Tobias Sherman, the former esports executive for talent agency WME|IMG, is not looking to invest in the next big esport.
He wants to create it.
Sherman, along with co-founders Simon Abitbol and Lilia Russo Sherman, are launching Foundry IV, a new game studio with the aim to create a competitive esports-focused title from the ground-up. Foundry IV has already gotten seed round investment from MGM Resorts International and is working through Series A funding, with professional sports organizations currently in the fold, according to a release from the company on Wednesday.
"Historically, for publishers, esports has been used as a marketing tool, always secondary to traditional game development," Tobias Sherman, who will act as the CEO of Foundry IV, said in a statement.
Tobias Sherman left his role as the head of esports for WME|IMG in July along with Abitbol and Lilia Russo Sherman. He and his team helped co-found ELeague during his tenure with the company.
"Being afforded the opportunity to establish and lead the esports department at WME|IMG will be a memory I cherish forever," Tobias Sherman said at the time. "I have nothing but gratitude toward Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell for that opportunity. Our team is grateful for the experiences we've had while at WME|IMG. We built innovative platforms and broke ground in many areas."
Foundry IV, it seems, will be his next attempt to break ground. Just like the Overwatch League or the League of Legends Championship Series, Tobias Sherman wants to give franchise owners some ownership of the overall business.
"Franchise owners will gain an equity stake in every game we develop and all revenue streams associated, whether it's sales on PC, sponsor partnerships, media or the league itself," he said in a statement Wednesday.
According to the statement, Foundry IV is already gaining the interest of publishers. Some publishers already made requests, according to the release, for Foundry IV to create esports titles for them. But Foundry IV wants to do things its own way.
"We are creating a game with esports being prioritized at the earliest DNA decisions, all while treating the community as a partner," Abitbol, the chief technology officer for the company, said in a statement. "We decided that in the best interest of the industry, it was wise to protect our IP to ensure we could execute on our vision, the right way. ... That does not rule out working with a publisher, though; it's just that there is no value in being beholden to one."
Foundry IV's goal is to make things easy for investors, many of which it assumes will be new to esports. It will also take input from professional players, journalists and industry insiders during the development of its games.
"As a leader in the entertainment industry, we are focused on the continued evolution of esports and its importance as a strategic initiative for our company," Rick Arpin, senior vice president of entertainment for MGM Resorts International said in a press release. Currently, MGM is working on opening its Esports Arena at Luxor in Las Vegas in 2018.
Even with the initial investment momentum, Foundry IV has a difficult road ahead. Many titles touted as the next esport have fallen, such as Infinite Crisis, Dawngate, and Guardians of Middle-earth. Even games with sizable fanbases, such as Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone, have struggled to find a footing as games not only people want to play, but watch.
But Tom Hayes, the senior vice president and head of new media at Paramount Pictures, and an advisory board member for Foundry IV, said he's confident Sherman and his team will deliver.
"Foundry IV's next venture is sure to change the esports landscape as we know it," Hayes said.