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"North America has tremendous potential for growth," Justin Lye, Free Fire Global Esports Lead

I got a chance to chat with Justin Lye, Global Esports Lead for Garena, where he discussed about the growth of the Free Fire esports scene and future plans regarding it.
"North America has tremendous potential for growth," Justin Lye, Free Fire Global Esports Lead

Free Fire is one of the most successful mobile games ever since it was released and once it ventured into esports, its hype reached other heights as many records keep on getting broken. Last year in 2021, Free Fire World Series brought over 5 million viewers and became the most-watched esports event ever in history. 

I got a chance to chat with Justin Lye, Global Esports Lead for Garena, the person who is responsible for the esports growth of Garena’s portfolio of titles, including Arena of Valor, Call of Duty Mobile, and Free Fire. During the interview, he discussed the meteoric rise of Free Fire's esports scene and its future plans for expansion in different regions.

How to Start a Fire is the first movie to introduce Free Fire lore.
How to Start a Fire is the first movie to introduce Free Fire lore. (Picture: Garena)

Free Fire Esports has seen tremendous growth over the past few years, with FFWS 2021 becoming the most watched esports event ever. What are your plans to expand it further?

We’re very appreciative of the support of Free Fire’s global community, whose passion for the game helped drive last year’s FFWS 2021 viewership to new heights. Whenever you break any kind of record, it’s always a tough act to follow, but we intend to keep up our support for Free Fire esports in 2022 and beyond, as well as continue to deliver on innovative new content and experiences in-game to attract new players and keep current players interested and engaged. 

We’ve already seen some recent examples of our commitment to growth with some local competitions like the Free Fire Pro Series in North America being expanded. On the game side, we recently debuted new story elements like the “How to Start a Fire” film, to build on the in-game universe, and we’ve also added features like the Character Link system to make it easier than ever to unlock your favorite characters in the game. We hope these initiatives will help attract and retain new players to grow the community, and those players in turn experience the excitement of Free Fire esports.

Since Free Fire World Series 2022 is going to be a LAN event, how will you ensure the safety of players coming from different countries and what if a team doesn't get a visa?

We’re working under the guidance of our local government and health authorities to put on a safe event, and feel confident in the partnership we’ve built to facilitate the Free Fire World Series. We have also learnt from hosting two previous editions of the World Series, and will be applying our experience for FFWS 2022 Sentosa. A key takeaway is understanding that the situation on the ground is always dynamic, and that careful planning is imperative. We are also always ready to work closely with the local government and experts to adapt to change.

Has the growth of Free Fire esports been as per your expectations, or do you think there is something that you still need to work on?

As you mentioned earlier, last year’s Free Fire World Series was the most watched esports event ever. We’re very encouraged  by that, but we believe there’s always room for improvement. We’re always gathering feedback from fans on how we can continue to build on Free Fire esports and make it the premier esports scene not just among mobile games, but among all competitive games.

Free Fire World Series 2022 has been organized as a LAN event.
Free Fire World Series 2022 has been organized as a LAN event. (Picture: Garena)

Free Fire Esports is expanding to more and more regions. Which countries/regions have Garena's highest focus right now, and which regions/countries will you be bringing into the spotlight in the future?

It’s tough for me to highlight specific regions that have “highest focus.” It’s safe to say that all regions in which Fire Fire operates are important to Garena in different ways, and thus we tailor the way we support the game specifically for each region. It’s why we maintain local offices and work closely with local partners across different regions so we understand how to best serve the players there. 

That said, we do believe North America is one area that has tremendous potential for growth, as mobile gaming continues to gain in popularity and acceptance in the region. As you know, the West already has a strong affinity for action games like Free Fire. Last year, Free Fire MAX won the Google Play Best of 2021 Users’ Choice Award in the region - an indication of the growing support for the game in the area.

Before we conclude, do you have anything you want to say to the Free Fire fans?

Yes, thank you for your continued support! We hope you’ll all tune in for this year’s Free Fire World Series and cheer on your favorite teams and players. Be sure to log into the game throughout the coming weeks for special activities and items relating to the event. Please also follow us through your local Free Fire social channels and share your feedback. 

For more on the game, please make sure to check our section dedicated to Free Fire guides, news, tips, and more.

Featured image via Garena.