The esports business is getting to be a lot like pro physical sports. The latest example of that is that a professional esports team, the Immortals, is acquiring another team today, Tempo Storm‘s Counter-Strike group, as part of an attempt to establish a powerhouse franchise in a fledgling industry.
After many years in the wilderness, esports has matured. It is expected grow to $892 million by the end of this year, market researcher SuperData forecasts. And the investors in the market are in a bit of a rush to stake out territory that they believe will be valuable in the future.
The deal doesn’t include Tempo Storm’s other successful teams for Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft (which includes streamers for the Arena mode and its highly popular Meta Report on Blizzard’s card game), Heroes of the Storm, and other games. This gives the Immortals, which focuses on League of Legends (the top multiplayer online strategy game in the world), a squad for Counter Strike: Global Offensive, a game that’s catching more mainstream attention thanks to the recent launch of Turner’s Eleague series on TBS. It features the online team shooter.
The Tempo Storm squad is ranked in the top 10 in Counter-Strike: GO. It’s features five Brazilian players: Gustavo “Shoowtime” Goncalves, João “Felps” Vasconcellos, Lucas “Lucas1” Teles, Henrique “Hen1” Teles, and Ricardo “Boltz” Prass. Their average age is 19.
“We are creating an esports empire,” said Clinton Foy, chairman and cofounder of the Immortals, in an interview with GamesBeat. (Foy is also going to be a speaker at our GamesBeat 2016 event on August 1 to August 3 in Los Angeles). “The closest analogy is if you have an NFL team and are expanding with an NBA team.”
Foy noted that a lot of pro sports team owners are investing in esports. In fact, Stephen Kaplan, owner of the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, is part owner of the Immortals.
“It’s like being there at the beginning,” Foy said. “Pro sports owners are getting into this because it’s the early days.”
Tempo Storm founder and CEO Andrey “Reynad” Yanyuk (who’s big on the Hearthstone esports scene) said in a statement, “While it saddens me to part ways with the CS:GO team, Immortals will be an excellent home for them. I am extremely proud of what they have accomplished during their time with Tempo Storm and I wish them the best of luck in their careers moving forward. We’ll be back in the CS:GO scene before long.”
The Immortals wants to expand into other games, but it has taken its time because it wants to add teams that share the brand values of the organization. Immortals cofounder and CEO Noah Whinston, said in a statement, “Immortals doesn’t just stand for competitive excellence, but for the work ethic and selflessness that leads to it. There is no team more suited to play under the Immortals banner than this group of young, talented, hungry, and passionate players.”
The team departs today for a bootcamp in Stockholm ahead of a run of international tournaments including ESL One Cologne qualifiers and Dreamhack Summer. Accompanying them will be two Immortals staff members: Newly signed coach Rafael “zakk” Fernandes, a veteran of Brazilian Counter-Strike; and Immortals performance coach Robert Yip, who will assist in establishing healthy habits and structure for the team.
“We are very happy to join Immortals,” Hen1 said. “It’s incredible the support they have given us since the first day. We have never been so motivated to reach our goals and be the best. We would like to thank Immortals for this opportunity and we will not take this for granted. We are going to keep doing our work and representing Immortals in the best way we can.”
The Immortals was formed in September of 2015 with the acquisition of Team 8. Immortals investors include Foy, Stephen Kaplan, Peter Levin, Gregory Milken, Greg Bettinelli, Matt Mazzeo, Michael Marchetti, Brian Lee, Brad Jones, Allen Debevoise, and the venture capital arm of Linkin Park, Machine Shop Ventures.