The international eSports organization Evil Geniuses has officially announced that the former Counter Logic Gaming European League of Legends team will be joining the organization. This confirms a GameSpot report on the situation from January 3. Both parties have come to an agreement on terms that will reportedly make them the highest paid League of Legends team in the world.
Alex Garfield, CEO of EG, and Stephen “Snoopeh” Ellis, Captain of EG’s new League of Legends team, have told GameSpot that the full five-man roster of Stephen “Snoopeh” Ellis, Henrik “Froggen” Hansen, Peter “Yellowpete” Wüppen, Mitch “Krepo” Voorspoels and Mike “Wickd” Petersen have signed a one-year contract with the team. The DreamHack Summer champions have been mulling over their future since August, having had serious discussions with Evil Geniuses and Curse, and also considered starting their own team. The finalization of the deal comes after many months of back-and-forth of meetings between Evil Geniuses Owner Alex Garfield and the team, with Ellis at the helm of the talks. It is said to be the longest contract negotiation Evil Geniuses have ever had with a player or team.
Both sides note financial support was not the focal point of the deal, as several other factors such as security, longevity, team stability, streaming platform and belief in each other were weighed along with the deal’s financials. Garfield met with Ellis and the team at least six separate times throughout the past half-year, with the initial meeting occurring shortly before Ellis and his team played in Korea’s OGN The Champions League this past summer.
Ellis and the team began thinking about and exploring their options for 2013 starting before their participation in The Champions last August, at which they narrowly lost to Azubu Frost in the finals. Their contract with CLG was ending December 31, and team knew of CLG’s plans to partner with Azubu for the future. While the partnership presented opportunities for the team, they saw it more as a hindrance that relied too much on potentially unstable funding sources, and a lot of moving parts. The players felt CLG was not at the same level professionally as other established organizations, and came to a decision that without a major change in that development, they would not extend their contracts into the new year.
Curse, with a European squad that has gone through a variety of roster changes lately, reportedly made a very strong offer to the former CLG team. The offer had the potential to yield more money through their own additional personal sponsorships, an opportunity not attainable through Evil Geniuses, which is known to have the most restrictive player contracts in the industry in terms of players’ independent sponsorship opportunities. Although Curse had on paper the better financial offer and a multiple large team houses to boot, Ellis felt there was too much of a reality TV atmosphere surrounding the team.
There were also said to be obligations from Curse of roughly double the number of hours they would have to stream compared to Evil Geniuses. Not only was this a large factor to the team for both fatigue and practice reasons, the team was said to have much preferred streaming on Twitch.tv rather than Own3d.tv, Evil Geniuses and Curse’s streaming partners, respectively. As of a report two days ago, Own3d.tv may be shutting down in less than a week. Talks with Curse slowed down after this.
Negotiations came down to either signing with Evil Geniuses, or pursuing the teams’ personal aspirations of building an empire themselves. Worldwide fan favorites CLG and Team SoloMid were born this way, and just less than two weeks ago, their European rivals Alexey "Alex Ich" Ichetovkin and company left Moscow 5 to start their own journey in Gambit Gaming. Ellis was not fond of traditional eSports organizations, going through a rough four-month stint himself with SK Gaming under Captain Carlos "ocelote" Rodríguez at the end of 2011, seeing himself and Peterson leave for CLG Europe for the start of 2012.
Ellis had his own reservations about Evil Geniuses as well, with the team’s StarCraft II players Greg “IdrA” Fields and Geoff “iNcontroL” Robinson having unkind things to say about League of Legends in the past, although both recently backtracked on their previous comments and mentioned their support of all eSports titles, including League of Legends. Last December, Garfield spoke to PCGamesN at the fifth IGN ProLeague event in Las Vegas, unsure of what the future may hold for EG in League of Legends. “Obviously, the numbers are impressive, and the passion of the community is impressive,” Garfield said. “I think the challenge for me is just to find the right brand representatives for EG. So I’ve been perfectly happy to wait and sit on the sidelines and let some of those guys grow up a little bit.”
Garfield said this, and at the same time knew this five-nation squad of five was the brand he was looking for. Garfield was said to have looked for almost two years for the right players to represent his brand in League of Legends, but was unsatisfied with his available options in his search until now. Even with Riot’s Season 3 of the League Championship Series on deck with multi-million dollar prize pools and worldwide exposure was not reason enough to sign a team before the season starts. It was this team or no team for Evil Geniuses.
After initially meeting in Korea in August, and keeping talks going from that point, Garfield again met with the entire team at the MLG Winter Championships in Dallas, bringing a customized PowerPoint presentation with him that outlined the benefits of the team choosing EG over its other options. This is said to have been a major turning point in the negotiating process, as up until that point the team still considered both Curse and starting its own team as better options than signing with EG. Before Garfield’s PowerPoint presentation, the team’s other options were seen as more attractive and more likely, but after the presentation, the team began to consider the prospect of joining EG as equally viable and attractive to its other options.
Things went well in Dallas, and while EG was no longer behind in its pursuit of Ellis’ team, it appeared to have caught up with the team’s other options. However, both sides were still skeptical. Ellis and the team still had a strong desire to try things out on their own, and Garfield was having last-minute reservations regarding Riot’s plans for Season 3 and how they might affect the way participating teams could run their businesses.
The two met for the final time at IPL5 in Las Vegas, with both parties coming out of talks with their concerns addressed. Looking two, three years ahead was very important to Ellis and the team, despite the fact that their initial EG deal would only be one year in duration. The meeting helped Ellis realize it would be more beneficial to the team to join with a strong organization like EG, rather than taking on the potentially difficult challenge of running things themselves.
Ellis was specifically concerned that, if the team tried to make things work on their own, he himself would have to take less of a player role and more of a management role--something he was not necessarily opposed to but felt was not truly in his best interests at this point in his career. The team agreed after IPL5 that it would be better to fulfill their goals with EG as an organization supporting them.
Ellis and Garfield continued discussions in the two weeks following after IPL5, with a verbal agreement being reached in mid-December. At that point, with Garfield still having some last-minute concerns, Riot eSports personnel personally reached out to him to help alleviate some of his concerns about Season 3 and the future of League of Legends. Ellis and the team take a significant amount of pride in being Evil Geniuses’ first League of Legends team, which they saw as an overall plus given that Garfield is known for being incredibly picky with his player recruitment and he had noted as much previously in his PCGamesN interview. Ellis and the team feel that partnering with EG could help bridge the gap between League of Legends and the other professional gaming communities.
The new Evil Geniuses League of Legends roster will play their first games under EG blue at the start of the Season 3 League Championships in Europe.