It makes sense that, as e-sports becomes increasingly popular, e-sports fantasy leagues would begin to crop up, just as they do for football, baseball, hockeyball, and all the other -balls out there. Even so, the $1 million prize pool being offered by League of Legends fantasy website Vulcun for the 2015 LCS season is kind of astounding, especially since the site launch less than a month ago with an initial prize pool of just—"just"—$250,000.
Details on how to play can be found on Vulcun's Rules and Scoring page, but the short version is that players create a fantasy LCS team by assembling a roster of players within a limited team budget, then pit their team against lineups created by other fans. There are various types of daily contests, ranging from "standard" contests with entry fees ranging from $1 to $100, to 50/50 (half the players win), Double-Up, which doubles your money if you win, and Winner Takes All, which seems fairly self-explanatory.
"We expected this milestone to take us a year to get when we launched just three weeks ago. But the response from the LoL community has been so tremendous that it has us away," Vulcun founder Ali Moiz said in a statement. "I am deeply humbled and grateful to the community for making Vulcun the the number one place where they choose to play Fantasy League of Legends. We’re growing 30 percent each week.”
Fortunately for LoL fans who want to get in on the fun without losing their shirts, Vulcun also offers free games, some of which may offer cash prizes of their own, although the focus is clearly on paid games. "Free games are a great way to learn how the system works and try it risk-free," the Vulcun site states. "Most of our games however are paid, and have much larger prize pools."
“We promise to re-invest every single dollar we make into giving back to the eSports community," Moiz said. "Three weeks ago we promised you we’d get you to $1 million in prizes. Today, we’ve kept that promise. What’s next? With your support, $10 million.”
And since the question is bound to come up, the site also notes that it is entirely legal under the 2006 UIGEA act, which "specifically allows for fantasy sports since it is a game of skill." As conventional sports betting itself is currently under scrutiny by the US government, that distinction may protect e-sports betting from further regulation.
Vulcun itself is but one service within a growing sub-industry of e-sports. Tens of thousands of people wager on CSGO Lounge and Dota 2 Lounge, which use in-game items (which have monetary value in Steam Market), not money, for betting. Egamingbets, whose About Us page assures that its "activities are performed in accordance with laws of Costa Rica," offers betting on StarCraft 2, LoL, CS:GO, and Dota 2.
But it's the sheer value of Vulcun's prize pool that makes it noteworthy, not because, as it says, LoL fans can actually make more money through its fantasy league than the players themselves, but because of what its rapid growth suggests about the future. Vulcun has raised $1.3 million in funding from "top-tier Silicon Valley investors," indicating a very clear belief in the potential of e-sports fantasy leagues as a money-making opportunity—and, no doubt, even bigger prize pools to come.