Vindex, the esports venture set up by MLG co-ofunders last year, has today announced it’s acquired the Belong Gaming Arenas brand from UK retailer GAME.
GAME is the largest video game retailer in the UK and Spain, and operates more than 500 physical stores.
GAME launched Belong in late 2016 to build a network of local gaming communities and esports teams that play in and represent their region in gaming centres around the UK. For example, there’s the Stratford Spartans at GAME’s Stratford store.
Vindex will now operate Belong Gaming in the US from its New York headquarters, and immediately begin rolling out Belong Arenas across the US.
Vindex plans to invest $300m over the next five years to open more than 500 Belong locations in the US and an additional 1,000 locations globally through licensed operating partners including GAME.
GAME will continue to own and operate all gaming arenas in the UK and Spain, with an exclusive license agreement of the Belong Brand with Vindex in those territories.
Belong Gaming will also partner with Esports Engine, a Vindex company, to provide turnkey amateur esports league design, operations and tournaments through Vindex’s software platform that will power Belong Arenas and connect all of its global members.
Esports Engine will design and operate leagues and tournaments throughout the Belong network. Adam Apicella, Esports Engine co-founder and former league operations and production head at MLG, has been named Chief Experience Officer of Vindex to help oversee the operation of these programs.
GAME Digital CEO Martyn Gibbs will join the Vindex management team as CEO of Belong Gaming to oversee the US rollout and initiate a global expansion strategy.
Martyn Gibbs said: “I am delighted to join Vindex and lead Belong Gaming as we continue the rapid expansion of the arenas. Since the beginning, the Belong team has been successful at creating a network effect for members. Belong’s renowned gaming arenas provide safe, inclusive community spaces where casual and competitive gamers can compete in organised grassroots esports tournaments, improve their skills, challenge other players and socialise with others who share their passion for gaming.”
Mike Sepso, CEO of Vindex, added: “The acquisition of Belong and Martyn’s leadership will allow us to bring the professional esports experience to casual and amateur players in their hometowns across the country and around the world, connecting more players everywhere at a time when communities truly need to be closer together.”
“Martyn is a true innovator and one of the most respected executives in the industry, with more than 25 years of experience, most recently as CEO of one of the world’s largest gaming retailers. We are thrilled to have him lead the next phase in our esports infrastructure strategy.”
Vindex was launched in October 2019 with $80m in initial funding by Major League Gaming (MLG) co-founders Mike Sepso and Sundance DiGiovanni, with fintech entrepreneurs Bryan Binder and Jason Garmise. It’s billed as an esports infrastructure provider, offering services to publishers, esports leagues and teams.
Every Belong Gaming Arena will now be powered by Vindex’s software platform, including a consumer app that will allow gamers to meet, team up with and compete against other gamers within their own community and throughout the Belong global network.
Vindex has also established industry partnerships with esports organisations including Envy Gaming of Dallas and New York’s Andbox.
Vindex will open multiple locations throughout each organisation’s Home Market Areas (HMA), including co-branded flagship locations in New York City and North Texas. These locations will feature exclusive tournaments, leagues, team appearances and retail programs.
One year ago, Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct purchased GAME in a deal worth £52m.
Four years ago, Activision Blizzard acquired MLG for $46m.
Dom is an award-winning writer who graduated from Bournemouth University with a 2:1 degree in Multi-Media Journalism in 2007.
As a long-time gamer having first picked up the NES controller in the late ’80s, he has written for a range of publications including GamesTM, Nintendo Official Magazine, industry publication MCV as well as Riot Games and others. He worked as head of content for the British Esports Association up until February 2021, when he stepped back to work full-time on Esports News UK and as an esports consultant helping brands and businesses better understand the industry.