FEED Issue 26 Web

ESPORTS Freaks 4U Gaming 28

We look at the history of Freaks 4U Gaming, an esports agency that has become a media & entertainment success story LIFE CYCLE OF FREAKS

espite the popular belief that esports started in a few fateful gamers’ basements, the tournament operators who now

sell out arenas were largely conceived through LAN cafe culture. This was the case for Freaks 4U Gaming, a one-stop shop for all things esports that, while officially founded in 2011, can trace its heritage back to the primitive PC gaming era of the 1990s. Back then, entrepreneur Jens Enders noticed gamers were visiting his computer stores just to play video games. Recognising a gap in the market, he and his business partner, Thorsten Zippan, founded Netzstatt, a LAN cafe franchise. Netzstatt began hosting regional and national tournaments, all before the word ‘esports’ was even in use, but it was an era fraught with difficulties for pro gaming businesses. Internet cafes for gamers were deemed the same as gambling by German authorities – necessitating different taxation rules, and no entry for minors. Michael Haenisch, now CEO of Freaks 4U gaming, came across Netzstatt at an event hosted at Berlin’s Columbia Hall. The games included Half-Life: Opposing Force and one of the earliest versions of Counter- Strike. Graphic cards were the prizes, rather than huge sums of money, but it was enough momentum for Enders and Zippan

IT WAS AN ERA FRAUGHT WITH DIFFICULTIES FOR PRO GAMING BUSINESSES

to establish a new company together called Ministry of Games, where Haenisch took care of IT and events. Ministry of Games only survived a year because the investors and Enders and Zippan had conflicting ideas on how to finance everything; one wanted the gamers to pay, the others wanted to make the sponsors pay.

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