After two splits of competitive play, theScore eSports has learned that Gravity are in the process of selling their spot in the NA LCS.
Gravity's inception began at the beginning of 2015 when Curse Academy qualified for the NA LCS. Due to Riot's Sponsorship rules, Curse was only allowed to own one LCS team, resulting in the lengthy bidding war that was eventually won by Davis "Samurai" Vague. The Academy squad would then be rebranded as the Gravity organization they've been known as for the past year.
"Our owner, Davis Vague, bought Curse Academy without any expectations other than to grow and learn." said Jake "Ginko" Fyfe, the team's manager. "He’s a very energetic and fluid guy, so he has already began pursuing his next passion.
Gravity had a strong showing in their rookie year as a team. The placed fifth in the spring season before falling in the first round of the playoffs to the newly rebranded LMQ squad, Team Impulse. After making changes to their starting five in the summer, which saw starting AD Carry David "Cop" Roberson become the team's head coach position and replaced with Johnny "Altec" Ru, Gravity held the top spot in the standings for most of the season. While ultimately tripping up in the final weeks and missing their chance at a first round bye with a fourth place finish, the rookie franchise did manage to make the postseason twice in their first year. Their 2015 campaign would come to a bittersweet close with a loss to Team SoloMid in the summer playoffs and a reverse sweep loss to Cloud9 in the North American Regional Finals.
To get more information on the situation, theScore eSports talked to both Cop and Ginko about Gravity's sale and the drastically different North American landscape we'll see in 2016.
Q: Gravity was one of the better North American teams last year. Why was the decision to sell them made after being on the verge of a World Championship berth?
Ginko: Our owner, Davis Vague, bought Curse Academy without any expectations other than to grow and learn. He’s a very energetic and fluid guy, so he has already began pursuing his next passion. He invested into the LCS at an opportune time, so he is able to withdraw with plenty gained and nothing lost. Cop and I felt our team would succeed given the changes we were making moving forward into 2016. We were disappointed at first, but we’re now very enthusiastic at the opportunities ahead of us.
Cop: Even though we didn't make it to Worlds, everyone saw the potential that we had and I really felt like we'd reach it next year. It's frustrating that I wasn't given the opportunity to do so but I'm looking forward to bringing my experience to the next organization that I work for.
Q: With the sale of Team 8 to Immortals, the sale of Impulse, and the rumored sale of Team Coast, do you think the money coming from outside investors is a big reason why so many LCS teams are selling their spots and/or teams?
Ginko: Absolutely – the price of LCS has exploded overnight. It was inevitable given the rate that eSports is growing. From what we understand, even challenger teams are getting higher salaries than the LCS standards of the 2015 seasons. It’s both thrilling and intimidating. Low and mid-ranged teams are going to have to match these new giants lest their team getting relegated. Gravity had two clear paths to choose from, and our owner’s dwindled interest in the League scene discouraged him from continuing to invest.
Q: Can you tell us how far the sale process is? Do you feel like the sale will be imminent in the next two weeks?
Ginko: We have been in contact with a few interested parties, but we decided to reach out to the public to entertain discussion with anybody else who is interested. It’s especially fitting of how Gravity was founded. Please send questions and offers regarding our players, our coaching staff, or purchasing the team at GravityInquiries@gmail.com
Q: What about the Gravity players? Have they been all let out of their contracts? Are they allowed to tryout for other teams, or are some still committed to being on the team following the transfer to the new organization?
Ginko: We have been working with each player to try and land them in a place they’re happy with. Whether that means joining an existing organization, committing to the transfer of a new organization, or helping them pursue other goals outside of professional gaming is yet to be determined for every player. If there are organizations that would like to inquire about individuals of our roster, please reach out to me.
Cop: I think that each player on our roster is extremely talented. Whether or not I'll be working with them next year, I'm excited to see them grow as players.
Q: What are your plans for the upcoming year? Cop, you had a strong rookie season as a coach, holding onto the top spot in the regular season for some time. Are you in talks to move over to the new organization that takes over Gravity's spot and/or team, or are you looking at other teams in NA or maybe even Europe?
Cop: I don’t have a set plan for what team I’ll be working for next year. I’ve learned so much during my short time coaching Gravity this past year. I’m thrilled to bring my experience as a coach and seasoned player to a new organization and a new set of players. I believe I have what it takes to help any team reach its potential, including international teams that are interested. I encourage any organizations to reach out to me at CopInquiries@gmail.com
Ginko: The upcoming year holds an exciting future for both of us. I’ve obtained a priceless amount of experience in my short stay with the organization. I’m actively pursuing opportunities to keep me involved in the eSports sphere that I’ve lived and breathed my entire life. Cop has proven to be an invaluable resource as a coach that can connect to players on a personal level. I think any organization that recruits him will find him to be one of the best roster decisions they’ve ever made.
The announcement of Gravity's sale now marks the fourth team attempting to sell their team and/or spot in the NA LCS this offseason. Team 8 have already sold their team to the Immortals, a group of tech, gaming, and media investors. Team Impulse, another team that made the playoffs twice last season, has also been reported to be in the process of trying to sell their spot in the league. Dignitas had their European squad qualify for the EU LCS, putting them in the position where they had to sell one team off to another organization. Following a few weeks of speculation, it was announced that they had chosen to keep their North American squad and sell their European side to the Follow eSports organization. On top of all those teams, there are also rumors that Team Coast are in negotiations to sell their spot in the league for the 2016 season.
With all the new investors coming into the scene from the traditional sports world and other media organizations, there is a possibility we will see five new organizations (including the Los Angeles Renegades) play in the North American LCS at the start of the new year.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Tyler "Fionn" Erzberger is a staff writer for theScore eSports who covers the North American LCS and Korea's Champions. You can follow him on Twitter.