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In this edition
16 WE ARE NATIONS Expansion, apparel as storytelling, and partnering with the ULT brand.
Deloitte Esports Rising: Opportunities and Challenges for Esports Investment in 2020.
GRID, the esports data company, has had an instrumental year in terms of growth, opportunity, and setting a foundation across the esports landscape in 2019.
Digital versions will also be available via www.theesportsjournal.news
10 Team Vitality
32 Mishcon de Reya
35 Ninjas in Pyjamas
46 Beasley Media Group
38 Excel Esports
48 Activision Blizzard
From V.Hive in Paris to ambitions in India: Vitality looks ahead. The world’s first independent esports data marketplace for ingame data.
22 Esports BAR Cannes Ahead of Esports BAR’s 7th edition this month, we speak to Director, Arnaud Verlhac, about plans for the 2020 event.
24 ICE Esports Arena
Interview with William Harding, Head of Esports at Clarion Gaming.
Where mainstream culture meets esports and gaming. Approaching the esports betting opportunity in the right way. The 20-year-old Swedish mainstay plans for the next two decades. Wouter Sleijffers looks to take another British brand global.
40 Isurus Gaming
Esports is more than just fun and games.
Interview with Victor Folmann, CEO & Founder of GamerzClass. 2020 will be a big year for the regulation of esports. Beasley Media Group saddles up with Houston Outlaws purchase. There’s a lot at stake in Activision Blizzard’s localised push.
52 NODWIN Gaming
Why 2020 will be the breakthrough year for Indian esports.
The companies and executives that make esports one of the fastest growing industries worldwide
EDITION 1 ICE Esports Arena | February 4-6 Esports BAR Cannes | February 11-13 EDITION 2 ESI New York | April 27 & 28 Esports Sponsorships Best Practices 2020 Frankfurt May 28 &29 EDITION 3 ESI Week Stockholm | August 18-23rd ESI London | September 6-8 EDITION 4 Esports BAR Miami | October TBC
Available year round in: Platform, London’s leading esports & gaming bar. www.experienceplatform.co.uk V.Hive, Team Vitality’s HQ and store in central Paris. Digital versions will also be available via www.theesportsjournal.news To get involved, or if you have any questions at all, please reach out via firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome (back) to The Esports Journal After a long, cold winter, we’re as excited as you are for the return of The Esports Journal. sports Insider and LMG are delighted to announce the continuation & expansion of the joint venture. As we head boldly into a new decade, 2020 will see it become a quarterly publication, with a refreshed design, distribution at more leading industry events than ever before, and promotion year round at leading London gaming and esports bar and cafe, Platform, as well as at the V.Hive; Team Vitality’s HQ and store in central Paris.
previously written for the likes of Rolling Stone, Vice, Red Bull and more. He’ll be making sure our content is more insightful, more on point and overall, better than ever before. Phoebe Dua will also be contributing to The Esports Journal’s output, as she takes up a new business journalist role with Esports Insider. Yours,
Meanwhile, the digital version will now be available at its own site; www.theesportsjournal.news. We’ve also strengthened the team considerably, with the signing of Andrew Hayward as Content Lead on The Esports Journal, having
Managing Director & Co-Founder ESI
COO & Co-Founder LMG
Meet the Team
Content Lead The Esports Journal
Adam Fitch Editor ESI
Phoebe Dua Writer ESI
Pablo Monti Writer LMG
Based in London and founded in 2016, Esports Insider is an industry focused esports news platform, B2B agency, media and events company.
Based in Buenos Aires and founded in 2016, Latam Media Group was launched to bring a new concept in communication, networking and content creation.
ESI runs a world leading and international esports industry news site, operates The Esports Journal magazine, and has run more industry events than any other company globally, from London to Los Angeles. Other arms of the company include ESI Media, and ESI Connect which assists brands, investors and suppliers with strategy and a route to market via esports rights holders.
Latam Media Group is a media group specialized in the Latin American Gaming industry. Its expertise in public relationships let them multiply their business audience, building a selected and exclusive network that acts as a guide to keep evolving in the right direction.
EsportsInsider.com - One of the leading esports industry focused platforms worldwide. We feature the latest news stories from a global perspective, alongside opinion pieces, and interviews with those making waves in esports business. We also have magazine publication; The Esports Journal, and a twice weekly newsletter, the ESI Dispatch.
Betting Mgz - The first and only magazine focused on the online gaming industry in Latin America. It´s distributed in the main events of the region, reaching the main operators, suppliers, regulators and businessmen.
ESI Events - We run esports focused events and have produced more esports business events than any other, globally. These have included the Forum Series, ESI London, the annual ESI Hall of Fame and ESI NYC. We offer white label events services too. ESI Media - We offer B2B and B2C content services (editorial, podcast and video), which can be via ESI channels, or it can be fully whitelabel, and we have the print magazine The Esports Journal, which we run with our partners LMG. ESI Connect - ESI Connect sits in-between current esports rights holders and companies seeking to do business the right way, without all the hassle. Acting as a media house, translator and mentorship group, ESI Connect will evaluate what you seek to do, propose the best fit, initiate the right contacts and support you in the delivery of your plans. Find out more about ESI Connect on the site, and you can drop us a line at email@example.com to apply.
LMG now organizes events, VIP dinners, conferences and summits for the Latin American gaming industry.
LMGMAS.com - It´s one of the leading websites of the Latin American gaming industry. Apart from promoting the latest trends of the companies and the executives, LMGMAS makes the difference with their innovative way of communication, exploiting all the resources that social networks and new trends allow. All the content is perfectly segmented, according to the interests of each of their readers. This is: Esports Industry: All the information related to esports industry, focused on Latin America with a worldwide perspective. Gaming Agenda: Exhibitions, Conferences, Summits and Webinars. LMG Eventos - Thanks to our daily contact with the whole industry, we know the needs of our clients. That´s why we organize events that fit perfect with their demand. Some of our events: Esports Brands Conference Betting Sports Marketing Conference Affiliate Summit LatAm Welcome Cocktails
MEDIA Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve assembled a hit squad of content creators who, as a collective, know the industry and each competitive scene inside, out. Whether itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s editorial, podcast, video, or social media campaigns, we can help. If you need expert esports content for your platform, and/or want to promote your business to the key industry stakeholders, drop us a line
For more information visit www.esportsinsider.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org
EVENTS | MEDIA | NEWS | CONNECT ESI MEDIA
We offer content creation options (editorial, podcast and video), advertising, consultancy services, and we have the business focused magazine; The Esports Journal.
ESI Connect sits in-between current esports rights holders and companies seeking to do business the right way, without all the hassle.
27 - 28 ETC.VENUES 360 MADISON APRIL 2020 MANHATTAN ESI New York is the US edition of the international esports business conference and exhibition. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll be providing two days of industry leading content and networking. #ESINYC will be the ultimate industry showcase, and will also incorporate the 2020 edition of the ESI Hall of Fame, and the second edition of the esports focused pitch investment competition; The Clutch.
Invite-only, high level networking events taking place throughout 2020 in London, Stockholm and elsewhere These will be focused on bringing together key stakeholders from esports and surrounding industries for an in-depth discussion on aligned business development, challenges and opportunities
Find out more via email@example.com
From V.Hive in Paris to ambitions in India: Vitality looks ahead AUTHOR Andrew Hayward @ahaywa
rench organisation Team Vitality packed 2019 full of major moves, and bold statements. From establishing its new V.Hive headquarters in central Paris, to the training facility at Stade de France and entering Riot Games’ franchised League of Legends European Championship (LEC), Vitality kept rather busy--and raised another €14 million in funding, no less.
Nicolas Maurer CEO Team Vitality
Those moves provided the foundation for Vitality’s agenda for 2020 and beyond, which includes expanding into Asia, attempting a new path to League of Legends success, and building a more powerful connection with fans. The Esports Journal caught up with Team Vitality CEO Nicolas Maurer to discuss his vision for what’s ahead.
The Esports Journal: Can you talk a bit about Vitality’s growth and evolution throughout 2019? Nicolas Maurer: 2019 was a key year for us with a lot of milestones. It was the first year in the new product of the LEC, which was very important for the organisation. We put in a lot of effort to make sure we could get selected by Riot for the LEC, so it was very important for us. On top of that, we unveiled our flagship V.Hive, which is a long-term project that will be the centerpiece of what we want to do in the coming years. It will be our flagship to organise a lot of community events, and to work with our partners. It’s a very important step for us. Also, we partnered with Stade de France to build a training and performance facility that will be very important moving forward, to make sure we can give the best conditions to our teams to perform. There’s a lot of very, very important moments. Obviously, some esports success, notably with the World Championship in Rocket League. So a lot going on in 2019. We grew a lot when it comes to the staff that we have at HQ in the sales, communications, partnerships, and content departments.
So yeah, big change--and new fundraising, too. I’m sure I’m forgetting a lot of things, but we kept on going on our growth strategy, being very aggressive, and making sure we get all of the tools we need to succeed. ESJ: What did it mean to you to open V.Hive, and how will it help Vitality succeed in the future? NM: We have to understand: what’s the overarching goal for us? It’s to build a very important brand that can engage with a lot of fans around the world. When it comes to a major part of our core fan base, which is the French fan base, we want to make sure we have this way of interacting and communicating with our fans, VIPs, and executives. It’s really to make sure we can build the emotional connection between Vitality and our fans, and this is the first step. We can imagine that we will unveil new places like that in the future, but of course we want to start with our main market. ESJ: How important is it to have a space where fans can interact with Vitality and experience the brand? NM: We feel it’s very important. We think it’s something that’s untouched right now in esports. We have very limited interaction with our fans. It can only happen at Paris Games Week, for example, in France, which is the big gaming event where a lot of people come to enjoy gaming culture, to see the players, to see streamers and so on. It’s a big moment for us, but it’s only once a year, and then we have tournaments. We have League of Legends and CS:GO competitions around the world, but then it’s only a subset of fans that can join. At the end of the day, we feel it’s very limited. If we want to build this connection, we want to make sure the fans can interact and see their favorite players, they can play with them, and they can engage. So yeah, we think we badly needed this specific place to achieve that.
ESJ: There’s been a big push for health and wellness with your players. How has that shifted Vitality’s mindset towards training and team-building? NM: I’d say that’s a very important topic for all of the top teams. It’s the trend right now in esports. When it comes to multi-gaming organisations, it’s not really about adding new games into the portfolio of teams, it’s: can we make sure we perform well with our main assets? When it comes to Vitality, for example, it means League of Legends and Counter-Strike. We can obviously see that if we were to achieve big success with those teams, it has 10 times the impact you can have with other games. We want to make sure we get and have all the tools for these main teams to perform. When you have top players, you surround them with a very good coaching structure (which means a coach, an analyst, and everything you need to understand the game) to give them the right information, how they can play together, what’s the strategy, etc. Once you have that, the next step is to wonder: can I get the next percentage point so I have optimal performance?
That’s when communication, mental preparation, wellbeing, and physical shape become important to achieve optimal performance. That’s why you see this trend in the industry. Can we equip our players with everything to succeed? In that regard, we have the training facilities at Stade de France. We are working with a lot of people coming from traditional sport. We’ve built a new performance team around the CS:GO guys. We will work with Thierry Ascione, who is the coach of Elina Svitolina, one of the best tennis players. He’s also the coach of JoWilfried Tsonga, the French tennis player. This guy is coming to help our CS:GO team. He’s building an all-around performance team that will follow our CS:GO guys around the world all year long, so we make sure they have all the preparation, all the tools to communicate properly as a team. All of the experience coming from top-level traditional sport. ESJ: Going into 2020, what are Vitality’s plans and expectations for this year? NM: We want to make sure we can achieve our performance goal with the main teams. We’re in a very different situation if we look at League of Legends and Counter-Strike.
Counter-Strike, we want to win a major--simply put. That’s a very tough objective, very hard to achieve, but we feel that we have the right players, the right coaching staff, and we have everything to succeed. Now it’s on all of us in the organization: players, coaching staff, everyone to make sure we can achieve this goal. Basically, in CounterStrike, we want to be one of the best teams in the world or the best team in the world, so that’s a good challenge.
Obviously, League of Legends, we’re coming from a different situation because we’re rebuilding. We are completely changing the infrastructure. We have, right now, our two League of Legends teams based in Berlin, where before we had the LEC team there and the Academy team in France. Now everyone is going to Berlin to work together in the same office space with the two coaching staffs. The goal there is to make sure we have a cycle of two years--we want to go to League of Legends Worlds in 2021. We have very promising rookies to do so. I think we have the best coaching staff in the LEC, with Duke coming from Splyce/ MAD Lions with a lot of experience there working with rookies, plus Mephisto coming from Fnatic and Mitch Voorspoels coming over from G2. I think we are working with the best people in this industry, and we are building and rebuilding, reshaping our League infrastructure. League is more of a long-term plan--when I say long-term in esports, it’s two years. Let’s say it’s a two-year plan where we want to develop our promising rookie talent to make sure we can go to Worlds. And then, of course, we are ambitious for our other teams, for example Rocket League. We come from a year that’s close to perfect, with the World Championship title and then the final in the second World Championship. Of course, Rocket League, we want to keep the trend going. Fortnite, it will be an important year for us. We are reshaping our strategy to make sure we better understand the space. Fortnite has always been a bit complicated for us, because success is not totally based on performance and it’s not totally based on streaming. It’s something that’s kind of a hybrid, and we want to make sure we understand it better for this year.
ESJ: Why did Vitality decide to make a big push into India? NM: India is very important for us for several reasons. I’d say Asia is very important--we feel it’s where we want to expand to make sure we can reach a lot of new fans and get bigger audiences. We feel that the North American market is crowded in terms of teams, brands, and investment. It’s a market on its own, and a very competitive one. We don’t think it’s the right way to use our resources, so we are focusing on Asian expansion. And then we have a plan that we’ll start in India and China this year. The first step there is to make sure we find good streamers and influencers, and then go and build the teams. ESJ: How quickly do you see Indian esports breaking out and becoming a big part of the organization? NM: It’s very hard to say. We’re totally convinced that there’s a lot of potential in India, because there’s a very big interest, not only in esports but in gaming. A lot of people are very passionate there, but it’s hard to predict the time it takes for a European brand to be seen as legitimate to an Indian audience. It’s very hard to predict the amount of time it takes, it’s also hard to predict the way in which mobile sports will get a really solid competitive infrastructure.
If you look right now, it’s looking more like Fortnite. If you look at PUBG Mobile, for example, you have an aspect of competition with big tournaments, but the very big appeal is also based on streaming. Right now, it’s evolving quite quickly, but we need to see how the market evolves and at what pace. We’ll do our own things and we’ll instill the Vitality brand in India--that’s the goal. But it’s hard to predict the pace of this growth.
The world’s first independent esports data marketplace for in-game data ne of the greatest challenges facing the fast-growing esports industry is the availability of reliable, real-time in-game data. Exclusive contracts, manual data collection, and the lack of a central interface complicate broad distribution and the development of industry standards.
Data consumers want data with a high level of detail for all events and games, “preferably from a single source,” continues Dachselt. In addition, exclusive contracts between service providers and rights holders make broad distribution and standardisation difficult. For example, betting and media companies often only have access to the data of individual organizers or tournaments, which severely limits coverage.
This is where Bayes comes in. The tech company, which has grown to more than 30 employees in just eight months since launching, has developed BEDEX—an independent marketplace to provide data consumers with reliable live data through a single interface. Right from the start, consumers can access fast, live data for ESL and DreamHack Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) events and Riot Games’ LEC, LCS, and international League of Legends tournaments. Further expansion to include other gaming titles and organizers is already in development.
Data is a valuable asset in esports. Correctness and accuracy are unfortunately not a given, of course, as Martin Dachselt, Managing Director of Bayes, stresses. For data consumers, such as bookmakers or the media, this is a big problem—”especially in esports, which is much more agile and fast-paced than traditional sports.”
It is at this precise intersection of complexity where Bayes picks up the reins and takes a central stage in the industry with its marketplace, BEDEX. The Berlin-based company is in the process of finalising distribution agreements for esports data and video streams with tournament providers. Following the agreement, Bayes will carry out the technical integration. This includes data collection and processing, as well as the creation of complex products such as real-time visualisations and probabilistic models.
Martin Dachselt Interview with Martin Dachselt, Managing Director of Bayes
The Esports Journal: Martin, we would love to hear more about Bayes Esports Solutions. What vision are you pursuing with it? Martin Dachselt: Our vision is that Bayes will be the backbone of the esports data industry. The esports data market is very fragmented. Only a part of the professional esports data is available for people who want to buy itâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;and often locked in exclusive contracts. With BEDEX, we want to solve this problem. Game publishers and tournament organisers have the possibility to distribute and monetize their data hassle-free. On the other side, everybody who needs access to
the data finds a central place where you can purchase and access the data. Before BEDEX, data users had to implement a large number of protocols and formats to retrieve data; some had 50 integrations for CS:GO. ESJ: Can you tell us something about the target group of your product? How do the solutions of Bayes serve the client? MD: Bayes solves real issues that esports organizers, teams, media, and betting companies face every day. For example, through its partnership with Riot Games, game data from League of Legends esports competitions will
be transformed into a common format and delivered to media customers and betting companies. This partnership will increase access to League of Legends esports data, enabling the community and third-party operators to create a wide array of services, thus bolstering the esport. ESJ: Last but not least, a little glimpse into the future: Where do you see Bayes in five years? What are the next exciting steps? MD: Bayes will have 80 percent of all professional esports matches on its marketplace. BEDEX will be the central hub for esports data. 15
ver the past few years We Are Nations has established itself as one of the leading apparel companies in esports, and 2019 proved to be another incredibly busy year for the company.
AUTHOR Andrew Hayward @ahaywa
Nations launched an official store for Riot Games’ League of Legends Championship Series (LCS), acquired Sector Six Apparel, established a partnership with the Walmart Marketplace, and teamed up with sports apparel brand ‘47. Add to that fresh alliances with teams such as Cloud9, OG, and North and it felt like there was always something new happening with the company. “We grew tremendously last year, but the growth came from places that we necessarily didn’t expect, and quite frankly didn’t come from places that we thought maybe it would,” CEO Patrick Mahoney explained to The Esports Journal. “Things came out of left field that were just amazing.” Mahoney pointed to G2 Esports’ thrilling season in League of Legends as a prime example of a successful line, as merchandise sales grew and grew as the team won at the Mid-Season Invitational and then made it into the World Championship finals. “The numbers that we sold rivaled mid-level Premier League teams, we’re told. We’re really starting to hit some real numbers,” said Mahoney, based on conversations with contemporaries within the traditional sports space. However, esports merchandise is a much newer space and uncharted territory in some respects. What constitutes “big numbers” at this point is still something that’s being discovered. “We’re still trying to determine where all of these levels are—no one really knows,” he added. There’s an interesting opportunity for merchandising to be part of storytelling as well, Mahoney explained. Besides
Patrick Mahoney CEO We Are Nations
Expansion, apparel as storytelling, and partnering with the ULT brand riding the wave of G2’s League success, he also called out a limitededition long-sleeved OpTic Gaming jersey that We Are Nations produced to mark the team’s final Call of Duty World League run, prior to this year’s franchising push in Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty League. The mix of nostalgia and immense love for the
team and brand made it an enormously popular item for the company. “It just checked all the boxes. There’s an emotional aspect to it. It was like, ‘OpTic is dead, long live OpTic. It just really hit an emotional chord, and it was for the fans. There were a lot of references to the previous players in the art, and it was like a celebratory piece,” Mahoney explained.
“It was just a massive success, and coming from music where we do a Fall Out Boy or Panic at the Disco presale, we’re used to some pretty big numbers— it rivaled that, to be honest with you. It was pretty amazing.” Even if not every opportunity yielded that kind of fanfare, Mahoney said that his 2019 experience with We Are Nations only emboldened his expectations of bigger things ahead. “I truly believe that it’s going to find its way into cultures and it’s going to find its place next to football, basketball, and soccer,” he said. “I still totally believe that coming out of last year.”
significant brands,” he said. “I always wanted to do one and never was able to. It takes a certain skill set that maybe we didn’t have on the music side.”
ANOTHER BUSY YEAR Despite all this, don’t expect We Are Nations to slow down in 2020. In fact, the company marked the start of the year by announcing a large-scale licensing and marketing partnership with Ultimate Media Ventures, which will give Mahoney and team the ability to create lifestyle wear with the ULT brand. Helming an apparel brand has been one of Mahoney’s ambitions dating back to his time in music merchandising. “I’ve wanted to do a brand since forever. I come from music and also grew up in punk rock and skate culture, so I was always into the early skate brands and surf brands. I was a big fan of those emerging streetwear and culturally
According to Mahoney, when they first started chatting with Ultimate CEO Chris Mann and CCO Nate Eckman, there was a clear sense of chemistry and an opportunity to do something together. Better yet, he said, it’s a partnership that makes the most of both of their respective talents. “When we started talking to Nate and to Chris, we realised that together we had the ingredients. They have the brand and they have the reach, but I think we’ve got best practices in terms of distribution, scale, and compliance,” he said. “Shipping to retailers is boring stuff. You’ve got to label it a certain way, fold it a certain way, and use a certain freight carton, but we’ve got all of that. It seemed like it made sense to come together with them. I think we gave each other something the other didn’t have; could’ve had, but maybe it wasn’t worth doing on their own. Maybe the marriage was better. That’s what we think.”
“My excitement comes from: I finally get to play with a brand, but I get to play with it in a way where I can use our strengths,” he added. If 2019 is any indication, then the ULT deal is likely just the tip of the iceberg of what to expect from We Are Nations in the months ahead. They have also signed an expanded deal with ‘47 that covers more product categories and the entire Nations roster, plus they’re working with Outerstuff on fan apparel and retail market merchandise. Mahoney said that the goal is to “aggregate as many teams as we can,” even if they aren’t large-scale or exclusive deals. Every partnership with a significant force, be it an esports team or league, complementary apparel brand, or strategic ally, will only help elevate We Are Nations further and help the company get its apparel and merchandise in front of as many eyes as possible. “It’s a long road, or a medium road, certainly. I don’t know if we’ll get placement in DICK’s Sporting Goods immediately, but I think we’ll get there,” he said. “We’ll certainly get there if esports keeps tracking in the way that we all think it’s going to.”
Esports Rising: Opportunities and Challenges for Esports Investment in 2020
AUTHORS Phil Colaco and Christian Christoefl, Deloitte Corporate Finance LLC
CEO, Deloitte Corporate Finance LLC
Esports has become one of the most exciting growth areas across both entertainment and sports, and investment activity has surged in recent years as traditional investors begin examining the space in earnest. The esports industry saw more than $4.5b in disclosed investments in 2018, and there’s little indication that momentum slowed significantly last year.(1)(2) In fact, the global esports market in 2019 achieved revenues of around $1.1b, with growth of 22.6% anticipated this year.(3) In terms of investment activity, 2019 has witnessed the continued entrance of traditional investors, such as family offices and growth and private equity groups, into the industry, with nearly half of respondents in a 2019 survey of esports executives anticipating increased investment from private equity and venture capital investors for that year.(4) As esports continues its rise into the mainstream, the number of interested traditional investors continues to grow.(5) As we look towards 2020, Deloitte Corporate Finance LLC (DCF) has identified three key trends that we expect to continue over the next 12 months, based largely on our continuing conversations with traditional investors while representing esports clients.
Traditional Investors Continue Esports Education
Based on DCF’s activity in the market, last year was an educational year for traditional investors. In DCF’s experience, these investors will typically make investments in industries that are generally more established and with companies that hold a track record beyond the start-up stage. At the start of 2019, most of the conversations we had with these groups were educational and introductory in nature. There was a lot of interest in this growing space, but even more questions around high-level industry
dynamics and why they should get involved. By contrast, conversations with traditional investors by the end of the year were more nuanced. There was more confidence in the viability of the industry and discussions were targeted to specifics of various esports industry subsectors. Over the past 12 months most of the conversations related to investment in the esports arena shifted from “whether” to get involved into “how” to get involved. This was demonstrated in discussions we had associated with an esports panel we hosted as part of our Deloitte Entrepreneur Summit (DES) in Dallas last November. DES is an annual event that connects companies with capital providers through a series of short meetings in a “speed-dating” format. The panel consisted of notable esports industry representatives, including Chris Chaney, Kern Egan, Mo Hallaba, and Patrick Mahoney, diving into the nuance of the industry and the pitfalls and challenges that new investors may face. Investors in the room were interested in getting beyond the oft-quoted, industry growth statistics, and understanding the fundamental business dynamics across esports industry subsectors. From an investment perspective, this educational development is a critical contributor to industry maturation. Traditional investors entering a new space and asking second-order questions around profitability and long-term viability are beneficial as they lead the industry towards internal assessment and growth. Moving from venture capital, which often is willing to take a risk on the unknown potential of an opportunity, to more traditional investors will offer access to a greater level of capital for esports-focused companies, but will require answers to tough questions around operations. We anticipate that as traditional investors dig further into the esports
industry they will bring with them an increasingly nuanced understanding that will require companies in the space to consider their unique positioning and core operations.
The Attractiveness of Esports Infrastructure In terms of investment focus areas, looking ahead to 2020, a likely trend will be greater investment into the esports infrastructure. Infrastructure opportunities can widely vary, representing such subsectors as event organizers, consumer products companies, and technology platforms. Essentially, companies that provide the products and services that support the activities and spending of the attractive esports demographics should garner attention from traditional investors as they may demonstrate similar operating dynamics to prior investments in other industries, affording these investors a shorter learning curve and deeper understanding of the possible risks. For example, while traditional investors may not understand all the nuance of a gaming-focused computer peripherals company, they will recognise the common elements of manufacturing, distribution, and supply chain management. Investors would be able to leverage their expertise in these operations to be a more value-added partner to an investment, while gaining exposure to the lucrative esports demographic.
The Challenge of the Esports Team Investment A common theme from investors in 2019 that will likely continue is the general hesitancy to get involved with esports team organisations through direct investments. Whereas these teams have certainly dominated the headlines in the past couple of years, questions remain among investors regarding long-term 19
profitability and sustainability. Teams have explored different business models, ranging from attempts to be “one-stop shops” of all things esports to more streamlined operations focused strictly on team development within their respective leagues. Concerns regarding profitability remain as questions persist around ballooning costs for player salaries, housing, and support staff.(6) As such, an additional value to investors of esports infrastructure over team organisations is the track record of profitability of these companies. In addition, when examining historical esports investment activity, investment in esports teams has largely been dominated by the top ten organisations. Of the $234M in investments made into team organisations in 2018, over 50% of that has gone to the top then global organisations, such as Cloud9 and Team Liquid.(7) Given this accumulation of investment dollars, traditional investors we speak with have expressed concerns around investment in teams outside of these larger global brands. Overall, until the team organization business model fully takes shape, many traditional investors will likely continue to explore alternative esports investments in 2020.
Conclusion Esports has grown significantly over the past several years, both in the mainstream consciousness and in terms of invested capital. The strong tailwinds driving this growth trajectory remain. Esports viewership among its dedicated viewer base continues to grow, and with it the further maturation of esportsfocused companies that may attract traditional investors looking to diversify and participate in this exciting industry. (8)
Sources Cited (1) Deloitte Corporate Finance and The Esports Observer, “The Rise of Esports Investment,” April 2019, https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/ advisory/articles/the-rise-of-esports-investments. html, Accessed January 16, 2020. (2) Jurre Pannekeet, “Newzoo: Global Esports Economy Will Top $1 Billion for First Time in 2019” Newzoo, February 12, 2019, https://newzoo.com/ insights/articles/newzoo-global-esports-economywill-top-1-billion-for-the-first-time-in-2019/, Accessed January 16, 2019. (3) Ibid. (4) Foley & Lardner LLP and The Esports Observer, “2019 Esports Survey,” November 12, 2019, https://www.foley.com/-/media/files/insights/ publications/2019/11/2019-esports-survey-report.pdf, Accessed January 16, 2020. (5) Deloitte Corporate Finance and The Esports Observer, “The Rise of Esports Investment,” April 2019, https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/ advisory/articles/the-rise-of-esports-investments. html, Accessed January 16, 2020. (6) Haydn Taylor, “The state of esports: Radical growth and inevitable failure,” gameindustry.biz December 14, 2018, https://www.gamesindustry.biz/ articles/2018-12-14-the-state-of-esports-radicalgrowth-and-inevitable-failure, Accessed January 16, 2020.
(7) Deloitte Corporate Finance and The Esports Observer, “The Rise of Esports Investment,” April 2019, https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/ advisory/articles/the-rise-of-esports-investments. html, Accessed January 16, 2020. (8) Jason Dachman, “ESL’s Major Esports Tournaments See 90% Growth in Viewership,” SVG News, August 19, 2019, https://www.sportsvideo. org/2019/08/19/esls-major-esports-tournamentssee-90-growth-in-viewership/, Accessed January 16, 2020. Deloitte Corporate Finance LLC (DCF), a brokerdealer registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC), is an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of Deloitte Financial Advisory Services LLP and affiliate of Deloitte Transactions and Business Analytics LLP. Investment banking or other services that would require registration as a broker-dealer with the SEC and membership in FINRA would be provided exclusively by DCF. For more information, visit www.investmentbanking. deloitte.com. Please see www.deloitte.com/ us/about for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting.
Esports BAR Cannes
head of Esports BAR Cannes’ 7th edition this month, we speak to Director, Arnaud Verlhac, about plans for the 2020 event...
The Esports Journal: What does Esports BAR Cannes’ 2020 edition have in store for visitors? What’s new for this year? Arnaud Verlhac: The 7th edition of Esports BAR Cannes has plenty of networking, insights, conferences, and mentoring, plus two-and-a-half days of conferences with keynotes and speakers like Bundesliga, Garena, Porsche, and Webedia. We’re also launching a new session format for publishers, a roundtable to dive deep into the games’ ecosystems, and of course The Game Shakers Awards on the 11th. ESJ: This year’s theme is: One Galaxy at a time, navigating the esports universe! The esports universe is ever-evolving. How is that reflected in this year’s programme? AV: The theme of the programme itself actually represents this. Until now, Esports BAR and most esports B2B events have addressed the topic in their conferences as esports being one topic itself, when in fact it’s now much the opposite. Until recently, esports had to be popularised and explained: how did it work, who was involved and what was at stake? Now that esports is much more familiar, we feel that we can go deeper. The idea is to embrace all esports topics but go into more specifics, for example title by title, separating League of Legends from Fortnite, or categories by categories, in a sports perspective or from a mobile gaming point of view. 22
Arnaud Verlhac Director
ESJ: What are your personal highlights in this year’s programme? AV: In my opinion, there are three clear boosting profiles: brands, investors, and publishers. We have reached a record number of publishers attending Esports BAR Cannes this year. Among them are Tencent, Ubisoft, Riot Games, Garena, Bandai Namco, EA, and Gameloft,… and we have more brands than ever, including Mondelez, Nike, Porsche, Coca-Cola, Nestlé, HSBC, Barclays, Barilla, Burger King, Yves Saint Laurent-L’Oréal, Mars, and Mastercard. Finally, investors are an important track at Esports BAR, where startups can pitch to top investors and where investors will present what they expect from projects, where their interest lies.
categories: esports and brands, esports and sports, media and esports, the Game Shaker of the Year, and the Community Shaker. Except for the Community Shaker, an elite esports jury selects all finalists, and as well as the winner, they will all be announced in Cannes during the ceremony.
ESJ: You’ve just announced an exciting exclusive fireside chat between speakers from Riot Games and CPW cereals about their League of Legends collaboration. Tell us more about that. AV: This will feature Alban Dechelotte, Head of Business Development & Sponsorships at Riot Games in discussion with Bérengère Chalvon Demersay, Associate Marketing Manager at CPW (Cereal Partners Worldwide). Their intimate, dynamic conversation will look at three years of a successful partnership between the two global brand giants and their LEC and LION Cereals iconic brands. We’re excited to be hosting this session between two such relevant and vibrant brands, who are so important to the ever-evolving and booming esports industry. It’s bound to be an inspiring and insightful discussion.
ESJ: You mentioned the ambassador for the awards is NBA star, Tony Parker. What is his connection to esports? AV: Tony Parker is, in fact, highly involved in esports. This year he launched the Tony Parker Adéquat Academy in Lyon, France, which is designed to provide educational and employment opportunities to young people in the esports sector. This launch confirms how esports and education are now very close and shows there are many things to build in this area. There are more and more esports schools and programmes for young people and Tony Parker represents this through his academy; he is playing a big part in it.
ESJ: Esports BAR will be hosting The Game Shakers Awards again this year, on 11 Feb. The awards celebrate the heroes of the esports business and non-endemic partners collaborating with the esports world. How important are awards in progressing the esports industry? AV: This year is the third year hosting The Game Shakers Awards, and we can see that it’s gaining an incredible reach among the community. We have five
For the Community Shaker award, the esports community--namely esports fans--are the voters. We noticed a strong involvement from both selected teams who asked their community to vote, and from the community itself who reacted in numbers by actually voting. And the fact that our ambassador this year is the NBA star Tony Parker shows, in my opinion, how far the reach goes.
ESJ: How international is the gathering in Cannes? Does it attract delegates from all over the world? AV: It’s actually very international. We are expecting more than 45 countries this year! We have companies from India, Singapore, the Philippines, but also the United States, Northern Europe, South America with Chile, Saudi Arabia, and Russia. The esports world will be very well represented and this is one of our distinct specialisms, managing to reach such an international level. ESJ: The Esports BAR team also hosts an event in Miami, each October. How
does that event differ from the Cannes conference? AV: While still being international, our Miami event has a greater focus on Latin America and North America. So, in our conferences, we dedicate more sessions to questions linked to these geographical areas. But as esports is moving so fast and changing at such a pace, Miami is also the opportunity to discuss and tackle the latest trends that have emerged since the Cannes edition. ESJ: Any predictions for the commercial future of the sector? AV: While I think everyone will agree on the fact that we are all in need of more data on the industry, we can still see the incredible growth of the sector. The annual growth is spectacular with +25 pts and the target is enormous: 500 million people globally. Even though esports is still evolving and looking to gain structure, it will surely last for a while. The number of esports events rising every year is good proof of that! The fact that new job positions and monetisation solutions are emerging simply shows how powerful esports is and that it will grow quickly. ESJ: And what about the future of Esports BAR? Can we expect to see other global editions in other locations? AV: Everything is possible! Esports BAR evolves according to the industry. As we see the industry growing in so many parts of the world, I’m sure that Esports BAR will follow. ESJ: What are you most looking forward to about Esports BAR Cannes 2020? AV: Seeing all the buzzing discussions and business that will be done is surely something I am looking forward to. This event is the opportunity to bring together esports experts with brands, media, and investors; that concept brings an incredible spirit and atmosphere. Esports BAR Cannes takes place 11-13 Feb 2020, Palais des Festivals, Cannes, France. Register for your delegate pass at our website: cannes.the-esports-bar.com 23
William Harding The future’s bright – the future is esports s ICE London prepares to take esports to the next level with a brand new, state-ofthe-art Esports Arena combining live tournaments, demonstrations, workshops and world-class esports players, the event organiser’s Head of Esports, William Harding, reflects on why the ICE brand is primed to deliver the third age for the increasingly popular betting sector.
From his early days playing Warcraft III, and his role in embedding Twitch.tv within Europe, Harding is well-versed in the international arena and explores his passion for players, the need for industry-wide esports education, and where the sector is headed next. The Esports Journal: When ICE London launched its industry Esports Arena, you called it a “first for not just ICE London, but industry events worldwide.” Why is ICE London the right place and right time for this innovation? William Harding: The gaming and esports collision started to gain traction in 2014 and became really prevalent in 2015. The viewership has really bought the industry in line with its popularity. Because of the amount of esports viewers, and their enthusiasm and their desire to watch the game, people are naturally wagering on the outcomes on who will win and lose but also so many different and distinct variables within each different game. The esports wagering industry in 2015 was close to $5.6B and this year it’s set to be $13B, and that’s only registered
wagering revenue - so it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Revenue estimates from ESIC and gaming operators suggest the unregulated esports betting market could be 12 times higher than the regulated market. It just goes to show that when different geographical markets open up (regulate), like North America, Brazil (likely to be the next big one), and particularly out in East Asia, the iceberg is going to finally come into full view. At ICE London 2020 we will be unveiling the first ever Esports Arena at the show, and one of my core goals is to ensure that there’s a consistent focus on education to get across to companies who are either new to the sector or driving its future forward. It’s Clarion’s mandate to educate the entire industry as fully as possible. I want to embrace this to ensure attendees are connecting to esports in the right way, in order to be mutually beneficial to the esports sector and the global gaming industry as a whole.
more prevalent in certain markets, it’s an international audience and the main esports hotspots tie in with our upcoming international events. ICE North America is going into its second year, and the U.S. audience are big gamblers who tend to spend nearly twice as much as traditional gamblers, especially on esports and sports betting. In addition, Brazil is a key area, so we are looking at a Latin America launch and other regions in the coming years too. The infrastructure is there to embed esports initiatives in these markets and
ESJ: You’ve joined Clarion Gaming as Head of Esports. Is ICE London a sign of things to come in terms of the sector? WH: ICE London will be the arena’s hard debut and we then hope to roll it out to other events. Esports is is global, William so although Harding there may be Head of Esports certain games Clarion Gaming which are
we have the knowledge and the desire to launch it through the ICE brand. We just want to ensure that it’s done in the correct way. ESJ: Where do you see the opportunities for esports at this stage? WH: Esports is still very much in its infancy. It’s all driven by how many people are playing games, and more importantly, how many people are watching professionals playing in tournaments. The more and more this happens, the more natural conversion will take place of young fans into wagering. In terms of where things will likely grow in coming years, I split it into two columns: online esports wagering and land-based esports tournaments. You have a lot of casinos, particularly in Las Vegas, who are looking to bring in computer gamers to gamble physically on their premises. For example, HyperX Esports Arena at The Luxor has its custom-built esports arena which hosts tournaments most days of the week, and that’s great. I believe the land-based side of esports gambling is a harder route to map. It’s a hard task to get computer gamers out of their houses and into the current non-gamer casino environment we have now. Partnering and working directly with esports companies and professionals is going to be key to this success. Where land-based can grow is in the Integrated Resorts offering, which is the natural next step in terms of continued growth for the sector, as the average demographic is keen to consume entertainment in new and different ways. It’s not enough to just put on tournaments. Casinos need to branch out and work with a whole different spectrum of people to try and help to embed esports within its process from the grassroots up.
ESJ: What is your link with esports in terms of work and in daily life? WH: Not as much as I’d like. I watch Warcraft III most days, and I used to play it back in the day. I still follow the pro scene and enjoy it in the same way someone can enjoy keeping up with football leagues. Now I focus on games that have a strong wagering and esports crossover, such as CS:GO, Dota 2, League of Legends, etc. With so many games to play, there are only a handful which are currently driving the esports gambling sector. This will, of course, change. When wagering becomes important to different titles, I will switch my gameplay to keep up-to-date. ESJ: So you still watch a game which was first released in 2002. Why do you think certain games become popular with the esports community? WH: Well, 2002’s Warcraft III is quite a niche esports game in 2020 - but if you look at Counter-Strike, that’s been out in some form for 19 years but it is still one of the most popular esports titles in the world. The thing with video games is that they constantly evolve; the pro gamers play them and find new ways of putting in strategy, which in turn prods the developer to rebalance the game. Also, developers want to add in as much new content as possible, and they can. Counter-Strike has been out for a long time, but if you look at its first iterations and what it is now, you probably wouldn’t think it’s the same game! ESJ: Esports is still seen as a relatively new phenomenon to mainstream audiences. How do you go about interacting with current fans while targeting new customers to the sector? WH: It’s a huge market which is changing very quickly, but it’s important to distinguish between a video game and an esports game. There are tens of thousands of video games on mobile, consoles, PC, VR, etc. whereas esports games are the top echelon of online games. Aside from esports games having a pro scene behind them,
funding, prize money, established viewership, teams, and excellent gameplay, there’s another distinction: esports games need to have their API accessed, accurate odds need to be worked out, and all the parameters decided upon. Some games are more problematic than others. For example, with battle royale games with 100 players within. Adjusting real time match variables to supply accurate betting odds for the customer in this situation is a near-impossible task. ESJ: What are your hopes and aspirations for ICE London and what esports can bring to the gambling/ entertainment mix? WH: ICE London has a phenomenal reputation, and is at the forefront of innovation not just across gaming but in the entire events industry. This new feature will truly allow visitors to ‘Dive into the Future’ with esports. More than anything, we want to give an authentic esports experience in ways which have never been seen before. At ICE London, the esports sector has had representation on the show floor, but since the sector’s staggering growth in recent years, the opportunities just keep on growing. We want to provide the platform to truly showcase all of them. ICE will position itself as an authentic esports supporter by partnering with GG.BET to ensure esport credibility and longevity into the market. We will have eight top CS:GO teams in the world playing real-time games, which will be streamed to real fans around the world all of which will be live on the ICE London showfloor. This is going to be a true first for the industry. 25
RID, the esports data company, has had an instrumental year in terms of growth, opportunity, and setting a foundation across the esports landscape in 2019. Growing from around a team of 10 at the end of 2018 in Berlin, they are now 40 strong across three office locations spanning Europe and Asia. This is testament to the rise they have seen in profile and opportunity.
GRID’s 2019 began in style, with the company moving into a great space on the corner of Mauer Park in Berlin. In line with the move GRID launched its first data visualisation for Dota 2 to be consumed and viewed across different data reliant commercial verticals.
Both CS:GO and Dota 2 visualisations are part of the Rapid Product Set, which encompasses speed, accuracy, and efficiency to serve the optimal visualisation to allow data customers to harness the quality of data available given the digital nature of esports. The product itself was designed and constructed in line with GRID’s clients and team who have an extensive background in online gaming and trading; both areas which heavily rely on fast and accurate data. A common challenge within the startup space is to not chase the coin over the founding vision; GRID’s Rapid product provided the perfect foundation for the development teams to focus on their
core driver through the year - the GRID data platform.
The Rapid Visualisation set comes alive at WESG
Through February, GRID had its first real test for the Rapid Visualisation suite partnering with WESG to deliver on live insights and automated milestones that could be served both on stream and via social channels. Off the back of the showcase of work produced, CEO Moritz Maurer and his team secured the data rights for several top tier competitions and partnered with FACEIT’s ECS league to deliver data-driven sponsorship inventory for their betting partner Pinnacle across the tournament.
On returning from Asia to mark a successful first quarter, GRID held an industry party at its Berlin offices. This marked the first of many celebrations throughout the year as the opportunities and initiatives snowballed through the spring and summer months. A successful recruitment drive saw new hires join the team: VP of Partnerships Charlie Hanley-Nickolls and Head of Design Jonathan Prieto were brought onboard to help to push GRID’s vision towards the support of fan-facing, datadriven visualisations. This included a collection of scoreboards for the three key titles within esports: CS:GO, Dota 2, and League of Legends.
Using data to conceptualise esports and drive engagement In June, Maurer led a talk at Berlin’s NOAH conference on the topic of esports and its relationship with entertainment and traditional sport. This talk would frame GRID’s push and product vision towards a new vertical; fan engagement. Working with publishers as well as the tournaments that sit across them has always been GRID’s long-term aim. “Using data to conceptualise esports to a broader audience and increase engagement of die-hard fans are drivers both for our immediate and long term growth” Mortiz Maurer, CEO at GRID
Breaking new ground with Pinnacle September brought with it a fantastic and resounding multi-year deal with Pinnacle Sportsbook. First announced at ESI London, it’s a deal largely grounded on the trust established through the integration of GRID’s data feed design and reliability. A close relationship between Pinnacle and GRID since their conception has been the bedrock of a partnership that promises the best data against the best odds. GRID will provide esports data to Pinnacle’s B2B Sportsbook arm, which promises a lot in relation to the current market “This deal with GRID is an important part of the esports evolution at Pinnacle. We have a reputation to maintain, and thanks to the quality of data that GRID can provide, we’re only going to keep improving” , said Marco Blume, Trading Director Pinnacle. Along with the Pinnacle announcement, GRID partnered with Starladder for the CS:GO Berlin Major through September. This capped a year since GRID’s
inception at the FACEIT Major in London in 2018, and was a fitting accolade to the team returning to a world class CS:GO event in its home city. Moritz Maurer CEO GRID
Marco Blume Trading Director Pinnacle Photo: @CharlotteArtz
Through autumn, GRID partnered with Unikrn to operate and run the UML Season 2. This partnership allowed GRID to showcase many of their efforts to date, taking on the task of building the website for two tournaments: UML and the ECC Champions Cup. In turn, they were able to show just how much untapped potential lies on the fan engagement side for tournament operators. This initiative shall be rolled out across both teams and tournaments in 2020 to help entities direct their audience towards their digital properties to tailor the experience specifically for their fans.
Partnership with GODSENT and charity drive GODSENT is the first recipient of this initiative, and outside of the Watch Page which has been built GRID also partnered with the organisation to run a charity match. This was to help raise funds for Swedish charity Barn Cancer Fonden, which pushes to extraordinary efforts to support children who suffer from cancer. The show match saw GODSENT narrowly edge out GRID across a best-of-three CS:GO encounter, although some of the handicapping going on within the server may have accounted somewhat for the competitiveness! The match raised over â&#x201A;Ź6,000 and was evidence of how esports and gaming can work towards bringing more exposure to worthwhile causes.
2020 promises to be quite the ride for GRID, and theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re an emerging force to watch and consider within the esports space. Keep an eye out for potential landmark deals within the space, as there is sure to be more who join Moritz Maurer and his team on the GRID.
Platform Where mainstream culture meets esports and gaming AUTHOR Phoebe Dua @Dualism97
Nicolo Portunato, Tomaso Portunato and Lucas Weintraub Founders Platform
A hop, skip and a jump away from the global HQ of Fnatic, and nestled in a quiet side street between Liverpool and Old Street stations in central London, is an unassuming new offering in the city’s nightlife options; Platform. Opened in early 2019, the esports and video gaming café-bar has enjoyed a whirlwind first ten months. Open throughout the day too, the venue caters to all levels of gamer; from the super casual to the aspiring pro, or indeed, the pros themselves. There’s a 5v5 stage set-up for PC players, and booths for those who favour consoles (old and new), not to mention a racing rig too.
There’s ample seating for those just wanting to enjoy a drink, a chat and perhaps some of their now renowned pizza, and screens show esports and gaming content round the clock. Something for everyone is the focus, and creating a social hub with gaming at its core. The Esports Journal sat down with two of the founders; the brothers Tomaso and Nicolo Portunato. The Esports Journal:Tell us the Platform origin story. Tomaso Portunato: We’re not from the UK. The three original founders are from Geneva, Switzerland, born and raised there and we all moved to the UK to study.
Geneva’s quite a small town, so we were really looking forward to going to a huge city with a lot of new stories to discover. I started at an incubator called Entrepreneur First, and was working on an esports betting concept about five or six years ago. I ended up finishing my studies instead and then started working on the Platform project. We did a bunch of market research and events to test the market. A few months after I started, my brother joined in. Nicolo Portunato: I’m an exmanagement consultant focused on big data. I moved back to the UK two years ago to join my brother when the first investment round was closed, and we have a third co-founder too; 29
Lucas Weintraub. This first meeting, fittingly, took place; in a bar where he and Tomaso got talking about the idea, the concept and the potential. He’s also a gamer, he joined the company straight away and was 100% in. Shortly after that when we were finishing up a business plan, we had a fourth founder come in. He’s ex-KPMG, a bit more of a grey-haired consultant! Over the years we’ve been working with him, and of course the more experienced people on the team. We’re now about 15 strong but it could be up to 40-50 by the end of the year. We are in a phase of hyper-growth right now so it’s exciting times! ESJ: When creating Platform what was the inspiration behind it, and were there other businesses that you look to for inspiration? TP: The inspiration came from the lack of inspiration. We were looking around, seeing what was available and moving from Switzerland to London, I think we were expecting a lot of really cool gaming concepts around. We’ve been around and we haven’t been really impressed with what exists! We’ve been trying to take more inspiration from non-gaming venues and operations to try and create something fresh with the gaming concept. ESJ: You’re still in your first year of operation, how has it been and what have you learned about the process so far? TP: We had to learn basically everything. We, the founders, didn’t have any hospitality experience so we had to get some key hires in to start to understand how such an operation works. We actually were working on the project for two years but we’ve only been open for about 10 months now. It took a good amount of time to do some market research, plus the whole fundraising 30
period and looking for a venue was pretty challenging. So far it’s working really well. I think the first few months were a bit shaky, but over the past five, six months, we’ve seen some growth and some really good revenue numbers so we are looking at expansion now! ESJ: Is expansion and more venues a goal in your plans for 2020, or do you expect that to come later? TP: Currently we’re looking at least two more openings in 2020, hopefully the first one by the end of Q2 and the second one during Q3/4. We’re working on different types of projects. The first is the most casual version of what we want to build, but we have different types of venue profiles that we’re looking at. Another one is a lot more focused on esports. ESJ: With all this expansion, what do you think it is about Platform that makes it unique compared to the competition out there? TP: I think the main difference is that we’re appealing to the 90% lesscore gamers rather than the 10% core gamers. We’re trying to fight the stereotype of what people think about a gaming venue. Right now, they think about these neon dark places underground where people play.
So we’re going the other way and actually our current customers don’t even consider themselves ‘gamers’, they might like to play FIFA sometimes or used to play more some time ago but they haven’t lost their interest in gaming. They just feel the current venues around are not suitable for their needs. ESJ: In terms of USP, and brand identity, there’s clearly a focus on the location, and everything down to the nice beer choices and good pizza adds to the character. When you look to open new Platforms, are you planning for each to follow this model closely, or are you looking to experiment more with different variants? TP: We’re gonna keep the same core ethos which is about fighting the stereotype and getting the broader public in. Right now what we have in the current side of the decision we made, it can be through interior design, it can be about the colours we choose, the way we talk to our customers, and the way we serve our customers. We spend an awful lot of time teaching the staff how to interact, and understand what level of gamer our customers are. This is to make sure we’re not overwhelming them, but at the same time not undermining their knowledge of games. So this is the kind of fine balance that needs to be reached.
NP: The offering here has been done in this way because we are in central London - the thinking was what are the new trends? We’ve looked a lot to Shoreditch, then we also looked at very famous beer brands. The success of craft beer in the UK is massive now in the last five to six years. That’s why we’ve partnered with a beer brand. In the future, I think it’s going to be interesting to see how more mainstream brands are going to try to come into the venue. A good example of this is how we started off with Karma Cola for our cola offering, and now we’ve switched to Coca-Cola because, in short, the customers really wanted Coca-Cola! TP: Interestingly, also within the same idea of bringing into mainstream, we want to be a cultural place where gaming meets all of the mainstream culture. We want to be the catalyst or melting point for that where everything can link back together. A space that meets the mission of those maybe not too familiar with gaming, but that know all about food, music, fashion, and design so we can do a lot of different activations here wherein we merge the worlds together! And, in turn, we get some more people into the industry. ESJ: Do you think that the casual side of things, making it a place to meet and a place to socialise brings in a lot more of those non gamers that are actually a far better market than the ‘hardcore’ gamers that want everything a certain way? NP: Absolutely. There’s two main points that are worth mentioning. The first is on a brand and a story standpoint. It’s beneficial for the whole industry if we can get more people back into gaming and into esports. But then on a more commercial level, we’ve seen the data about the average spend of the more core gamers within a gaming bar or venue. It’s not really that high, and it’s the 90% less hardcore gamers that usually have a higher average spend. It’s not about purchasing
power, it’s about spending patterns. It makes sense commercially too to focus on the rest of the population. ESJ: Would you say Platform is to esports and gaming what Flight Club is for darts? Are you making esports and gaming ‘cool’ again? TP: The idea is to make it cool, but I think places such as Flight Club have a robust business model which doesn’t leave a lot of open room for discussion.They have a really cool way of selling darts but they’re not having conference talks for example, or a lot of collaborations. They are highly successful though and I’m not going to deny that, those guys are great, it’s just a different positioning from what we’re working on with Platform. Culturally, if you want to make an impact, you have to take some extra steps, go the extra mile, this is sometimes not the most profitable route but that’s the route you have to take. We want to be a forum for discussion, which means it’s gonna be a lot of back and forth. I love the space for collaboration. NP: I think we are more what cinemas are to the film industry, and what festivals are for music. I would say it’s a place where people can enjoy what they like, in our case video games, and then they can sit down and
talk about it. When you go to Flight Club, it is more of a place where you mostly play darts and drink a lot more than anything else. It’s a nice place and everything but it’s not a place that you’re going to go to often, it’s more for the parties and big social occasions; we want to be a place where you can go on a regular basis. TP: Also as an entertainment form, I have nothing against darts, but it’s not really comparable in terms of scale to what gaming and esports is, and moreover, will be. There’s always gonna be a million things to talk about. A thousand new phenomena to discuss somewhere. ESJ: In an ideal world where everything goes perfectly to plan, where would you want to kind of be in five years time? TP: Our current plan is growth throughout the UK, to show our capabilities of growth and speed and also get this introduction to esports really off the ground.That’s the first step. The second step is to go beyond the UK across Europe initially and hopefully, at some point, the USA too. We’re not that interested in going to Asia quite yet as we think we have a more Western view of the socialising aspect of the concept. I think the US and Europe is big enough for us to have to grow.
Approaching the esports betting opportunity in the right way AUTHOR Andrew Hayward ď&#x201A;&#x2122; @ahaywa
he expansion and professionalisation brings ample opportunities to stakeholders, but also unique challenges. On the legal front, these potential hurdles relate to everything from rights issues to sponsorship terms and esports gambling. London-based legal firm Mishcon de Reya has a long history in adjacent spaces, with established groups for Sports as well as Betting & Gambling, and now has applied that ample experience towards the burgeoning esports industry. The
Esports Journal spoke with Mishcon de Reyaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Nick Nockton, Partner in the Corporate department and Betting & Gaming group, and Tom Murray, Associate in the Sports group and member of the Commercial team, to get their perspective on some of the unique topics in the space. The Esports Journal: Esports is clearly an attractive proposition for bookmakers and operators as they look to attract the coveted 18-35 year old demographic. What would you say are the key things to consider for operators looking to engage in sponsorship?
Mishcon de Reya: First and foremost, bookmakers and operators need to appreciate the esports ecosystem. This means understanding what rights are available and who owns them. The industry typically uses complex IP licensing arrangements between publishers (who own the IP in a title), teams and tournament organisers (who have a license to use it). Sponsors need to be clear on who owns what rights, including things such as copyright in broadcast materials, to ensure that they have the ability to exploit the materials needed in order to make the partnership a success.
The fluidity and pace of change in esports presents unique challenges to which sponsors must be responsive to. In a single year, new games such as Apex Legends can emerge and competition structures can transform dramatically (i.e. Call of Duty moving to a franchise model). The success of teams, including the titles and tournaments in which they participate, can change significantly in a short period of time. In 2018, London-based Excel competed across a host of titles including Rocket League, Street Fighter and FIFA, but in 2019 dropped these upon becoming a partner in Riot Games’ League of Legends European Championship (LEC) franchise league. Bookmakers and operators may wish to consider entering into shorter-term sponsorship agreements (typically two years with an option to renew) to give them greater flexibility to respond to industry changes. Further, if a sponsor is entering into a partnership because of an organisation’s presence in a particular tournament or territory, the sponsor should consider including a right to terminate the agreement if the organisation no longer participates in
these territories. These rights give the sponsor the ability to walk away from a deal if it is no longer economically attractive. ESJ: When looking at team sponsorship, there’s obstacles such as players under the age of 18 competing for teams, and teams competing all over the world in different jurisdictions. Does this add another level of complexity to esports and what’s best practice in approaching this? MDR: This certainly presents additional obstacles that depend on the particular laws governing gambling advertising in relevant jurisdictions. For example, it’s a condition of a Swedish betting licence that you cannot offer betting markets on any event where the majority of players in a team are under 18. Meanwhile in the UK, gambling advertising cannot include any person under the age of 18, and cannot feature a person between the ages of 18 and 24 in a prominent role other than in a place where a bet can be placed (such as the operator’s website). Even then, the person should be depicted playing their sport and not betting. This does not
prevent a young person (18-24) wearing merchandise in a tournament setting, but under-18s should not. ESJ: There are still leagues such as the Overwatch League, and similarly Riot’s League of Legends circuit that simply do not allow gambling companies to get involved. Do you see this changing in the future? MDR: Riot Games’ League of Legends and the Overwatch League’s restrictions on betting sponsorships have historically proven to be significant hurdles for bookmakers and operators to overcome. An example of this was back in 2017 when Betway were forced to prematurely terminate their partnership with esports team Ninjas in Pyjamas (NiP) upon NiP’s entry into what was then the European League of Legends Championship Series (EU LCS) Much of the Overwatch League’s and Riot Games’ reluctance to engage with bookmakers and operators appears to stem from their US roots. The US has historically approached sports betting and online gambling with
Nick Nocton Partner in the Corporate department and Betting & Gaming group
Tom Murray Associate in the Sports group and member of the Commercial team
caution. However, we have recently seen a regulatory shift, which has seen remote sports betting in the US become increasingly tolerated. The US is now moving towards a system of regulated sports betting which is already beginning to influence certain sport franchises such as the NFL. With this, we would expect publishers and tournament organisers to reconsider their approach towards betting and gaming in order to benefit from the capital that the industry offers. We would hope that in partnering with the right gambling operator, publishers and tournament organisers will promote responsible gambling and ensure that viewers use trusted operators to bet on their games and tournaments. ESJ: From an integrity standpoint - do you see esports as having bigger issues than mainstream sports? From your experience, are there any other sports that can have parallels drawn with esports? MDR: Combating corruption is a significant issue in both esports and traditional sports. From mechanical doping through to the use of concealed motors in cycling to the proliferation of aimbots in Fortnite, both industries present unique integrity challenges. In traditional sports, each sport has their own set of anti-corruption rules, which international federations and national governing bodies then enforce. However, in esports, this ecosystem is still very much under construction. For some titles, such as League of Legends, it is the publishers who play the role of judge, jury and executioner, whereas tournaments such as the CS:GO tournament circuit BLAST Pro Series, tend to address integrity issues through collaboration with the Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC). As the esports industry continues to develop and mature, we hope to see 34
enhanced collaboration, in the form of data sharing and reporting of suspicious betting patterns, between stakeholders including: publishers, tournament organisers, betting operators and regulators such as the Gambling Commission. ESICâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ongoing work with the Victoria Police on esports betting fraud cases in Australia is a positive example of this. Publishers and tournament organisers may wish to consider adopting a similar model to the well-established anti-corruption methods in traditional
sports, such as those employed by the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU). The TIU seeks to prevent corruption occurring through education initiatives such as the Tennis Integrity Protection Programme â&#x20AC;&#x201C; an online programme that participants and officials are required to complete every two years, but also has quasi-police powers including the ability to access participantâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s telephones and laptops in order to investigate deception.
Hicham Chahine Ninjas in Pyjamas The 20-year-old Swedish mainstay plans for the next two decades AUTHOR Andrew Hayward ď&#x201A;&#x2122; @ahaywa
Hicham Chahine CEO Ninjas in Pyjamas
Photo: Fartein Rudjord
ounded in 2000, Swedish organisation Ninjas in Pyjamas marks a major milestone this year, still going strong after two decades in esports. Not only is that a significant marker of time, but 2020 may also prove to be the year that helps set Ninjas in Pyjamas up for the next two decades, and beyond.
Recently, the team established new headquarters in Stockholm and brought on COO Jonas Gundersen, previously of North, and the organisation is eyeing significant moves over the course of the year ahead. The Esports Journal spoke with CEO Hicham Chihine to discuss the past, present, and future of Ninjas in Pyjamas. 35
The Esports Journal: How does it feel to mark 20 years of Ninjas in Pyjamas and have one of the longest-standing brands in esports? Hicham Chahine: As a brand, 20 years is a long time, right? Especially in esports. Also, I think for the journey NIP has been through, it is a remarkable achievement to reach this. It is definitely a milestone, and it is also a milestone that’s going to be celebrated. For me, I’ve been here for four years now. It’s always exciting when you have 20 years of legacy. When you look from an industry perspective, it is very nice for us to have a brand with this length of history to solidify esports. Esports is a very young space, and having a brand which has essentially been part of this space since the very beginning and early days of esports... look at the history of the brand and teams that competed here in the 2000s and compare that to how it looks today. I would say that it is extremely rewarding to witness from where esports has come in 2002 and where we’re going now in 2020. For me personally, and for people working here, it is a representation of the development of esports. It’s truly exciting, and coming to a place where we have experienced tremendous growth of the industry, and also coping with professionalising the organisation in a way where we’re set up for another 20 years. Hopefully, 20 years from now we’re celebrating 40 years. ESJ: Can you talk about the team’s new headquarters in Stockholm and what that will enable you to do as an organisation? HC: If you look at NIP, you can just look at it 3-4 years ago when I joined, it was essentially an organisation with a Counter-Strike team, a coach, and a social media guy. Everyone was working from home, trying to string it together. When I came onboard and started here, we got our first offices; we called it the cave, because it was essentially a small room in a coworking facility where we 36
could fit six people. We quite quickly grew out of that, and moved into a slightly larger space. We’ve kind of been nomads, in terms of a home. We’ve always had a facility in the south of Sweden, which is very sizable, where our hardware company Xtrfy sits. We have operational facilities and a warehouse, but that is not in Stockholm where most of the players are based, where the company is based, and where you need to be from a general talent pool standpoint. So we decided some years ago that we were going to build here. Stockholm is a bit challenging because it’s all these islands and there’s limited space, so it took us around a year to scout a location. Then it took us another year to start building, and two months ago it was finally complete. We have now moved into our new facilities. In our new facilities, we have gone from having a facility down in the south and a small office in Stockholm to now having everything in one place. We’ve brought all of our staff together: marketing, content creation, social, merchandise, operations, finance, and management, and also have a permanent location where the teams can come in on a daily basis. We have office spaces, we have our gaming rooms for the players; we also have a content creation studio, other lounge-like areas, and editing pods for video.
working together. We’re very integrated with all of the players and talent that are here. Now everything is collected under a small roof, it just simply makes it so much more efficient compared to how it once was. I think that this was a very necessary step in the evolution of NIP -- to have a proper infrastructure where the organisation can finally work seamlessly. ESJ: What do you have planned for NIP in 2020 and beyond? HC: For us, we have just exited a point where we have set the foundation. We talked about facilities as one key part, another is the organisational side. Having committed a large amount of resources on the staff side, we hope to enable it. One of the big priorities is to all be together and flow seamlessly. We have essentially gone from two people to an organisation including players which is slightly over 50 people, so obviously we need to make that work. We will still have a part of this year where we will be focusing on getting the teams to function from an organisational perspective: building a culture, team building activities and so forth. It’s based on culture.
Compared to two years ago, there’s just a tremendous amount of resources available now, especially for the players. The facilities have gone from being-I call it a homemade bootcamp-to actually professional facilities where they have dedicated rooms for CounterStrike and for Dota. Essentially, the players have a place to come into.
One thing with the recruitment of Jonas (COO) is we are focusing very heavily on the performance aspect of the organisation when it comes to teams. How can we best allocate resources to help the players win, essentially? We need to get NIP back to winning ways like it was in the past. We also have a facility purely for player experience. We have just recruited a new performance and mental coach, so the performance aspect is very important for us this year. That is also the reason we brought Jonas onboard, to handle everything esports.
With that, we also can start delving into the performance aspect properly, with mental coaching, nutrition, conflict solving, and team building, and more act as a company where everyone is
There’s another big project on the cards too. If you look at the brand of NIP, it’s sort of a brand that has emerged from the community. If you look from the logotype to the colors, it’s something
that has been created and fickled with over time. This year, we are looking at doing a lot of work on the brand platform that we have. It might not necessarily be a rebranding that we’re doing, but we are formalising more and putting down the foundations that should have been done on day one. This is things such as what the brand is; what our tone of voice is; what are our brand guidelines; what is the look and feel; what context do we use and how that relates and feeds into video and social amongst other things. That is part of the structural side. It is a continuous evolution there. We’re still looking at between 5-10 new hires this year, and once those hires are completed in those roles, we feel we’ll be in a good spot organisationally. We’re also expanding games like we always do as we keep track of the market. We will be announcing a new game shortly and we have another game on the drawing board as well to expand into, so there’s a lot on the way. One of the reasons we built a facility here is we want to get closer to our fans that we haven’t done on this level before. That’s why we built a fan activation area of our new facilities, where we can host events, and actually have it open so people can come and
visit us and attend and interact with us at a level that they haven’t been able to before. And lastly, obviously, like every single other team, our apparel business is a large focus. ESJ: Do you see franchised leagues being part of your plan going forward? HC: Franchised leagues are definitely part of our plans going forward. For now, we’re in CS:GO, we’re in Dota, we’re in Rainbow Six, and we are in PUBG. There are some game titles like League of Legends, as an example, where there are franchised leagues, which would make a lot of sense for us--and we are exploring that path. There are also some other interesting things coming together behind the scenes from a franchise perspective, so I would not be surprised if we exit 2020 involved in a franchise league. ESJ: Can you talk a bit about the growth of esports in Stockholm and NIP’s place in that? HC: Stockholm is the tech capital of Europe, they claim; I have my own opinions on that. Esports has always historically been big in the Nordic countries, and especially in Sweden. But we feel that today, other countries have passed us—you can look to Denmark as an example of that.
One of the main reasons NIP emerged is that Sweden got fiber internet very early on, which meant that a lot of people started playing online games much earlier. We just had a better infrastructure for it, which meant that we had an earlier move into online video games—and into that, NIP was born, and we had all these legacy players over time. We have grown with it. As a hub for gaming, Sweden has a significant number of large publishers and there’s a lot of infrastructure and tech going on here. The perspective on esports is very exciting in Sweden, as well as from a talent pool perspective. When you thought about esports five years ago, you thought about DreamHack Winter and Jönköping. Now there’s all the other events that are happening all over the world, so Sweden isn’t the lone destination anymore, as well. Esports has migrated globally a little bit. But in general, being in Stockholm and having such a large local presence in Sweden is still very good for future growth of the company. It was cool that Sweden was leading 10 years ago, but it’s also super exciting that the industry is more globally oriented now. It’s not just located in cold countries where everyone sits indoors and plays video games. [laughs] 37
AUTHOR Adam Fitch @byadamfitch
Wouter Sleijffers looks to take another British brand global Excel Esports recently brought on the former Fnatic CEO to help continue its UK growth. We spoke with the new CEO about Excel’s outlook for 2020 and beyond.
ot many expected brotherly duo Kieran Holmes-Darby and Joel Holmes-Darby to hand over the reins to Excel Esports, but that’s exactly what happened at the top of 2020. Taking on positions as Chief Gaming Officer and Chief People Officer respectively, Kieran and Joel welcomed new faces to the roles of CEO and Chief Commercial Officer
Former Fnatic CEO Wouter Sleijffers took on the same role with Excel, bringing over his ample experience running a UK esports organisation, while past adidas Director of Global Sports Marketing Robin McCammon took on a new challenge as Excel’s CCO. The Esports Journal caught up with Sleijffers to discuss joining Excel, his goals for the British organisation, and the recently announced partnership with BT.
The Esports Journal: When did discussions with Excel Esports start and what drew you towards the organisation? Wouter Sleijffers: Discussions started last summer; it wasn’t just one discussion or two, there were quite a few. We took a little time to make sure everything was right for all involved. Excel, first of all, is in the LEC—which is a great league. Excel is a young brand and they had their struggles in their first year, but it was a year filled with lessons. I would say Excel is at a stage where I fit in quite nicely—refer back to my time at Fnatic for an example of that! In a nutshell, the vision really resonated well and there’s a passionate team behind the organisation. I’m also really excited about building an esports
organisation in Britain. I think it’s a great opportunity for Excel to become the British example for global esports. That’s the ambition and that’s what I’m excited about. ESJ: What is it about UK esports that has made you stay in it? WS: It’s the country I’ve lived in for the past 11 years, but I think there are a bunch of reasons. Firstly, everyone says “esports is lagging in the UK” and I would say maybe it’s not really lagging behind. There’s a lot already out here, it just takes a little longer for it to surface. So whilst it is maybe more challenging, it also provides a big opportunity because the country is already very advanced and well set-up in terms of professional sports leagues. I think the infrastructure that is already here, and the experience which has
already been gained here is an amazing opportunity to tap into. ESJ: What are your short-term and long-term goals for Excel Esports? WS: Short-term, we want success. You’ve already seen that we’re serious about upping our game in the LEC and in the UKLC. Number one is to become relevant in European esports—we’re already in one of the biggest leagues in Europe. Secondly, we want to reach the live stages in the LEC. That’s a very clear objective for ourselves. That’s where we want to be. That’s where we want to belong. Then we absolutely want to have a shot to reach the World Championship in year two, that’s another clear objective.
It helps with the legitimacy of the Excel brand. It will open a lot of opportunities and doors to bring us further into the top tier of esports. As we all know, that doesn’t only come by having good players, it comes with having top-notch facilities, all the content that needs to be created around it, and creating a great community of followers and fans.
Kieran is now Chief Gaming Officer, and Joel is Chief People Officer. We had a bunch of discussions in order to make sure that we could all fit together as a good team.
I think all these areas—and there’s a lot more to it—is where BT can contribute. Equally, I believe that Excel can contribute to BT’s mission in connecting people and enabling opportunities for future talent.
This is all a sign of how the organisation has very rapidly expanded, in particular when it got into the LEC. For the most part, having Robin and I coming into Excel didn’t change a massive amount for Kieran and Joel—it’s just to put more focus on areas that we are really precious about.
Kieran and Joel were already massively involved with the teams. Kieran, with his personality, is a great brand advocate and ambassador for Excel.
More on the organisation side, I believe that we will need to do a lot on the brand to find this unique mix of British esports culture, and we want to be the leader in that. We already have a great partnership with BT, we want to surround ourselves with the right partners that really fit into that brand that we are and will become. We want to cement ourselves as the leading professional esports organisation in the UK, but also make that resonate in Europe and the rest of the world. I even see Brexit very much as an opportunity to put the best of Britain forward from an esports perspective. ESJ: Excel Esports recently announced BT as the lead partner. How is this a significant development for esports as a whole, but especially UK esports? WS: BT is, of course, a big name and a big company. It shows that a big household name like BT sees where the industry is and where Excel is. I don’t know how much I can say about it now, but we’ll see how BT incorporates the Excel partnership in its brand campaigns down the line.
ESJ: Can fans expect to support Excel Esports in games other than League of Legends in 2020? WS: They can definitely expect us to be present in a lot of titles but, from a timeframe perspective, it’s hard to say when. There’s obviously more than League of Legends so, yes, there are a few titles that we’re reviewing, and therefore this year you will see us step into at least one other title.
Number one is, of course, team performance. Joel, as Chief People Officer, is really passionate about it. We want Excel to also be a great place for the staff that work here. He highlighted these things as what he would really want to work on. That was a natural evolution from the conversations we had and now, all is firmly in place when it comes to the management team.
ESJ: Can you tell us about Kieran and Joel’s new roles? How involved will they be in the leadership of the organisation? WS: Let’s look at the senior management team in full. There’s myself as CEO, we have Robin McCammon coming in as Chief Commercial Officer,
Isurus Gaming Esports is more than just fun and games AUTHOR Pablo Monti @PabloMMonti
surus Gaming began its story in 2010 as a pioneer in Latin America. A decade later, the Argentinian esports organisation has become one of the top teams in the region and has no plans on stopping there. Isurus fields teams in League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Fortnite, and fighting games, and has had strong results of late. Its League of Legends team is the reigning two-time champion in Riot Games’ Liga Latinoamérica 2019, and the CS:GO team has won several tournaments in Brazil.
The team’s esports record, as mentioned, is not to be scoffed at. Isurus’ League of Legends team also won the CLS Opening in 2016 and 2017 and competed in the 2017 and 2019 MidSeason Invitational, as well as the 2019 World Championship. The organisation’s CS:GO team moved to Brazil a few years ago and won several tournaments there. It also played in 2017 WESG in China and qualified for the 2019 edition, as well as ESL Pro League in the USA in seasons 9 and 10, and at DreamHack Masters Dallas in 2019.
Latin America is no longer an emerging region, and Isurus proves that in every action it makes. Facundo Calabró, the team’s CEO, commented, “Since 2011, we have worked together with the most relevant people to become the team we are now. We seek maximum development for our athletes, having a team of sports psychologists, physiotherapists, and doctors working side-by-side with them.” Expectations are high, and Sporting Director Juan Cyterzspiler is all too aware: “Our goal is not only to continue as one of the most important teams in
LatAm, but also to become a world top team. We believe that if we keep on this track, we will accomplish that in every esport that we compete in.” Sharing principles with their sponsors is a must for Isurus, which aims for integrity, inclusion, professionalism, and transparency. “We want to find all those in our potential sponsors. We look for strategic long term partners that share our values,” said Calabró. “We target mutual benefits, building strong trust in our professionalism and knowing how big our reach is in terms of audience. We generate content together with brands, using our most valuable resource: our athletes and influencers.” Cyterszpiler added: “We aim to expand and continue enticing non-endemic brands, helping them to get involved in esports, and working together with them during that transition.” Isurus is always trying to innovate, and its CEO believes that is the key factor for their exponential growth. “We always want to be an avant-garde organisation,” said Calabró, “and recently we have launched our comic book and a Corporate Social Responsibility program called Isurus Co-Op”. “It’s a great effort to gather together the esports community and the whole LatAm community to help three non-governmental organisations,” Cyterszpiler explained. “One of them works with environmental health, another one works with technology education for women, and the remaining one works with youth inclusion in football. People are buying raffle tickets choosing which organisation they want to help and participating in prizes given by our sponsors: HyperX, Omen by HP, and Renault. Profits will be given to each organisation in equal parts and the one that gets chosen the most will earn an extra prize.” “Our idea is to help not only the esports community but also everyone in Latin
America,” he continued. “We are committed to our responsibility and we want to show everyone that esports are more than people playing video games.” Nowadays, content generation within organisations and leagues is crucial to reach a larger audience. Isurus Gaming is no exception, and works intently to give their fans what they want. “Content generation brings us close to our fans and it´s the main tool to give the message our sponsors want us to share. We have content generation teams in every country we have offices, and in every tournament we play,” said Calabró. “We produce different kinds of content to satisfy all three parts, and we work hard in producing quality content that is relevant for our fans and with our sponsors’ messages.”
Isurus Gaming sponsors include with HyperX, Telcel, AMD, and Omen by HP, and the organisation has just signed a contract with streaming platform Nimo TV. It also counts car manufacturer Renault as a partner for several activations and events. Additionally, Isurus appeared at Argentina Comic-Con to present its brand new comic, called Isurus Origins. It was published in both Spanish and English, and it’s also available in digital format via the Isurus website. As Calabró and Cyterszpiler said, esports in Latin America is no longer something new, and many teams are working seriously and have ambitious goals. Isurus Gaming aims to be a shining example of that ideal, and is evidently working hard to keep on that track.
GamerzClass Interview with Victor Folmann, CEO & Founder of GamerzClass.
AUTHOR Phoebe Dua @Dualism97
For amateur players hoping to go pro, who better to learn from than the actual stars that they see winning championships? That’s the thinking behind GamerzClass, a service that features exclusive video tutorials hosted by top esports athletes in games like League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Dota 2. The Esports Journal spoke with GamerzClass founder and CEO Victor Folmann about the genesis of the subscription service, the demand for instructional gaming content, and the future of the platform. The Esports Journal: How was GamerzClass created? What did you think was missing from the existing market of YouTube tutorials, for instance? Victor Folmann: I remember back in my childhood I always wanted to be taught by the world’s best, but I could never really find the right place to go. I was spending hours and hours on HLTV trying to download .dem that I could watch through the console in CounterStrike 1.6. I spent endless hours on YouTube looking for grenade and aim tutorials for CS:GO and countless nights watching streams to become a better player. I learned so many things on those channels, but I also realised how more effectively I could have spent my time if there was a dedicated platform for educational gaming content. That’s when my buddy Rasmus and I came up with this idea to help other likeminded gamers improve their skills. Not something too cheesy, but we generally wanted to create something that could 42
be used as a complete guide on how to become a top-tier gamer. ESJ: Who is the audience for the courses? Are they more aimed towards brand new players or established players looking to improve aspects of their games? VF: In the beginning, the courses we made were very targeted towards players who wanted to go pro. Over time, however, more and more people showed interest in learning and we ended up getting users of all different levels. At the moment, some of the GamerzClasses are designed for beginners and some for the more advanced gamers. Ideally, we want to get to a point where we have enough variety that anybody can come to our platform and learn something regardless of what game they play or how long they have been playing. ESJ: Monetising fans is something often discussed and seen as tricky
but important in equal measure. Is it difficult to convince players that a course is worth the initial cost, or does such content naturally appeal? VF: I think the answer definitely lies somewhere in the middle. We do notice a certain level of restraint amongst users, which is why every course comes with several free episodes. Not everybody is immediately convinced to make a purchase, but over 90% of those who end up becoming paid customers are satisfied. Also, fans who wish to improve their game want to learn from the top players, so they are much more inclined to buy if they see their favorite player on the platform. At the end of the day, if you want to learn to play the piano, you aren’t going to watch YouTube videos all day long. People usually go to a teacher with years of experience and take lessons. Our platform works similarly but within esports. We extensively discuss with the talent to make sure we design a structure that breaks down everything somebody would need to know in order to get better.
ESJ: What makes you decide which professionals you approach to teach courses? VF: Deciding what players to work with at GamerzClass is a tedious process that can sometimes take up to six months. The biggest problem is that we are a small team, so we only have limited time and manpower to allocate for this process. The idea is very simple: we want to work with all of the top players, so we generally look at who are the most relevant and dominant pros in the current competitive landscape. Settling on dates and timings is the difficult part. A lot of the top-tier players are becoming increasingly busier and not all of them have the time or desire to create a course. I think it’s a shame because this is a great way for them to give back to the community and engage on a new level. Once we establish contact, we try to coordinate the talent available with the demand from our users. For example, a lot of people are asking for a follow-up course in the Dota 2 section, so right now a big part of our focus is on that. ESJ: With players increasingly looking at their personal brands and a future beyond the server, does GamerzClass help on this front as well as the unique style players might have? VF: This is something we’re getting better at as every day goes by. In the beginning, it was hard for us to penetrate the market as a startup, but it’s now been over a year since GamerzClass was created. I can safely say that we’re starting to make a name for ourselves with all of the big orgs in the scene. Most of the top players are part of the biggest teams, so they don’t really need help from us to build their brand - but we have our fair share of connections in the industry and we try our best to link players with non-endemic brands.
On the flip side, fans love the content and it’s a great way for the players to connect with the average gamers in the community. We like to say that we take part in bridging the gap between the pro scene and the amateur scene. We don’t mind having multiple courses on the same topic, because as you say, everybody has their own different style and we want users to be able to choose from who they wish to learn. ESJ: While games like CS:GO and Dota 2 might see patches change aspects of the game, Fortnite is constantly evolving very quickly. Does this factor into what goes into different courses? VF: In general, we try to find the right balance between very specific and too generic information, but it’s not always the easiest thing to accomplish. We want our courses to be valuable not only the first week after release but also six months down the line. One of the things that makes GamerzClass unique is that our products are not hidden behind a subscription model. You pay once and then the material is yours forever. We want to make sure people keep getting value every time they come back to it. Usually, we start with broad knowledge on how to master a certain aspect of the game and then give specific examples that show how to do that in the current patch. While examples might not be as relevant after a while, the principles should still stick. ESJ: Updates can mean that a fundamentals guide becomes ‘outdated.’ Is there a process you go through to check and update accordingly, or are new courses planned to cover changes? VF: There isn’t a specific process in place for this at the moment, however, we are constantly monitoring the state of the games we are in and our audience usually lets us know if it’s time for a new course anyway.
There are still plenty of topics out there that we haven’t had the chance to cover yet, so we’re looking to do those first but if we get the opportunity to revisit a course at a later stage, it’s something we won’t be saying no to. We keep in touch with most players we have worked with in the past, and almost all of them have had a pleasant experience and have said they are interested in doing a follow-up if their schedules allow for it. ESJ: Going forward, is it a key part of the plan to expand the number of coaches and areas/games covered? Have you considered livestreaming lessons? VF: Like I’ve mentioned previously, some of our sections are very lacklustre and we’re definitely looking to improve that as soon as possible. Our Dota 2 course with N0tail is by far our best-selling one. This tells us there is a large gap in Dota 2 learning content, so we’re looking to have at least one coach for every position. The same goes for League of Legends where we still lack a complete jungle or support course. Furthermore, a lot of people from the battle royale community have been asking for a while now to do something in Apex Legends or PUBG, and we plan on delivering on those this year. We’re also glancing our eyes at other games like Rainbow Six Siege, Rocket League, fighting games and even something for mobile gamers. Who knows? As for live-streamed sessions, it’s an interesting idea - however we do feel that there would be a significant loss in production quality. One thing that makes our content stand out is the highvalue production quality and graphics that come along with the videos. While we do enjoy the idea of involving the community more in the creative process, we are exploring different options to do so at the moment. 43
Esports Integrity Commission
2020 will be a big year for the regulation of esports AUTHOR Ian Smith ď&#x201A;&#x2122; @ESIC_Official
he Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC) was formed in 2015 and formally launched in July 2016, with a view to providing the esports industry with a voluntary mechanism for self-regulation of issues around cheating and corruption.
ESIC provides a Programme of regulations dealing with player conduct aimed at combating cheating, doping, match-fixing, and other undesirable behaviours. Primarily, we occupied the abyss that existed between esports and betting on esports, because it was poorly understood at the time and betting fraud drives over 90% of match manipulations. Whilst there is still a lot of work to be done in that area of our operations, it is also time for ESIC to expand beyond our initial remit and add value to other parts of the esports ecosystem. Here are our plans for 2020 and beyond.
Ian Smith Integrity Commissioner ESIC
ESIC’S CORPORATE GOVERNANCE HAS IMPROVED. The most important “next step” for ESIC was to move the organisation beyond its direct association with the Commissioner, Ian Smith. Ian remains integral to ESIC, but at his insistence, the accountability and transparency of the organisation needed to improve. Through 2019, we appointed a new board of independent non-executive Directors to ensure ESIC is run to the highest standards. We will introduce each Director in a separate announcement soon, but ESIC now has a Chairman, a Finance Director, an Anti-Doping Director, a Betting Affairs Director and a Director of Global Strategy and Partnerships. This allows ESIC to serve its members and the esports community better. ESIC HAS NEW STAFF AND RESOURCES At the start of 2020, we welcome in two new members of staff. Aly Suddick started as Operations Assistant this month, helping the Commissioner and primarily, after 30 years in law enforcement, bringing ESIC’s intelligence database up to date and pulling together our numerous match-fixing investigations into prosecutable cases. Hai Ng, well known in the esports world as Neomancer and all-around good guy, also joins ESIC to head up our Team Membership initiative (see below) as well as ESIC’s relationships in SEA. ESIC HAS NEW MEMBERS. ESIC now has seven tournament operator members with two more about to be announced, and progress being made with a number of others as we aim to ensure that every pro esports match, league, and tournament is played subject to the ESIC Programme and is as safe as it can be from match-fixing and cheating. In our other membership category, AntiCorruption Supporters, we already have
19 members with four new ones to be announced in the next two months. These are mainly the betting operators offering esports betting that participate in our suspicious bet alert network, and actively work with us in the investigation and prosecution of match-fixing. This part of our work resulted in the arrest in Melbourne last year of six people suspected of match-manipulation of CS:GO matches, and there is more to
come there this year. With the help of these member betting companies, we will expose match-fixers and get them out of the community. IN 2020, ESIC WILL PUBLISH ITS REVISED PROGRAMME. The original Programme was published at the end of 2015 and is out of date. With fantastic help from a range of supportive sports regulatory lawyers, we are now almost in a position to launch our revised Codes to provide a more coherent and upto-date set of regulations for the industry. Our wish is that everyone in esports works to the same set of rules and regulations, and the new Programme will provide an excellent basis for that much needed consistency.
teams. This is aimed, from our side, at plugging the gap of what rules apply to players when they’re not playing in a tournament. Crucially, we are packaging it so that it adds real and positive value to teams, with products and services that they need at a price they cannot obtain outside of ESIC membership. IN 2020, ESIC WILL DRIVE AN EXCITING GLOBAL CONFERENCE PROGRAMME. Starting with ICE 2020, ESIC will play a key role in curating and participating in a series of global conferences and seminars aimed at promoting safe and professional esports and narrowing the understanding gap between esports and betting on esports. Please look for our exciting announcements with our new conference partners soon! IN 2020, ESIC WILL ACTIVELY CONTRIBUTE TO THE PROFESSIONALISATION OF ESPORTS. Thanks to our expanded team, we are now working on the training and accreditation of admins and referees to up the standard and consistency of officiating in esports; a register of player agents and a player and streamer mental health study and solutions. We will also continue our support of Special Effect, our official charity partner. 2020 will be an exciting year for esports and ESIC. We will move from “distress purchase,” dealing with issues the industry would rather not have, to an integral value add to the most exciting and fast growing entertainment sector in the world. Join us on the journey–check us out at esic.gg.
In 2020, ESIC will introduce a category of membership for professional teams: Our biggest and most important initiative for this year is the launch of a new membership category for professional
Beasley Media Group saddles up with Houston Outlaws purchase There’s a new sheriff in town: Beasley Media Group is the latest major ownership group in esports. AUTHOR Adam Fitch @ByAdamFitch
hen Houston Outlaws and 11 other franchises were announced as the founding teams of Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch League, nobody anticipated that ownership would change hands just two years later. That what happened with the Houston-based team and, at the start of 2020, it’s the only instance of an Overwatch League team being sold to date.
Originally established as the Overwatch League franchise of popular North American organisation OpTic Gaming, its parent company Infinite Esports & Entertainment reportedly spent $20 million to acquire a slot in the gamechanging league. Activision Blizzard was launching a competition that was set to become the closest thing to a traditional sports league that esports had seen so far.
After establishing itself as a fanfavourite in the inaugural season through its players’ lovable personalities and top-tier gameplay, things weren’t great behind the scenes at its parent company. Infinite Esports & Entertainment was to be sold, with a majority share being made available for purchase in January 2019 for a reported $150 million.
OpTic Gaming’s teams and personalities were publicly unhappy with the corporate structure, its LCS franchise was performing poorly, and sources suggest that the Houston Outlaws was receiving next to no support from its higher-ups. All of these amounted to an awful public perception for the parent company and indicated that a rocky period was ahead. Immortals Gaming Club entered the bidding for Infinite Esports & Entertainment in May that year, looking to return to the LCS after being denied and controlling the goliath that was OpTic Gaming. However, the company already owned the Overwatch League franchise the Los Angeles Valiant so even if it was successful in its efforts, the future of Houston Outlaws was still very much in the wind.
Fans rejoiced, understandably. After months of radio silence from what was considered the most popular franchise in the entire league - something that dwindled after the inaugural season due to the throttling of the team’s resources and capabilities - a company had coughed up the funds needed to set the Houston Outlaws free. For a fee of what’s believed to be roughly $35 million, Beasley Media Group had doubled down on its esports strategy by purchasing the franchise after investing in North American organisation Renegades earlier that year in April.
such a great job of that within their radio ownership in all of their different markets; they’ve connected locally and created phenomenal stations. They want to do the same thing with Houston Outlaws. They want to make sure we’re a top-tier brand in the Overwatch League on both a national and global scale and locally within our market.”
This marked the entrance of a new major player in esports. Spending the money necessary to acquire one of the most expensive teams in the entirety of the industry sent a message to other owners, fans, and everybody in between
Supplementing its slew of roster changes, the franchise has hired Jeff Zajac as its Executive Director of Events and Strategic Alliances and Herb May as its Director of Corporate Partnerships. Not only that but Lori Burgess has been promoted to become the COO of Beasley Esports, a new, esports-dedicated division of Beasley Media Group.
Since the acquisition was made known publicly, Beasley Media Group has made solid progress in bolstering Houston Outlaws - both within the team itself and with its supporting staff.
Glancing over a period of uncertainty and hearsay for story’s sake, Immortals Gaming Club announced the successful purchase of Infinite Esports & Entertainment and its lucrative properties on June 12th, 2019. While hordes of staff finally knew their new employer - or unfortunately had to find a new one - the Overwatch League franchise was held aside and operated with oversight from Activision Blizzard. Immortals Gaming Club gave more support to Houston Outlaws than it had had in quite some time, but it wasn’t enough for operations to run smoothly. Supporting staff had to wear numerous hats just to keep things afloat while a new owner was found. There were rumours and reports of a local real estate investor showing interest in purchasing the franchise in July 2019 but nothing seemed to materialise. Instead fans and industry spectators alike grew impatient as silence ensued. It wasn’t until November when things became clear publicly: a new group altogether had come in and acquired the Outlaws property from Immortals Gaming Club.
In an interview with Esports Insider, Chris DeAppolonio, President of Houston Outlaws, spoke to the instant effect of having Beasley Media Group’s support and resources: “It’s allowed us to finally make some moves and changes that we felt would make a better cohesive team and will hopefully lead us to a championship in 2020. “Beasley Media Group is committed to winning and growing the local fan base,” he continued. “They’ve done
While the future of Houston Outlaws is unknown when it comes to in-game performance, it’s finally equipped to succeed. Not only that, but eyes are on Beasley Media Group as a new, huge presence in the industry to make some waves.
There’s a lot at stake in Activision Blizzard’s localised push Is two city-based leagues too much too soon?
AUTHOR Andrew Hayward @ahaywa
ctivision Blizzard has rolled into 2020 with twice the franchised leagues as before, with the brand new Call of Duty League joining the Overwatch League (OWL) which is kicking off its third season in February. The Call of Duty League will follow a similar path to the OWL in that it’s starting off with 12 teams, each of which is tied in to one city. Similarly too, the vast majority of these teams are based in North America, indeed the only non-NA cities to make it into the initial dozen were London and Paris.
Most notably this year, neither league will hold most of their matches in one location. After two seasons based out of the Blizzard Arena outside Los Angeles, the Overwatch League has finally taken steps towards its ultimate goal of geolocated home and away matches, with each team hosting events out of its home city. That means that fans in London, Shanghai, New York, Toronto, and elsewhere can see
high-level Overwatch in their own cities this year. Forget football, a day out at the Overwatch League is now a realistic proposition for a great many. Granted, it’s not the full proposed vision of the league. Rather than travel from city to city for weekly skirmishes and host a full schedule of local events, each Overwatch League team will host between two and five local events during the season, each spanning two days and featuring several teams. It’s more akin to a traveling road show than a full-fledged adaptation of the traditional sports model, but it’s a step forward for Activision’s localised ambitions, all the same.
matches. Unlike Overwatch, Call of Duty isn’t starting essentially from scratch. Activision’s long-running first-person shooter has been a sales juggernaut for 15 years and a steady esports draw for much of that.
Call of Duty was planned to make a nearly identical step this year. Rather than spend a couple of years centralised in one city and one venue, the Call of Duty League teams would similarly host two hometown weekend events each spanning numerous teams and
Over the last few years, the Call of Duty World League held events across North America and Europe, awarding as much as $6M per season in prizing, and the scene has real stars: outspoken champions like Seth “Scump” Abner and Ian “Crimsix” Porter, former teammates with fervent fan bases that have become bitter rivals. The history is already there, and better yet, the storylines run deep. Also unlike OWL, the league has a couple of huge, fan-favourite brands in the mix, with OpTic Gaming Los Angeles and Atlanta FaZe bridging the gap between the past competitive scene and this fresh path forward.
Not only has Activision Blizzard doubled its number of leagues, but it has dramatically increased the scale of its geolocated esports approach in 2020 - and there’s already growing pains. In late December, the league announced that it would change the format of the Call of Duty League’s first season to more closely resemble a series of tournaments, rather than a typical season-long league format. Alongside that announcement, Sports Business Journal reported that some franchise owners - particularly those with teams in both leagues were overwhelmed at the prospect of hosting home events for both Overwatch and Call of Duty, and that
Activision Blizzard would cancel some of the Call of Duty League events as a result. Since then, multiple teams have gradually announced plans to host just one 2020 event instead of two. Has it all been too much too soon for Activision Blizzard and its partners? While there are other franchised leagues in esports, Activision Blizzard is the only company currently attempting this kind of geolocated approach with (mostly) original team brands based around far-flung cities. And while there is ample excitement around the approach, not to mention a lot of money and brand equity behind the leagues, it’s disconcerting to see one of the leagues scale back on its plans before the first event even got underway.
There’s a lot at stake here for both leagues. If the city-based approach doesn’t find quite the immediate local fan attention that owners and league operators are counting on, or if the events and/or format aren’t quite as polished or ready as expected, will it damage the long-term prospects of the geolocated model? With both leagues jumping into local events this year and now intertwined in that respect - not to mention a majority of shared team owners between them - will issues with one league impact the success of the other as well?
Hopefully, for the sake of both leagues and the geolocated esports experiment, these early Call of Duty League tweaks are actually a positive move - a sign of a league anticipating problems and easing off the gas rather than charging
into them full speed ahead. Because while slowing down the initial rollout might have drawbacks, putting out a bad or inconsistent product would surely do much more to stymie the league’s early momentum.
We’re optimistic because both leagues have plenty of potential. The Overwatch League has already done a lot right, and bringing that experience to numerous cities and really amplifying the idea of local teams has huge potential to build upon those early successes. And with the Call of Duty League, it seems like a compelling evolution of the World League approach that adds some permanence into the mix.
Akshat Rathee NODWIN Gaming Why 2020 will be the breakthrough year for Indian esports
ndia’s esports scene has grown steadily over the years, and in 2020, it’s poised to explode. That’s according to Akshat Rathee, co-founder and Managing Director of NODWIN Gaming, a leading production and services company in the country since 2013.
Between the rise in major events (and interest in them), the continued growth of mobile esports in the country, and investment from popular global esports organisations, he sees big things on the horizon. The Esports Journal asked Rathee for his take on recent local developments in the esports industry and where he sees opportunities ahead.
Managing Director NODWIN Gaming
The Esports Journal: Do you think 2020 will be a breakthrough year for esports in India? Akshat Rathee: Without a doubt! 2019 was the year when every big esports event in the country brought in a whole new set of audience. 2019 was the year of rapid recognition and introduction to the mainstream for esports, and I believe that 2020 will be a breakout on all grounds. PUBG Mobile stays on top: with more than 13 million DAUs and over 30 million MAUs, the game is undeniably the core of Indian esports in coming times. Global leaders like Blizzard and Ubisoft are very much interested in tapping the possibilities around the esports business. India’s next DreamHack in Hyderabad is a part of the DreamHack Open Circuit, a big breakthrough in its third iteration that was quite unthinkable of [in the past]. ESJ: What are some of the biggest and most exciting esports opportunities in India right now? AR: I think that this particular time of transition is the perfect time to be an esports athlete in India; more importantly, a good one. There are foreign investments trickling in; the best example is Fnatic. The monumental growth of esports tournaments in terms of standards, audience, and prize money; the best example is the PUBG Mobile Club Open (PMCO). And a hundred other things that’ll mold you as an esports athlete. DreamHack Hyderabad 2020 and the ESL India Premiership are now linked to the ESL Pro Tours, so it’s high time to shoot above the league. The other side of it is being behind the camera, i.e. working with the top TOs in the country. Be it production, league operations, or management and execution, there is always a place for the skilled and willing. Esports influencers are for sure a hot property as it is elsewhere in the world, as they
Photo: Dreamhack India
definitely control the narrative of the crowd. Now that we have joined hands with MTV, we have a perfect platform to vent out rich esports content to the masses. Almost two hours of esports dedicated programs are aired every week. That alone provides numerous opportunities for talent and writers.
Finally, the government needs to recognize esports as a legitimate sport. A lot of logistics around esports will get simplified if we have the apt support of the government. Getting visas is a hurdle for teams going overseas to compete, and no player, organisation, or TO would want that.
ESJ: What are the key challenges that esports faces in really breaking out in India? AR: Esports in India needs to reach a bigger audience. Through bigger and better tournaments, through influencers, and through the overall appeal, we should achieve it. This challenge is directly linked to one other challenge we face: the lack of non-esports shoulder content, which I believe will give a boost to esports awareness to the common folks.
ESJ: What benefit do you see to investment from outside esports organisations, such as Vitality? AR: For me as a TO, the addition of international names in the Indian circuit surely adds value to my tournaments. For an aspiring gamer, it’s a big pool of opportunities; and for a spectator, that’s some rich esports right there. What makes it better is that orgs like Fnatic and Vitality are not just setting up esports teams, but making way for a full blown ecosystem with boot camps, academies, and much more. This further enables more like them to enter the Indian esports market.
Also, there is a need to pick up on other PC games besides CS:GO. Look how games like Rainbow Six Siege and Call of Duty have grown over time in European and American regions in terms of popularity and player base. We need to pave the way for newer possibilities.
ESI Connect sits in-between the current esports rights holders (from teams, to tournament organisers) and those on the outside looking in from brands, to suppliers and investors. Acting as a bridge between these; ESI Connect will evaluate what you seek to do, propose the best fit, initiate the right contacts and support you in the delivery of your plans. For more information reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org
YOUTH PROTECTION SPORTING INTEGRITY COMMERCIAL VIABILITY WHO WE ARE
GUARDIAN OF THE INTEGRITY OF ESPORTS The Esports Integrity Commission is a not for profit members’ association established in 2015 by key esports stakeholders to deal with issues
of common interest – in particular the threat that match manipulation and betting fraud and other integrity challenges pose to esports.
SOME OF OUR MEMBERS