eSports enters the big leagues (with a bit of help from Beckham)

How the upcoming IPO of the Beckham-backed Guild marks a new high point for the big money world of eSports

From Old Trafford to H&M billboards, David Beckham’s career has taken him in some interesting directions. His latest venture, however, sees him swap real life sports for the virtual arenas through eSports company Guild eSports, in which he owns a minority stake.

The London-based company, which was set up just last year, announced its IPO earlier this month and is aiming to raise £50 million (down from a previous target of £100 million) through the sale of 40 percent of its shares. It will reportedly use the money to recruit up to 20 new professional players to compete in games of Fortnite, CS: Go, Rocket League and Fifa.

Beckham acquired his stake in the company through his personal investment vehicle, DB Ventures. The move into online gaming is a savvy one on his part; no longer the refuge of the recluse, the online gaming sector generated almost $1.1 billion in 2019 alone, and is watched by around 500 million people globally.

And, with many more of us becoming socially distant this year, the sport has reportedly grown in leaps and bounds as people – particularly men under 35 – turn to online forms of entertainment. “We see eSports as being in the same conversation and rivalling many of the traditional major sports in a matter of five years,” said Guild executive chairman and former Activision Blizzard executive Carleton Curtis, outlining plans to reach one million registered fans in the first year after the IPO.

Still not sure exactly what eSports is? Let us explain…


eSports competitions aren’t actually as cutting edge as they seem. In fact, the first tournament was held way back in October 1972 at Stanford University when students were invited to an “Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics” – a tournament centred around the game Spacewar. The prize? A year’s subscription to Rolling Stone magazine.

As arcade machines became popular during the Golden Age of video games, players were able to record their scores and compare them to others for the first time. Want to know who the PacMan king or queen of your town is, then trounce them publicly? No problem.

Walter Day, who owned an arcade in Iowa, took it upon himself to start collecting these high scores from across the US, founding Twin Galaxies to keep track of them in 1980. In 1983, the company helped launch the US National Video Game Team. The team was integral to some of the first tournaments, with its players gaining a minor level of celebrity.

In the 1990s, the rise of one-on-one fighting games like Street Fighter saw more players competing directly against their opponent with a clear winner decided on screen, claiming glory in bloody pixels, not just via the high score charts (Hadouken!!!). Tournaments like the Nintendo World Championships toured the country, and increased internet capabilities saw the beginnings of an online community.

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