Esports in: The Netherlands
The Netherlands ranks in the top 10 of the most connected countries in the world, where it is at times argued there should have been a booming esports scene present for years already. To refer to the trend as booming in the Netherlands however would be an exaggeration, but there is a clear upward trend which may result in the level of esports participation comparable to nearby countries such as Sweden, Germany, or Denmark. Some of the key events pointing towards an increase in recognition for esports in the Netherlands would be the newly created Dutch Fifa League the 'E-Divisie', breakthrough performances in Hearthstone by dutch player ThijsNL, and milestone events such as the ESL Benelux Championship which took place in the Amsterdam Arena stadium.
It should be noted that while esports as the phenomenon is currently understood around the world is still on the rise in the Netherlands, a LAN culture has existed for years already, and more than half the population plays games on a variety of consoles. Gaming Festivals such as Firstlook Festival are huge events, and console based gaming has been widespread for a while. A culture and infrastructure has therefore existed which seemed to be ripe for esports to grow, but the trend has been slow to develop compared to other countries.
The Rise of Dutch Esports
The most predictable and important development in Esports in the Netherlands has been the recent creation of the E-Divisie. All professional football clubs in the Netherlands banded together to create the dutch E-Divisie, the digital counterpart of the national professional league. The development of this league follows the global trend of professional clubs picking up Fifa players to represent their brand in the esports space, likely in an effort to engage with a younger demographic. The extent of this league’s popularity and success remains to be seen, but Fifa being the first esport represented in a professional capacity in the country should not come as a surprise, given the sports’ ubiquitous presence, especially when the national team is doing well.
Famous Dutch Esports Personalities
Sports have traditionally risen in popularity in a country when that country is more successful in the given sport. A perfect example of this would be the increase in popularity Formula 1 has seen now that Max Verstappen has become a global superstar. The success that a few Dutch people have experienced in the scene has likely also contributed to its rise in the country.
The most played esport in the world is League of Legends, with at times over 60 million players per month, and when a countryman does well in a (for many people ridiculous) global craze, that country likely takes notice. Fabian’s stability in the League of Legends professional circuit has definitely increased interest in the game and esports in general, as he has been spotlighted in national media outlets, documenting his life as a professional gamer.
Jorien ‘Sheever’ van der Heijden
Jorien van der Heijden is a regular commentator and host for some of the biggest Dota 2 tournaments in the world. Most notably she has been part of the casting the International, the tournament with the biggest esports prize pool for last few years, most recently exceeding $20,000,000. Her involvement in esports has been a catalyst not only for women in esports around the world, but for dutch people she is a true pioneer in the realm as well.
Hearthstone is the most popular esport on a mobile platform, and the dutch have one of the best players in the world; Thijs ‘ThijsNL’ Molendijk. His recent achievements have earned him worldwide fame in the Hearthstone scene, as well as a decent amount of prize money. Almost simultaneously, numerous amateur tournaments have popped up around the country on a regular basis. The ease with which these tournaments can be organized in combination with the success of one of their countrymen has potentially been the cause for creation of the most well supported esport in the Netherlands.
Forays into Esports
All of the above have contributed to a definite hype surrounding esports in the country. Participation at the traditional LAN events has increased, and startups related to the trend have begun to pop up everywhere, supporting esports related activities. In relation to tournaments, ESL’s Benelux Championships in the Amsterdam Arena in the summer of 2016 were a true milestone for dutch esports. This is by far the most impressive loocation any esports organization has managed to secure, although attendance was not what one would expect at large scale events elsewhere.
One of the clearest indicators of the rise of esports in the Netherlands would be the organizations popping up everywhere, hoping to support the trend’s rise in a more professional capacity. These organizations are involved in a multitude of ways ranging from league organization, media coverage, and even creating physical locations for teams to congregate. Just to name a few, Dutchdota.com has positioned itself as the premiere dota league in the Netherlands, and the up and coming EsportsDome hopes to give esports participants a home in the south of Holland. GamersHub is an example of one of the more successful organizations built around high quality media coverage, with a focus on the bigger LAN events in existence. To those we haven't mentioned we apologize, we can't mention all of you.
Even more professional established events such as Firstlook Festival attempted further expansions into the esports scene with a new event dubbed Battlecon. The event concept centred on a cross between esports competitions and a theme park. One could stand in line to compete in mini-tournaments against those waiting with you, and the winner left with a prize. How successful it truly was will likely be proven by whether or not a second edition comes out this year, though at the very least we can say the concept was original and had potential.
The esports scene in the Netherlands is definitely growing, although at a slower pace than elsewhere in the world. The initial craze that has been growing globally seems to be picking up there now, in part due to the success of the dutch abroad. Various organizations seem to be experimenting with what works in this country, and we're curious to see which concepts succeed, and which ones fade away.