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May 25, 2024
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LA and eSports: Inside the Top Teams and Leagues

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Image commercially licensed from: Unsplash

 

Los Angeles is hailed as one of the US’s premier entertainment destinations. For decades, the city has been known primarily for its Hollywood film industry, along with its slew of music studios and record labels. But one of the latest trends to hit the city is eSports. 

In the past, LA’s primary connection to gaming was through Las Vegas. Though not many people are aware, the Vegas Strip came about thanks to Hollywood studio owners who wanted a place to relax. Names like Kirk Kerkorian directly recycled their LA-based wealth into the City of Lights.

However, many games today can be found online. This means that traditional iGaming is largely the domain of virtual platforms, which offer favorites like slots games. A title like Sweet Bonanza, for example, is virtually indistinguishable from a physical slot game in a casino because both are fully digital. But iGaming isn’t the only budding interest in LA.

Esports is one of the fastest-growing entertainment sectors in the world. Back in 2019, there were around 30 million eSports spectators in the US—but that number has since climbed to 46 million. Unsurprisingly, there’s been a lot of activity in LA when it comes to eSports teams and leagues. In fact, just like it once influenced the gaming boom in Vegas, LA is now playing a pivotal role for some of the US’s top eSports franchises.

Born in LA

In the mid-2010s, interest in eSports was climbing globally—but especially in the US. Platforms like Twitch allowed average gamers to start watching elite players compete, and this soon transformed into a fully-fledged eSports industry that closely mirrors the NFL or NBA—and even the NCAA. In other words, players are recruited onto teams, who train rigorously to prepare for tournaments and leagues which could see them compete in a global championship.

The ties back to traditional athletics are clear—and some of this has its origin in the number of sports celebs who backed early eSports franchises in LA. Back in 2018, multiple celebrities started to invest money and time into developing the industry, from Drake to Michael Jordan.

Given LA’s reputation as a haven for celebrities, this positioned the city to become a major player in terms of eSports infrastructure. Today, it’s home to some of the world’s top teams and startups. So, let’s dive in to the details.

The Top Teams

Los Angeles is the official headquarters of three of the world’s most competitive eSports companies that own some of the best teams across a variety of leagues.

FaZe Clan, based in LA, was founded in 2010. Unlike other companies listed here, the team began with three eSports players who eventually became competitive at Call of Duty to attract major attention. After growing and evolving, FaZe Clan took an interesting route compared to the other LA-based companies here. In 2022, it became a publicly traded company. 

Cloud9 Gaming, based in Santa Monica, was founded back in 2013. Today, it’s one of the world’s most lucrative eSports companies thanks to successful investment rounds. Early on, the company managed to attract Red Bull’s attention, which quickly led to a few celebrity endorsements, including from snowboarder Shaun White. 

Then came NRG Esports in 2015, founded in LA. The team was founded by co-owners of the Sacramento Kings NBA team. However, it quickly grew to include other celebrity investors as the eSports boom hit full force. By 2016, Shaq, Tiesto, and Alex Rodriguez had also thrown their hats into the ring. Though NRG only competes in a few leagues compared to the other teams mentioned, it’s the most lucrative on the list. 

The Top Startups

Though well-established, NRG, Cloud9, and FaZe Clan aren’t the only companies in the city. Los Angeles is home to multiple eSports startups, two of which are gaining international traction. The first is Immortals, which has been around since 2016 but only recently launched a physical retail store in the city. The second is Gen. G, founded in 2019.

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