Insomnia Gaming Festival is Coming for the UK Expo Crown

For years, the Insomnia Gaming Festival has been one of the most popular industry events in the United Kingdom. It first burst onto the scene in 1999 and has grown immeasurably since then – and I have personally been attending the event – which happens multiple times a year – since 2015. It had a brief lull in and around the COVID-19 pandemic, which almost all events did, but I visited the showcase (for Insomnia 71) this weekend – and I was promptly blown away.

It’s a breath of fresh air to say that the Insomnia Gaming Festival is back and becoming better than ever. If I’m being honest, I took a trip to Birmingham to check out a showcase last year and was hugely disappointed – and it took me a year and a half to get back to the event. This weekend, I made the 250-mile round trip to attend Insomnia 71 and came away extremely happy that I did. It’s fast becoming the greatest fusion of esports and gaming in the United Kingdom – and maybe even in Europe.

Diamond in the Rough

insomnia gaming festival

For the longest time, the UK’s gaming scene has been a cause for concern. There are tens of millions of gamers in the country – both casual players and hardcore enthusiasts – but there isn’t all that solid a market to accommodate them. There are no lavish esports stadiums, there isn’t a huge amount of representation from top-flight esports teams in the United Kingdom, there aren’t many expos dedicated to gaming – and in recent years, even the UK’s only dedicated gaming retailer has shrunken to a shadow of its former self.

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I should stress that there are esports organizations from the United Kingdom, they’re just not the brands that are immediately thought of when someone thinks ‘esports’. It doesn’t help that – aside from a few sizeable events in the last few months – almost no big-budget esports events take place in the United Kingdom. There are some crowning moments, though – Tundra Esports won The International in 2022, for example. Here are some other key names:

  • Fnatic
  • Wolves
  • Quadrant
  • Guild
  • Into the Breach

However, one of the most exciting things I took away from the Insomnia Gaming Festival is that it’s now heavily targeting the esports scene. In a way, IGF has always been about that – but it was kept more separated in the past. When I attended Insomnia 71 this weekend, I saw esports everywhere – from the dedicated stages to the micro-tournaments dotted around the halls. There was representation from teams and sponsors, and even the British Army turned up to show what it’s doing in the esports space.

Esports and Gaming, Fused

insomnia gaming festival

In a nation that has long struggled to make a solid name in esports, Insomnia Gaming Festival is trying to put something notable on the map. I was so satisfied to see VALORANT, Counter-Strike, Rocket League, Fortnite, Team Fortress 2, and Sim Racing games, events, and competitions around every corner. From the packed halls of fans watching VALORANT events up on a grand stage and the ESL Premiership being a staple tournament of the showcase to the Apex Legends Global Series unfolding just one hall over, Insomnia 71 was just about esports as much as it was about gaming.

These events and all this coverage unfolded right alongside family-friendly gaming sections, hardware and peripheral showcases, a retro zone, and a bustling merchandise marketplace. There were upcoming games being demoed by developers and publishers, with the likes of Tekken 8 serving as a very attractive presence at the event. There was an endless array of brands to be seen, from Lenovo Legion and GT Omega to Riot Games and Team 17.

If it wasn’t enough that there were hundreds of experiences to soak up, the event itself went off without a hitch. It was masterfully created this time around, and every member of staff was absolutely on point. If there was someone there showcasing their product, they were energetic and involved. If I have one negative takeaway from the event, it’s that it all went by so fast there were definitely things that I missed out on!

Just Getting Started

insomnia gaming festival

Out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Insomnia Gaming Festival has been on something of a path of resurgence. It’s coming back up for sure – it isn’t where it used to be, but it’s getting there. It’s a marvel that it has managed to survive this long when other events – such as E3 – have almost collapsed entirely. It doesn’t even have much competition in the United Kingdom, as I’ve pointed out – there’s the EGX showcase that takes place once a year in London, but there’s really nothing else that hits at this level.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a hardcore enthusiast, a casual gamer, or even a parent of an aspiring esports competitor, there’s something for everyone at the Insomnia Gaming Festival. I couldn’t fault Insomnia 71 – it was diverse, accessible, well-staffed, secure, and entertaining. There are celebrity appearances from all across the industry (including Baldur’s Gate 3 voice actors this time around) and recognisable faces and cosplayers everywhere. It really is well worth attending, and the beautiful thing is, that the showcase happens two or three times a year!

Are you going to visit the Insomnia Gaming Festival at some point?

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