The five-women squad is made up of players from across Europe competing in the Valve game “Counter-Strike.”
Unikrn, the Seattle startup that built a video game gambling platform from a country where such wagering is typically illegal, is making another big bet: bringing together an all-female crew for its first competitive video-gaming squad.
E-sports is increasingly big business, generating millions in tournament prize money, merchandise sales, and sponsorship dollars. Competitions have paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars to dozens of full-time professional male gamers this year. The far smaller pool of women earn much less.
Unikrn’s squad, five women from across Europe, compete in ”Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.” The popular multiplayer first-person shooter game, built by Bellevue’s Valve and Hidden Path Entertainment, pits teams against each other, competing to secure objectives or remove enemies from a map.
Video gaming, an arena dominated by men typically cloaked in the Internet’s shield of anonymity, has a reputation as an hostile community for women. Some casual players refrain from identifying themselves as women in online games.
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“If you’ve ever played a game online and seen some of the chatter that goes on, it can be horrible,” said Rahul Sood, Unikrn’s chief executive. “We wanted to create opportunities for women in gaming.”
Sood wouldn’t say what Team Unikrn would be paid, but said the squad was the highest-paid women’s team in the world, and enough to qualify as a full-time job. “It’s very difficult for women to make a living doing this,” Sood said.
“Historically, female teams have honestly been sort of gimmicky in a way,” Sood said. “People will hire female teams and they don’t think about the competition, they think about parading around, it’s been more about the sponsorship. For us, it’s about the competition.”
Unikrn’s core business is a betting platform for competitive video games, run in collaboration with Australian gambling company Tabcorb.The company has raised about $10 million from investors since opening its doors late last year.
Team Unikrn is Perrine “Lalita” Allesiardo and Sophia “Kim” Benfakir, both of France, Melania “Gina” Mylioti, of Greece, Julia “Julie” Strunkowski, of Germany, and Camilla “ParamaViolet” Hart, of the U.K.
Tabcorp’s Luxabet division will help foot the bill for the team’s activities.