It pays to be good at video games — just ask players on the New York Subliners competitive Call of Duty team.
Belong Gaming Arenas, a subsidiary of global gaming and technology company Vindex, announced on Monday its partnership with the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District.
The partnership will help establish scholastic esports programs and support the nationwide development of the amateur esports ecosystem. Tapping into its network of local gaming centers, Belong will provide dedicated practice and competition space for approximately 40,000 students.
Esports involves the world of competitive video gaming. Colleges have started giving out scholarships for playing and professionals can make millions.
There was some head-scratching across the big tech and gaming worlds in January when Microsoft announced an agreement to buy Activision Blizzard, a leading videogame publisher, for $68.7 billion. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella framed its largest acquisition ever as a boost to the company’s growing metaverse strategy, even though Activision is best known for blockbuster games such as Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and Candy Crush, but not the mix of AR/VR and other technology underpinning the fledgling metaverse.
As gaming advertising takes center stage, companies across the industry are developing new measurement tools and metrics to increase brands’ confidence in their efforts.
Brand interest in the space has steadily increased over the past year, sparking a buzz of activity at industry events such as IAB PlayFronts and Digiday’s own Gaming Advertising Forum. Recently, both Microsoft and Sony have indicated plans to develop in-game advertisements for Xbox and PlayStation, their respective gaming platforms.
Despite this influx of activity, many marketers still believe it’s too difficult — or at least not worth the trouble — to measure the performance of gaming ads, particularly those of the intrinsic in-game variety. “It’s understandable why most big advertisers are a little bit hesitant about playing in this space,” said Mike Sepso, CEO of the gaming and tech company Vindex. “They’ve been told they don’t understand it, they’re outdated, they don’t get it — but they haven’t been given any tools to better understand it”.
A lot of esports media tends to focus on teams winning championships and exposing negative behaviour from individuals and companies. They both serve a purpose, but so too do success stories. In a nascent industry that's largely failed to convert an influx of venture capital investment into sustainability, never mind profitability, it's important to highlight those that manage to make it happen.
Everything Is Better with Creators Podcast Interview with Mike Sepso.
Vindex, a global gaming and technology company, today announced Francis Thai as its Vice President of Digital Marketing. In his new role, Thai will develop digital marketing initiatives and strategies to deepen Vindex’s digital offerings across its subsidiaries, including Esports Engine, Belong Gaming Arenas, and the Vindex Intelligence Platform.
“Francis has a wealth of experience across digital media, technology, and gaming, which uniquely aligns with where Vindex is headed on a macro-level,” said Sundance DiGiovanni, Co-founder of Vindex and Chief Brand Officer at Belong Gaming Arenas. “As we continue to build out and deploy more robust technology and software to meet the evolving needs of the games industry, developing a strong digital strategy will be paramount to delivering holistic solutions to our partners.”
At Vindex, Thai will be responsible for developing and executing digital marketing strategies to raise awareness of Vindex and its brands. Leveraging his experience in audience development, advertising, and digital media, Thai will focus on driving engagement through digital channels, including social media, content, and community platforms. Thai will also champion consumer-facing initiatives to foster positive audience development across Vindex’s platform, further connecting Esports Engine, Belong Gaming Arenas, Vindex Intelligence, and all of Vindex partners to its communities across esports, gaming, and live streamed content. “Vindex has touch points across the industry, and its audience represents nearly every type of gaming consumer,”” said Thai. “Understanding how we communicate with each unique community in relevant ways is crucial to driving growth and innovation, both for the consumer and the company. I’m looking forward to leveraging my experience growing audiences and crafting brand messaging to elevate recognition of Vindex's brands in mainstream culture.”
Thai joins Vindex from NYXL, where he served as the Head of Marketing & Audience Development. During his time with the organization, he led engagement efforts for the launch of its Call of Duty League franchise, the New York Subliners, and expanded the reach of its Overwatch League franchise, the New York Excelsior. His prioritization of audience engagement through live events, tournaments, apparel launches, and influencer outreach tripled the brand’s social media following.
Thai was also an early employee of digital media companies Buzzfeed and Bustle Digital Group, helping develop marketing strategies that carried the brands out of their startup phases and into globally-recognized entities. Thai spearheaded Buzzfeed’s foundational branded content philosophy – which has become an industry standard – and expanded Bustle’s social audience from 300,000 to over 12 million followers.
Thai’s hire follows a year of international company expansion for Vindex and its subsidiaries. Esports Engine continues to partner with blue-chip stakeholders and game publishers to operate the world’s top esports leagues and produce leading games content. Meanwhile, Belong Gaming Arenas is set to establish dozens of new locations across key U.S. cities Austin, TX; Philadelphia, PN; Brooklyn, NY, and Arlington, VA, as well as U.K. markets, Newcastle, Birmingham, and Manchester, England.
Earlier this month, Vindex launched its audience measurement technology Vindex Intelligence Platform and partnered with the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) to unlock the full extent of media and sponsorship opportunities in gaming, esports, and live streaming for brands and advertisers.
Vindex, a global gaming technology company, today announced a partnership with the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), the digital media and marketing trade association, to unlock the full extent of media and sponsorship opportunities in gaming, esports, and live streaming for brands and advertisers. Launching today, the Vindex Intelligence Platform, will leverage the company’s vast data collection capability across the games content ecosystem, combined with a powerful insights and analytics platform to equip stakeholders with actionable measurement, growth, and engagement solutions.
“The Vindex Intelligence Platform is a major step toward overcoming a key hurdle of decentralized data and measurement in the game content ecosystem,” said Mike Sepso, CEO & Co-founder, Vindex. “The platform provides brands and agencies with a better understanding of the gaming audience and gives advertisers the confidence to navigate this continually evolving space. In partnership with the IAB, we’ll have a unique opportunity to bring game publishers, esports teams, and the larger creator economy together with advertisers.”
The video game industry is in the midst of a significant business model shift. Publishers have started to pivot from the unit-sales model they have relied on for the last 40 years, toward the free-to-play approach popularized over the last half decade (see: Halo Infinite, Call of Duty Warzone). “There’s no technology disruption causing that. It is totally consumer driven,” Mike Sepso (CEO, Vindex) said. While the transition is likely to cause some short-term pain for many publishers, the gaming executive believes it is unquestionably in their long-term best interests to make it. Free-to-play has the potential to drive more players, increase engagement and still generate billions of dollars in revenue (see: Fortnite)—all of which is good for the big four sports team owners who have invested in esports teams. It should be noted Sepso is an investor in Andbox, the esports club owned by the Wilpon family.
Belong Gaming Arenas is a subsidiary of global esports and technology company Vindex. In 2021, Belong revealed plans to open 300 experiential gaming centres across the US, in addition to its 27 UK venues. The aim is to create a series of safe and accessible connected spaces at the local and amateur level, as the esports trend continues to grow.
Gamers and their friends can watch, practise and compete at Belong venues. They can play leading titles on state-of-the-art equipment, due to Belong’s collaboration with PlayStation, OMEN by HP, ViewSonic, and Mavix.
"They're essentially an extension of our team,” said Tahir Hasandjekic, Halo esports lead at Microsoft. “We leverage their expertise to help us flesh out the program and help us execute. We have a smaller team here, but it takes an army to run a global esports team. So, we've hired Esports Engine to help us oversee the entire ecosystem.
FRANKLIN, Tenn. (WTVF) — His reflexes are so quick, you can tell that Louis Tole spends a lot of time in front of a keyboard. "I have an Xbox at home, yea I play a lot of Apex," said Tole.
But Louis isn't playing at home, at least not on this day. He's one of dozens that have a membership at Belong Gaming Arena, the newest in-person hub for video games in our area.
Joost van Dreunen (investor / advisor / Superdata founder) and Mike Sepso (Vindex CEO / fmr Activision SVP) analyze the Take Two/Zynga, Microsoft/Activision, and Sony/Bungie acquisitions Monetizing Media's Eric Peckham. Why did they make sense, why did they happen now, and how do they reshape the industry?
New this year, Esports Engine has been named the official broadcasting partner for the 2022 Call of Duty League season, bringing a slate of new and exciting features for fans to enjoy during Call of Duty League matches.
“For a number of years, the team at Esports Engine has worked closely with Activision Blizzard Esports to create electric and unforgettable experiences in Call of Duty esports,” says Vindex CXO and Esports Engine President & Co-founder Adam Apicella. “We’re partnering with Activision Blizzard Esports to bring a number of the most skilled and passionate professionals from our team to further build on Call of Duty’s legacy.”
This deal includes a new and expanded pre-game show kicking off each match day, always-on player POV cams, live feeds of players on the HUD while matches are in progress, and much more. Esports Engine will also utilize its Ohio studio throughout the 2022 CDL Season to host on-site desk talent for Major qualifier matches.
“I think the fans will agree that the experience with competitive COD that Adam and his team at Esports Engine bring to the CDL is going to be invaluable and bring our season to the next level” says Daniel Tsay, Call of Duty League General Manager. “I can’t wait to get started with the Kickoff Classic.”
Microsoft's game strategy -- should the acquisition of Activision Blizzard close -- could have a major impact on the future of the Call of Duty League and Overwatch League. Both of those titles are currently still full-price video games for consumers (vs. free-to-play), and that drastically limits the potential player base for both games. If either game becomes part of Microsoft's subscription gaming service Game Pass, it opens up a much broader potential audience for the esports competition. “One of the reasons that esports is important to the overall video game industry is that the industry is moving from you-pay-me-$65 bucks (for a game) to free-to-play," said Vindex CEO and co-founder Mike Sepso. "That's what Game Pass is, that's the transition. I think this helps Activision with that transition. Microsoft can take that hit over a couple years to effectively transition big franchise games to a more free-to-play environment, especially under a subscription service like Game Pass.”
When Microsoft announced Tuesday its intent to buy video game publisher Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion, the owners and executives for teams in Activision’s multi-million dollar esports leagues learned of the deal the same way everyone else did — by checking their phones and turning on the news.
“We are definitely surprised,” Adam Rymer, the chief executive of Envy Gaming, told The Post Tuesday. “I woke up today to see a few people from the company texting me about it and then turned on CNBC.”
Since 2015, Activision Blizzard has attempted to become the destination for competitive gaming by launching a potentially groundbreaking city-based franchise structure based on the model in traditional sports leagues. Activision sold franchise slots for upward of $20 million apiece around Overwatch and Call of Duty, two of its biggest titles, that granted owners exclusive access to local markets across North America, China, Europe and South Korea. After getting the Overwatch League off the ground in 2018, the company set an ambitious timeline to host live Overwatch competitions in front of thousands of fans across the three continents and then quickly moved on to launch the Call of Duty League in similar fashion. But, for the past two years, the pandemic has forced both leagues to dash those plans and largely move competitions online.
A new Belong Gaming Arena, which will also be home to the Schaumburg Foxes, is set to open Jan. 21, 2022 at the Streets of Woodfield, a Chicago-area, outdoor shopping mall in Schaumburg.
Major League Gaming cofounder Mike Sepso believes the games industry needs esports due to rapidly changing business models. The boon of free-to-play games and competitive gaming has changed the way publishers look to market their video games, and Sepso believes esports are key to that.
Sepso and his company Vindex, an esports infrastructure platform, are looking for better ways to sustain the esports ecosystem following the trend in how people consume games. In particular, the startup is looking at how people are spending money.
Belong Gaming Arenas has opened the doors to its latest US-based experiential gaming center in Grapevine, a suburb of North Texas. The Grapevine Arena will serve as a home to the North Texas gaming community who can come together to watch, play, and compete in their favorite game titles. Belong’s Grapevine Arena will additionally act as both a training ground and hub for the Texas-based esports organization Envy Gaming to activate its fanbase.
“Esports and gaming are a way for people to connect, and Belong brings these communities together and allows them to flourish,” said Martyn Gibbs, CEO of Belong Gaming Arenas. “Dallas has long been considered a hub for North American esports thanks to organizations like Envy, and we can’t wait to provide a new home for gaming culture in North Texas to continue growing.”
Located at the Grapevine Mills Mall in Grapevine, visitors to the Arena will have the opportunity to play just for fun or train like esports professionals on top-of-the-line gaming PCs, equipment, and next-generation consoles. Additionally, Belong’s Grapevine Arena will serve as the home field for the Grapevine Guards, the city’s local amateur esports team, who will represent their hometown as they compete in tournaments, leagues, and scrimmages against other teams in the Belong network.
Belong will also collaborate with Envy to execute fan-centric activations on an ongoing basis, including watch parties, meet-and-greet opportunities, and more, exclusively for the Belong Grapevine community. This will additionally see Belong carry a selection of official Envy merchandise available for purchase at its Grapevine location, including team jerseys, hoodies, shirts, and more.
“We’re excited to engage with and grow with our local audience in physical ways here in North Texas,” said Adam Rymer, CEO of Envy. “Our partnership with Belong is a way for Envy to connect with the casual gamer and fans of all ages as gaming becomes more and more a pastime and competitive outlet of choice.”
Belong’s Grapevine Arena marks the company’s second U.S.-based location, joining its Pearland, Texas, Arena and existing network of 25 locations in the United Kingdom. Additional U.S. venues will open in Columbus, Ohio; Chicago, Illinois; Nashville, Tennessee; and more in the coming months, as Vindex executes its plan to establish 300 gaming centers in the U.S. over the next five years.
To stay up to date with the Grapevine Guards, follow them on Twitter and Facebook.
For more information on Belong’s U.S. locations, please visit https://us.belong.gg or download the Belong app.
Doors Open on August 6; Home of Local Amateur Esports Team, the Pearland Archers
Houston, Texas – August 2, 2021 – Belong Gaming Arenas, a subsidiary of global esports and technology company Vindex, today announced it will open the doors to its first experiential gaming center in the U.S. in Pearland, a suburb of Houston, Texas, on August 6. Belong will partner with the Overwatch League’s Houston Outlaws on a series of fan-focused activities for local gamers to enjoy while attending Belong’s current and forthcoming locations in the Houston area.
“There is a rich history of esports and gaming in Texas thanks to the influence of teams like the Houston Outlaws,” said Martyn Gibbs, CEO of Belong Gaming Arenas. “We’re fortunate to be able to tap into this passionate community alongside the Outlaws and build upon the growing gaming culture in Houston through the establishment of the first-ever Belong location in the U.S.”
Belong will collaborate with the Houston Outlaws to execute ongoing fan-centric activations, including watch parties, meet-and-greet opportunities, and more, exclusively for the Belong community. Additionally, Belong will offer fans an opportunity to purchase an assortment of Houston Outlaws merchandise.
“The Houston Outlaws are thrilled to support Belong Gaming Arena’s entry into the U.S. with the opening of their first arena in Houston,” said Lori Burgess, COO of Beasley Esports. “Through this partnership with Belong, we’ll help bring gamers back together in this exciting, community-oriented, state-of-the art venue – and applaud Belong for making H-Town their first location! We look forward to celebrating with Belong and all the Outlaws fans in Pearland.”
Located at the Pearland Town Center in Pearland, Texas, local gamers, their friends, and families can come together to watch, play, and compete across the most popular game titles. Similar to a baseball diamond, the Pearland arena will serve as the home field of the Pearland Archers, the city’s local amateur esports team. Kicking off in Fall 2021, the Archers will represent their hometown as they compete in tournaments, leagues, and scrimmages against other teams in the Belong network.
The 4,800-square-foot facility, designed by architecture firm M+A Architects, will feature 48 gaming stations – each equipped with high-spec PCs – and access to both PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X installations. With daily competitive programming and other social activities, Belong is a place to connect with like-minded community members and celebrate a shared love of gaming.
Belong’s Pearland location will join Belong’s growing network of 25 arenas in the United Kingdom and kick off the company's plans to establish 500 gaming centers in the U.S. over the next five years. Additional U.S. venues will open in Dallas, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; Chicago, Illinois; Nashville, Tennessee; and more in the coming months.
To stay up to date with the Pearland Archers, follow them on Twitter and Facebook.
For more information on Belong’s U.S. locations, please visit https://us.belong.gg or download the Belong app.
HyperX, the gaming peripherals team at HP Inc. and brand leader in gaming and esports, today announced a two-year agreement with Belong Gaming Arenas, a subsidiary of global esports and technology company Vindex. HyperX will outfit Belong’s U.S. experiential gaming centers with a range of products, including best-in-class headsets, keyboards, mice and microphones.
Belong connects communities of gamers through its international network of experiential gaming centers and digital platform. Everyone from casual players to aspiring professionals can come together at Belong to play the most popular game titles, both for fun and competitively, while using industry-leading peripherals from HyperX.
“Gaming experience destinations like Belong help to fuel the next generation of amateur gamers to compete on the global stage,” said Wendy Lecot, head of strategic alliances, HyperX. “HyperX is a champion of all gamers and our combined efforts with Belong aim to connect all who share a love of gaming in local communities.”
As the gaming peripherals team at HP Inc., this HyperX collaboration with Belong expands the pre-existing relationship between Belong and HP. In addition to HyperX gaming headsets, keyboards and mice, Belong’s gaming centers will also include OMEN Gaming PCs.
”Part of our mission at Belong is to provide our gamers with top-notch gaming experiences, which is why we’re partnering with the de facto leader in peripherals,” said Wim Stocks, Head of Partnership and Commercial, Belong Gaming Arenas. “By providing access to the same equipment that the pros use, we’re able to give our community a chance to take their gameplay to the next level.”
Belong plays a key role in the evolving video game retail market by facilitating gamers to discover new games with friends in a premium and accessible , hands-on environment. Belong recently revealed it would begin rolling out hundreds of locations across the U.S., starting with Houston, Texas this summer. Additional U.S. venues in Dallas, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; Chicago, Ill.; Nashville, Tenn.; and more will follow in the coming months as the company works to establish additional gaming centers in the U.S. over the next five years.
Vindex‘s Belong Gaming Arenas is opening its first U.S. location in Houston, Texas, as part of a plan to expand its chain of local esports gaming centers as the pandemic eases.
Many retailers have been stung in the pandemic as they paid high rents but were forced to close. Now many countries are starting to reopen, and Belong Gaming Arenas and its parent Vindex feel like the time is right to create the new locations in the U.S., said CEO Mike Sepso in an interview with GamesBeat. He anticipates hundreds of locations opening in the U.S.
Vindex has some ambitious plans, as it raised $300 million to open lots of centers where gamers could hang out and attend events with esports stars in cool locations. It also bought Belong Gaming Arenas, which the U.K. retailer GAME Digital was starting to create in the U.K. It may be risky as some pandemic-shy consumers may not want to go back to retail places, but others are likely itching to get out.
After the COVID-19 pandemic caused esports competitors to play individually from home, Belong Gaming Arenas is looking to bring people together again, in a physical space.
Belong, a subsidiary of global esports and tech company Vindex, announced it will begin opening hundreds of experimental gaming centers across the U.S. to establish a connected framework for esports at the local and amateur level. The idea is to make esports facilities more accessible, akin to ballfields or gymnasiums.
The first location will be in Houston, with venues to be added in Dallas, Chicago, Nashville and Columbus, Ohio. Its plan is to establish 500 gaming centers in the U.S. over the next five years.
“We’re going pretty big here, and we have a very ambitious plan,” said Mike Sepso, CEO and co-founder of Vindex. “So you can imagine it’s many millions of dollars that we’re pumping into making this work. This is the baseball diamond that you see at every high school or the parks and rec locations at every town across the U.S. This is the gaming version of that.
Belong Gaming Arenas, a subsidiary of global esports and technology company Vindex, today announced it will begin rolling out hundreds of experiential gaming centers across the United States to establish a connected framework for esports at the local and amateur level. Beginning this summer, gamers, their friends, and families can come together at Belong’s safe, accessible locations to watch, play, and compete across the most popular game titles. Additionally, Belong is collaborating with the most innovative companies in the space, including PlayStation, OMEN by HP, ViewSonic, and Mavix to equip its gaming centers with the best products on the market.
“Following more than a year of isolation, people are craving interactive and shared gaming experiences, where they can come together to celebrate a shared love of gaming and its culture,” said Martyn Gibbs, CEO, Belong Gaming Arenas. “Belong will play a key role in the next evolution of gaming by deeply integrating within local communities while also connecting people from around the world digitally.”
This summer, Belong will open the doors to its first-ever U.S. location in Houston, Texas, which will join Belong’s growing network of 25 arenas in the United Kingdom. Additional U.S. venues in Dallas, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; Chicago, Illinois; Nashville, Tennessee; and more will follow in the coming months as the company works toward its plan to establish 500 gaming centers in the US over the next five years.
Each location will offer daily competitive programming, fan engagement opportunities, practice space for local professional and amateur teams, and the best gaming experiences. Everyone from casual players to aspiring professionals can come together at Belong to play the most popular game titles, both for fun and competitively. Beginning in Fall 2021, community members will represent their hometown Belong teams in inter-arena competition against teams from cities across the U.S. and the U.K. Belong locations will serve as a home field for local amateur teams to compete in tournaments, leagues, and scrimmages against other teams in the Belong network. Tiered competition will accommodate a wide breadth of recreational and elite play, with seasons ranging from three to ten weeks. Esports Engine, Vindex’s esports technology and solutions company and operator of many of the world’s top esports leagues, will design and operate the daily competitive programming across Belong’s gaming centers. “Since launching Major League Gaming nearly 20 years ago, it’s been a dream of mine to make the professional esports experience accessible to hometowns across America,” said Mike Sepso, CEO and Co-founder, Vindex. “Through Belong, we are establishing the baseball diamonds and football pitches of esports and gaming to supply the talent development pipeline and grow fandom as the industry continues to mature.”
Belong Arenas will be outfitted with high-end gaming consoles and technology through collaborations with PlayStation and OMEN by HP. This will allow Belong customers to compete using best-in-class gaming equipment in an interactive, hands-on environment where they can discover new games and products. ViewSonic will serve as the official monitor partner for Belong nationally, with Mavix Gaming providing advanced gaming chairs for the arenas in each of the opening markets. Forthcoming partnerships with local brands, high schools, universities, professional esports teams, and more will ensure locations are uniquely tailored to each city's identity.
In addition to these gaming centers, Belong is launching a digital platform, which will give its community access to the latest news, leaderboards, and recreational and competitive opportunities that transcend the in-person experience and connect gamers around the world. Belong members will be able to seamlessly manage bookings through the platform as well as through a forthcoming mobile app.
Since 2016, Belong has cultivated communities of gamers to play at its 25 locations throughout the U.K. Belong will expand this offering across the U.S. and internationally by establishing hundreds of locations throughout the next several years.
At Activision Blizzard, we've built a deep library of owned IP, and believe that wholly-owned entertainment franchises offer the opportunity for limitless innovation. We create and publish some of the most enduring video games in the industry, supported by the very best creative teams in the world.
Fundamentally, we want our beloved franchises to be available for players all around the world with more frequent content, in whatever format or platform they want and with the commercial model that works most broadly. A franchise is not living up to its potential or expectation if it is not available on mobile – a priority for our future. Our Call of Duty franchise now has free-to-play entry points across mobile, PC and console, and has seen an increase of over 100 million players in a little over a year. This is the template we're applying to our proven franchises as we aim to grow our audiences to 1 billion players.
Amid the coronavirus outbreak, the video game industry experienced a critical inflection point, although it went largely overlooked. Most of the media coverage focused on the massive increase in gameplay while children and adults alike were stuck at home. However, industry watchers ignored a major data point with enormous ramifications: For the first time in history, the video games business model flipped, and revenue from free-to-play games have overtaken traditional game sales.
Previously, game publishers operated like the Hollywood movie business: a long production cycle with one big release date supported by a heavy marketing spend, excess channel promotion and shortly thereafter, a move on to the next title. Game publisher stocks moved, and executive futures were determined by opening week sales reports, not unlike their counterparts in the movie business. The industry has now reached a watershed moment. The majority of revenues are driven by engagement in games that are now mostly free to play.
Vindex operate Belong Gaming Arenas, a network of local LAN areas across the United Kingdom, and esports operations company Esports Engine. In his new role, Siegner will be responsible for the finance operations of all facets of the business. The company was founded by MLG co-founders Mike Sepso and Sundance DiGiovanni, as well as Bryan Binder and Jason Garmise, in October 2019. They launched with $60m in their back pocket thanks to a Series A funding round. Their new CFO has plenty of experience outside of esports, previously serving as the vice president of investor relations and mergers & acquisitions at Yum! Brands, a fast-food corporation that operates KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and other popular chains.
Vindex, the leading global esports and technology company, today announced former Yum! Brands executive Keith Siegner as its new Chief Financial Officer. In this role, Keith will lead global finance operations for Vindex and its subsidiaries, esports operations company Esports Engine and physical and digital gaming network Belong Gaming Arenas. “We are successfully building a world-class leadership team that is executing at the highest level in the midst of a growth cycle and global expansion,” said Mike Sepso, Vindex CEO and Co-Founder. “Keith’s extensive experience of building a global financial organization at a publicly traded company will be an invaluable resource to us as we continue to grow our company and business operations.”
Siegner served as the Vice President, Investor Relations, Mergers & Acquisitions, and Treasurer at Yum! Brands, which included leading the capital markets, global cash management, and risk finance teams. Siegner was a senior banking executive in equity research for 15 years at Credit Suisse and UBS Securities, where he was Executive Director prior to joining Yum! Brands. He began his career at Arthur Andersen in the International Tax Consulting Division. Siegner is both a CPA and CFA, and his experience blends a unique combination of building global financial operations for complex public enterprises, investor relations, and corporate strategy.
“Esports and the gaming industry at-large are quickly becoming the dominant form of media in the digitally connected attention economy. This points to long-term, sustainable growth in an industry that is still navigating the digital transition and in need of more developed infrastructure and technology,” said newly appointed Vindex CFO, Keith Siegner. “Vindex is optimally positioned to continue playing an essential and leading role in shaping the future of the industry, and I’m excited to be a part of it.” Siegner’s hire comes amidst a year of positive growth for the company. Vindex has seen its workforce double over the past year as the company expands its market share in esports and gaming content operations. Esports Engine produced more than 700 tournament broadcast days, totaling over 2,200 broadcasts and live event hours in 2020 alone. Meanwhile, Belong Gaming Arenas plans to open its first locations in the U.S. in 2021.
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.