05/18/17: WWE fuels Rocket League flight path; Dorna Sports rides game track; Hollywood Esports’ home maker

It’s Thursday May 18, 2017 and this is your weekly early morning eSports & Gaming brief.

WWE and Psyonix detailed their partnership plans, with an eye to boost Rocket League’s visibility and consumer engagement across WWE’s global platforms, including television, digital and social media, as well as via WWE Network. The deal included making Rocket League a presenting partner of two WWE PPV events including Sunday’s Backlash, as well as Great Balls of Fire. In addition, Rocket League will serve as a promotional partner of SummerSlam on Aug. 20 and will offer creative that runs across WWE Network, WWE’s digital and social channels, and on WWE’s flagship TV programs Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live on USA Network. Meanwhile, fans at upcoming WWE live events will have the opportunity to experience and play Rocket League at arenas across the country. Additional aspects of the partnership include being featured on WWE’s YouTube gaming channel UpUpDownDown and Rocket League serving as presenting partner of the newly-announced WWE Women’s Tournament.
“The integrated partnership with Psyonix will provide Rocket League with an opportunity to utilize WWE’s global platforms and reach our passionate fan base, many of whom are avid gamers,” said John Brody, WWE Executive Vice President, Global Sales & Partnerships. “We look forward to working with Rocket League as we collectively build customized one-stop shopping programs to reach their consumers.”

International sports management, marketing and media company Dorna Sports announced plans to plant roots in the world of esports, launching the MotoGP eSport Championship this year as part of its racing series, anchored by Milestone’s console title. Gamers will be able to take part in online challenges throughout the 2017 season with the aim of qualifying for the season finale, which will be held in November at the circuit in Valencia with a BMW M240i up for grabs as the top prize. According to the release, this first foray into the esports scene will lay the groundwork for a more extensive calendar for next year’s championships. “Moving into the esports scene is taking MotoGP into a new era,” said Pau Serracanta, Dorna Sports’ Commercial Area Managing Director. “It’s a unique way to engage our established gaming audience and also a clear sign to the wider gaming community that MotoGP is not only one of the top motorsports properties in real life, but also one of the most exciting digital experiences a console game can deliver.”
Super Evil Megacorp revealed competing teams and casters for the Vainglory Unified Spring Championships, running Friday-Sunday at the O2 Arena in London. This will mark the first time that both North American and European teams will compete at the same regional championship with teams confirmed to compete that include Team SoloMid, Cloud9 and Hammers Esports from North America and Team Secret, Fnatic and G2 Esports from the EU. The action will be streamed live on Vainglory’s Twitch.TV, Facebook and YouTube channels. The full lineup of casters includes: Jackson ‘Action Jackson’ Walters, Ceirnan ‘Excoundrel’ Lowe, Jack ‘Jaws’ Wright and Joshua ‘Dowsey’ Dowse, with commentators that include Shaun “FourCourtJester” Delaney, Aaron ‘Humanist’ Allen, Benjamin ‘Foojee’ Watley and former captain of Angry Pandas, UK-based Xinyi ‘Xinyi’ Qiu. Desk analyst duties will be handled by Joseph ‘Munchables’ Fenny, Greg ‘TastyBacon’ Iezzi and Jeffrey ‘SuiJeneris’ Chau.


The League of Legends College Championship hits LA from May 25-28 with eight teams – the largest championship yet – vying for the title. This year’s card features the winners of four regional divisions, three wildcard slots and the Big Ten Network champion, and will include Texas A&M (South), University of Toronto (East), Simon Fraser University (West) and Maryville University (North). The University of Maryland won the Big Ten Network Championship while Carnegie Mellon (East), Robert Morris (North) and University of British Columbia (West) qualified out of the Wildcard tournament. All matches will be broadcast live on http://watch.lolesports.com.

Following reports that a high entry fee was stalling progression for the upcoming Overwatch League, Blizzard Entertainment issued an official statement to the news, telling Yahoo that, “First, we want to be clear that our ultimate goal is to create an exciting Overwatch esports ecosystem, the pinnacle of which will be the Overwatch League, that’s accessible to a wide audience, sustainable, and rewarding for everyone involved,” and adding that “The league is built upon the best elements of endemic esports programs and traditional sports, and we’re in active discussions with many teams and owners from both worlds because it will take a village to stand up a league with such an unprecedented structure.” The company added, “We look forward to officially sharing real details about the league and the ecosystem as a whole as we continue the development process. In the meantime we are staying focused on our goal of creating an awesome Overwatch esports experience for players, partners, and fans, and we want to thank everyone for their continued support.”
WorldGaming and Cineplex announced that registration is now open for the Northern Fights Canadian Championship Series featuring Street Fighter V and Mortal Kombat XL. Gamers will compete for over $65,000 in cash and prizes as well as a trip to EVO in Las Vegas, as well as the Championship Title being awarded at the National Finals in Toronto on June 24.
Multiple reports state that the French government approved legislation to regulate the contracts of esports pros in the country. The law limits player contracts to five years with a one-year minimum, with an exception open for substitutions and suspensions. Meanwhile, players under 12 will be prevented from competing in monetized tournaments.
Nintendo announced that the company will hit E3 this year with not one, but two esports events. Competition will center around two titles: Splatoon 2 and ARMS. The Splatoon 2 tournament – aka the World Inkling Invitational – will see four teams from Europe, USA, Japan and Australia/New Zealand compete on June 13th. ARMS will be hosted on June 14th and feature preinvited players competing.
Newzoo unveiled its newest esports research with the report stating that 191 million consumers will watch esports frequently in 2017 while another 194 million will watch esports “occasionally” across the countries of the US, Canada, Germany, U.K., France, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium, and Sweden. Meanwhile, the study found that 42% of League of Legends, Dota 2, or CS:GO viewers do not play the game and that 70% of fans exclusively watch one of the big three esports titles.

Source: Nielsen

Ubisoft locked in its E3 plans, announcing via Twitter that the publisher will host its show in the Orpheum Theater on June 12, at 1p PT. The company confirmed that Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry 5 and The Crew 2 will all appear as part of the presentation. The showcase will be streamed via Ubisoft’s US YouTube channel.
Gillette added another esports entity to its roster, EDward Gaming – China’s top League of Legends team – as the brand’s first ever global esports team partner. EDG will line up alongside iconic sport franchises FC Barcelona and the New England Patriots to round out Gillette’s portfolio of team partnerships and further highlight its dedication to athletes and teams in their pursuit of precision. “We’ve all read about the incredible growth of gaming, but it wasn’t until we partnered with xPeke and witnessed the thousands of devoted fans who packed the Spodek Arena during the IEM World Championship that we truly understood the incredible passion of the gaming community”
5-hour Energy inked a deal to become a new sponsor for Counter Logic Gaming. “We are ecstatic to help Living Essentials further their efforts in the gaming industry,” said John Spiher, Director of Business Development for CLG. “Teaming up with them gives us incredible opportunities for both our players and fans to fully experience 5-hour Energy. This sponsorship is a major development both for CLG and eSports as a whole.”
Electronic Arts announced that New England Patriots quarterback and five-time Super Bowl Champion Tom Brady will grace the cover of EA SPORTS Madden NFL 18 when it launches worldwide on Aug. 25. This year’s game will be powered by Frostbite, one of the industry’s world-class game engines. “The Madden NFL 18 cover is a great honor for me,” said Brady. “Especially since I have been playing the game since growing up next to EA headquarters in the Bay Area. I’m not one to believe in curses, so I’m ready to take the challenge head on like always! It doesn’t stand a chance!!!”

Gaming headset and audio accessory company Turtle Beach Corporation is diving deep in the Australian market, announcing a deal with pro team SYF Gaming, whose players will don Turtle Beach’s Elite Pro line of gaming audio gear. In addition, the company announced a new Australian distribution partner in Five Star Games.
SK Gaming announced partnership plans with Razer to serve as the exclusive audio partner. The deal will see Razer provide SK Gaming team members with the pro-audio products while players will support Razer during product development and validation processes. “We are truly excited to work with an esports powerhouse like SK Gaming,” says Min-Liang Tan, Razer co-founder and CEO. “We both have a hunger for winning and a deep love for competitive gaming in our DNA, and together we will set new milestones in esports.”
Twitch is making May 26th TwitchUnity Day. The period will be dedicated to encouraging users to streams to the topic of inclusivity via shows, events and broadcasts. Twitch is offering a free graphics package to help tie in their content with other TwitchUnity content as well as a TwitchUnity emote for viewers. In addition, Twitch will be selling a TwitchUnity t-shirt, with all proceeds going to Amnesty International.
Famed former Call of Duty player Matt ‘Nadeshot’ Haag signed with the WME/IMG talent agency as he continues to broaden his career as a YouTube content creator, according to the Hollywood Reporter. He also serves as an eSports commentator and sports sponsorship/partnership deals with brands that include the likes of EA, G-Fuel Energy Drink, Hot Pockets, Samsung, and Slim Jim.

Gaming analytics company Mobalytics is partnering up with Team Liquid in a move “to determine how professional eSports player data can be used more effectively to improve performance in training and on stage.” The deal sees Team Liquid’s coaches, players and analysts work closely with Mobalytics ahead of the start of the League of Legends 2017 NA LCS Summer Split to push the evolution of contextual analytics in eSports. “Video games like League of Legends are incredibly complex, with ever-changing dynamics, game states and win conditions,” said Dr. Amine Issa, co-Founder, Mobalytics. Our vision was to build the best performance analytics platform the gaming world has ever seen and we now are excited to leverage the resources we acquired since winning TechCrunch’s StartUp Battlefield last year to make this vision a visceral reality.”
The TCL Chinese Theatre and Hammers Esports announced the formation of Hollywood Esports, designed to serve as a new local Los Angeles “home town team.” The Hammers compete in Overwatch, Vainglory, and Clash Royale, and will now make the TCL Chinese Theatres their new arena. The Hammers Esports teams will now be known as the “Hollywood Hammers” and will be based out of the TCL Chinese Theatres on Hollywood Boulevard. Check out our interview below for more.
Australian football club the Adelaide Crows become the country’s first major franchise to purchase an esports team, acquiring Legacy eSports. The squad ranks as one of the region’s top League of Legends teams, with Crows Chief Executive Andrew Fagan noting that the club’s involvement in esports would broaden the scope of Adelaide’s fan engagement, brand and commercial platform.

Chinese game behemoth Tencent is building an entire town dedicated to esports. The local government announced that the company signed a deal to build the themed locales, according to Mashable, which will include  an esports theme park and university, a cultural and creative park, an animation industrial park, a Tencent technology entrepreneurship community, and a Tencent cloud data center. Meanwhile, Tencent will also bring events to the town moving forward.
Mobalytics and Red Bull are teaming up in a move to “assess high performance in gamers and really dig into the details of what makes elite professionals rise above other players,” according to the release. The partnership will combine case studies as well as data from a variety of high intensity fields, ranging from eSports, action and traditional sports, and musical performance. Red Bull and Mobalytics noted that they believe that eSports deserves the same amount of attention and that their research will open the door for accelerated discovery.
Gamer chat platform Discord reports that the company has now surpassed the 45 million user threshold, after reaching 11 million last July. Adding more than 1.1 million users per week in that timeframe, the community now exchanges 200 million messages each day.
The cloud is coming to earth, with Barington/Hilco Acquisition Corp. inking a definitive merger agreement with Oomba, Inc. and GameWorks Entertainment. GameWorks now operates nine locations in large metropolitan areas across the United States. The new entity will now be known as Oomba GameWorks, with plans to continue its recent expansion into esports, which began with the addition of esports arenas in the Seattle, Las Vegas, and Denver locations.
NBCUniversal is reportedly looking to dive deeper into the games market, and is forming a new mobile game and virtual reality publishing group that will be led by former Disney mobile games topper Chris Heatherly, according to GamesBeat. The new division would look to leverage brands such as Fast & Furious, Minions, Jurassic World, etc., leveraging properties from DreamWorks Animation, Illumination Entertainment, and Universal Pictures by directly getting involved in the creation, development, marketing and distribution of games as opposed to licensing out brands.
POWER PLAYERS – Hollywood Esports

With an eye to help evolve and grow the esports industry through localization (see above), the TCL Chinese Theatre and Hammers Esports announced the formation of Hollywood Esports, complete with the esports team changing its moniker to Hollywood Hammers, where it will compete in the likes of Overwatch, Vainglory, and Clash Royale, with the TCL Chinese Theatres serving as its new arena. In addition, Hollywood Esports will serve up a new series hosted by Michelle Slayton that will leverage the team and venue for a weekly series.
Cynopsis Esports spoke with Robert K. Laity, CEO of the TCL Chinese Theatre and Hammers Esports Founder and CEO King ‘KIMA’ Perez De Tagle about the new partnership.
Laity on his move into esports: I had never been to an esports tournament until we hosted the Vainglory finals at the TCL Chinese Theater this past December. It was there where I saw this crowd go nuts and the energy and enthusiasm was phenomenal. It was there where I met KIMA, and I basically ended up discussing with him how this was raw entertainment. It was amped up and people were having fun and as I looked at it, I had a vision where I wanted to see us get more involved in this. The Chinese Theater is in the business of entertainment, and as we talked about it, I realized how esports tournaments can sometimes seem like pop-up events. They show up in schools or warehouses and it seemed that there should be a better way of getting people and teams together. In basketball, you have local support. So KIMA and I talked about making the Hammers the local Los Angeles team. In doing that, it makes esports more accessible to fans because there is a place to go, there are scheduled tournaments going on that we are going to promote and develop.
KIMA on its benefits to the team: It made perfect sense for some kind of synergy between us where we are trying to build a hometown team, along with leagues and tournaments to really turn Los Angeles and its fanbase into a hub stemming from one of the most iconic places in the city. I made sense to me to see that a theater was very much interested in taking on a new strategy, especially this theater because of its locale. It is time to localize what esports is. To me, that’s the next big step – localizing esports in Hollywood. It is a market that fascinates the industry because celebrities are the last bastion of esports. How do you hit the mainstream? You get the highest level of artist that you can get behind this idea to push it through the influencers. As a new team, we had the flexibility to settle here and fortunately, we picked a household name because Hollywood Hammers was an easy transition for us.
KIMA on localization: With the old guard – and by old guard I mean teams such as Team Liquid, Fnatic, etc. – these teams are globally recognized as being leaders in the esports world in general, but the moment they decide to lay claim to a region, they will attract more than just their international fanbase. They will gain a loyalty because of the home-team mentality. That said, I also don’t think that old guard teams are in any danger because they aren’t affiliating with a city. We just view it as a way to drive a strong fanbase as well as viewership.
Laity on venues: The other piece of the big trend is moving away from schools, warehouses, etc. into venues that are more professional and polished. There is this tournament going on here in LA that is going to take place in a Catholic girls’ school, which I don’t understand. So seeing teams now affiliating themselves with a stadium helps evolve how the public perceives esports. Through our partnership with MediaMation, we’ve been able to design this state of the art esports theater, also working with game publishers, tournament organizers as well as KIMA and his team. This design, however, is completely geared toward the cinema market, allowing them to build out their own venues for tournaments that involves motion and special effects, making the audience experience that much more energized. This is where local tournaments can be played, but to me, they are also now broadcast booths, and we are now able to have a network of theaters – configured identically – that already has an infrastructure for tournament organizers to go to locations in Boston, Shanghai, etc. that all have identical setups that they can work with. Hollywood Esports will be the booking center for this.

Gfinity announced that it has brought in six senior staff members, naming Bryan Healy as Chief Strategy Officer; Justin Mier as Chief Marketing Officer, Taram “Taz” Rose as Chief Operating Officer, Amanda Lawson as Global Head of Production, Tom Halls as Head of Strategic Development and Jeff “Jazzy” Early as Head of Product Operation.
Halo-maker 343 Industries named Microsoft veteran Chris Lee as its new studio head. Lee served as the executive producer on Halo 5: Guardians, and was also senior lead producer on Halo 4.
Roblox brought in Grace Francisco to serve as Vice President of Developer Relations for the company, overseeing Roblox’s community of 1.7 million developers. Grace will work to lead developer and educational programs, engaging young creators and empowering them across multiple platforms and to help elevate them throughout the various stages of the development process.

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