On Saturday, the largest concert hall in Europe will receive a visit from 28,000 fans for an unusual show. After hosting concerts this summer by American stars Pink and Imagine Dragons, La Défense Arena will be the scene of the confrontation of four of the most prestigious e-sport teams on the planet against the French club Karmine Corp. For five hours, there will be friendly matches on the video games League of Legends, Valorant, Rocket League and Super Smash Bros Ultimate, with the host, the American Sean Stackhouse, known as Stax, and the French YouTuber Doigby.

Without marketing expenses, “we sold 20,000 tickets in 48 hours, and the 11,000 seats at 95 euros are all gone,” says Arthur Perticoz, general manager of Karmine Corp. This company is behind this event called KCX 3, which will be broadcast live on the Twitch platform. With a budget of 2 million euros, it is produced by Play Two Live, a subsidiary of the TF1 group, and sponsored by brands such as Orange, Intel and Fitness Park.

“From production to sound recording, we have increased the production quality of this evening designed for our fans”, who will be able to purchase jerseys, t-shirts and jogging pants bearing the image of the French club on site, continues the director. “If we had only sold 15,000 seats, it would have been bankruptcy. »

The first edition of the KCX, in 2021, brought together 3,500 people at the Palais des congrès de Paris, a figure that increased to 12,000 a year later at the Accor Arena. This rise in power illustrates the rapid rise of Karmine Corp, an e-sports club that is atypical to say the least in the French landscape. Its co-founders are indeed popular content creators.

On one side, the YouTuber and rapper Amine Mekri, known as Prime. On the other, Twitch star Kamel Kebir, aka Kameto. Followed by 1.7 million people on the video platform, this showman is the incarnation of Karmine Corp, whose matches he promotes and comments on.

“Kameto is our secret sauce,” smiles Arthur Perticoz. We are a company of content creators, and therefore influencers. Proximity with fans is key. » This winning formula was imitated last April by three other Twitch heavyweights, Squeezie, Gotaga and Brawks, who founded the e-sports club Gentle Mates.

Created at the end of 2020, Karmine Corp has around thirty employees and has built seven e-sports teams with solid records, including a women’s team for the game Valorant. Arthur Perticoz, co-founder of the Majelan podcast application, was recruited last year to professionalize the structure. “The company’s philosophy is more that of a nice SME than of a start-up looking to quickly sell itself. The majority of capital belongs to the co-founders, who make cash injections. We just raise what we need. »

The company, at breakeven, should earn 5 to 6 million euros this year. “40% of our revenue comes from our sponsors and 40% from the sale of derivative products. Our strength is our fans, who are very engaged,” explains the director. Karmine Corp also receives remuneration from the purchase by players of certain digital objects in the Valorant and Rocket League games.

The e-sports ecosystem saw an influx of capital five years ago on the promise that video game competitions would be the football of tomorrow. Investors are now rare and clubs have gone out of business. “Unlike traditional sport, e-sport cannot rely on the sale of broadcast rights. And the clubs do not have recurring ticketing revenue, explains Arthur Perticoz. Yes, e-sport is not football. But a good part of the fans are still there. »

Karmine Corp is losing money on the KCX3 but sees this event as a showcase. In order to attract a wider audience, the structure opened up to easily understandable games, such as Rocket League, where large cars play football. “Perhaps we will have to go more towards entertainment for the next KCXs. But our desire is also to increase the number of evenings outside Paris, in rooms with 1500 to 3000 spectators”, indicates Arthur Perticoz, before confiding: “Kameto’s dream is to organize Karmine Corp events in Africa. »