ESforce Holding — the largest esports organization in Russia, the CIS and Eastern Europe announces the results of 2020.
During the global coronavirus pandemic, the holding faced challenges such as the cancellation of major tournaments, the closure of borders, the transition to a remote format of work, etc. which were successfully overcome.
ESforce’s business assets have demonstrated their resilience to force majeure and their ability to show growth even in prolonged periods of crisis.
The results of the year for each business area of ESforce Holding will be listed further.
EPIC ESPORTS EVENTS TOURNAMENT OPERATOR
In 2020 Epic Esports Events (EEE) confirmed its reputation as the organizer of the best sports events in the CIS and one of the main event companies in the world. During the year the company held two seasons of the Parimatch League, tournaments BEYOND EPIC (jointly by Beyond the Summit) and OMEGA League (jointly by WePlay! Esports), as well as two seasons of the flagship EPIC League.
The crisis year was marked by the mass cancellation of sports events that were supposed to take place offline. Moscow EPICENTER Major was no exception. In order not to leave esports fans without world-class competitions EEE organized the second EPIC League season with a prize pool of $500 thousand and the strongest clubs in Europe and the CIS (including two-time world champions — OG) among the participants.
Jointly by RuHub Studio, a unique design of the broadcast in the style of the Wild West was developed.
According to Esports Charts, the second season of EPIC League was the most-watched Dota 2 tournament not counting the 2017-2019 The International series. The tournament’s broadcasts in Russian have received more than 30 million views. The tournament matches were watched by almost three million unique viewers, and the matches of the second season of EPIC League collected more than 700 million minutes of views in Russian for all time. The English-language broadcast of the tournament has received more than 17 million views, more than two million unique viewers, and more than 500 million minutes of views.
Epic Esports Events also held the Epic Staff Battle tournament for esports clubs’ employees. The competition prize pool in the amount of $5 thousand was sent by the winners to charity projects.
In 2020 Epic Esports Events won the “Best sports event” and “Best Hybrid event” Best Experience Marketing Awards, won the Global Eventex Awards in The Russian Event and Brand Experience — Leisure categories, and was ranked 15th in the world among the Top 50 Event Organizers & Agencies. The Parimatch League tournament received the main Russian award in the sports marketing field MarSpo Awards 2020 in the category “Best sponsor activation/integration in esports”.
In 2020 RuHub Studio organized broadcasts and coverage of 33 tournaments, the largest of which was EPIC League, BEYOND EPIC, OMEGA League, and OGA Dota PIT.
In just two months from the beginning of the global quarantine, RuHub managed to establish remote work of the studio and completely transfer broadcasting to online. Due to the technological know-how, RuHub ensured that the team’s actions were synchronized during broadcasts and that there were no playback delays for both commentators, analysts, and viewers.
In 2019 viewers spent a total of more than 70 million hours watching RuHub Studio broadcasts. According to the Esports Charts data analytical service under the results of the 2020 third quarter, RuHub took the first place in terms of viewing hours among Russian-speaking esports studios.
At the MarSpo Awards 2020 in the category “Best anti-crisis solution in sports marketing” the esports project “Changed hockey stick for guns” of the Traktor hockey club in partnership with RuHub Studio won. During the unique show match, Traktor hockey players played with the stars of the Russian National Hockey Team in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and all collected donations from the audience and contributions from sponsors were donated to charity.
Personal broadcasts of popular RuHub commentators were also directed to good deeds: from May 1 to May 31 they collected donations for the Podari Zhizn (Gift of life) Foundation. Also in May, the studio became a partner of the international initiative You Are Not Alone (YANA): a marathon of streams and show matches was designed to unite people from all over the world through video games and digital entertainment, as well as to raise funds to support children in difficult situations due to the coronavirus pandemic.
VIRTUS.PRO ESPORTS CLUB
Virtus.pro in 2020 was marked by a series of bright victories and new stars. Thanks to the successful performances of its Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive teams the club entered the top 5 of the world in terms of prize money won with a result of $15.2 million becoming the only club from the CIS there.
The most significant tournaments won for the Dota 2 team were ESL One Los Angeles 2020 and the second season of EPIC League ($260 thousand in total prize money). The Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team triumphed in the Flashpoint League second season ($500 thousand in prize money).
The victories were secured by both global changes in the line-ups and point replacements. The creation of the second “youth” teams of the club under the brand VP.Prodigy fully justified itself. The opening of the second Dota 2 squad was announced on April 1, 2020, and on November 5, 2020, this team became the main one and brought the club a landmark victory over the two-time world Champions in the EPIC League Grand final.
An unambiguous gain for the first composition Virtus.pro Counter-Strike: Global Offensive was joined by 21-year-old player Marek “YEKINDAR” Galinskis. The esports player organically joined the team and demonstrates outstanding results in every match. The composition of the VP.Prodigy CS:GO was opened on September 24, 2020, and is currently gaining competitive experience on the professional stage.
New stars have also appeared in the club’s Fortnite team. On February 20, 2020, Dmitry “Siberiajkee” Voronin was signed, and on April 9 to Virtus.pro joined Kirill “Kiryache32” Grishin, the most popular and successful Russian player in the discipline. At the time of signing, he was 15 years old.
Two new divisions of the club were created. May 16, 2020, Virtus.pro bought out the players of the forZe club on Rainbow Six Siege, immediately after winning the Russian Major League competition (without conceding a single card) and the European Open Clash — a charity tournament with a prize of €50 thousand for the organization “Doctors without borders”. December 14, 2020, Virtus.pro opened a division for Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG).
2020 was the year of active club social activity. In addition to participating in charity tournaments (European Open Clash and WeSave! Charity Play) the club’s players collected donations for the Podari Zhizn (Gift of life) foundation on their broadcasts and initiated a charity event to combat coronavirus, which the club supported with a contribution. In September 2020 Virtus.pro was a partner of the “Special Moscow Esports Championship 2020 for children and adolescents with special needs”. In December 2020, the club took under its care the Himalayan bear Aladdin from the Moscow zoo.
In 2020 Virtus.pro continued the good tradition of appearing in the program “Vecherniy Urgant” on the First channel and received live congratulations on the victory at ESL One Los Angeles 2020. The club has launched an AR mask for Instagram and announced a Bearloga (Bear’s Den) mobile app for fans. Players Virtus.pro Dmitry “DM” Dorokhin and Kirill “Kiryache32” Grishin became ambassadors of the all-Russian intellectual and esports league for schoolchildren from the Russian Esports Federation.
In 2020 Cybersport.ru updated their own monthly audience records six times. Compared to 2019 the average monthly audience of unique users increased by 18% and is 3.03 million, the average daily audience increased by 31% and is 199 thousand users.
December, 18 Cybersport.ru showed the best result in terms of the unique users per day number. The media resource was visited by 427 thousand people according to Yandex.Metrica service and 474 thousand according to Google Analytics statistics. During the day readers viewed more than 1.26 million pages.
In March 2020 edition Cybersport.ru we have launched a new section of the website “Business”. It publishes news of the esports industry, information about changes in the value of shares of major gaming companies, and long reads about economic trends. This section is designed to fill the gap of reliable and objective information about the esports business, as well as to become a discussion platform for market participants such as heads of esports organizations, studios, tournament operators, representatives of related business sectors, and potential investors.
The content of the media portal has been expanded quantitatively and qualitatively through exclusive interviews and new esports disciplines. Live Dota 2 statistics and CS:GO post-match statistics have been added to the coverage of tournaments. UGC content has been significantly developed, including through the appearance of star blogs from esports celebrities and top managers.
In April 2020 the team Cybersport.ru expressed their support and gratitude to the medical workers who are putting themselves in particular danger these days. To celebrate their hard and noble work during the coronavirus pandemic, the editors changed the site’s logo, stylizing it as the doctor’s illegible handwriting and adding the hashtag #thanktodoctors. At the same time, the editorial board urged readers to support the collection for the purchase of personal protective equipment for doctors through appropriate charity foundations.
In July 2020 the Konstantin Khabensky charity foundation and Cybersport.ru launched a joint project within the framework of the federal social campaign #canceriscurable: Cybersport.ru prepared and published a series of stories of young wards of the foundation who have suffered from cancer, where they told about their hobbies in games and esports. Also, journalists of Cybersport.ru talked with their parents and brothers to learn about their attitude to hobbies and how gaming and winning favorite teams help to distract from the difficult situation in the family for a while.
In the autumn of 2020 Cybersport.ru rebranded based on the contest mechanics: users can offer their own versions of identity. Separately, students of the British Higher School of Design and the creative group of the Outplay clothing brand for gamers creative group took part in the competition (their version of the logo won in an open vote). The rebranding became a visual representation of positive changes Cybersport.ru and its mechanics demonstrated the main characteristics of esports such as a strong and loyal community, openness to new ideas, and inclusiveness.
Сybersport.ru since 2018, it has been consistently included in the top 20 most cited media in the sports industry according to Medialogia, consistently being present there in 2020.
YOTA ARENA ESPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT COMPLEX
Yota Arena and the Cyber Loft computer club located there went into lockdown mode from the first weeks of the coronavirus spread in Russia. In accordance with the social position of ESforce Holding, the complex didn’t continue to work even during the period of reducing the number of cases in the summer of 2020 and as further statistics showed, this was the right and responsible decision.
The closure of the complex for visitors didn’t mean the termination of its activities: during the pandemic, the main esports and entertainment Russian platform became the scene for shooting two TV series about computer sports (“Easy game” and “Era of Bears”), and also hosted another episode of the program “Vecherniy Urgant” on the First channel with a member of the Unicorns of Love team on League of Legends. All safety requirements during the pandemic were met during film and television filming.
During the quarantine period, the administration of the Cyber Loft club rebranded it and presented an updated corporate identity of the institution on social networks.
ESFORCE MARKETING AGENCY
Despite the pandemic and the resulting reduction in the marketing activity of companies the agency of the ESforce Holding demonstrated outstanding results. This was influenced both by the redistribution of advertisers’ budgets in favor of online promotion in general and esports in particular and by the expertise of the agency’s team.
This year 69 companies and world-famous brands were included in the number of ESforce partners in all business areas. The esports communication platform has attracted the interest of companies from the following industries: food and restaurants, automotive industry, pharma, insurance services, FMCG, perfumes, telecommunications, entertainment, IT and computer equipment, betting. Among them: Haval, Paco Rabanne, Guta Group and United Confectioners Holding, Pfizer, Renaissance Insurance, JBL, Mars, Heineken (Miller), McDonald’s, Old Spice, and many others.
It is worth noting that for some brands 2020 was the debut year in entering the territory of esports, while many companies continue to cooperate with ESforce for several years including MegaFon, SAP, Procter & Gamble, Parimatch, Mondelez, and other brands that are convinced of the prospects of working with an audience of gamers and esports fans.
In 2020 the #nextlevelfood project for the Goryachaya Shtuchka (Hot Stuff) brand won silver at the MarSpo Awards in the category “Best sponsored activation/integration in esports”, second only to another ESforce project the Parimatch League tournament. The results of PR support for the holding’s partner and own projects brought ESforce the international award IPRA Golden World Awards for Excellence in Public Relations 2020.
REVIEW: EMIN ANTONYAN, CEO ESFORCE HOLDING:
“Certainly, 2020 was a complete surprise in terms of the challenges that we had to face. All of us have learned a lot during this year have become both stronger and more flexible, more mobile, and have learned to work in a completely remote mode. And we did our best due to the “noblesse oblige” principle: we pleased the fans with incredible tournaments and successful performance of our club, fulfilled our obligations to our partners, and paid great attention to social responsibility.
Thank you to all ESforce employees for their endurance and efficiency. Thank you to our partners for exploring the esports territory together with us. I hope that the surprises of 2021 will be much calmer for all of us than this bright but very difficult year.”