Owners of the Vancouver Canucks and the Rogers Arena, the Aquilini family first met esports when Dota 2’s The International sold out the Rogers Arena in 2018. Just months later, the family bought a spot in the Overwatch League. From that point on, they went on to acquire Luminosity Gaming and bought into the Call of Duty League as well. Last fall, they completed a merger with Enthusiast Gaming who runs a wide variety of video game websites and they’ve just entered esports betting. And it all started with one massive Dota event.
“We had an opportunity to host the world’s biggest esports event [by prize pool] for Dota 2’s The International in 2018,” recalls Adrian Montgomery, the CEO of Enthusiast Gaming, then the CEO of Canucks Sports and Entertainment. “None of us knew anything about esports. We were very concerned when a game publisher wanted to take a 20,000 seat arena for a six day tournament… But when you see a Dota 2 event in person and you are setting noise records and concession sale records, even when you didn’t know anything about esports at the beginning, you wanted to know more at the end.”
Under the banner of Enthusiast Gaming, the company manages CDL’s Seattle Surge, OWL’s Vancouver Titans and various teams and streamers under Luminosity. They also run Enthusiast’s portfolio that includes Destructoid, Nintendo Enthusiast and The Escapist.
“We bought the Overwatch League asset, and we didn’t know what to do with it,” Montgomery continued. “We didn’t have anyone in the company who could put an Overwatch team together. So we went, and we found this company called Luminosity and asked them to put a team together for us.”
Activision Blizzard’s franchised esports leagues brought in, and even targeted, sports money. A promise of moving to a traditional home-and-away format with geolocalized cities appealed to sports moguls like Robert Kraft, Stan Kroenke, Frank McCourt and the Aquilinis. 2020 was supposed to be the year that those plans came to fruition. With COVID-19 forcing competitions online, the geolocalized movement is suddenly on hold. For Enthusiast Gaming, one of the few publicly traded esports organizations, this pandemic posed serious issues.
“We certainly didn’t build this business around the notion that a global pandemic might sweep through,” Montgomery continued. “One of the things people struggle with in esports is the question of how to make money. The challenge is that esports is borderless. One of the things that makes sports such a powerful business model is traditional television broadcast rights. You can slice those rights up into 32 pieces of geography. You can’t do that in esports. So for us, to be successful, we built a business that has multiple revenue streams.”
Recently, Enthusiast Gaming expanded into esports betting as well with a partnership with Monkey Knife Fight. The company does daily fantasy in sports and is expanding to esports. While major players like DraftKings and Fanduel are looking into esports, neither one has made a huge move into the space.
Listen to the full interview with Adrian Montgomery on the Esportz Network Podcast feed below. Esportz Network is the place to go for the latest global esports news, professional statistics, tournament coverage, and more. We have a passion for esports.
Article and Podcast by Mitch Reames