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The Stories Behind the Biggest Brands in Esports

The gaming industry is worth hundreds of billions of dollars and is dominated by major players like EA, Take-Two, and Ubisoft, though there are also plenty of smaller brands that are carving up a slice of the market for themselves. We can see the same in iGaming, where dozens of big brands are all vying for the same players so have turned to use casino bonuses and other similar promotions to build their customer bases.

But the companies that design, develop, test, and publish the games aren’t the only brands in the industry. There are also the businesses that manufacture the hardware we play on, the peripherals we buy to enjoy a more comfortable experience, and even the merchandise we use to show off our love for our favorite games.

In recent years, another sub-section of the gaming market has been formed and quickly ballooned into a multi-billion dollar industry of its own.

These companies are behind esports, competitive video gaming that attracts millions of viewers who love to watch the best players in the world challenge each other in popular titles like League of Legends, Fortnite, and CS: GO.

Many of these esports firms have exploded in just about every metric they could want, including brand recognition, revenue, and net worth.

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In fact, according to Forbes, the ten biggest esports brands have risen in value by around 46% between 2020 and 2022. With an average value of $353 million, they are a long way off the major league sports teams found in the NFL or NBA, but they’re on the path to catching up sooner rather than later.

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TSM

Known originally as Team SoloMid, though usually just referred to as TSM, this esports team is one of the most valuable in the world. This is thanks in no small part to the fact that it has signed the most lucrative sponsorship deal in esports history, giving naming rights to a crypto company for ten years in exchange for a whopping $210 million.

In 2021, TSM is estimated to have generated $56 million in revenue and is believed to be worth around $540 million. That’s not the only commercial partner signed with the team though; it’s also got deals with Lenovo, Logitech, Grubhub, Twitch, and others.

It was founded back in 2009 as a website to support players of League of Legends by Andy “Reginald” Din, an American entrepreneur from California. He got his start in competitive gaming a year earlier, taking part in the game’s closed beta and rising to the top of the ranks in the growing online community.

Reginald originally competed in a different esports team, playing League of Legends in tournaments like the Intel Extreme Masters, but split with them to turn TSM into a fully-fledged esports team.

The team quickly began expanding from just LoL, adding other games like CS: GO, Super Smash Bros, and even chess.

Today, TSM competes in tournaments for more than a dozen different titles and Reginald has retired from playing to focus on the management of the team. This is probably a shrewd move given that it has grown exponentially since then.

100 Thieves

100 Thieves is a much younger business, having only been founded in November 2017 by Matthew Haag and Dan Gilbert.

Haag, who goes by Nadeshot in the gaming sphere, is the former Call of Duty team captain for OpTic Gaming and has won several awards and tournaments during his time as a player. Gilbert, on the other hand, is a businessman who saw success in the finance sector before buying the Cleveland Cavaliers and several other sports franchises.

At 60, Gilbert is twice as old as Haag, but the two make a good team as they bring a complementary mix of skills and experience to the table.

100 Thieves is reportedly worth around $460 million and, as of 2021, has an annual revenue of $38 million. This level of growth is impressive, though it has been helped by the fact that the company has enjoyed several rounds of investment in addition to the initial capital injection from Gilbert.

The result is that 100 Thieves has been able to build a dedicated esports center in Culvert City, California. Known as the 100 Thieves Cash App Compound, it contains several training rooms and entertainment facilities. It has also developed a range of consumer products, including clothes that it sells to gamers.

Team Liquid

Team Liquid is another esports team with an impressive income statement and balance sheet. In 2021, it reportedly generated around $38 million in revenue and had acquired net assets of $440 million.

It is, by far, the oldest team in the top three brands, having been started way back in 2000. It was founded by Victor “Nazgul” Goossens and Joy “Meat” Hoogeveen, two professional gamers.

Team Liquid was mostly known for competing in StarCraft competitions during the early years but has since expanded to include all major esports games including PUBG, Rocket League, Apex Legends, Dota 2, and Hearthstone.

In 2015, Team Liquid merged with Team Curse and consolidated everything under the former name. This meant that Steven “LiQuiD112” Archancet joined the board as co-CEO, sitting alongside Goossens.

Today, Team Liquid is owned by its parent company aXiomatic. The entertainment and sports management business acquired the team in September 2016, giving it more resources and expertise to help it grow.

aXiomatic is owned by a team of wealthy and experienced professionals, including Tony Robbins, Peter Guber, Magic Johnson, Steve Case, and Ted Leonis. Its CEO is Bruce Stein, who has experience as the COO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, Hasbro, and Mattel, making him the ideal person to partner with.

Since the acquisition, Team Liquid has won several major tournaments, including the LCS 2019 Summer Playoffs, and placed highly in events like MSI and Worlds. It’s also signed major deals with brands like Alienware, Marvel, Honda, Monster Energy, Twitch, and SAP.

Like 100 Thieves, it’s also developed a range of merchandise that it sells to fans, helping it to build a community and diversify its revenue streams.

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