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Billionaire Minnesota Vikings owners invest in Esports

Source: https://www.bizjournals.com/twincities/news/2019/07/01/minnesota-vikings-owners-jump-into-esports-with.html

WISE Ventures, founded by the Wilf family. Credit: WISE Ventures.

New-York based sports technology investment fund, WISE Ventures (Wilf Innovative Sports & Entertainment) is launching two Esports franchises to compete in a “Call of Duty” league. The investment fund was set up in 2018 by brothers Mark and Zygi Wilf, owners of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings.

Zygi and Mark Wilf, owners of NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. Credit: David Goldman, AP.

Call of Duty is a popular first-person shooter video game and one of the most popular Esports games (both in terms of viewership and players) in the world. The new Call of Duty League is run by Activision Blizzard, a California-based video game company with $7.5 billion in annual revenue. According to an ESPN report, it costs $25 million to enter franchises into the league. New Call of Duty franchises and hosts include Atlanta, Toronto, New York, Paris and Dallas.

Jonathan Wilf, son of Zygi Wilf and a member of the Vikings and WISE Ventures operations has shown his support for Esports as a rising game-changer – “Esports and competitive gaming has clearly emerged as a major force in the sports and entertainment industry”. On the new WISE Ventures expansion into Esports, Wilf has said “We have explored various opportunities in esports over the past few years, and we believe the new Call of Duty esports league is well positioned for long-term success.”

Call of Duty World League. Credit: Variety

The new Esports team will be based at the new Innovation Center building on the Viking Lakes campus in Eagan. However, WISE has long term plans that include potentially building an arena on the Viking Lakes campus – according to Brett Diamond, leader of the Esports team and previous Vikings’ director of partnership strategy, “It’s not something we have a firm commitment on, but we are actively exploring it.” Diamond has also commented on the “potential to bring other esports teams in under the same umbrella”. However the focus at the moment is to focus on getting their first team established.

This isn’t the first time that sports and Esports have collided. NFL owners Robert Kraft and Stan Kroenke have Esports franchises in the ‘Overwatch’ league, Activision Blizzard’s other Call of Duty League. The Minnesota Timberwolves have also started an esports team to compete in the NBA 2k league, a football video game league.

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