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ESL Gaming and FACEIT merge, companies bought by Saudi-backed group for $1.5bn

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ESL Gaming and FACEIT, two of esports’ biggest tournament organisers, have announced a merger set to be finalised in Q2 of 2022.

It comes shortly after German business newspaper Handelsblatt reported the two companies had been purchased by Saudi Arabian government-backed Savvy Gaming Group for a combined $1.5bn (~£1.1bn).

new ESL FACEIT group
The ESL FACEIT group has formed through the merger of the two companies. Image credit: ESL FACEIT group.

According to the official website of the newly-founded ESL FACEIT Group, the two entities will continue to coexist in the esports ecosystem. Craig Levine and Niccolo Maisto will be appointed as co-CEO’s of the new company, and ESL Co-Founder Ralf Reichert will move into a non-operational role as Executive Chairman.

Savvy Gaming Group is reported to have paid $1bn (~£740m) for ESL and $500m (~£370m) for FACEIT. Savvy Gaming Group is backed by the Saudi Arabian government’s Public Investment Fund. The fund recently purchased English Premiere League football team Newcastle United.

According to its website, Savvy Gaming group is a ‘long-term investor’ formed to drive the growth and development of esports and the wider games industry worldwide.

ESL Gaming was previously owned by Swedish holding company Modern Times Group (MTG), which purchased a majority stake in ESL in 2015 for €78m. MTG increased its investment in ESL’s parent company Turtle Entertainmen in 2018.

ESL Gaming CEO Craig Levine said: “Our mission remains unchanged: to create a world where everybody can be somebody. Our merger with FACEIT, along with the backing of SGG, will give us more know-how, capabilities, and resources than ever before to deliver on this vision. Whether you are competing or watching, doing so socially or at a professional level, every stage of the pathway will be improved through this merger.”

The ESL FACEIT Group also announced a number of details regarding the upcoming changes to the CS:GO competitive ecosystem, most notably the ESEA and FACEIT. It will aim to promote more stability for North American CS:GO through new incentives for professional teams, and support the development of local scenes and grassroots esports. The new company also says it will invest heavily in a path-to-pro for up-and-coming players.

ESL FACEIT group's co-CEOs
Craig Levine (right) and Niccolo Maisto (left). ESL FACEIT group’s new co-CEO’s. Image credit: ESL FACEIT Group.

Saudi Arabia has somewhat of a controversial history in esports. Tournament organiser BLAST and publisher Riot Games pulled out of a partnership with Saudi Arabian futuristic city development project NEOM in 2020 following community backlash.

FACEIT CEO Niccolo Maisto said: “In the past years, ESL and FACEIT had a significant positive impact for the growth of the esports industry, bringing a variety of propositions for players, teams, publishers, and developers. By uniting these complementary capabilities, and with the backing of SGG, we are taking a long-term approach to develop a more robust platform to better support the future of the whole competitive gaming ecosystem and generate more value for all its stakeholders in a sustainable way.”

The merger and acquisition comes just one week after technology giant Microsoft announced the purchase of publisher Activision Blizzard for almost $69bn.

Esports Insider says: This is one of the most important deals in the history of esports. ESL and FACEIT are industry stalwarts — and the two largest competitors in the tournament organising space. The implications for the esports industry will likely be immense and far reaching.

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Together again: Doublelift, Bjergsen reunite in new-look 100 Thieves roster for 2023 LCS season

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One of the greatest duos in North American League of Legends history is back.

Legendary mid laner Bjergsen has reunited with superstar AD carry Doublelift on 100 Thieves’ starting roster for the upcoming competitive year, marking the third time that these two icons will have joined forces in their storied careers.

Both stars are coming together after spending the last two years on opposite sides of the scene. Doublelift stepped away from professional play for two years and focused on his streaming career, while Bjergsen stayed as a coach for TSM and later on became a member of Team Liquid’s unsuccessful attempt at a superteam in 2022.

The last time Doublelift and Bjergsen played together was in 2020 when they were joined by Spica, Biofrost, and Broken Blade on a roster that struggled to find consistency during the Summer Split but managed to string together an incredible run that led to the team’s seventh LCS trophy. This triumph was short-lived, however, when TSM ended on the wrong side of history.

At the 2020 World Championship, TSM failed to win a single game during the group stage, making them the first pool one team in the history of the tournament to go winless. This colossal failure led to sweeping changes in the organization from the roster to coaching staff, with Doublelift effectively retiring and Bjergsen switching to head coach duties for 2021.

This year, Bjergsen and Liquid attempted to build a new superteam with Bwipo, Hans sama, CoreJJ, and Santorin, but they couldn’t find the right synergy to make the powerful roster work. This lineup never made the finals in either split and missed Worlds entirely, leading to a fresh start this offseason.

Doublelift and Bjergsen mark a new beginning for 100 Thieves after the organization stuck with the same roster for three seasons in a row.

The lineup—featuring a core of Closer, FBI, Ssumday, Abbedagge, and Huhi—always maintained their place as a top-three squad but only found success in 2021. Since then, they always came up short when the playoffs rolled around, and after another early exit at Worlds, the management decided to shake things up for the new year.

These two legends will be joined by multiple rookies, including Tenacity and Busio, who have been in 100T’s development system since 2020.

The only remaining player from the org’s old roster is Closer, who has established himself as one of the best junglers in the region.

100 Thieves 2023 LCS roster

  • Tenacity
  • Closer
  • Bjergsen
  • Doublelift
  • Busio

The heist is back on and this new set of Thieves is ready to play in 2023.

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New Apex character leaks have players going Ballistic

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Another day, another leak in Apex Legends.

The pattern isn’t new, but it is usually exciting for players looking forward to new content. And today brought great news for players, as a couple of popular leakers and insiders combined to bring new information for a new legend that was first mentioned in the huge character leak that occurred prior to season 13 of Apex.

The character in question was called Caliber, although he seems to be going by a different name now. Data miner HYPERMYST first shared an image to Twitter of a banner featuring a legend that doesn’t look like they’re in the game yet.

The image is washed out and the character model might not even be fully textured in this image, but the banner appears to show a figure in a long coat with some sort of attachment peeking out above their shoulder.

Apex insider ThordanSmash soon chimed in both on Twitter and Reddit, revealing this character is most likely Caliber, a support legend originally found in the season 12 leaks.

In those leaks, Caliber was a character that focused on keeping his Apex squad fully stocked on weapons and ammo, featuring a passive that allowed him to carry three weapons instead of two, an auto-turret tactical ability, and an ammo box ultimate that feeds ammo directly into his squad’s weapons.

According to Thordan, however, there’s at least one new ability for the impending Apex character, and a new name to go with them too: Ballistic.

The new tactical ability, which Thordan also referenced in other posts, appears to be some sort of skill shot that can force enemies to holster their weapons if hit by it. The way the ability is framed by Thordan feels akin to Ana’s sleep dart in Overwatch, although it most likely has a much faster travel time if it’s firing a bullet as compared to a dart projectile.

While these are the first significant leaks for the next new character to hit Apex, it’s unclear if that character will arrive next season, or afterward. While the game has consistently introduced a new legend with every season update in the game’s history, leaks and rumors previously indicated that season 16 would have no new legend.

Thordan even went as far as to say he still thinks the new character won’t be in Apex season 16 on Reddit soon after his Twitter leaks, but that that’s always subject to change and the devs could change their mind on that plan.

Either way, there’s clearly a new legend just around the corner for Apex. And it seems like he’s going to bring a lot of firepower into the Outlands with him.



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League’s Your Shop is back with presents for all

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Riot Games is ready to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year with its League of Legends players, gifting them a variety of deals on in-game skins for a limited time.

The final iteration of Your Shop is now available in the League client for all players, providing steep discounts for a random selection of Epic-tier and lower skins. Each player receives six discounts for skins based on champions that they have played or for champions similar to ones they use often. These deals are expected to be available through Jan. 3.

Screengrab via Riot Games

Players may notice that, when opening their deals, there are skins for champions they don’t play. Riot adds deals to each individual Your Shop based not only on the players’ personal preferences, but champions that other players use that are similar to those picks—such as being in the same class or role.

Your Shop can be accessed via a new icon that appears within the League client next to the Loot and Store tabs. Players must then click on each window to view their discounts, which they can then select to purchase. If this icon does not appear, players may have to either restart their clients or update their games since the last patch of the year recently dropped.

It is currently unclear when Your Shop will be returning following this iteration’s closure on Jan. 3. The special discount shop usually appears a handful of times each year around important League-based events and holidays, though it’s been sporadically added in the past.

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