02/01/18: ELEAGUE delivered high marks for its Boston Major

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It’s Thursday February 1, 2018 and this is your weekly early morning eSports & Gaming briefing.


ELEAGUE opened the books on its record-setting championship last weekend. The Turner and IMG organization saw Sunday’s Grand Final for The ELEAGUE Major: Boston drum up a peak of 1,130,000 Twitch viewers, which marks an all-time record for peak concurrent streams on a single channel and a peak of more than 1.4 million concurrent streams across all digital platforms globally. Numbers saw a rise of 83% in US video plays with American team Cloud9 emerging victorious. ELEAGUE TV ranked as the most-watched Twitch channel during both the New Legends and New Champions stages of the Major, representing seven days of live coverage and outperforming all other programming on Twitch over that period as fans spent more than 2.2 billion minutes watching live coverage of The ELEAGUE Major: Boston on Twitch throughout the course of the event.
 
Moving forward, coverage of The ELEAGUE Major: Boston will shift to TBS for ELEAGUE | Road to the Boston Major, a five-part episodic series that will debut on Feb. 9, at 10p. 
 
 
COMPETITION and VENUES


Eleven Pac-12 universities are launching the Pacific Alliance of Collegiate Gamers, described as a “unique esports organization formed and operated by students.” Competition will feature multiple semester-long leagues with initial titles set to include League of Legends, Overwatch and Hearthstone. The esports org will include student-driven esports organizations from: Arizona, Arizona State, California Berkeley Colorado, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Utah and Washington State. Utah will compete in PACG as the only official varsity program. “Student esports groups all across the country are in great need of support from universities that may not understand what they are trying to accomplish” said Jack Callahan, PACG Co-Commissioner. PACG will serve as an unofficial and unsponsored organization where players will not be playing for scholarships or prize money. Instead, PACG aims to highlight collegiate esports amongst Pac-12 universities and encourage institutional support.
 
Intel Extreme Masters unveiled plans to return to Australia in May where it will expand with sixteen Counter-Strike: Global Offensive teams competing live in Sydney at the Qudos Bank Arena from May 4-6, for a record prize pool of $250,000. “What happened at last year’s Intel Extreme Masters Sydney event completely blew us away,” said Michal Blicharz, VP Pro Gaming at ESL. “The Australian esports audience was extremely engaged in the event and became a part of the show.  That type of atmosphere is very rare.  They left us no choice but to come back and do it again.
 
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed league plans for an esports slate on Saturday during the 2018 NHL All-Star weekend. Speaking to the press, Bettman noted that the league was working with EA for the esports league, stating “Our goal is to unveil something before the end of the regular season, which would have a series of competitions using the EA Games, and we’ll have more details when we’re ready to launch.”
 
Coming off of a successful ELEAGUE Major: Boston event, ELEAGUE is now set to host another key event later this year with the CS:GO Premier 2018 slated to begin July 21, with exclusive live coverage on Twitch. The CS:GO Premier 2018 will mark the first time that ELEAGUE will adopt a higher-stakes live event format. The event will begin with a five-day group stage, spanning July 21-25, featuring eight invited teams playing in a double-elimination, best-of-three bracket.
 
The NBA 2K League unveiled plans for its Combine, which serves as the next stage of qualifying for the organization. The event will run from Feb. 2-21 and feature a player pool of 102 to allow for roster flexibility. The combine will now identify the top 102 players and  consist of 5-on-5 gameplay, with each participant competing with, and against, nine other qualifiers in full games. All players need to complete 40 games in one position during the combine and during the combine, the league will measure high-level stats such as points, rebounds and assists, as well as more in-depth stats such as shot release time, pass to assist and block efficiency. Following the combine, all player information will be evaluated and used to determine the top 102 players available for the draft.
 
OpTic Gaming is quickly entrenching itself in its new home state of Texas, announcing a new event with NGAGE Esports called OpTic Arena. The event will run from June 8-10 and feature a series of public esports activities taking place at A-Kon, a convention that accumulates 33,000+ attendees each year in Fort Worth. OpTic Arena will feature a series of gaming events including: Call of Duty, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Dragon Ball FighterZ and Street Fighter V in addition featuring Twitch and OpTic content creators.
 
 
INSIGHTS


The ELEAGUE CS:GO 2018 Major topped viewership records with 1.3 Million peak viewers. Streamers tuned into watch Cloud9 defeat FaZe Clan, becoming the first North American team to win a CS:GO Major. This year, ELEAGUE 2018’s Total Views increased by 58%, and its Hours Watched increased by 75%. Despite significant gains in three categories, ELEAGUE 2018’s Average CCV dropped by 45%.
 
 
ACTIVATION


Overwatch League added more non-endemics to its payload, announcing the additions of T-Mobile and Sour Patch Kids candy to its lineup of sponsors. T-Mobile signed a multi-year agreement to become the official wireless provider of the Overwatch League in the United States. As a part of the agreement, the brand will be the exclusive title sponsor of the Overwatch League Regular Season MVP and Finals MVP awards. The Sour Patch Kids brand will bring fans content that will air during the Overwatch League season-one livestream.
 
State Farm has a new agency of record for esports, selecting ReKTGlobal following the agency’s guidance for the brand’s sponsorship of Riot Games’ NA LCS. ReKTGlobal will now look to provide “an integrated, long-term solution to help the insurance and financial company support, grow and develop the industry. “At State Farm, we have a long, proud history of partnering with sports leagues, teams and their fans,” said Ed Gold, Advertising Director at State Farm. “With ReKTGlobal, we’ll be able to engage esports fans in a more dynamic way and find creative and unique ways to bring value to the esports ecosystem.”
 
 
PLATFORMS


Madden is getting a new play as Electronic Arts, ESPN, Disney XD and the NFL detailed plans for live, exclusive broadcasts for upcoming play. The deal marks ESPN’s first long-term, multi-event competitive gaming partnership with dealpoints that include ESPN2 broadcasting the Madden NFL 18 Club Championship Final on Feb. 1, live from the Super Bowl. In early February, Disney XD will air weekly broadcasts of the Madden NFL Ultimate League, featuring the 16 Madden players from around the world competing in a 13-week season ending at Madden Bowl at the 2018 NFL Draft in April. Beginning in April, ESPN2 will also broadcast an Ultimate League Episodic Series with content focusing on character and storylines running on Tuesdays at 9p.
 
Meanwhile, today will see the Madden NFL 18 Club Championship run across ESPN2, ESPN Deportes and digital channels, as players compete to win their share of a $403,000 prize pool and Super Bowl LII tickets. The top eight compete starting at noon with the quarterfinals on Twitch, YouTube, Twitter Facebook and Mixer, the semis starting at 5:30p before a champion is crowned starting at 9p and the finals live on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes in addition to digital outlets.
 
Fresh off a deal with ESL, Facebook is continuing to woo the gaming community, announcing in a developer blog the launch of a pilot program designed to get more streamers using the social network. The initiative promises to see Facebook aid successful applicants in building engaged communities around their content in addition to equipping streamers with tools and support in an effort to build a successful platform with upcoming expanded monetization features.
 
Epics.gg sees esports in the cards, raising $2 million in a seed round for its digital trading card platform for the industry. The platform allows users to buy, sell, and collect digital trading cards based on esports athletes. Bitkraft Esports Ventures led the investment, with participation from Jon Goldman’s GC Tracker Fund, Everblue Management, Hersh Interactive Group, Imagination Capital, Courtside Ventures, and angel investors.
 
Waves Platform partnered with mobile eSports platform RewardMob in a new deal. The Waves blockchain powers a first to market rewards platform providing mobile game developers a way to reward their users with a cryptocurrency token called RMOB while RewardMob offers a Free-to-Play and a soon to be released Pay-to-Play version of its tournaments and is set to grow from $1 million to $15 million in the next six months.
 
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TEAMS

Germany-based SK Gaming announced that the team is officially partnering with Bundesliga club 1. FC Koln. The pair will kick off a partnership this year and see SK players be able to take advantage of the same infrastructure the Bundesliga team provides for its players. According to the announcement, “This will enable us to further professionalize the conditions for our players, especially regarding practice, fitness and nutrition. A field that we feel has a massive potential for esports athletes and where we can learn a lot from our new partner.” They noted that the esports team will – in turn – support the ‘FC’s’ first steps into the world of esports, starting with Mirza Jahic and Timo ‘Praii’ Gruneisen representing the club in the upcoming ‘Virtual Bundesliga’.

The first-ever free agency period for Overwatch League is underway, with all 12 franchises now able to ink free agent players to new deals. In addition, the squads will also be free to make trades with other teams beginning Feb. 11, with a transfer window that closes on April 3, just before the start of Stage 3. Teams can add any player not currently signed to an Overwatch League player contract – including Contenders, Academy and Open Division players. The earliest any new player will be eligible to compete in the Overwatch League is Feb. 21.
 
Splyce and the Boston Celtics unlocked a new partnership for the upcoming organization. Splyce and CLTX Gaming will work together to build out the roster and player development, while assisting with the design and layout of the training facility and team living space in the Boston area. Splyce will also contribute to CLTX Gaming’s competitive analysis and gameplay strategy. “If there’s one thing that Splyce and the Celtics have in common it’s knowing how to win,” said Marty Strenczewilk, CEO and co-founder, Splyce. “As two organizations who are both competitively focused on Boston and have shown the ability to win multiple championships, the partnership was a natural fit. We could see right away that we’d mesh well as brands, and had the same goals – to win and create amazing fan experiences. I’m super stoked to be able to do that together in the 2k League this year.”
 

POWER PLAYERS – AJ Dimick


After forging the Pac-12’s first varsity esports organization at the University of Utah last fall, AJ Dimick, Director of Operations for Utah Esports, has elevated the conference’s esports play once again, taking part in the launch of the Pacific Alliance of Collegiate Gamers with ten other schools from the league. The school will serve as the only official collegiate varsity program in the PACG organization, however, after spawning the school’s first college esports team, created by the university’s nationally-ranked Entertainment Arts & Engineering video game development studio. Each of the players on the U’s team receive a $1,000-per-year scholarship and are playing against club teams from all over North America and 50 other scholarship esports programs.
 
Cynopsis Esports spoke with Dimick about the program’s launch and its role in the PACG.
 
Dimick on the PACG: When the Pac-12 was looking to put together a league of their own, the student organizations got to know each other and had a lot of contact trying to help put that together.  When it didn’t happen, those student orgs kept talking and eventually took upon themselves to just do it for themselves.  These kids want to represent their schools.  They want a Pac-12 esports league.  They made it happen.
 
On games: We will play Overwatch, Hearthstone and League of Legends this year.  We will split into divisions, play a round robin and have a post season championship tournament around April.  This will be a great college esports experience.
 
On challenges to launching a school program: That the infrastructure to help grow college esports to what it needs to be doesn’t exist yet. College esports needs help.  Most college esports leagues and organizations are designed for the 5 friends in their dorm room or student club scenario.  We need, schedules, relationships and competitive formats which help us create bigger esports events on college campuses and incentivize campuses to support esports.  We’re getting there.  And we hope PACG can be a catalyst to bring us closer to that reality.
 
 
INDUSTRY

Superdata released its 2017 Year in Review, breaking down data and trends in digital games and interactive media, including the year-end figures for mobile, PC, console, and esports games, as well as gaming video content. Bullet points from the period include notes that: One in three people on the planet (2.5B) play free-to-play games across PC and mobile platforms; Consumers spent $14B more on mobile games in 2017 than in 2016. Premium PC title PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds was 2017’s breakout success, generating $712M in revenue in just eight months; Esports generated $756M in revenue and is on track to become a billion dollar business in 2018.
 
The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences announced that Genyo Takeda, Special Corporate Advisor at Nintendo, will be the seventh Lifetime Achievement Award recipient for the organization. The Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented by Don James, AIAS Board Member and Executive Vice President of Operations at Nintendo of America at the 21st D.I.C.E. Awards on Feb. 22 in Las Vegas.
 
Electronic Arts drew $1.16 billion in the fiscal quarter ending Dec. 31, topping projections and anchored by 14% growth in digital revenue, which hit $780 million. Overall, the company reports a loss of $186 million for the period, however, most due to dips in packaged goods revenue. “Through the fourth quarter and fiscal 2019, we’ll be launching games across five different genres, on three different platforms, and to players around the world,” said EA CFO Blake Jorgensen. “We expect growth in full-game downloads, subscriptions, extra content, and in our mobile business.”
 
Speaking of EA, the company released the official EA SPORTS Madden NFL 18 Super Bowl prediction, projecting that the Patriots will once again walk away as champions, beating the Philadelphia Eagles 24-20.  
 
Nintendo’s numbers saw the company’s largest third-quarter operating profit in eight years, courtesy of the new Switch games console. The company notched an operating profit of $1.07 billion for the period to rank as the highest ever that the company has earned in that span since 2009. Nintendo sold 7.2 million Switch consoles in the three months through December and raised its annual sales forecast to 15 million units from 14 million units.
 
NetEase is partnering with Mattel to launch a new game development studio, titled Mattel163, according to multiple reports. Both partied will own 50% of the company, which will offer “a wide variety of digital experiences” based on Mattel’s portfolio of IPs, which includes Barbie, Hot Wheels and Fisher-Price.

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