This report was conducted in conjunction with Luis Mira and HLTV.org.
Representatives from major organizations in esports are negotiating plans to launch a new Counter-Strike tournament circuit that would lock down some of the best teams in the world into exclusive contracts.
The representatives from ESL, fantasy esports platform Vulcun, Twitch, and many of the top Counter-Strike teams in the world are meeting today at Twitch headquarters in San Francisco, according to multiple sources close to the negotiations. The proposed exclusivity deal would prevent teams from entering any tournament that wasn’t run by ESL, sources say, and also potentially provide Twitch with exclusive online broadcasting rights. Additionally, European television station MTG would broadcast the league.
Sources involved in the negotiations told the Daily Dot that Twitch had no idea about the plans in advance, and were simply told that ESL wanted to come to its offices to hold a meeting with the company and major teams.
The idea has been talked about in Counter-Strike circles for some time. Natus Vincere owner and manager Oleksandr “ZeroGravity” Kokhanovskyi has talked about the possibility of a collective bargaining team partnership for some time. And Team SoloMid owner Andy “Reginald” Dinh, although new to Counter-Strike, has reportedly been keen to help create something akin to Riot’s League of Legends Championship Series. As Global Offensive continues to skyrocket in popularity, with viewing numbers surpassing 1.1 million concurrent during ESL’s most recent event in Katowice, the conversations started again.
Enter Vulcun. The esports organization, which at one time owned an LCS team, has recently received a windfall of venture capital, announcing a $12 million investment round from from major investors including Sequoia Capital, Matrix Partners, Crosscut Ventures, Mark Pincus, Universal Music Group and CAA Ventures. Vulcun has been in talks about the potential of buying a league for a few weeks now, according to sources close to the organization, and currently sponsors European tournament organizer FaceIt.
According to sources involved in the meeting, the total proposed package from ESL and Vulcun is in the region of $18 million, a hefty chunk of which will be paid out to the organizations in exchange for agreeing to exclusivity to the league. ESL have shown signs of wanting to take their own path separate from the game’s developer, Valve. In February the Germany-based company announced that ESL One Cologne, scheduled for Aug. 22-23, would be the first-ever $250,000 CS:GO tournament without the support of Valve.
The teams present at the meeting include representatives for Team SoloMid, Ninjas in Pyjamas, EnvyUs, Team Liquid, Virtus Pro, Na’Vi, Counter Logic Gaming, Cloud9 and Fnatic. Other top teams have been made aware of a potential deal in the works.
The deal is far from concrete. And as the negotiations continue, these details are likely to change. All parties are apparently hoping to reach an agreement by the end of the weekend, sources say. If the deal is successful, the new tournament circuit would start in September following ESL Cologne.
ESL did not respond to a request to comment at publication time. Representatives from DreamHack, which runs Counter-Strike tournaments of its own, also did not reply to a request for comment. The company is reportedly in emergency meetings in response to the news. U.K.-based organization Gfinity, which recently announced its own Counter-Strike tournament circuit, likewise did not respond to a request for comment. Gfinity’s Creative Director Robert Ohlen tweeted the following earlier today:
It’s unclear if Valve is aware of the proposed deal or what the company’s stance on it would be. In a bid to to stop the deal from happening, other Counter-Strike tournament organizers are reportedly trying to interrupt an annual Valve employee holiday in Hawaii to request the company to intervene.
Image via Valve