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Digital Catapult North East Tees Valley Launches First Esports Tournament to Boost Local Gaming and Esports Industries

Digital Catapult North East Tees Valley has hosted its first virtual reality (VR) esports tournament, titled The Gauntlet Cup, which combined the immersion of VR gaming with the benefits of physical exercise.

The unique tournament demonstrated the value of the North East’s gaming sector, giving local companies, games-developers and startups an opportunity to share ideas, collaborate and compete in a commercially neutral environment.

Contestants participated in the tournament by completing BearHammer’s Venture Gauntlet VR, an obstacle course which challenged players’ bodies and minds by testing their stamina, accuracy, and reflexes as they navigated treacherous terrains, solved puzzles, and tackled various obstacles in the virtual world.

Brian Allen, Studio Director at BearHammer Games said: “Ventures Gauntlet VR was designed to challenge both the mind and body, creating a unique gaming experience that combines physical fitness with the thrill of adventure. We really enjoyed seeing players pushed to their limits in The Gauntlet Cup.”

The obstacle course served as an insight into where video-games and esports are headed, as the UK is home to some of the biggest esports and gaming organisations in the world, with Riot Games, Twitch and FACEIT all holding offices across the country.

BearHammer’s Ventures Gauntlet VR game introduced a new dimension to esports, converging the entertainment of video games with the benefits of physical exercise.

This created a unique and immersive experience that pushed the boundaries of what esports can be in the future, and showcased unique new use-cases of immersive technology and its applications for public health.

The winner of the Gauntlet Cup, Gareth Randle, won a Quest 2 VR headset, and two runner-ups each took home a £50 voucher.

The tournament served as an effective way of reaching a new audience of gamers in the North East, and was hosted by Advanced Media Production Gateshead, in partnership with BearHammer Games, Digital Catapult and Innovate UK. Digital Catapult is committed to growing critical economic sectors in the UK, and its Advanced Media Production network, immersive labs, and team of experts will play a pivotal role in growing the UK’s gaming industry and supporting the next generation of games developers.

Sophie Craggs, the Studio Manager at Advanced Media Production Gateshead said: “We’re thrilled to host such an exciting event at the Advanced Media Production Studio at Gateshead. The Gauntlet Cup brought together the North East’s gaming community for a unique and exciting tournament that offers a snapshot into the future of esports and video-games. I hope that it has inspired local businesses and studios, and shown what’s possible, and I’m proud that we used this opportunity to demonstrate the value of combining gaming with fitness. It was a joy to watch the players in action.”

The Gauntlet Cup was held as the economic value of the North East’s gaming industry is set to increase, with it now accounting for 5.4 per cent of all UK games development workforce, and as games development in the region has grown by over 45% in the last year.

The UK gaming industry has also proven to be a significant employer in the UK, with The Independent Game Developers’ Association (TIGA) finding that overall employment in the UK’s games development sector has surged by 11.4%, while studio numbers have increased by almost 18% in 2023.

Gareth Randle, VR Gamer and Gauntlet Cup winner, said: “I am really happy about my win. I couldn’t have competed with any better people. We need more VR gaming like this out there and I can see the growth trajectory being incredible in the future.”