ESL and Dreamhack announce they will merge

Helena Kristiansson / ESL

ESL and DreamHack, two of the biggest event organizers in esports, announced Wednesday that they will merge after a five-year period that saw the two companies share ownership in Modern Times Group but operate independently. The new company will be known as ESL Gaming, with Modern Times Group as its majority shareholder.

DreamHack will continue to be the name of the festival series that spans across Europe and North America, but will be operated now by the joint leadership group. That leadership group will be led by ESL co-CEOs Ralf Reichert and Craig Levine, with DreamHack CEO Marcus Lindmark staying on to operate the large-scale festivals he has been the top executive for since October 2014.

"Through maximum cooperation and collaboration, and the melding of some of the best creative and visionary gaming minds in the industry, we will, together, continue to advance the innovation that drives this space via the most exceptional products and events," Levine said in a news release. "For our partners, there will be more opportunities to engage with us through a wider range of activations across all levels of esports, and all aspects of gaming. And for our fans, it means we will offer one of the most expansive esports and gaming lifestyle portfolios available."

Since MTG acquired majority stake of ESL and ownership of DreamHack in 2015, the two companies have operated relatively independently -- with ESL focused on its Intel Extreme Masters and ESL One events, as well as a number of other pro leagues in various titles and white label production, and DreamHack primarily in the festival space. However, in the past couple of years, the two companies have slowly started sharing more resources and leaning on one another to grow in their respective areas. Combined, they are the largest tournament organizer in esports and one of the few major ones that are not owned by game developers or participating teams. MTG is a publicly traded corporation in Sweden, with shares trading at 125.10 Swedish krona ($13.86) per share on Wednesday.

"DreamHack has always brought communities together and created the ultimate gaming lifestyle experience for our fans all around the world," Lindmark said in a statement. "This will not change -- but by combining our resources with ESL, we can continue to grow these events into something even more spectacular. Whether first-timers or long-term attendees, we have always offered something for everyone by featuring everything gaming under one roof. With ESL, we will be able to offer a more tailored approach for both our community and our partners across all regions through an array of gaming and esports opportunities, all while creating impactful and memorable experiences. The future of gaming is now, and we are excited to create the future together."

While neither own exclusive IP rights to any titles, ESL and DreamHack have hosted events that include Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, StarCraft II, Hearthstone, Super Smash Bros., Street Fighter, Rainbow Six: Siege and others. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, both companies had landed a deal to run a series of Hearthstone events dubbed the Hearthstone Masters Tour. ESL struck a similar deal with Activision Blizzard for StarCraft II and WarCraft III, designing a Pro Tour that was supposed to include a number of offline events before events came to a halt. Both ESL and DreamHack have hosted Major championships for Valve in Counter-Strike and Dota 2.

In the past few years DreamHack -- one of the biggest music and gaming festivals in Europe -- has targeted expansion in North America, hosting events in Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Las Vegas, Montreal, Austin, Texas, and Anaheim, California. Their European events have been a staple of the gaming and music space for more than two decades, including the debut of the League of Legends World Championship in 2011 and others.