Esports investment report, February 2023: Savvy Games, G1, BTS

february 2023 esports investment
february 2023 esports investment

Welcome to the roundup of most important esports investment news from February.

The month saw important, high-profile investments and mergers, however, this was also unfortunately contrasted with layoffs and shutdowns. We saw Esports Entertainment Group offload some of its assets, FaZe Clan layoffs, Beyond the Summit shutting down, but also new investments from Saudi-backed Savvy Games Group.

To learn more about esports investments, make sure to subscribe to ESI’s Angels & Unicorns newsletter — a monthly roundup of the biggest stories in the world of esports investments, mergers and acquisitions. 

Spotlighted story

Saudi Arabia
Image via: Shutterstock

Saudi Arabian esports and gaming company Savvy Games Group has announced an investment of $265m (~£219m) into Chinese tournament operator and esports company VSPO, which would make the company its single largest equity holder.

Savvy and VSPO said the deal symbolises a ‘landmark commercial partnership’ between China and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia within the esports industry. Exact details regarding the equity percentage have not been revealed.

VSPO is a notable Asian company, specialising in event production and tournament operation in the region.

Bethard x EEG
(ESI Illustration) Image credit: Bethard

Esports betting company Esports Entertainment Group (EEG) has entered into a share purchase agreement to sell its Bethard iGaming business, the company’s casino and sportsbook brand, for approximately €9.5m (~£8.45m).

The sale of its Bethard iGaming business, which notably has gambling licences in Malta and Sweden, includes €1.65m (~£1.47m) in cash with an additional €6.5m (~£5.78m) of purchase consideration.

Esports Entertainment Group purchased Bethard in 2021 for €16m (~£13.6m at the time) in cash as well as agreeing a 12% net gaming revenue share for two years.

DH.CNJ esports and saigon buffalo logos
(ESI Illustration) Image credit: DH.CNJ esports/Saigon Buffalo

South Korean company JUEGO has announced it will no longer proceed with the acquisition of Vietnamese esports organisation Saigon Buffalo.

In a Twitter statement through JUEGO’s esports organisation CNJ Esports, the company cited ‘problems implementing the acquisition process’ as the main reason for the deal falling through.

Moreover, the South Korean company claimed that the acquisition process had ‘severely damaged’ both parties externally and internally in promoting their business. 

FAZE Clan Image
Image credit: FaZe Clan

North American esports organisation FaZe Clan has undergone a wave of layoffs, citing a difficult economic environment and a lack of capital.

The layoffs reportedly account for roughly 20% of FaZe Clan’s staff, according to Business Insider, who cited a company spokesperson.

In an SEC filing on February 16th, FaZe Clan announced what it called a ‘reorganisational plan’ to streamline its workforce.

In a statement sent to employees, FaZe Clan CEO Lee Trink said that despite ‘incredible growth’, the layoffs were needed due to changes in the economic environment since the company went public in July 2022.

Image credit: Beyond The Summit

North American esports tournament operator and production company Beyond the Summit (BTS)has laid off all its full-time staff, the company announced via social media. 

BTS’ Managing Partner David Gorman issued the statement via Twitter, stating that the company will offer its staff severance and benefits, as well as fulfil all existing contracts with all clients.

Beyond the Summit is a prominent esports tournament operator in North America. The company is known for its focus on the grassroots scene and community involvement. Founded 11 years ago, BTS produced Dota 2, Super Smash Bros, Counter-Strike tournaments, among others.

OpTic Gaming logo on black background
Image credit: OpTic Gaming

North American esports organisation OpTic Gaming is part of a group seeking investment to launch a new betting venture, according to a report by esports gambling newsletter Sharpr.

OpTic has reportedly formed a group with gambling consultancy service RedZone Digital, and former iGaming operator EBET executives Bart Barden and Jason Finch, to find funding for the project.

The group is looking to raise $7.5m (~£6.3m) to launch the prospective company, which is set to be called NextGen Wagering, per Sharpr’s report. OpTic has reportedly already signed a letter of intent to pursue the partnership.

Nerd Street Gamers Five Below facilities
Photo credit: Nerd Street Gamers

Philadelphia-based tournament organiser Nerd Street Gamers is seeking a buyer or further investment as it struggles with serious financial liabilities, according to a report by The Esports Advocate.

Sources told The Esports Advocate that Nerd Street, which also has a network of gaming centres, is looking for a way to get itself out of debt as it struggles to pay the talent and professional players it owes money to.

Nerd Street has reportedly approached companies with similar operations in the space including Belong Gaming Arenas, eFuse, PlayFly, LeagueSpot as well as VC firms — including SeventySix Capital, which has invested in Nerd Street multiple times in the past.

Image credit: Women’s Car Ball / G1 Esports

North American esports organisation Gamers First (G1) has wholly acquired women’s Rocket League circuit Women’s Car Ball, ending a tumultuous month for the tournament series and its community.

G1 said it would immediately inject the capital required to pay past debts and relaunch the season, which will start March 18th. Financial terms were not disclosed.

The Women’s Car Ball league was purchased by KC Pioneers (KCP) in 2021 but the league was suspended in January, with KCP citing a lack of sponsors. Esports Insider reported earlier in February that Women’s Car Ball was forced to halt operations mid-season because KCP had not paid staff since hiring them, nor paid out any prize pool money. That report stated that several esports organisations were in negotiations to acquire the league.

Ivan Šimić
Ivan comes from Croatia, loves weird simulator games, and is terrible at playing anything else. Spent 5 years writing about tech and esports in Croatia, and is now doing it here.