Sat, Dec 3, 9:51am by Jonathan Zaun
On Friday November 25, the first publicly listed eSports company in Australia began trading, ushering in a new era of legitimacy for the rapidly growing video game competition industry.
The former iron ore extraction company known as Volta Mining, which was first listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) in October of 2011, officially rebranded itself as eSports Mogul, trading under ticker symbol ESM. The company will still pursue iron ore extraction projects in places like Hamersley Range, near Pilbara in Western Australia, but an organisational pivot towards eSports development will be prioritized.
Shares of ESM stock began trading at 2¢ and climbed by 27 percent to finish at 3¢ by closing.
The former Volta Mining was founded five years ago in Perth, and the company’s non-executive chairman George Lazarou will become a non-executive director of eSports Mogul, while executive chairman David Sumich will retain the same role. The new company – created through a reverse takeover of Volta Mining completed in February of this year – will be headed by Melbourne-based businessman Gernot Abl, who will serve as Managing Director.
In a February interview with the Sydney Morning Herald to discuss the reverse takeover, Abl outlined his motivations for converting the company into an eSports provider:
“Our platform is an online tournament matchmaking platform. We facilitate me in Beaumaris and you, wherever you are, playing head to head for $10-$15 on ourselves, we are betting on ourselves, and betting is the wrong word.”
“I want to steer right away from that. It starts to cloud what we are. We are a facility, a platform that allows professional e-sports players to monetise their skills.”
“It’s a skill-based tournament.”
Even so, eSports Mogul currently owns a 20% equity stake in an American company called eSports Hero – which lists Abl as its Director. The ‘tournament matchmaking’ platform he described eSports Mogul as to the Herald closely replicates the operational model of New York-based eSports Hero.
The newly created eSports Mogul also entered into an exclusive 10-year licensing agreement with eSports Hero to operate the platform throughout 31 countries in the Asia-Pacific region. That list includes Australia and New Zealand, along with China, Japan, South Korea, India, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
Among the video game titles made available through eSports Hero are Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Halo, and the FIFA football series.
Per the Herald’s reporting, Abl sought advice on the legal situation surrounding eSports tournaments and related services, only to learn that Australia presented a tangled web of statewide laws. As relayed by the Herald, “charging online gamers to play would be prohibited in some states while playing a game of skill for money would be prohibited in other states.”
Abl devised a novel solution to the dilemma, charging customers for access to an eSports instructional academy instead, while making the actual tournament matchmaking features available free of charge. According to Abl, the eSports Mogul / eSports Hero platform presents a first for Australian video gaming enthusiasts:
“In terms of peer-to-peer skilled gaming, we will be the first in Asia-Pacific and there might be one or two competitors that aren’t nearly as advanced as we are, so it’s very, very fresh.”
“We are looking at taking as much of that pie as we can in the next 18-24 months.”
Players can began accessing the tournament platform within ‘weeks’, as Abl told the Herald, while the Academy service is expected to launch in March of 2017.
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