Many in esports have been concerned by the continually growing portfolio of esports properties owned by ESForce Holdings. Currently behind at least three esports organisations, Virtus Pro, Na’Vi and SK Gaming, they also own multiple properties that pertain to broadcasting and tournament organisation. Alarmingly, in addition to controlling teams and tournament organisers, they also own esports betting platforms such as CS:GO Lounge. That particular landscape seems to be fraught with the potential for conflicts of interest and corruption but there’s not a lot anyone can say about a company that is backed by billionaire Alisher Usmanov and has a stranglehold on the CIS region.
Dota fans saw a glimpse of that conflict of interest recently ahead of the ESForce owned Epicenter’s tournament. Na’Vi, unable to qualify, benefited from Epicenter’s decision to have a team attend on the basis of a fan vote. With only three days notice and Na’vi, one of the biggest brands in the Dota scene, competing against teams with nowhere near the same social media presence, it wasn’t a surprise when they were declared winners by a landslide. Upon qualifying they will join their stablemates Virtus Pro at the tournament.
Their latest project will be looking to focus on capturing the hearts and minds of English speaking esports fans. ESForce have for some time now been planning a news website and have been making formal approaches to esports journalists to join. The project is currently headed up by Michael “Torte De Lini” Cohen, a one time aspiring journalist who gained notoriety for his Team Liquid blog posts. Those with a long tenure will remember him as being associated with a string of esports failures that have also engaged in some dubious practices. A former business development manager for the Clauf group that bankrolled the expensive ESGN flop leaving multiple employees still out of pocket to this day, he also spent time working in the LA offices for Azubu, another organisation that still owes partners thousands of dollars. He joined ESForce Holdings in September of 2016 in an unspecified role.
The website will run under the name Cybersport.com, an intellectual property that ESForce already own. Staff are still being approached and interviewed for full time and freelance roles, with the focus being on CS:GO, League of Legends and Dota coverage. After multiple delays the site has been slated for a release at the end of May.
Attempts to create the definitive esports coverage site have yielded mixed results. The spectacular failure of the CBSi owned OnGamers, run into the ground by mismanagement and an atrocious business model, is a cautionary tale all in the space should study. Comparative successes, such as the esports section of The Daily Dot, were still cut loose when financial issues plagued the beleaguered publication. Dot Esports was then amalgamated by Gamurs.com as their coverage site. Also in the space are media giants such as ESPN and Yahoo who have steadily continued their esports coverage. It will be interesting to see what Cybersport.com can do differently and for how long ESForce will want to fund the project should the site encounter the same financial problems facing all publications currently.