Players transfers between esports teams have been happening for a long time. Most top teams now include buy-out clauses in the contracts with their players as a natural part of this. In the context of this article “commercial” is related to the business value derived from a transfer and transaction. Looking at other sports and the media reports on jersey sales and merchandise we can see that the commercial value of transfers is a valid consideration.

Reports of a new team of superstars

Marquee players in football (soccer) will be partially weighed on the ability of their name to sell jerseys and not just their potential performance on the pitch given that football is a team game. With recent reports that several of the most recognisable names in CS:GO (and CS) history may be moving to a new team the question of commercial value is raised. While these players have achieved great success over their careers the past few years have been a bit rocky. You could argue with me on the point I made above about team games and I agree but that’s why I look at these transfers reports from a different perspective.

The players in question aren’t just transferring to a new team but the whole team is being created from basically zero. For those that know the CS:GO scene you are right to highlight that several of the highlighted players have played together previously and were very very successful (back in 2012-13) but there is no guarantee of that success happening again. Games change, people change, priorities change and sometimes the atmosphere isn’t the same the second time round.

Commercial value and benefits

From a business perspective, re-uniting recognised superstars who played together and achieved great success might be a masterstroke. Over their years of competing each player has built up their own personal fanbase. A percentage of those fans may buy a jersey from the new team because of their loyalty to the players. Creating a new group of well-regarded stars creates a level of expectation and appetite with the fans.

To weight the commercial value in a transfer there is also a secondary consideration beyond jersey and merchandise sales. This consideration is about whether faces fit and the ease of doing business. Finding a “safe pair of hands” to work with brands and partners can give you an advantage in the market. With recognised superstars that brands want to work with business and partnership conversations become a easier. This all contributes to the commercial value of those players identifed as transfer targets.

Esports can be about more than success in the game server. In a time where teams need to look at how they generate more revenue directly from fans these transfers, if they happen, could turn out to be a very smart move.

Updated – 26th Jan 2020

The reports have since been confirmed and Dignitas have revealed a new CS:GO roster. The 4 superstar players referenced in this article have all signed for Dignitas.

Philip Wride