eSports gambling and daily fantasy companies largely profit in part because of the demand for eSports.
That demand has also attracted a plethora of investors staking their claims in an expanding market that has already surpassed $600 million and an audience of 134 million people.
Venture capital directed toward eSports
The newest team to enter the LCS arena has literally purchased its way there, acquiring the rights to Team 8. Immortals, funded by a long list of investors, venture capital firms, and angel investors, has exploded onto the scene.
The list of investors includes Steve Kaplan, co-owner of the Memphis Grizzlies, and Machine Shop Ventures, the business alias of the band Linkin Park.
Serving as chairman over the entire operation is Clinton Foy, managing director of Crosscut Ventures. Crosscut Ventures is notable for having invested heavily in Vulcun and Super Evil Megacorp. Before even rebuilding their roster, the Immortals secured a big named partner in chip manufacturer AMD.
Running the day-to-day operations will be Immortals CEO Noah Whinston. Whinston is the mastermind behind the entire idea, and he will have complete control of coaching and roster changes.
Acquiring an all-star roster
What the Immortals are trying to accomplish is unprecedented: a team that is completely diving in head first, backed by some serious cash.
The North American League Championship Series is a great league to be in, but it’s an extremely competitive one. Success has to be immediate, and the first order of business was rebuilding a roster that barely qualified for the LCS this year. Steve Kaplan started by releasing all of the current Team 8 players (their contracts expired at the end of the year).
Rumors began flying in the first week of December regarding who would be featured on the new roster. On December 8, all was revealed, with a shocking, star studded roster rolled out for display.
Two ex-Fnatic players make the list
Seung Hoon “Huni” Heo and Yeu Jin “Reignover” Kim, fresh off their success at World with Fnatic, would be joining the team as top laner and jungler respectively. Huni was a dominant force in top lane all season long for Fnatic and was awarded the Outstanding Rookie of the 2015 EU LCS Spring Split for his exceptional performance.
Before joining Fnatic, Reignover spent three seasons in the incredibly competitive LCK, honing his skills. Reignover’s aggressive playstyle fit in perfectly with the rest of team Fnatic, and he would go on to post a ridiculous 6.3 KDA throughout the playoffs, unheard of for a jungler.
The two Fnatic players alone will bring a lot of hype to this team. They were a crucial part in Fnatic having the best season ever of a European team in the EU LCS, going undefeated in the regular season on their way to the title. They carried that momentum into Worlds, losing in the semifinals to eventual runner-up KOO Tigers.
Reignover ranked first among EU junglers last split with a 5.7 KDA, 166 total assists, and a +4.8 creep score differential at 10 minutes. Huni was also first among EU top laners in KDA (4.7), kills (88), and average gold earned per minute (276.4).
And don’t forget about those North Americans
The rest of the roster features three North American talents. In mid lane is Eugene “Pobelter” Park. Pobelter formerly played for Evil Geniuses before joining Counter Logic Gaming last year, helping propel CLG to their first every NA LCS crown. During the offseason, CLG management approached Pobelter about splitting time with HuHi, and Pobelter preferred to find a new team that would feature him solely in the mid lane position.
Mr. Scholarship, Adrian “Adrian” Ma will be playing support this year for Immortals. After earning a scholarship to play eSports at Robert Morris University (one of the first pro players to do this), Adrian played for Team Impulse in 2015. Adrian partnered with Apollo in the bot lane for TIP, helping the team achieve a fourth place finish in their debut NA LCS split.
Adrian is known for playing hard to engage champions and has often been mentioned as one of the rising stars in the NA region. Last year he ranked first among North American supports with a 5.6 KDA, 80.8 percent kill participation, and 1.48 ward placed per minute.
Rounding out the roster will be former TSM AD Carry, Jason “WildTurtle” Tran. WildTurtle was demoted from his starting spot on TSM this offseason after TSM signed Doublelift to a contract. His always-ecstatic personality and joyful attitude has made him an NA fan favorite.
WildTurtle spent nearly three years on TSM, but he was heavily criticized last season for some of his mid-to-late game decision making.
At the head of designing team strategy will be Dylan Falco. Falco was a former analyst for TSM as well as a member of the support staff for H2K at Worlds 2015. Also joining the team of experienced coaches will be performance coach Robert Yip and Jun Kang.
With a plethora of resources, a star-studded roster, and an experienced coach at the helm, Immortals has all of the right pieces to contend right away in the NA LCS.