Modern Times Group has announced that their ESL and Dreamhack divisions will be undergoing a merger into one entity, ESL Gaming. This new entity will have operational control of both ESL and Dreamhack while both brands will maintain their brand identity.
It does mean that we could be seeing more ESL branded events at Dreamhack LANs, though – without needing to go through massive amounts of red tape from MTG, especially if comments from ESL Co-CEO Craig Levine are to be believed.
ESL touts this move as an important step towards making them the premier esports tournament company, as though that wasn’t already cemented with the number of events they host yearly.
“This is an important step to cement our leading position in esport and gaming lifestyle, and an important milestone in our ownership in both ESL Gaming and DreamHack. The combination will create significant shareholder value both short term through the more efficient organization and operations and long term, through the superior products that the new combined entity can offer the market,” says Maria Redin, President and CEO of MTG.
It seems that this ESL-DreamHack merger will offer the two companies the opportunity to do even more events, especially in a joint capacity, whereas the two operated separately before. It’s also said that the current leadership at Dreamhack and folks in charge of planning events will continue to be there, despite some confusion at what this announcement means for fans. It’s possible that we’ll now see Dreamhack hosting ESL finals for things like CSGO’s Pro League and other events, which could be seen as a cost cutting measure, but also will be seen as a new tentpole for Dreamhack events to leverage.
“This merger has been in the works for a while – we’ve joined forces on a number of projects, most recently collaborating to form the ESL Pro Tour. But we could see the opportunity to do more. We have a massive opportunity to speak to a broader esports and gaming fan base by leveraging our joint brands and product portfolio. What if we could host an ESL One competition inside a DreamHack festival? What if we could bring more of the DreamHack grassroots communities into the world of ESL arena events and online platforms?”
Dreamhack and ESL, much like other esports companies, were hit hard by COVID-19, forcing events like ESL One Cologne and others to either cancel or run without an audience. While they were able to switch gears to online events, this was not ideal and took away a vital portion of their usual business, including in-person activations, and more. However, they were better equipped than some, able to just shift their years of experience running events to running things remotely, and with only minimal interruption.
“Has the global pandemic shone a different light on the landscape?” he continued. “Of course. It’s given us all the chance to slow down and reflect and that’s played a part in this merger and what we want to achieve together. Like everyone else, we’ve adapted – in our case from live festivals and live arenas to online competitions, which is how we got started in the first place. We’re now reimagining our events for the current situation – the same great competition but delivered in a way that optimizes the gaming experience for both players and viewers around the globe. As a result, since the early part of the year, we’ve seen record-breaking viewership and record-breaking participation.”
These record-breaking viewership numbers have come as a surprise to most in the sports industry, as many sports were forced to come to a screeching halt. This left advertisers with esports to turn to as an alternative way of getting eyeballs on their brand – surely a win for ESL and esports companies, but one that they have to now capitalize on. It seems that MTG and ESL Gaming are prepared to do just that.
“By merging with DreamHack we see an opportunity to be market leaders with global reach and a best-in-class product portfolio with operations all over the world, from online to live experiences. And in the interactive world of 2020, we’re well placed to do so because technology is turbo-charging global gaming growth through more powerful devices, faster internet speeds, and mobile gaming. We want to be at the vanguard of that growth, always pushing forward, always looking ahead.”
Both ESL and DreamHack will continue to use their own names and branding under the new management structure post-merger, meaning there will be very little interruption to the way fans are used to attending, viewing, and generally consuming esports content from MTG — just with much more ease for the folks producing the show.