eSports and virtual worlds center planned in northern Norway | Polarjournal
The island of Andøya is the largest in the Vesterålen archipelago, far in the north of Norway. Like many communities in the Arctic, the search for opportunities for new jobs is going on. Service companies are playing an increasingly important role in this. Picture: Stefan Leimer

The Norwegian island archipelago of Vesterålen offers varied outdoor experiences to all those who love spectacular nature with its majestic mountains, unspoiled landscapes and rough northern sea. One step outside the front door is enough to feel the wind in your hair, smell the sea and be enchanted by the magical light. Of all places, this is where a globally unique development and training center for virtual worlds is to be built. A center where, among other things, computer simulations of real life are designed and programmed.

Anja Fagerli, Chief Operation Officer (COO) of the company Myreze welcomes in her newly acquired house on Andøya. She and her partner Bjørn Myreze (CEO Myreze) fell in love with the secluded landscape of Andøya while traveling through Norway in a camper van and moved to Andenes earlier this year.

In the living room hangs a flat screen in a size that I didn’t even know existed until now. But it’s not really surprising. Myreze is one of the industry-leading companies creating virtual production services for future generations of communications and television production. Partners include the Chinese Space Agency, game developer Epic Games or the news channel Al Arabyia. Together with the company Epic Games, the two now have big plans. Epic Games is extremely successful with computer games like Fortnite, Gears of War, Shadow Complex or the Infinity Blade series. The game Fortnite alone has over 350 million registered players worldwide, who spend over 3 billion hours of play (3,000,000,000 hrs) on the game console each month. This corresponds, by the way, to a time span of the equivalent of 365,000 years! Epic’s – significantly – named Unreal Engine technology is supposed to enable interactive experiences with high fidelity on a wide variety of gaming platforms.

At a presentation in Andenes, the two initiators presented their project for the center to be built. Picture: Stefan Leimer

So here in Andenes, 300 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle, Europe’s largest eSports center is to be built. Young people from the region but also from all over the world, will have the opportunity in the future to train or develop in the fields of eSports, graphics and film. But eSports tournaments with an international focus can also be held here. eSport (electronic sports) is about athletic competition in computer games. Mostly it’s about defeating an opponent in multiplayer games. In many countries, such as Korea, China, Sweden, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, and the United Kingdom, eSports is now considered a recognized professional sport, and some eSports players can even make a living from it. A prominent example is the player Lee “Faker” Sang Hyeok (26) from South Korea.

Large corporations have long since recognized the potential of the eSports movement and are now investing high amounts in the millions in couches or prize money at tournaments. The world has become so small that people can travel anywhere in a short time – so why not to Andøya. However, it is not easy to predict how the industry will develop and who will be the winners or losers in the end. However, market researchers forecast a global market volume in the eSports sector of around USD 1.6 billion by 2024.

Many of the young people I have spoken to on Vesterålen so far are drawn to the major Norwegian cities of Tromsø, Trondheim or Bergen or Oslo. Not everyone can imagine a life in seclusion or as a fisherman on the sea. One prefers the opportunities that a city offers in the areas of culture, social life or profession. With their project, Anja and Bjørn want to give at least some of them an additional perspective to stay on Vesterålen in the long term.

In the middle of Andenes, the main town on the northern Norwegian island of Andøya, the largest center for eSports and virtual worlds, two booming industries, is being built. Picture: Stefan Leimer

But the project is still in its infancy. On January 18, 2022, the project was presented to the public. Currently, Anja is in the process of acquiring investors. The project plan calls for funding to be secured by early February. This is because Anja and Bjørn would like to start the first training courses as early as the beginning of summer. Among other things, suitable premises still need to be found. Their dream is to take over a hangar from the local military airport and expand and convert it accordingly. Until then, however, there is still a lot to do.

Link to Myreze website

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