Transfer window: Sports v esports

Ah, the Premier League transfer window... An evening that has fans glued to their television sets desperately hoping to see new faces at their club, or possibly just news that the same faces will be there the morning after. With only two designated windows for clubs to buy and sell players, as well as regulations meaning a player can only be registered for two clubs in any given season, this is a tense time, but how does it compare to the esports world and transfers therein?

With the end of the Counter-Strike Major, there was a surge of interest in how the next few weeks could shape the biggest teams in the world. This was helped in no small part by VPEsports breaking arguably the biggest transfer story in recent CS history, with the move of SK Gaming’s Brazilian line-up to Immortals exclusively reported there prior to the weekend, but it looks like more could be on the way with a 'French shuffle' potentially incoming.

The first main difference to note is that esports is a far more fragile economy than professional sport, with players able to go from playing at a high level to being potentially without a pro spot in a matter of months. A great example of this is Denis ‘seized’ Kostin, who was on the well-funded Na’Vi line-up until a month or so ago, and who has since struggled to find a team even in tier two or three to play for, such is the decline of his reputation.


It's also true that in esports, nobody really knows how old is too old to play top level CS, Dota or other such game. In football the vast majority are forced out by their mid-30s, with the occasional wiry exception still trucking on due to yoga, or maybe just regular trips to the in-laws for some vigorous ‘stretching’, but esports goes on a more case by case basis. You can be done at 24, or still top class at 28. Like in real life though, if you’re 40, the dream is pretty much dead.

Sometimes a deal won’t go through for other reasons, mainly real life commitments that must come first. Recently there were reports that French sensation Mathieu ‘ZywOo’ Herbaut had turned down a deal worth €15k a month to join EnVyUs, apparently so he could finish his schooling. Conversely, Kristian ‘k0nfig’ Wienecke, the star of the North team that is funded by FC København, was recently moved to the bench for ‘personal reasons’, with nobody really sure if he’s on his way to a bigger team, been judged as a problem in camp, or simply just struggling with the pressure of expectation and continued failure.

The lack of a designated window does help the larger teams in some ways, as it prevents the sort of attempted extortion we’ve heard about from teams that know they can ask for silly money due to a lack of time on the part of the buying club. Be it Andy Carroll or the rumours Mahrez to Man City move, we’ve all seen deals where one team gets fleeced because the seller sees them coming, and knows they are the only option at that point.

On the flip side, CS contracts tend to have giant buyout clauses at the level you see players moving from, and the market is rapidly evolving to reflect the success of esports overall. The recent and aforementioned move that saw seized leave Na’Vi also meant that team had to pay a six-figure buyout for the replacement, Denis ‘electronic’ Sharipov, rumoured to be about €150k. Right now, most of this money comes from private pockets, rather than broadcast rights, with the level of relative profitability football teams have achieved still a distant dream for an esports scene that is mainly free-to-view.

For context, FaZe Clan signed Nikola ‘Niko’ Kovač from mousesports in early 2017 for a fee that was reported as $500k, at the time a world record, and still to be broken. The massive Immortals deal is likely to be done at the end of their contracts, so we probably won’t see it broken anytime soon, but that did represent a 230% increase on the previous record. With the VC sloshing around, that mark may not last much longer, and who knows, one day you could be watching your own esports Jim White tell the world about the next big thing in League of Legends, from outside a LAN centre in South Korea most likely.