05/11/17: Nielsen profiles the esports fan; MLG is on the Watch; Bishop takes night at GG

It’s Thursday May 11, 2017 and this is your weekly early morning eSports & Gaming brief.

Nielsen debuted its Games 360 US Report for 2017, detailing recent changes in trends for gaming fans and mapping out the future of the industry. The report included an in-depth look at the esports fan, noting the 94% of them consider themselves to be gamers. Year-on-year, eSports fans are becoming more motivated by the social aspect of gaming with new eSports fans most influenced by friends and family, while more established fans are primarily influenced by interest in a game. Other prompts that influence new esports fans, include social media and online personalities. Meanwhile, the average esports fan in the US typically brings a household income of $64,700 with an average age of 31. Click here for more…

MLG’s role in the Blizzard family continues to deepen, as Blizzard Entertainment announced the full integration of Major League Gaming into its ecosystem as a dedicated division that will handle management, operation, sales, and distribution for Overwatch esports programs, including the Overwatch League and Overwatch World Cup. The new division will retain the MLG name and leverage the league’s “extensive experience with live events and content distribution” in addition to operating the MLG-branded media network, which will broadcast both Blizzard and Activision esports content as well as other premium gaming programming. Separately, Blizzard’s separate esports team will continue to directly manage and operate the global esports programs for Heroes of the Storm, Hearthstone, StarCraft, and World of Warcraft, but will begin leveraging the new division’s capabilities for media production, sales, and distribution.
Meanwhile, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross were reportedly among the first to purchase franchise slots for the upcoming Overwatch League, according to a report from Richard Lewis and Dot Esports. Lewis’ reports that Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick secured the deals personally, noting that “at this time it isn’t clear if the teams will compete under their existing brands or whether new ones will be created but with the focus on regional franchises it’s clear which territories the teams will cover.” Meanwhile, ESPN reports that Activision Blizzard is “struggling to sign franchises to its yet-to-launch Overwatch League because the asking price is too high.” Multiple sources told that site that a $20 million franchise fee for the league was a difficult obstacle for teams, with franchises are not guaranteed revenue sharing until after 2021 and only if Blizzard meets certain criteria. In related news, Splyce announced this week that it would be the latest team to release its Overwatch players, noting that a lack of competitive Overwatch tournaments caused the squad to hit the brakes on developing infrastructure.
A new study from HIS Markit states that total hours viewed in the esports genre topped 6 billion globally in 2016, for a rise of 19% over 2015. The report, titled Esports and The Future of TV, shows that China is easily the largest market for esports video, accounting for 57% of all viewing last year. However, IHS Markit also writes that esports advertising totaled about $280 million globally in 2016, with the category expected to become a $1 billion advertising industry by 2021, primarily driven by video, influencer marketing and sponsorship.
ELeague is dangling a quarter million dollars to showcase a rematch between Major CS:GO finalists Astralis and Virtus Pro in a single game that will take place on June 16. The original battle between the two teams took place in Jan and was won by Astralis 2-1. E League announced this epic rematch on Youtube video, with the match dubbed “Clash for Cash”. ELeague also announced plans to bring back CS:GO this fall, posting that the Turner/IMG collaboration will return on Friday, September 1st at 10p on TBS.
The NBA 2K esports league announced its lineup of teams who will participate in the debut season, which is slated to begin in 2018. Among the NBA teams participating will be: the Celtics, Cavaliers, Mavericks, Pistons, Warriors, Pacers, Grizzlies, Heat, Bucks, Knicks, magic, 76ers, Blazers, Kings, Raptors, Jazz and Wizards. “This is the first step in what promises to be an extraordinary league, bringing together the world’s best gamers and showcasing elite competition on an international stage,” said NBA 2K esports league Managing Director Brendan Donohue.  “Our teams have expressed tremendous enthusiasm for esports, and we are looking forward to forming something truly unique for basketball and gaming fans around the globe.” On a side note, 2K announced that NBA 2K will feature Shaquille O’Neal on the cover of the NBA 2K18 Legend Edition.
Blizzard mapped out group and city locations for the Overwatch World Cup this Summer. Each group is comprised of four nations who will play a full round-robin series of matches with the top two finishers from each of the four group stage events qualifying for the Overwatch World Cup finals at BlizzCon 2017. Groups A and B will compete in Shanghai, Groups C and D in Sydney, Group E and F in Katowice and Group G and H in Burbank. The US portion will see the US, Chinese Taipei, Brazil and New Zealand in Group G, while the UK, Germany, Israel and Belgium compete in Group H.
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment’s Injustice 2 is getting a big esports play via the Injustice 2 Championship Series Presented by PlayStation 4. The event sees Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment team with ESL, Gamelta esports Professional League, GameStop, PlayStation 4 entertainment system and Twitch to build the fighting game community with players contending for a portion of a $600,000 prize pool. The best players from a slate different programs will qualify for the Injustice™ 2 Championship Series grand finals that will take place this autumn. Programs include: the Injustice 2 Pro Series; Injustice 2 GameStop Hometown Heroes; Injustice 2 Path to Pro Tournament and the Injustice 2 Liga Latina.
Daybreak Games is now offering a Royal Showdown for H1Z1: King of the Kill, with action for the title’s first European tournament set to be streamed live on Twitch on May 25. Qualification for the Royal Showdown will take place up until May 22nd and those who climb the Pre-Season 4 leaderboards will get a chance to participate in the European Grand Final.
QuakeCon will officially play host to Bethesda’s first-ever Quake Champions esports tournament. The event takes place in Dallas from Aug. 24-27, with the news coming ahead of a “large scale tech test” for the title that begins tomorrow. The tournament will feature both Duel mode as well as 4v4 team play.
DreamHack locked in a slate of side tournaments for DreamHack Summer 2017, with play dedicated to junior, senior, and female CS:GO tournaments that will run beside the anchor tournament. The senior tournament will be dedicated to players 30 and over, while the junior tournament is open to players 18 years old and under. DreamHack Summer 2017 runs June 17-20 from Jonkoping, Sweden.
The Stars Esports League is formally launching, designed to serve as an international benchmark in the world of clubs.” “We can accelerate the imminent growth trend of electronic sports in the global market in terms of professionalism, competitiveness, audiences and interest for the mass market, both at the level of the public and consumer brands,” said Sergio Reyes, CEO of Stars Esports League. According the release, SESLeague will look to generate a sustainable ecosystem over time, appealing to entities, players, club agencies, agencies representing sports clubs in eSports, and the competitive video game industry in general.
MLG locked in its return trip to Las Vegas for the Gears of War Pro Circuit Las Vegas at Caesars Entertainment Studios with team passes on sale starting today. The event will run from June 2-4.
The CSL North American Collegiate Grand Finals kick off on Friday at 12:30p with universities competing in Starcraft II and the League of Legends Invitational. The weekend’s action then includes Dota2 on Saturday while Counter Strike takes place on May 14.
Wargaming is dangling $300,000 for its Grand Finals 2017 as a dozen World of Tanks pro-teams compete. The event will be held in partnership with Facebook and Rostelecom, beginning May 23–24 with the group stage. Viewers at home will be able to take part in social media contests and streams, snagging themselves lots of cool prizes and gifts from Wargaming and its partners. Meanwhile, for the first time ever, the Wargaming.net League has called on a “supernatural crustacean” to predict the winning teams in Grand Finals 2017 by choosing between two possible outcomes.
McLaren announced a new esports motor racing competition, with the winner set to be offered a position as one of the team’s official F1 simulator drivers. The format is titled ‘World’s Fastest Gamer’ and pits the best gamers in the world across multiple racing platforms as they battle each other to discover the ultimate ‘champion of champions’ and offered a one-year contract to work with engineers at both the team’s UK factory and at Grand Prix circuits across the world to develop and improve the machinery driven by Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne.
The Hearthstone Championship Tour is hitting Shanghai, China for the 2017 HCT Spring Championship. The year’s event will span July 7-9 and see the top four players from each region’s Spring Playoff (The Americas, Europe, China, Asia-Pacific) qualifying for a spot in the contest with a total prize pool for the Spring Championship hitting $250,000.

Source: Superdata

Presenters continue to lock in their times for E3. Brand events will include the EA Play Conference on June 10 at noon PT, followed by Xbox and Bethesda on June 11 at 2p and 7p respectively. Monday will be anchored by Sony’s presentation at 6p. The ESA and E3 are also teaming with Geoff Keighley to launch the E3 Coliseum at this year’s event, described as a spectacular main stage that brings video game fans closer to their favorite games and creators from June 13-14. The experience will see fans, developers, and special guests come together and go behind the scenes of E3’s biggest new announcements, and special guests will celebrate video games’ role in influencing their work and popular culture. Programming will include appearances by game creators as well as talent from the film, TV, music, and other entertainment industries.
Speaking of E3, the PC Gaming Show will return this year as part of the official E3 conference schedule with Intel serving as presenting sponsor. The event take place live from The Theatre at Ace Hotel in LA on Monday, June 12 at 10a PT and hosted by Sean “Day[9]” Plott, featuring exclusive announcements, trailers and discussion from many of the most exciting developers and projects on the platform.
Square Enix detailed plans for a slate of Final Fantasy Brave Exvius Festa events, scheduled to take place around the world in celebration of one year of service of the mobile RPG adventure. The free fan events will be attended by Producer Kei Hirono and Global Version Producer Hiroki Fujimoto, with gatherings set to begin on July 8 in Paris, followed by stops in Taipei, NYC, Busan and LA.
Team Liquid is once again teaming with Dell gaming brand Alienware for 2017-2018, marking the sixth consecutive year of their partnership. Alienware will offer Team Liquid gaming laptops, desktop computers and additional Dell technology. “Team Liquid and Alienware both have long histories in esports and when you think of high-performance gaming PCs, Alienware stands out in the market,” said Steven Arhancet, Co-CEO of Team Liquid.
ExxonMobil is refilling its ties with the Rocket League Championship Series, locking in another round of sponsorship for Seasons 3 and 4 of the slate, according to WWG. “Having a blue-chip brand like Mobil 1 involved in the Rocket League Championship Series is a huge priority this year.” said Nathan Lindberg, Director of Global Esports Sponsorships at Twitch. “As the business of esports is still in its nascent stages, sponsorship renewals with non-endemic companies are still very rare. This makes the continued commitment from a marquee brand like Mobil 1 both an achievement and a noteworthy indication of where the industry is heading.”
AIBA locked in an exclusive global marketing agreement with alisports in a deal that will see esports hit the boxing organization. The deal will leverage alisports’ capacity for increasing the digital and social engagement of AIBA events, developing and marketing the AIBA assets including WSB competitions and includes contributions in TV and digital global rights and new merchandising concepts. Meanwhile, alisports will develop and operate boxing esports and fitness boxing for AIBA.

The merger of live streaming companies Hitbox and Azubu have given birth to the launch of Smashcast. The product will be available for free download in the App Store and on Google Play with all traffic formerly destined for either of the company sites now rerouted to the new Smashcast platform. Smashcast will launch with a viewer engagement feature – called the Hype-O-Meter – intended to let esports fans cheer for their favorite team during tournaments while more tightly coupling the broadcaster-to-viewer connection. “We’re excited to announce the new company name and brand resulting from the merger of Hitbox and Azubu,” said Mike McGarvey, CEO of Smashcast. “Smashcast will launch with a new hype feature for viewer engagement which represents just the first step in our long-term vision to create the best broadcaster-to-viewer experience in the world of esports and competitive gaming.”
ESL landed a deal with Emirates Airline, marking the league’s first major inflight entertainment agreement. Running through June 2018, every Emirates flight in their global footprint will now be outfitted with on-demand esports content from ESL on the Inflight Entertainment Systems, available for all passengers on board. “At ESL, we are always looking to increase the visibility of esports and are happy to work with Emirates, the world’s largest international airline, on our first inflight entertainment deal,” said Torsten Haux, VP of Global Media Rights at ESL. “As a truly global company with events all around the world, I’m sure that players and fans will enjoy ESL’s esports highlights as they travel on Emirates airline.”
Newsy unveiled a slate of new original programming at its NewFront event in NYC, while will include Varsity Gamers, a series that examines the day-to-day lives of esports gamers under some of the country’s first college esports scholarships.

Casino industry veteran Stephen A. Crystal continues to shore up his esports investments, now adding Beyond Entertainment to his portfolio. Crystal will join the Beyond organization alongside Joseph Bentley as a new co-owner of the company. Other recent forays from Crystal include the likes of UMG, Denial Esports, and Penta Esports. “Stephen is an excellent addition and valuable asset to the Beyond company,” said Bentley. “With Steve joining Beyond in a Co-Ownership capacity we know his extensive experience will play an essential role in taking Beyond to the next level, and accomplishing the company’s long term goals.”
The recently announced BITKRAFT Esports Ventures is investing in Tier One Entertainment, a gaming and esports talent agency recently launched by cosplay staple Alodia Gosiengfiao and esports veteran, Tryke Gutierrez. The company was launched last month looking to revamp the esports scene in Southeast Asia by developing gaming talents with a focus on shoutcasters, streamers and professional teams.
Activision Blizzard reports revenues of $1.73 billion for the quarter ending March 31. That marks a rise of 19% year-on-year with profits hitting $426 million, up 17% year-on-year.
Meanwhile, Electronic Arts released its earnings for the fiscal year and fourth quarter ending March 31. Total revenues grew from $1.31 billion to $1.53 billion, while net income dipped from $899 million to $566 million. “We generated record net sales and operating cash flow in fiscal 2017, driven by our ongoing transition to digital as well as our increasing success with live services,” said Chief Financial Officer Blake Jorgensen. “Our long-term vision, to leverage deep player engagement to drive growth and profitability, is enabling us to execute on our near-term financial goals to increase revenue, earnings and cash generation.”
The global games market is poised to hit $108.9 billion, according to Newzoo’s latest report, to mark a rise of 7.8% year-over-year with the bulk of revenues driven by digital games, which will hit $94.4 billion.
POWER PLAYERS-Christian Bishop of GG Media Network

Following last week’s unveiling of its C-level team, American Leisure Holdings’ GG Media Network upped the ante this week by announcing that Hollywood Riviera Studios had signed on as an investor. Hollywood Riviera Studios financing will look to support the company’s upcoming esports and gaming project, slated to begin filming later this month and described as a humorous talk show dedicated to the esports and gaming lifestyle, in addition to the company’s other forays into talent management, brand sponsorships and event management.
Cynopsis Esports spoke with Christian Bishop, CEO of GG Media Network, about the launch of the company, its goals and what we can expect from the platform.
Bishop on his interest in gaming: I’ve been a gamer for my entire life. I was the kid who put computers together and created LAN tournaments, and for me, as my career progressed and I jumped into the corporate lifestyle, I tried to stay as close as I could to technology. Funnily enough, I started to get recruited for TV shows such as ABC’s The Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise and I was able to start producing movies and other projects with people in the space. But I started to wonder why we weren’t seeing more projects about gaming in the mainstream and why we weren’t seeing more high-quality production being created. But when I talked with them, it seemed like people were really scared of this industry, so I put my money where my mouth was and started making some significant investments.
On content: We are developing a network-quality show with a comedic approach that will be a mix of The Today Show with ESPN. We’ve identified a need for comedy in this space, not only to tell the story about esports, but also to bring in the people who don’t get “it,” and why we are so obsessed with this industry. We recognize comedy to bridge that gap, like it has done for pop culture whether it is for politics, race, etc. It is clear that comedy plays a huge role and we see that having the same effect in the gaming space. We’ll be sending crews to cover different events, and we’ve auditioned a couple hundred people for our talent roles before finding six, two hosts and four correspondents.
On the road ahead: We are looking to build up a full esports news organization that’s built around comedy. You will see our company maintaining a presence at every major event and we will continue to support the initiatives around digital content with compelling stories. We are already in talks to provide segments with various platforms such as Snapchat, in addition to our main show. We also see the huge opportunity to support the people who are in that middle ground, who aren’t at the pro level, and we are interested in representing people in that space, giving them support and infrastructure and support to be successful in addition to working with companies like Esports Arena to build some grassroots tournaments.
On favorite games: I’m a big WoW player and play a lot of League of Legends and some Battlerite.

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ON THIS DAY in 1983: Atari launches a joint venture with MCA Video Games to create coin-operated video games, home video games, and computer software based on motion pictures, television, and other MCA properties.
Trivia: What is the name of Reaper’s ultimate in Overwatch? (Email chris-sports@cynopsis.com with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)
Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: This first-person shooter transformed the console wars in 1997, with the title featuring Oddjob, Jaws, and the Golden Gun. What was the name of the game? Answer: Goldeneye. Kudos: Chris Puckett-MLG/NY; Evan Noonan-Optimum Sports/NY; Scott Jenkins-Gracenote/NY; Renaud Sebbane/NY; Ted Dresdner-Nickelodeon/NY; Glen Ross/DC: Christian Perilla-Fusion/Miami; Carly Dasso - Saatchi & Saatchi/ Oakbrook Terrace; Daniel Hanson/Vail; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank

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