Tournament organizer Rivalcade has sold three franchise spots, each at a $1 million buy-in price, for its Esports Battle League, a geolocated league that hopes to feature a multitude of esports titles.
The league has secured commitments from Elevate, Circa eSports and Simplicity. Elevate will be based in Denver, Circa will take up Miami and Simplicity will occupy Las Vegas; each team have previously competed in esports titles, including Smite, Heroes of the Storm, Call of Duty, Halo, fighting games and others. The league hopes to obtain three to five more buyers for its league by its targeted launch in summer of 2018.
"When the EBL approached us about entering, we were highly impressed with the exposure it will bring to the fighting scene," Circa eSports CEO Marc Leikach told ESPN. "It will definitely bring more visibility to Circa eSports, as well as the other teams, along with creating a great environment for the players. We are excited to see where this puts Circa in the next year."
Rivalcade is currently attempting to obtain tournament licensing rights from a number of different esports titles, according to sources. Among those are StarCraft II, Hearthstone, Smite, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Rocket League, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, Injustice 2, FIFA 18 and Paladins. It has not come to agreements with any of these developers for their titles yet, but sources from Blizzard, the developer of StarCraft and Hearthstone, and Hi-Rez Studios, the creator of Smite and Paladins, confirmed to ESPN that they have discussed the possibility with Rivalcade officials. The league will ultimately hold three titles, one source said.
"We believe that franchise leagues have a key place in the future of esports as it matures," Elevate CEO Brandon Hatfield said. "My team and I see our brand as a perfect fit for the Denver market. We look forward to growing our local fanbase and contributing to the success of the EBL with Scott and his team."
The news comes after the success of the Overwatch League, which saw over 10 million unique viewers in its launch week Jan. 10-13. The previous city-based league, the Championship Gaming Series in 2006-08, shuttered after a reported $35 million in losses.
Rivalcade was founded by technology entrepreneur and former engineer Scott O'Leary. The Esports Battle League has worked with law firm Lanza, Reich, and Daniel to recruit for its franchise process. That firm includes partners formerly involved at the highest level of the National Lacrosse League and the National Basketball Players Association.
"I love what the EBL is doing," Simplicity Esports owner and Memphis Grizzlies minority owner Jed Kaplan said. "They are filling a much needed niche, and it's going to be huge. Our team is 100 percent committed to helping the EBL grow."