Last week my sleep deprived self somehow managed to record and edit a video on a deadline while keeping a tiny child alive, got bad results from the hospital and witnessed toilet water pour through our living room ceiling.
In other words, I thought that was the week from hell. But it turns out it doesn’t rain toilet water, it pours… (Yes, the aforementioned sleep deprivation has rendered me even more insufferable.)
When I was invited to a meeting with ESL about some operational changes, I thought it must be something impactful, given the meeting taking place, but I had no idea it would be both a merger and the sale of the now “ESL FACEIT Group” to the Savvy Gaming Group (SGG), which is owned by Saudi government’s Public Investment Fund (PIF). In other words; the Saudi Goverment now owns the largest tournament organiser and three key brands; ESL, FACEIT and DreamHack. The increase in funding the company will receive will lead to better internal infrastructure and viewer experience, in an industry that needs live events to bring in the revenue, or at least make efforts to break even.
It’s well known that esport events are often a huge lossmaker for tournament organisers.
MTG sold ESL and DreamHack. Of course I don’t know about how the business or the who/what/wheres and ESL’s involvement, but it’s pretty obvious that the majority of people who work directly or freelance for these companies were none the wiser until the last moment. And yes, that includes onscreen talent. We found out when the rest of the internet did – the meetings with ESL happened later.
As someone who spoke out about the NEOM deal that was dissolved by BLAST last year, also talking about a previous couple of events they regretted being part of (BLAST Global Finals in Bahrain and Gamers Without Borders), my name had been brought up – or even targeted – by posts on social media before I’d even seen or had time to process the news. I’ll be blunt; I still haven’t. Right now all I am is heartbroken. I’m sad for everyone this impacts, everyone who now needs to make a decision about the future of their careers and what it means for esports; is Counter-Strike the next Formula 1?
I briefly explained on Twitter on the evening the news broke that this is a different kind of deal to BLAST. NEOM was a sponsorship; the ESL FACEIT Group has been bought. There’s no takeback here. I can’t campaign for the deal to go. I’m hoping the SGG will be more of a silent partner, looking to make their money and pocket it, rather than use their shiny new platform for propaganda, but only time will tell.
All I can do is choose whether to walk away from my biggest client – and pretty much Counter-Strike, given that most of the work I do (including non CSGO events) is produced by ESL or FACEIT. I started my esports hosting career with ESL UK, did my first CSGO desk host for FACEIT, broke through properly with Intel Extreme Masters, and I really do owe them a lot for the progress and friendships I have made.
I am – or was – also one of two regular female faces active on the tier one competitive circuit of Counter-Strike. I’ve fought and worked hard to be here and to continue to be here. You sacrifice a lot to be in this business – it’s not just a job, it’s your life. I hope I was able to represent well while I could.
There are some out there quick to call me and my colleagues hypocrites, forgetting we didn’t take a stand against NEOM in the immediate aftermath of the deal being announced but had time to think about it. (I also do want to clarify that I was due to work on content with BLAST but walked away on hearing about the sponsor.) Give people time to process: contrary to the beliefs of one Redditor, we didn’t destroy anyone’s life. Your assumptions aren’t necessarily reflective of reality and I would ask that you be considerate.
Right now, I’m mentally processing more than just this deal (more of that in a future blog) and childcare is a round-the-clock job (I’ve been writing in fragments around brief baby naps and feeds), but I wanted to find the time to write this because Twitter hardly allows for nuance, and I also wanted to explain that while this news is a shock, I’ve started to have priorities outside of esports and social media; esports is hugely important to me, but it can’t be my entire life anymore.
You will likely see me creating some content for Predator around IEM Katowice, as this was discussed and contracted last year, far before the ESL buyout. I wanted to disclose this in advance to avoid any confusion when the event arrives. In the near future I’ll also be looking at creating content for YouTube, continuing my Twitch stream and trying – as always – to be better at playing CSGO…
Thanks for reading.