Pending regulatory approval, a holding firm owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund has bought esports occasion organizer ESL Gaming and match platform FACEIT. Based on Sports Business Journal, the worth for each corporations was $1.5 billion. As a part of the acquisition, the 2 corporations will merge into the ESL FACEIT Group, and plan to mix their expertise and experience to “create the final word platform for aggressive gaming.”
ESL is headquartered in Cologne, Germany, and hosts main CS:GO, Dota 2, and different tournaments, in addition to the Dreamhack LAN occasions following a 2020 merger. FACEIT is a aggressive gaming platform that gives anti-cheat, matchmaking, and match organizing for gamers and sport publishers. Following the merger, ESL CEO Craig Levine and FACEIT CEO Niccolo Maisto will co-lead the brand new group.
The objective of the ESL FACEIT Group is to take video games and gamers “from informal competitions to area occasions on one platform”—basically, to be the leisure, minor, and main leagues for each esport. Alongside that basic assertion of intent, the corporate dug into its plans for a sport it is closely concerned in: Counter-Strike. ESL FACEIT Group says it plans to “promote extra stability” for the North American CS:GO esports scene by growing the variety of competitions, creating extra incentives for professional groups, and bettering the out there infrastructure. Finally, it aspires to be “a very world ecosystem” for CS:GO esports with “accessible, well-connected aggressive circuits” for everybody.
The holding firm behind the merger is named Savvy Gaming Group. It was created in 2021 “with a mission to drive long-term progress and growth of the video games and esports trade worldwide” and is absolutely owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund, which controls at the very least $500 billion of the nation’s wealth and is overseen by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Savvy Gaming Group itself is led by CEO Brian Ward, a former Activision government who helped lead the combination of Blizzard throughout the 2008 merger.
Final yr, the Saudi Public Funding Fund controversially led a bunch takeover of the Premier League’s Newcastle United Soccer Membership. One of many deal’s largest critics, Amnesty Worldwide, referred to as it “sportswashing,” outlined as the usage of high-profile sports activities groups or occasions to distract from human rights abuses, on this case referring significantly to Saudi Arabia’s jailing of activists and dissenters. When the deal went via, The Premier League said that it “acquired legally binding assurances” that the Saudi Arabian authorities will not management Newcastle United.
“Regardless of assurances a couple of supposed separation from the Saudi state, possession of St James’ Park is now very a lot about picture administration for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his authorities,” mentioned Amnesty International final October. “Because the season progresses we hope followers, gamers and Newcastle United backroom workers will look significantly on the human rights state of affairs in Saudi Arabia and be ready to talk out concerning the jailing of individuals like Abdulrahman al-Sadhan, whose 20-year sentence for tweeting was upheld simply hours earlier than the Newcastle deal went via.”
The following large ESL occasion is the $1M CS:GO championship at IEM Katowice 2022, which is about to happen on February 25.