Twitch upped the ante for Bits in Extensions, allowing viewers to support Partners, Affiliates, and the developers who build them. The platform announced that Bits will now be available to “power new, interactive experiences on your channel” and partnered with 28 developers to bring 28 new Extensions that will leverage the feature, including SLIVER.tv for a Tilted Trivia extension. Other partners include: OneView by Esports One; Bits Voting Studio by iPowow; Bithead Arcade by Doborog Games; and Rock Paper BITS! by Maestro.
Tyler “Ninja” Blevins broke his own record at his Fortnite event at Esports Arena in Las Vegas where – at its peak – his stream drew over 660,000 concurrent viewers, topping the recent record on Twitch previously set when he played with the rapper Drake. Overall, $50,000 was awarded at the event.
Xbox is opening the door for Discord to allow players to chat and connect with friends while they game on both console and PC. Xbox Insiders will also have the added option to link their Xbox Live account to their Discord account directly from your Xbox One, which will become available to the broader Xbox community soon.
Esports marketing and talent representation company Press X announced at the Esports Upfront that it would be teaming with digital media company Bent Pixels in a move designed to create “the first ever YouTube Community focused on helping Twitch content creators and esports professional players grow their YouTube business and scale ancillary revenue streams.” Press X will help brands and agencies understand and connect to the world of live gaming & Twitch content creators across multiple platforms.
The Ledger Group closed the first tranche of a planned $1,500,000 investment into Splyce Inc. The investment is designed to complement The Ledger Group’s existing investments in Askott Entertainment Inc., a leading esports gaming company, and Enthusiast Gaming Inc., an esports media company. With the addition, The Ledger Group will be rebranding to OverActive Media Group to reflect its focus on the ownership of esports platforms.
Sony Crackle announced that it is partnering with production company Embassy Row on two new unscripted projects with one developed with NRG in a move to create content for the Sony Crackle console-first audience. The untitled esports competition series, anticipated to be produced by Embassy Row, will use the team’s professional esports athletes and celebrity advisors to support the contenders.
Team Dignitas shored up its ranks ahead of the team’s recently announced Team Dignitas and Buffalo Wild Wings PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS tournament on May 5. The squad signed four new, elite players to its BUBG team: in-game leader Gustav “GustavQQ” Blønd and Peter “Wookiebookie” Lassen from Denmark, Adam “Adam” Didiano from Canada, Timothy “Uncivil” Ebarb from the United States. Dylan “didz” Didiano from Canada will coach. Meanwhile, more than 180 players have already registered for the partnership’s first-ever amateur, online tournament.
German sports staple FC Bayern Munich is launching a gaming division by forming an NBA 2K esports team. SportssProMedia writes that the venture will be called Bayern Ballers Gaming and the organization will host tryouts to draft a eight players to play NBA 2K for FC Bayern Munich, who will compete in Take-Two Interactive’s NBA2K simulation on Playstation 4.
Ashland University revealed on Good Morning America that the school will be offering up to $4,000 in scholarship funds to Fortnite players who meet the academic and competitive requirements. The university is looking to build up its Esports program, which currently already includes games like League Of Legends and Overwatch.
POWER PLAYERS – Jamie Leece
Today sees Major League Baseball go where no major league has gone before with the first commercial launch of MLB Home Run Derby VR for Sony PlayStation VR and Steam. Leveraging unique motion controls, the title is developed and distributed by the Games and Virtual Reality team at MLB, making it the first console VR video game built by a US professional sports league. With an eye on potential esports activation, the game allows fans around the world to step into the batter’s boxes at three All-Star ballparks from 2017-19 (Marlins Park in Miami, Nationals Park in Washington, DC, and Progressive Field in Cleveland) to hit home runs and tally as many points as possible in the timed home run competition.
With the rollout, at least 12 MLB ballparks will host an in-venue setup of this VR video game for fans to play when they’re attending games in 2018: Arizona, Atlanta, Chicago White Sox, Houston, Miami, Minnesota, Oakland, St. Louis, San Diego, San Francisco, Tampa Bay, and Washington. Cynopsis asked Jamie Leece, MLB Senior Vice President, Games and VR, about the launch, the league’s investment in gaming and what we can expect from the game.
Leece on gaming audiences: Our video games have long served a meaningful role in providing a fun access point to engage younger audiences, particularly early adopters of evolving technologies. As with other advancements in gaming hardware, fans will continue to expect and demand powerful visuals, immersive experiences, community competition capabilities and of course fun. It’s our job to exceed those expectations by building experiential games, like Home Run Derby VR, that we believe will continue to deliver positive impacts in a variety of ways.
On VR: We have been working with our Clubs to explore VR for a few years and have continued to find our fans increasingly embrace the immersive content experiences made possible by 360 degree technology. The popularity of the MLB All-Star Week bracket-style competition, along with the success of our Home Run Derby mobile game and encouraging hardware growth in the marketplace, made this a natural expansion to put the power and action of the Derby experience literally right in the hands of our fans through VR and motion control tech.
On building the game: We have been developing and distributing MLB gaming products for more than five years now, dating back to the first release of Home Run Derby mobile in 2013. We just published a major update to that title for 2018 that we’re also very excited about. The following year, we began publishing a re-boot of the iconic baseball game franchise, R.B.I. Baseball, for consoles. Home Run Derby VR represents an important extension of our previous developments in the gaming space. Building it ourselves allows us to drive both the optimal experience and technology in ways that are uniquely baseball.
On venues: One of the most exciting aspects of this VR game is its unique portability. Before getting to this commercial launch, we worked very closely with the Clubs and our League partners the past year or so to deploy this at a variety of MLB events. This year alone, we have at least 13 Clubs who will utilize a specially customized version of the game as an additional attraction at their ballparks. With the video game set in each of those ballparks, it makes for a really transformative immersion for a fan to virtually step into the batter’s box and hit home runs as their favorite players do. We’ve also seen how fans love just looking around the virtual environment and taking in the intricate details of their home ballpark. We’ve also had activations of the VR game at MLB’s international events such as MLB Battlegrounds in London last summer as well as the recent series in Puerto Rico and the upcoming games being played in Monterrey, Mexico.
On esports applications: There are many activations and new frontiers we’re considering for our video game titles, including exciting developments specific to Home Run Derby VR during this summer’s All-Star Week experience in Washington, DC. Nothing to announce at this time, but we’re excited about the fan reaction so far and the potential to build even more dynamic ways for them to enjoy baseball video games.
Hearthstone game director Ben Brode is departing Blizzard after 15 years with the company, revealing that he will launch a new company. “I get too much credit by virtue of being a public face, but the 80+ people on the development team are still there, and they are the ones actually making the cards, brawls, events, missions, and features,” he stated in a blog post announcing his departure.