Player1 Events undergo massive layoffs; Insomnia future uncertain

Insomnia Gaming Festival appears to be defunct after the entire staff of Player1 Events were laid off earlier this week, according to a report from Esports News UK. A follow-up report yesterday provided a screenshot of an email from Chris Duggan, the former Head of Sales and Content, and Natasha “tashnarr”, saying that Player1 Events is “no more”. Neither Player1 Events, nor their parent company Supernova Capital, have made any public comment on the matter since Monday’s layoffs.

The future of i73, scheduled for September 4th-8th, is uncertain and there has been no official announcement yet. However a fringe event dedicated to Runescape called RuneFest, that was scheduled to run alongside Insomnia, announced that they are suspending ticket sales for the event due to “unforeseen circumstances”. 

Due to unforeseen circumstances we are postponing the sale of RuneFest tickets tomorrow (Wednesday, May 15th). We understand this is disappointing, and we’d like to apologise for the inconvenience. We’ll update you as soon as we have more information to share with you.

— RuneFest (@RuneFest) May 14, 2024

Founded in 1997, Player1 Events was initially known as Multiplay, and hosted their first LAN event, Insomnia, in 1999. The event, re-branded as iSeries, was hosted initially at a private venue, but moved to the Newbury Racecourse from i5 onwards. A few events were hosted at other venues such as the Telford International Centre, but Newbury hosted the vast majority from i5 onwards.

In 2013 Insomnia moved to the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, and in 2015 Multiplay was sold to retailer GAME. It was then split into the digital side of the business (sold to Unity Technologies in 2017) and the events side, which was rebranded as Player1 Events. Since i55 in December 2015, the event has been held at Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre (NSE).

Player1 Events was acquired from GAME in 2021 by private equity firm Supernova Capital, a deal which saw Multiplay founder Craig Fletcher return to lead the festival’s operations and join Supernova’s executive team. Fletcher left Supernova near the end of 2023; he now focuses on his roles as Chief Operating Officer of Gameye, Venture Partner at Ascension Ventures, and numerous consultancy roles within the gaming, esports and events management space.

Insomnia began as a LAN party and BYOC competitions have featured throughout. Counter-Strike was first featured at Insomnia 29 in 2006, and the likes of Birmingham Salvo, FM Esports, Endpoint and Into the Breach have claimed titles over the years. They have also collaborated with UK Masters, Mad Catz, and ESL Premiership. In recent years entries for the Counter-Strike event have dropped, especially following controversy at i68, the first event after the COVID-19 pandemic. Verdant won the most recent BYOC LAN at i72, defeating Reason Gaming in the grand finals.

Numerous staff and contractors from i72 have tweeted that they have not yet been paid for the event. (The standard invoice deadline for the event lapsed two weeks ago.) Sam Bailey of FutureShock Performance Centre has encouraged those affected by this to directly email Paul Wedgewood, the CEO of Supernova Capital.

Insomnia staff at ESL Premiership Autumn 2023

Finally, to end on a more positive note, two former Player1 Events employees have come forward with a new venture. Dubbed LANcraft Events, former Esports Manager Matt “Kharne” Macdonald and ex-Community Operations Manager Michael “Geosnipe” Lambert have registered the business on Companies House and launched a GoFundMe to fund the initial event.

I’m doing a thing with @KharneUK

— Michael Lambert (@GeoSnipe) May 16, 2024

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