The Saudi-backed Savvy Gaming Group has purchased two major esports organizations, ESL Gaming and FACEIT, for a combined total value of $1.5 billion. The two organizations will be merged to create the ESL FACEIT Group, but will continue to operate separately for now.
What do we know about Savvy's purchase of ESL and FACEIT?
This news was confirmed by ESL's previous owner, the Swedish conglomerate MTG. In a press release, MTG confirms that it's selling ESL to Savvy, a group entirely funded by the Saudi Arabian crown prince (who also has a controlling stake in King of Fighters developer SNK, bizarrely enough). MTG also confirms that Savvy will be purchasing FACEIT in order to merge the two platforms together under one new banner. According to the new ESL FACEIT website, the brands affected by this merger will continue to operate as separate entities for now, including FACEIT's matchmaking tech and ESL's own ESEA matchmaking option.
One of the most important games for both ESL Gaming and FACEIT is Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, also known as CS:GO. The companies handily set out what they're intending to do with regard to Valve's shooter in a post on their website. Immediate plans include sharing tech to combat cheating, as well as pooling resources for better tournament incentives and rewards for fans who watch lots of CS:GO esports content. You'll now also receive FACEIT points, which can be exchanged for in-game goodies, for watching ESL events starting from February.
If you have a subscription to FACEIT or ESEA, these subscriptions won't be affected, although the companies say they're looking into ways to offer cheaper subs to both services simultaneously. Similarly, your FACEIT and ESEA accounts won't change, although there are plans underway to look into merging these accounts to "make it easier for the community" to access various services. The companies say ESEA and FACEIT tech will be "focusing on different directions", with the former more focused on "team-based competitions" and the latter emphasizing the PUG (pick-up group) experience and third-party tournament organizers.
What is the Savvy Group?
The Savvy Gaming Group's official website describes it as a gaming and esports outfit with a mission to drive "long-term growth and development" of esports and the gaming industry at large. It's an organization set up and entirely owned by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, which in turn was established by Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. Savvy is led by former Activision Blizzard worldwide head Brian Ward, who's also worked with Microsoft and EA, among others.
Saudi Arabia doesn't have the best track record with esports. Back in 2020, League of Legends developer Riot Games set up and then swiftly cancelled a partnership with Saudi Arabia's NEOM city project after a furious public backlash surrounding controversies both with NEOM and with Saudi Arabia as a nation. You might also remember the Public Investment Fund's name from its purchase of $3.3 billion in gaming shares last year, which included stakes in Activision Blizzard, Take-Two Interactive, and EA.
We'll have to wait and see exactly what this new purchase and subsequent merger yields for both ESL and FACEIT. It's interesting to note that two of the biggest matchmaking facilities in esports, namely FACEIT and ESEA, are owned under the same umbrella, which could have intriguing implications for the professional CS:GO scene. Naturally, we'll bring you more on this as soon as we get it, but in the meantime, you can check out the new ESL FACEIT website for more info.
How do you feel about this ESL and FACEIT merger? What would you like to see from the new company? Let us know in the comments below!