibility, but will prove X7 is well-equipped to facilitate elite talent into the European league environment.”
X7 Esports’ Min-seung ‘Haru’ Kang, has since moved to Team Vitality — a sign that this model is already paying off for the organisation. X7 has now brought in another Korean player, Dong-hyeon ‘Chasy’ Kim.
Due to League of Legends’ franchised ecosystem, there is no competitive route to the top of the title’s esports pyramid. Instead, franchise spots are bought or sold by other organisations. This, however, has created a blossoming regional esports ecosystem within Europe.
Nevertheless, X7’s CEO highlighted that a clear business model was needed, particularly for an organisation participating in a league that isn’t garnering the same amount of views as its Spanish or French counterparts.
“In order to sustain ourselves whilst, at the moment, solely competing in League of Legends, we must diversify our revenue streams alongside sponsorship, thus a large part of our business model revolves around player development and transfers. That’s why you will see a lot of foreign talent coming through X7.” he said.
As side from its transfer model, the organisation’s journey has also been supported in another way. Digital Isle of Man, an executive agency within the Isle of Man Government, became the organisation’s first esports sponsor in June 2021. Kingett claimed that this one-off financial boost played an integral part during the organisation’s infancy, providing aid for a team that has only played two competitive splits to date.
“The financial support from Digital Isle of Man came to an end in August 2021 but gave us a needed boost during our debut performance as an organisation. I’m very proud and grateful to have received this kind of support,” said Kingett.
Already a prospering jurisdiction for eGaming, fintech and blockchain businesses, Digital Isle of Man is currently developing an esports strategy to capitalise on the industry’s growth. This includes attracting other teams and esports businesses to the island. As such, the success of a local organisation like X7 Esports is instrumental in achieving these objectives and serves as a great case study. In late December 2021, Kingett joined the executive agency as one of two Esports Executives, tasked with driving forward this strategy.
Despite being from a tiny island, X7 Esports has ambitious goals of eventually reaching the LEC. Kingett expressed his excitement at possible expansion, and the commercial opportunities that could follow.
“This year and next we’re focused on growing our fanbase and community; expanding into other esports titles [outside of League of Legends]; continuing to diversify our revenue streams and begin to refine our commercial partnerships portfolio.
“We’ve considered CS:GO and I think that’s a fairly obvious one – this esports title can act as our vehicle when exploring different forms of sponsorship revenue, notably blockchain-based businesses or eGaming. The Isle of Man is already well established in these sectors and there has already been significant interest locally.”
The team from the Isle of Man has lofty plans, but Kingett expressed that he founded X7 Esports to be a business — not just a competitive team. With that in mind, its feeder system approach makes sense. Only time will tell whether this model can prove reliable, however, it’s certainly interesting to see an organisation take a unique approach when navigating the murky waters of Riot Games’ ERL system.
Supported by Digital Isle of Man