2015 – Swedish digital entertainment giant Modern Times Group (MTG) acquired 74% of Turtle Entertainment (ESL) for a total consideration of €74 million. ESL continued to function as an independent company with its management team and founders retaining the remaining 26% and continuing in their current positions.
ESL made tremors in the CS:GO scene when a joint venture with ESEA called the ESL ESEA Pro League was announced, with $1,000,000 USD total prize money split across two seasons during the year.
This new league featured a promotion/demotion system where the top nine ranked teams at the end of the season were ensured their participation in the next. The lower ranked teams would then have to fight for their spot through relegation matches or face demotion to the ESL ESEA Premier Division. To date, ESL Pro League is still up and running! (Season 12 North America was recently concluded in Sep 2020)
Esports grew rapidly in visibility, popularity, and prize money, which made it more tempting for teams and players to break the rules. One such example was when a CS:GO player admitted his team was on performance enhancing drugs (PED) during a major tournament. ESL then already had rules barring the use of drugs, alcohol, and performance enhancers during tournaments. However, there was no testing policy so players were unlikely to get caught.
ESL proceeded to lead an anti-PED initiative for esports alongside NADA (the Nationale Anti Doping Agentur, headquartered in Bonn, Germany). The plan was to create a program that not only respects the privacy of players, but provides conclusive testing results and applied to any ESL competition.
It was also the year when ArenaNet and ESL launched Guild Wars 2 as an esport with a $400,000 USD prize pool. While traditionally seen as a multiplayer role-playing game, the developers spent years adding in competitive features and PvP competitive play became the fastest growing segment. ESL Guild Wars 2 Pro League concluded its season finals with a LAN event in ESL Studios.
- In early 2015, EPS Germany was renamed to ESL Deutschlands Beste Gamer (engl. The Best Gamers of Germany), abbreviated ESL DBG.However, after only 2 weeks after the name change, ESL Germany renamed the league to ESL Meisterschaft (ESL Championship in English) due to the amount of criticism in the German esports scene.
- ESL premiered esports industry’s first 24/7 Counter-Strike Twitch channel which was fully integrated into ESL’s media directory. The channel provided non-stop entertainment in the form of rebroadcasts, and was a new venture to explore traditional TV consumption.
At IEM San Jose 2015, Dallas Mavericks owner and Shark Tank star Mark Cuban and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich squared off in a charity showmatch in League of Legends. During the pre-game interview, Cuban trash talked his opponent and dropped a f-bomb, resulting in a $15,000 USD fine. He didn’t seem to mind, as after being informed that the funds would go to charity, he promptly asked if he’d be hit with another one if he did it again.