Home » Stuart Dempsey: “[CS2] is going to be a real priority for us going forward”

Stuart Dempsey: “[CS2] is going to be a real priority for us going forward”

The founder and CEO of GamerFest caught up with UKCSGO to talk about the event's evolution and its future.

by GrimyRannarr

GamerFest ended last weekend and produced a great day for Irish Counter-Strike. Three BO3s played on stage in front of a roaring crowd, these are things that would never have been thought possible for an Irish LAN before GamerFest introduced Counter-Strike. Last autumn we saw the adoption of CS alongside other game titles the final being played on stage. Now we had a whole day dedicated to Valve’s shooter.

The level of professionalism portrayed by staff also meant it was a super smooth day. With the event growing esports and Counter-Strike in the region are set to grow with it.

The question is what is next?

UKCSGO sat down with Stuart Dempsey the CEO and Founder of GamerFest to talk about the event’s progression and what is next for CS2. Stuart has been running GamerFest for seven years and is pivotal for the event’s success and introduction of Counter-Strike.

Spiceboys lifting the GamerFest Fall 2023 trophy

Do you want to introduce yourself, what you do and what GamerFest is?

GamerFest is Ireland’s biggest gaming and esports event. We started in 2017 in Galway and we have progressively grown that over the years up until now. Now we have a GamerFest event in Dublin twice a year in May and October. We have five to six thousand visitors each event which is growing all the time. We have a phenomenal community here in Ireland with more and more international visitors. Gaming in Ireland is in a really good place, not just amongst the community but in the industry, game development and esports. Feels like it is on a great trajectory.

How has this event been? The events just seem to be getting better and better each time.

That is the objective, if we can make each event a little better and bigger and keep doing that we are on the right track. It is always a learning curve when you’re rolling out new content, new activations and new partners. There is a lot of work involved but we have a fantastic team. The event is growing well so we are happy where we are but have a long way to go.

When you say you have a long way to go, what is the goal?

In the short term, we would like to get to ten thousand visitors per event pretty quickly. I think that is pretty doable. We have a lot of headroom with our Irish audience, and awareness of GamerFest in Ireland is growing each time. We have more and more media attention which is great – there is a great opportunity for visitors and players to join us from the UK which is already happening.

Short term we would like to get to ten thousand visitors per event pretty quickly.

When you envision the whole event growing, does this correlate to the esports part of the event?

It does, I think esports continues to be a really important part of the event for us. We have included esports since 2017. We have looked at a variety of games during that time to try and find the best fit for us and our audience. Right now, we have a focus on CS2 and VALORANT for this particular event which has gone really well. Both of those games are going to be a priority for us going forward.

The esports community in Ireland is growing all the time. It is a very passionate community and we are delighted to have them along and hope we can continue growing with them.

Aza and lemowel celebrating in the finals of GamerFest Spring 2024

You mentioned you have tried a lot of different games. How come Counter-Strike wasn’t a part of the esports in the past and why did you bring it in last October?

We would have a good relationship with the Counter-Strike community in Ireland. We have explored having CS at the event on a number of occasions but for a variety of reasons it didn’t quite happen. We ran it last October and were blown away by the audience engagement, by the excitement at the event, by the number of teams we had involved and it was absolutely phenomenal. We are delighted to have CS running again at the event this time around. We believe it is going to be a staple for GamerFest going forward.

Especially when GamerFest was growing, was there a perspective that CS wasn’t the most marketable game?

No, not necessarily. It was more a case of us finding our way and what the esports community in Ireland wanted. We have run tournaments around Rocket League, Rainbow 6, FIFA, and more. To some extent, it has been trial and error to see what has been the best fit for the event.

now we have settled on CS2.  We think it is going to be a real priority for us going forward. There is a great CS community in Ireland and we really enjoy working with them.

VALORANT last year has worked very well for us, and like I said, now we have settled on CS2.  We think it is going to be a real priority for us going forward. There is a great CS community in Ireland and we really enjoy working with them. There are a lot of great relationships with the players and teams from the UK which we hope to welcome for future events.

You said it is a priority going forward. Coming into this event you had a full day of CS and VALORANT. Firstly, why did you give so much space to these games and was it maybe a test to see if you can make it a priority?

We are still on a learning curve to be perfectly honest. For prior events, we would usually run four grand finals of different games on the live stage, but we found that it was just making things a bit fragmented and it was time to start focusing on particular titles for particular events.

We may very well have Rocket League and other titles back again in the future, but we feel trying to run four different games across the weekend wasn’t entirely working. This time we had CS exclusively on Saturday, and VALORANT exclusively on Sunday and that seems to be working well.

Dragsy and Kas getting loud against Full Metal Jacket

What is next for CS? Are you looking to expand it even further than just one day? People throw around the idea of a BYOC, is that something you’re interested in?

It is something we might look at in the future. In the short term, we are going to keep it focused on the live stage. We have spoken to the CS community in Ireland about a LAN, there are challenges around venue costs where we operate, and it can be difficult. We are concerned that the price of a ticket might be prohibitive once we get the venue costs included in rolling out an area for example. We are still figuring that out.

I think we will be reviewing this event like we do every event with the CS community and with our audience. Gathering feedback, on what worked well, and what didn’t work well and just continuing to optimise. We have a long way to go in terms of where we want to get to. But going in the right direction. We are very much community-led so their feedback is incredibly important.

With Insomnia shutting down does that make you a little scared when you look at an event that is similar to yours not succeeding?

First and foremost it was very sad to see what happened. We know a lot of the Insomnia team, and how passionate and committed they were to the event. It was a phenomenal event one that I have been to many times. I was personally very surprised to see what happened. I don’t know the ins and outs of why it came to a halt so it wouldn’t be fair for me to comment on that.

In terms of our own event. We are comfortable where it’s at in terms of its growth, i.e. it continues to grow event on event. We seem to be on a good path. We have a lot of incredible partners with the event and a passionate community. But we won’t take anything for granted and that is why we need to improve event on event and not rest on our laurels.

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