Some of Europe's strongest teams are currently pitting their wits at the ESL Pro League finals, in Cologne, but something much bigger is on the agenda of the German company these days.
Senior ESL staff have met with representatives of top CS:GO teams from around in world in San Francisco with a view to discussing a brand new competition to launch later this year. The catch? Teams are required to sign exclusivity deals with ESL, which means that they would be barred from taking part in online and offline tournaments hosted by other companies.
Ninjas in Pyjamas, Team SoloMid, Virtus.pro, Team Liquid, Na`Vi, fnatic and EnVyUs are some of the teams that had representatives at the meeting, in which they were enticed by ESL's talk of the biggest prize purse ever in the history of the game - around $18 million, sources have told HLTV.org and The Daily Dot.
The choice of San Francisco as the location of the meeting is not a coincidence as it is home to two of ESL's prospective major partners in this new competition: Twitch and Vulcun.
|ESL wants to host the biggest CS:GO competition ever photo hltv.org|
Earlier this week, Twitch hired retired player Robin "Fifflaren" Johansson and former Cloud9 member Spencer "Hiko" Martin to promote the company in the Counter-Strike community as it looks to tackle the growing popularity of MLG's streaming platform in upper echelon of the scene.
As for Vulcun, the fantasy esports giant expanded to CS:GO last month when it started featuring FACEIT League matches, and it is now interested in heavily supporting ESL after recently raising $12 million in venture capital from several investors, including Sequoia Capital.
The first signs of ESL wanting to take their own path appeared in February, when the Germany-based company announced that ESL One Cologne, scheduled for August 22-23, would be the first-ever $250,000 CS:GO tournament without the support of Valve.
With so much money going into CS:GO and with viewership records being broken on a regular basis, the prospect of one company trying to get ahead of the game hardly comes as a surprise, but other tournament organisers have expressed concernto HLTV.org about the consequences of the exclusivity clause ESL is trying to enforce.
Sources say that Valve may not even be aware of ESL's plans, with the meeting in San Francisco coinciding with the game company's employee annual holiday in Hawaii.
The teams attending the meeting are expected to reach a decision in the coming hours, but one thing is certain: as ESL is trying to change the shape of the scene, tournament organisers such as ESWC, Gfinity, DreamHack and PGL are nervously biting their nails in anticipation.
*UPDATE* ESL Managing director Ulrich Schulze released a brief statement on the matter on Reddit, saying: "There is only one thing to say about this: ESL is not interested in locking out any tournament organizers from running CS:GO events, nor teams from attending them."