Esports the new fad and Jamaica is ready to play
Part of Primus Gaming's donation to the JEI came from its large catalogue of gaming mice and headsets.

With video games already a market larger than movies, the Jamaica Esports Initiative (JEI) has been keen to tap into the opportunities provided by the gaming sub-genre, Esports, with its National Esports League, which is in its second year.

"The aim is to get it to become the flagship Esports event for Jamaica. Last year the prize pool was $1 million, this year the prize pool is $1.5 million. We've retained most of our sponsors from last season and gained more this year," Gregory Moore, chairman and CEO of JEI, told the Jamaica Observer.

The JEI is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to fostering the development of local Esport talent, while laying the foundation for Jamaica to become engaged and recognised in the global Esport community. Raising in popularity during COVID-19, competitive gaming has reached an estimated US$1.39 billion in market value, with projections north of US$5 billion by 2030.

The league began in March and runs until August and is split into three phases. The circuit rounds saw a prize pool of $500,000, with the grand finals in August splitting the remaining $1 million across six games. Currently, in June through July, the league is in its play-off phase to choose the competitors for the finals. The events have been happening online and face to face, with the Tekken 7, and most recently, the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate play-offs take place at the JEI headquarters at the Technology Innovation Centre on the grounds of the University of Technology, Jamaica, St Andrew.

"The National Esports League has been going pretty well so far. We're into the play-off rounds now, with all the titles, and we're anticipating the grand finals," said Moore.

For 2023 the National Esports League is using six popular Esports titles — E-Football, League of Legends, Rocket League, Super Smash Bros Ultimate, Tekken 7, and Assetto Corsa.

"It has always been a long debate which titles to use because people play many different games. We tried to be a little more diverse this year, but at the same time keep it tight because, even though the prize pool is well over a million dollars, it still has to spread over all games. So we ensured that we still had the fighting games, fan favourites, and we included sim racing for the first time," said Moore.

The Super Smash Bros Ultimate Playoffs saw a best of 16 cut down to a top four consisting of Tavoy Beckford, Rajay Rose, Okair McLaren, and Nouvelle Broderick, three of whom made the trek from out of town for the competition.

"At the time I was playing Smash for fun and a friend invited me to a tournament in Ocho Rios. That was the first time I'd heard about Esports and the JEI. I came dead last, which was absolutely horrible. So from there, went back home with the passion to train and try harder to come first. From then, it's just been top five and upwards," explained Rose.

— Rory Daley

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