This year, fantasy esports players could earn more money than the pros themselves.
Fantasy sports is a billion dollar business. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are on the line in hundreds of fantasy leagues spanning the sports world.
Esports seems like a fertile new market for the massive fantasy sports industry.
The esports version of fantasy hasn’t reached those lofty heights, and barely offers cash prizes. Until now.
The San Francisco-based company Vulcun is promising to bring a $250,000 fantasy league to the biggest competitive video game on the planet League of Legends, and its highest level competition in Europe and North America, the League Championship Series. That’s the highest prize pool in fantasy esports history, and higher than the $200,000 in prize money awarded to teams in each split of the LCS last year.
Daily fantasy leagues have exploded in popularity over the past five years, in part buoyed by their ease of competition. Unlike a season-long league, which requires a massive time commitment, daily leagues only ask players to put in time when they want to.
Esports seems like a fertile new market for the massive fantasy sports industry. Investors certainly seem to think so—Vulcun says it’s raised $1.3 million in funding from Silicon Valley investors from all walks of gaming, including Kevin Chou, CEO of mobile gaming company Kabam, and Roger Dickey, creator of Mafia Wars.
The company is already comparing itself to giants in fantasy sports. “This is the FanDuel of esports,” Vulcun co-founder Ali Moiz told the Daily Dot.
Fanduel paid out $400 million in prizes to participants in their myriad sports leagues in 2014. Vulcun won’t reach those lofty numbers, but Moiz, who says the company re-invests every dollar put into it, believes six figures may happen this year.
The league will stay in closed beta for a “couple months,” with waves of invites set to go out starting on Tuesday. You can sign up for one on the Vulcun website.
The company name, Vulcun, isn’t an accident. It’s one very familiar to fans of League of Legends esports, the name Moiz used when he acquired Team FeaR in 2013 before becoming one of the top teams in America.
In 2013, Vulcun competed in the LCS featuring a roster with star players like Zachary “Mandatorycloud” Hoschar and Jake “Xmithie” Puchero. The team placed second in the 2013 Summer Split, eventually representing North America at the 2013 World Championship.
Moiz, a veteran of internet startups like market research firm Peanut Labs, which he sold in 2010, said running an LCS team was “a lot more expensive and a lot more fun than I thought it would be.” But running the team, ultimately, was “too much of a distraction,” he said. “I needed to focus on my next startups.”
Now, he’s using the Vulcun brand to build the biggest fantasy esports league ever.
“I’ve always been looking for a way to get involved [in esports] and share something cool and exciting with a company,” Moiz said. “We recently came upon fantasy sports. We looked at the space and said, ‘Hey! this particular area is undeveloped.'”
“You look at traditional sports, fantasy is a huge part of the ecosystem there. Millions of dollars in cash prizes. I think the NFL said 40 percent of the people who watch football play fantasy in some way shape or form. It’s a huge part in keeping the community engaged.”
Thus, Vulcun was reborn. He’s recruited some of their old hands to advertise it, like Hoschar, as well as other League pros.