Wim Stocks, formerly the CEO and Chairman of CSL Esports, has joined gaming-arena developer Belong, a subsidiary of Vindex, as its Senior Vice President of Partnerships & Commercial.
Stocks joins the company after recently announcing he would be stepping down from his role at WorldGaming Network and Collegiate Starleague (now CSL Esports). At Belong he will oversee all elements of endemic and non-endemic partnerships.
“We are delighted to welcome Wim with his considerable experience across the gaming and esports industry to our team,” said Belong CEO Martyn Gibbs. “Wim will be leading our partnership strategy and engagement that will build great experiences for customers and fans alike as we establish our identity in the US and internationally.”
Partnerships and sponsorships are the lifeblood of esports, for better or for worse. Without companies investing in the industry in order to advertise their products and services, nobody knows where competitive gaming would be in its lifespan.
No matter the obstacles that are thrown its way, esports continues to successfully receive capital and use it to fuel their operations. This is the case whether it’s a tournament organizer, a team organization, or a supportive company on the periphery of the industry.
With this in mind, we’re used to seeing huge deals announced and it’s easy to lose track of the progress we’re making collectively over a longer-term. I’ve compiled what I believe to be the biggest esports partnerships of 2020, including why they’ve made the cut, as a point of reference; it’s important to document so we can better track progress in the future.
Mike Sepso — ESI Class of 2020 Hall of Fame inductee Mike Sepso — is an esports legend. The man that, along with Sundance DiGiovanni, founded Major League Gaming (MLG) is currently the CEO of Vindex — a company he also co-founded, again with DiGiovanni.
Vindex is a provider of technology and infrastructure to esports companies. Through its Esports Engine and Next Generation Esports arms, the company facilitates some of the world’s biggest esports events, providing services from programme design and management to event production and broadcasting. News broke in July that Sepso and co. had acquired GAME’s Belong Gaming Arena division while pledging to invest $300m (£222.02m) in the project. Vindex plans to roll out over 500 esports venues in the US and a further 1000 in other countries — mainly in Europe.
The middle of 2020 may not seem the best time to funnel $300m into the global roll-out of gaming arenas. Vindex is different, though. “Our infrastructure and technology enabled us to move to a remote broadcasting model,” Sepso told Esports Insider. “So we’ve been pretty lucky [during the pandemic] compared to some companies.”
Esports infrastructure company Vindex has hired sports broadcast industry veteran Marshall Zelaznik as CEO of its Esports Engine subsidiary, as it looks to deal with a rapidly growing client base that is asking to expand globally.
Vindex, which helps entities throughout competitive gaming put on live events, was founded late last year by the former Major League Gaming executives Mike Sepso and Sundance DiGiovanni plus industry veteran Adam Apicella, who also formerly worked at MLG and co-founded Esports Engine.
The company is working with publishers, teams and agencies on everything from broadcast to production to pull off various events in gaming. Apicella told SBJ that the company has quickly amassed 30 clients, all of which have come in organically through word of mouth or prior relationships because its founders are longtime respected executives in the space.
Vindex announced the purchase of Belong Gaming on Wednesday and plans to spend $300 million over the next five years to open 1,000 esports gaming centers around the world, according to Esports Observer. Belong will partner with esports conglomerates Envy and Andbox to open locations in the Dallas and New York City areas respectively.
Belong, which already operates 24 gaming arena locations across the United Kingdom, was valued in the acquisition at about $50 million, per the Financial Times. Belong will provide the logistical operations in getting these gaming centers off the ground, and Envy and Andbox will bring events, marketing and pro gamers from the different esports teams they own to bring programming and awareness to help centralize the local gaming scenes in their home markets.
Each flagship location in Dallas and New York will provide 100 PCs and consoles for parties, events, school outings, clubs and local esports tournaments. Obviously given the coronavirus pandemic, the timing for when these locations will open is yet unknown.
Vindex has acquired the hometown esports Belong Gaming Arenas brand and all associated IP from European game retail giant GAME Digital.
Vindex plans to open more than 500 Belong locations in hometowns across America, and another 1,000 locations outside of the U.S. through its licensed operating partners —including GAME — over the next five years.
Esports Insider sat down with Vindex CEO and Co-founder Mike Sepso, who explained why localisation has become so vital to the esports ecosystem.
“I think that overall, the industry acknowledges that localization is an important part of the growth of esports,” said Sepso, using the Overwatch League as an example. “Everything can’t happen just online or in big city arenas. What we’re trying to do is bring the esports experience through the Belong system to home towns across America. That’s key for us.”
Vindex, the leading global esports infrastructure company, announced today that it has acquired the Belong Gaming Arenas brand and all associated IP from GAME DIGITAL LIMITED ("GAME"), the largest video games retailer in the UK and Spain. GAME operates over 500 video game retail stores and launched Belong in 2016 to build a network of local gaming communities that play, watch, and compete together in state-of-the-art gaming centers.
Vindex will operate Belong Gaming in the US from its New York headquarters, and immediately begin rolling out Belong Arenas across the country. The deal marks the next phase in Vindex's vision to support the growth of the global esports industry and to bring amateur esports to hometowns across the country, and around the world. Belong Gaming will partner with Esports Engine, a Vindex company, to provide turnkey amateur esports league design, operations, and tournaments through Vindex's powerful software platform that will power Belong Arenas and connect all of its global members. Vindex plans to invest $300M over the next five years to open more than 500 Belong locations in the US and an additional 1,000 locations globally through licensed operating partners including GAME.
Martyn Gibbs, CEO of GAME Digital and video game industry veteran, will join the Vindex management team as CEO of Belong Gaming to oversee the immediate US rollout and initiate a global expansion strategy. GAME will continue to operate all UK locations as an officially licensed operator.
Game Digital is set to sell its Belong Gaming Arenas to US start-up Vindex in a deal thought to be worth $50 million.
Belong Gaming Arenas’ brand and intellectual property will now be owned by Vindex, but Game will continue to own and operate the arenas with an exclusive licence.
Game, which was purchased by Sports Direct and House of Fraser mogul Mike Ashley last year for £52 million, will also see its chief executive Martyn Gibbs join Vindex’s management team as head of Belong Gaming.
Since launching in 2017 21 Belong gaming arenas have been opened, often next to or as part of Game’s retail stores.
The arenas feature a range of high-end gaming PCs, consoles and accessories like VR headsets, allowing players to try out new games and technology before investing in a purchase.
Crucially these arenas host competitive gaming tournaments, marking Game’s attempt to shift its reliance on dwindling hardware sales towards the increasingly lucrative esports sector.
Esports infrastructure company Vindex is set to acquire GAME’s Belong gaming arena division, according to a report from the Financial Times.
Vindex, which was founded by MLG co-founders Mike Sepso and Sundance DiGiovanni, launched in October following a launched with $60 million (£46.6 million) Series A.
Belong currently owns esports facilities in Bradford, Gateshead, Hull, Manchester, Teesside, York, Preston, Colchester, Milton Keyes, Norwich, Bristol, Kingston, London, Portsmouth, Sutton, West Thurrock, Glasgow, Cardiff, Wrexham, Craigavon, and Ballymena.
Since launching last October with the acquisitions of Next-Generation Esports (NGE) and Esports Engine, Vindex has grown into one of the major providers of esports-production services and infrastructure. Now, with the live sports world at a halt because of the coronavirus pandemic, live online esports events have entered the spotlight, and Vindex finds itself in prime position to serve the only live-competition game in town.
“The thesis behind Vindex investing in the production side of the business was to find the best in class companies and create one big network of global solutions across the full esports ecosystem,” says Vindex CEO Mike Sepso, who previously co-founded esports pioneer Major League Gaming. “We believed that a bigger global solutions provider with institutional backing would have better capacity to take on massive, complex esports events compared to smaller companies that are taking existential risks. And, since we acquired NGE, we have continued investing deeply into their technology infrastructure and have been able to provide capital backing to think ahead of the curve.”
Mike Sepso has been involved with esports for about as long as it's been called esports.
Speaking with GamesIndustry.biz recently, Sepso explains why he and Sundance DiGiovanni co-founded Major League Gaming back in 2002 and what need in the market that outfit was intended to fill.
"We saw that people liked to compete in video games against each other, and there was some semblance of professionalized esports or competitive gaming happening in South Korea," he says. "What we thought was that was an interesting place to combine our passions for sports and video games, and help elevate competitive gaming into a professional sport. At the time, the game publishers and studios were really not interested in that at all, and certainly not interested in turning it into a business. If anything, it was just sort of a marketing or community engagement effort."
Imax, known for large screen experiences in movie theaters, has signed a deal with Vindex, which will produce and facilitate esports events and experiences exclusively for Imax theaters.
While details are scarce, the two companies have said that that Imax will show broadcasts of different esports events and content across its worldwide network of big screens. According to Imax, the company has over 1,500 IMAX theatres in over 80 countries and territories around the world.
“Coming off our biggest year ever at the box office, it’s clear that audiences around the world see Imax as a go-to destination for fandom, community and the most immersive entertainment experiences,” Imax CEO Rich Gelfond said in a release announcing the deal Friday. “We’ve long seen the opportunity to bring the explosive world of esports to our platform and we’re excited to work with proven innovators like Mike, Sundance and the Vindex team to create entirely new experiences for fans worldwide.”
Recently-launched esports infrastructure company Vindex has established a partnership with Canadian cinema company IMAX.
Founded by MLG co-founders Mike Sepso and Sundance DiGiovanni, Vindex will create esports events and exclusive content to be shown in IMAX cinemas on a global scale.
It’s expected that multiple events across numerous titles will be broadcast in IMAX cinemas globally through the newly-launched Vindex Studios division. The partnership is expected to kick things off in the first half of the year, according to Variety.
Mike Sepso, CEO of Vindex discussed the deal in a release: “The Esports industry has never before had access to the massive reach and unmatched technology of the IMAX platform. Partnering with IMAX enables us to provide esports fans a remarkable experience – live esports on the largest, highest-quality screens in the world for the first time. We will focus on creating incredible experiences for fans by combining our deep relationships with esports leagues and game-publisher partners with our track record of producing some of the most watched events in esports history.”
Imax Corp. is venturing into the world of esports with a new partnership with Vindex.
Under the deal, the New York esports infrastructure platform will create events and experiences exclusively for the giant-screen movie company's theaters across the world.
Vindex launched in October with $60 million in funding to provide technology and services to help game publishers, leagues and teams put on esports experiences. The company at the same time announced that it had acquired Burbank, California-based Next Generation Esports and launched Esports Engine in Columbus, Ohio — both of which will contribute content for Imax distribution.
Hold on to your popcorn: An Imax location near you could soon be beaming live competitive video-game action onto its big screens.
Imax has inked a partnership with Vindex (vindex.gg), an esports infrastructure startup formed by Major League Gaming co-founders Mike Sepso and Sundance DiGiovanni, under which Vindex will create esports events and experiences exclusively for Imax theaters worldwide.
For now, the companies aren’t providing details about what games or esports events will be featured in Imax’s big-screen venues (much less what the ticket prices may be). The parties are aiming to kick things off in the first half of 2020.
Sawtelle-based investment bank Creo Montminy & Co. drove two major acquisitions of Los Angeles-area companies in the last week.
The firm, which worked with the selling party in both deals, managed the sale of esports production company Next Generation Esports and food distributor Worldwide Produce from conception to closing.
Burbank-headquartered Next Generation Esports, better known as NGE, was founded in 2014 to provide production services to companies across the esports space. This includes facilitating esports league competitions, organizing live events and studio broadcasts as well as providing consulting services on a range of related subjects.
Today, Vindex announced its launch with initial funding of $60M to build a global esports infrastructure platform. Additionally, the company made the acquisition of Next Generation Esports (NGE) and the launch of Esports Engine (both companies in esports operations, production, and technology) public.
Vindex was founded by esports industry veterans Mike Sepso and Sundance DiGiovanni, co-founders of Major League Gaming (MLG), which was acquired in 2015 by Activision Blizzard; as well as Bryan Binder and Jason Garmise, fintech entrepreneurs and private investors.
The rising hype surrounding esports has presented the industry with one big hurdle: The lack of scalable technology to meet the demands of an immense, digitally-based audience.
That’s where a company known as Vindex could step in.
Backing the company is famed value investor Joel Greenblatt, who expects Vindex is in a position to meet the demand and solve this problem plaguing esports.
MLG Co-founder Mike Sepso reveals the launch of Vindex, an esports infrastructure platform that's launching with $60 Million Series A round.
Former Activision Blizzard vice president Adam Apicella announced the launch of his new company, Esports Engine, on Wednesday.
A "client-first turnkey esports operations company," Esports Engine was co-founded by Apicella with Ryan Thompson and 20 "teammates" who have been working behind the scenes over the past two months at the company's headquarters in Columbus, Ohio.
The company will focus on competition operations, production, live broadcast and ecosystem design.
MLG co-founders Mike Sepso and Sundance DiGiovanni have launched esports infrastructure platform Vindex.
The company, which was also co-founded by Bryan Binder and Jason Garmise, has launched with $60 million (£46.6 million) in funding following its Series A round.
Vindex’s board members include the likes of Steve Bornstein, former CEO of ESPN, and Joel Greenblatt, Founder of Gotham Asset Management. The platform is said to provide “technology and services that power the richest experiences in esports” by helping “publishers, esports leagues and teams,” according to a release.