This month marks the ESL 20 year anniversary. On the 21st of November, it will have been 20 years of continuous operation for the esports tournament organisers.
In 2000 the founders of ESL started the Electronic Sports League (ESPL) in Cologne, Germany as an offshoot of Turtle Entertainment. In short order they had amassed over 100,000 members and began organising multiplayer gaming tournaments for titles like Counterstrike and Warcraft.
By 2002 the company had shortened their name to ESL and began organising some very serious top-tier tournaments. In that same year, they kicked off the ESL Pro Series Season 1. It was sponsored by Intel Friday Night Games at Future Point Cologne – ESL’s first-ever event complete with an €80,000 prize pot. They had a live audience along with some very primitive Windows Media Streaming.
Fast forward to 2005 and the league boasted over one million members. With this rapid expansion, it was beginning to become difficult policing the league. Some players were still anonymous, and the use of cheat software was rife. With the introduction of new anti-cheat software and an industry-first player ID card, the sport became trustworthy and easier to bet on.
Three years later in 2008 ESL doubled their members to 2 million and expanded into France, the UK, Scandinavia, and Poland. As the years went on, esports gradually became more accepted and popular, ESL was one of the major organisers leading that charge.
Over the years, their popularity began to snowball, in 2014 their Intel Extreme Masters tournament drew in around 650,000 concurrent viewers. In 2015 they had their first $1,000,000 prize. In 2016 their tournament, ESL One, drew in 14,000 spectators every day. In 2017 the company branched into PUBG. In 2018 their ESL One tournament sold out the largest indoor sports arena in Germany.
It is safe to say that ESL has been a driving force in the esports community. The ESL 20 year anniversary is a testament to their staying power and with the ESL Pro Tour, Intel Extreme Masters, DreamHack Masters, ESL Pro League, and other tournaments under their belt it is clear t see that they will remain a fixture of the esports scene for years to come.
Comment from the CEO
Co-CEO at ESL, Ralf Reichert, wrote,
“Over the past 20 years we’ve seen what started out as a humble passion grow from a few enthusiasts into a global movement across esports and gaming. We are proud to have reached this stage with ESL, and to bring fans, players, and partners closer to the action in all that we do. The future could not be more exciting and we at ESL will continue to bring innovation and creativity into the community to enable more people through their passion for gaming and esports to team up, compete, celebrate and be celebrated!”
Besides the ESL 20 year anniversary, the company has also been expanding into different styles of esports by partnering with the DFL German Football League. They have partnered in order to expand the Virtual Bundesliga (VBL). ESL will take complete control of the media production of the national VBL competitions. The VBL is a major entryway into professional eFootball and the official FIFA esports ladder, by partnering with DFL they will be able to bring in more fans and coverage of this growing Esport in Germany.