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ESL, originally Electronic Sports League, is an eSports company which organizes competitions world-wide. ESL is the world’s largest esports company, and the oldest professional esports organization that is still operational. Based in Cologne, Germany, ESL has eleven offices and multiple international TV studios globally. ESL is the largest eSports company to broadcast on Twitch
The Electronic Sports League (later shortened to simply ESL) launched in the year 2000 as the successor of the Deutsche Clanliga, which was founded in 1997. The company began with an online gaming league and a gaming magazine. It also rented out servers for game competitions.
ESL annual productions more than doubled from 2012 to 2014. In 2015, ESL’s Intel Extreme Masters Katowice became the most watched esports event of all time. The event had more than 100,000 in attendance and Twitch viewership was over one million.
In July 2015, Modern Times Group (MTG) bought a 74 percent stake in ESL from its parent company, Turtle Entertainment, for $86 million. That same month, ESL announced its participation in “esports in Cinema,” which would broadcast live esports events to over 1,500 movie theaters across the globe. Esports in Cinema included Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive coverage from ESL One Cologne 2015 and ESL One New York, as well as a documentary, “All Work All Play,” which follows the rise of esports and highlights pro gamers as they work toward the Intel Extreme Masters World Championship.
After a player publicly admitted Adderall use following ESL One Katowice 2015, ESL worked with the National Anti-Doping Agency and the World Anti-Doping Agency to institute an anti-drug policy. It was the first international esports company to enforce anti-doping regulations. Random tests for the drugs prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency were implemented for its events. Punishments for the use of performance-enhancing drugs range from reduced prize money and tournament points to disqualification and a maximum two-year ban from ESL events.
ESL worked with publisher Valve Corporation in August 2015 for ESL One Cologne 2015 at the Lanxess Arena where 16 teams competed in Counter-Strike:Global Offensive. ESL implemented randomized drug testing at the event. All tests came back negative. The tournament had over 27 million viewers, making it the largest and most-watched CS:GO tournament at that time.
In October 2015, ESL held a Dota 2 championship at Madison Square Garden Theater. That same month, ESL partnered with ArenaNet to produce ESL Guild Wars 2 Pro League, which is one of seven official ESL Pro Leagues.
ESL held its 10th arena event in November 2015 at the SAP Center in San Jose, California. The event had over 10 million viewers through Twitch.tv and was the largest Counter-Strike event in America at that time. ESL partnered with Activision for the 2016 Call of Duty World League for the World League’s Pro Division.
ESL announced its acquisition of the E-Sports Entertainment Association (ESEA) in November 2015, after previous collaborations: ESL uses the ESEA anti-cheat system for the ESL CS:GO Pro League. The ESEA platform is used for ESL events as well as offline finals. As of July 2016, ESL is a member of the Esports Integrity Coalition (ESIC), a non-profit members’ association to maintain integrity in professional esports.
ESL hosts competitions around the globe, partnering with publishers such as Blizzard Entertainment, Riot Games, Valve Corporation, Microsoft, Wargaming.net and multiple others to facilitate thousands of gaming competitions annually. ESL competitors are supported on both national and international levels. Some of their more notable competitions include the following:
ESL Play is the world’s leading platform for esports. It provides tournaments and ladders across all games and skill levels. ESL Open, the first cup on the league ladder, is open to everyone, including beginners. ESL Major competitions have entry requirements and winning on this level is required to earn a spot in ESL Pro competition. However, ESL Major also contains Go4 Cups, which are free tournaments that are open to everyone. Tournaments at this level require prior qualification.
ESL Pro Leagues
ESL currently hosts 7 official Pro Leagues for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Rocket League, Gears of War, Guild Wars 2, Halo 5: Guardians, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, Mortal Kombat X, and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege. The game S.K.I.L.L. from Gameforge was also part of ESL’s list of pro leagues games but was dropped after its second season due to poor reception.
The ESL CS:GO Pro League is a cross-continent competition with finals in Los Angeles, Cologne and London. In 2015, the ESL CS:GO Pro League held a pre-season invitationa