07/12/18: Overwatch League is heading to ESPN/Disney

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It’s Thursday July 12, 2018 and this is your weekly early morning Esports briefing.


The Mouse is taking the point. Yesterday saw a new deal announced that will see Overwatch League head to the ESPN, Disney and ABC family of networks in a multi-year agreement that kicks in with this season’s Overwatch League playoffs, which began last night. The deal also includes the Season 1 grand finals, the Overwatch World Cup this fall and Overwatch League Season 2 next year with programming set to run on ESPN, ESPN2, Disney XD, ABC and streaming platforms. The agreement does not cancel existing distribution agreements already in place, like Twitch broadcasts.
 
TV coverage will include the July 27 battle at 7p with the first best-of-five match on ESPN, and continues Saturday, July 28 at 4:30p with the second and potential third series on Disney XD with a re-air of day two Grand Finals play available on ESPN2 at 9p. In addition, a recap show of highlights from the Grand Finals will air July 29 at 3p on ABC.
 
“The Overwatch League Grand Finals is by far our most comprehensive television distribution for an esports event over a single weekend: 10 total hours over four networks and three days,” said Justin Connolly, Executive Vice President, Affiliate Sales and Marketing, Disney and ESPN Media Networks. “This overall collaboration with Disney/ABC, ESPN and Blizzard represents our continued commitment to esports, and we look forward to providing marquee Overwatch League coverage across our television platforms for fans.”
 
“We are pleased to partner with Activision Blizzard to bring Overwatch esports to our audience. The Blizzard team has created a genre-leading esport and a premium professional franchise system in the Overwatch League,” said Marc Buhaj, Senior Vice President, Programming and General Manager, Disney XD. “We are kicking off the agreement by showcasing the inaugural season playoffs and Grand Finals live across our linear footprint. Together with our telecast partners at ESPN, we look forward to growing a legion of new Overwatch fans across the next two years.”
 
“We’re excited to be working with ESPN and DisneyXD to bring Overwatch esports to an even wider audience,” said Pete Vlastelica, President and CEO of Activision Blizzard Esports Leagues. “We’ve seen incredible passion and support from fans during the inaugural season of the Overwatch League, and we’re looking forward to capping it off for them with an epic Grand Finals at Barclays Center later this month.”
 
 
COMPETITION and VENUES


Epic Games is dangling $8 million in prizes over the next eight weeks for a new Fortnite competition, the Summer Skirmish series. Each weekend will feature a different competition with the weekend’s battle serving up a $250,000 Duos competition. According to Epic, participants will be made up of “community creators and Fortnite players who have demonstrated their competitive prowess.”
 
ESP Gaming is now dealing up the World Showdown of Esports, a new multi-genre esports tournament series that will showcase fight card-style matches of the best games, players and teams across the globe. In addition, the company announced that veteran esports journalist, former ELEAGUE host and esports analyst Richard Lewis has joined ESP Gaming as the Director of Talent. The first event in the series, WSOE 1, will take place this fall at the PokerGO Studio at ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas where the first ever WSOE Champion will be crowned. To celebrate the announcement, the WSOE in partnership with Auzom will present a special live event, The PUBG Pan-Continental, live on Twitch this weekend with special guests and players from Team Vitality, Team Envy, OpTic Gaming, Tempo Storm and more competing in PUBG.
 
MLB announced that the league will crown its first-ever Home Run Derby Virtual Reality champion during All-Star week. Fans attending the GEICO All-Star FanFest or PLAY BALL Park from July 13-15 will have the opportunity to qualify for the inaugural MLB Home Run Derby VR Championship competition, by playing the Home Run Derby VR video game experience at either venue. A special All-Star version of the VR game featuring Nationals Park will be used for all qualifying and championship competitions in which fans will have 90 seconds to hit as many home runs as possible using a proprietary VR bat controller. The championship tournament will feature the top 32 eligible home run hitters from the previous three days of qualifying play in a bracket-style competition with all three hours streamed live to multiple platforms, including Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, YouTube and Mixer, and will feature commentary from MLB Network’s Alexa Datt, gamers RealShelfy and Fuzzy and nine-time MLB All-Star Fred Lynn.
 
The NBA 2K League announced the game schedule for its third and final tournament of the season, “THE TICKET”, running today through Saturday. The event will stream live  on Twitch, with, as usual, all games taking place from the NBA 2K League Studio Powered by Intel in New York City. Play begins at 6p with the play-in game between seed 16 & 17, with five games on Thursday, four games on Friday and seven games on Saturday, culminating in the championship game at 7p. The winner of “THE TICKET” will be guaranteed a playoff spot in addition to receiving half of the $150,000 prize pool.
 
Following the success of Fortnite Friday, tournament organizer Daniel ‘KEEMSTAR’ Keem is now opening the doors to a $100k Saturday Realm Royale weekly tournament. Play will begin on July 21, with the format mandating teams of two and 10 rounds of play; the lowest score after ten rounds is declared the winner.
 
WorldGaming Network was named the Official Tournament Operator for the United States and Canada (two separate qualifying events) qualifiers for the 2018-2019 World Electronic Sports Games in partnership with Alisports. Overall, the Olympic-style games span over seven months and involve more than 65,000 players from over 190 countries, competing for a $5.5 million pool. Competition will span across six games: DOTA2, Starcraft II, CounterStrike: Global Offensive, Hearthstone, VainGlory and Pro Evolution Soccer. As operator, WorldGaming Network will host the national WESG events via online qualifiers and live finals for both the United States and Canada. In mid-November, WorldGaming Network and The Stronach Group will host the USA WESG Qualifying Finals ‘at Santa Anita Park racetrack in LA. The Canadian WESG Qualifying Finals will run Oct. 26-28 at Enthusiast Gaming Live Expo at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
 
Foundry IV and MGM Resorts International are deepening ties, inking a partnership that will now include a slate of “Suite Series” esports events, the development of a battle royale genre game, as well as the addition of a “competitive gaming system” created specifically for casino play. In addition, Foundry IV is also expanding the role of its ownership group from simple franchise model to a cohesive federation entitled the “New Sports Federation” in order to “inspire growth in digital competitive entertainment and create products that increase its value with gamers, brands, and media.” The new “Suite Series” will pit athletes, celebrities, and influencers against each other as they represent a variety of MGM Resorts owned properties with participants that include traditional sports athletes, DJs, celebrity chefs, and more.
 
Nearly 100 top Counter-Strike: Global Offensive players are uniting to form the Counter-Strike Professional Players Association (CSPPA), electing seven players to serve on its board, including Astralis’ Andreas “Xyp9x” Hojsleth, Team Liquid’s Epitácio “TACO” de Melo and Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski, Cloud9’s Tarik “tarik” Celik, mousesports’ Chris “chrisJ” de Jong, and Jordan “n0thing” Gilbert and Nathan “NBK” Schmitt. Operations will be handled by legal advisor Michael Doi and CEO Mads Oland, according to the announcement. In an interview with HLTV, Doi noted that the org would be looking to offer players legal advice and in negotiating and signing contracts with teams and organizations with an eye toward eventually becoming a collective bargaining arm for the players.
 
In an interview with ESPN, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman detailed his plans for esports, noting that he wants to leverage esports in order to beef up interest in hockey. Meanwhile, the article noted that the league was looking to expand its esports program next year to include all 31 teams and that next year, the league would stage a one-on-one tournament series to test the potential of hockey esports.
 
OpTic Gaming team captain Peter “ppd” Dager is spearheading the launch of the North American Dota Challengers League in a move to create a semi-professional league within North America. The NADCL is an in-house league designed to showcase upcoming players and semi-pro teams and give them a chance to stand in the spotlight in a competitive league. Season one will launch in Oct., following the first Valve minor qualifier and will continue throughout the year while avoiding any conflicting dates with the DPC qualifiers. The league will be restricted to unsponsored teams for aspiring professional players.
 
Meanwhile, OpTic Gaming entered the Latin American esports market with the acquisition of the Ronin Esports roster, giving the org a second Gears of War team, which will be known as OpTic Mexico.  In addition, the org is launching a dedicated, all-Spanish social media presence to interact and engage with the Mexican and Latin American esports community.
 
EVO is returning to Japan for its second event in the country, lining up the next event in Fukuoka from Feb. 15-17. The first event took place in January in Tokyo and featured the likes of ARMS, King of Fighters XIV, and BlazBlue: Central Fiction.
 
Speaking of Japan, now that that country has launched the Japan Esports Union pro player license, Capcom announced that the Street Fighter V tournament held at this year’s Tokyo Game Show will be a Pro Tour premier event. The tournament will offer Japanese players who place in the Top 8  the opportunity to receive a Japan eSports Union pro player license.
 
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Millennial and Gen Z men are an elusive group for networks and marketers, but a valuable one. A report from Engagement Labs, “The Remarkable Influence of Millennial Men,” shows they’re 50% more likely than millennial women to be word-of-mouth influencers. During today’s webinar, “Connecting with the New Young Male Demo,” our experts will share how to align your marketing efforts with millennial male interests.
 
 

INSIGHTS

Twitch Bits are purchasable emotes sent as cheers for streamers or broadcasters. Viewers utilize Bits during peak moments in esports and gaming, indicating an engaged audience. In this week’s post, Stream Hatchet takes a look at the top ten games based on Bit Donations.
  • Although Hours Watched was significantly higher for League of Legends, titles with less overall viewership generated more Bit donations than the MOBA.
  • Shooter titles attract more Bit donations than other game types (MOBA, MMO).Fortnite, PUBG, and Overwatch generated more Bits than Dead by Daylight,League of Legends and World of Warcraft.
  • Both IRL and Creative, two non-gaming Twitch genres, appeared in our top ten, suggesting the versatility of the live streaming platform.
 For further insights visit our blog.
 
 
ACTIVATION


Blizzard announced that its Overwatch campaign for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation generated $12.7 million for the organization. The promotion included a $15 pink costume for healer Mercy, charity streams from notable influencers and sales of a limited edition Mercy t-shirt, with Blizzard pledging to donate 100% of the proceeds to the foundation.
 
Thunder Gaming announced a partnership with gaming hardware maker TechniSport. The deal will see TechniSport offer high-performance gaming chairs exclusively designed for Thunder Gaming Esports Center in Long Beach. “We are pleased to partner with TechniSport since they share our passion for delivering comfort and performance to amateur and pro players alike,​” says Christian Bishop, CEO of Thunder Gaming. “Moreover, the chair is a high quality product that’s specially tailored to fit gamers’ specific needs — much like our Thunder Gaming Esports Center.”
 
EVO, set to take place in Las Vegas from Aug. 3-5, locked in a sponsorship deal with Nissin Cup Noodles that will see the brand offer a contest for an EVO Event Pass and BYOC Tournament Access Giveaway. The giveaway e July 16 at 11:59p.
 
 
CONSUMER SNAPSHOT

This week FanAI analyzed the shared followings of HyperX and the teams of the NBA 2K League. HyperX is a sponsor of the NBA 2K League and also has individual sponsorship agreements with seven of the league’s teams.  FanAI found that teams with an individual HyperX sponsorship have on average more than double the followers in common with the brand when compared to the average of the teams without a similar deal. This shows there is a quantifiable ROI for HyperX to sign these deals with individual teams in addition to holding an overall sponsorship of the league.

There are other cases where brands sponsor both leagues as well as individual teams in that league, e.g. T-Mobile sponsors both OWL and the Houston Outlaws. Given the ROI, this might be a trend worth exploring further for brands.
 
 
PLATFORMS

Chinese games heavyweight Tencent is preparing to take on Steam, with reports that the company will bring its PC games marketplace WeGame to a global audience. The South China Morning Post writes that a Hong Kong edition of the platform is now in development, and will be used to recruit players outside of the country and to boost sales of locally-developed games in international waters. “The Hong Kong version of WeGame is now under development,” a spokesperson stated. “This version will be available for overseas users, and we will use this platform to bring more Chinese games to the global market.”
 

INDUSTRY

Supercell made history as the first mobile publisher to have two multi-billion-dollar games on the App Store and Google Play. In a report from market intelligence agency Sensor Tower, mobile battle arena Clash Royale has now topped $2 billion since launching in March 2016, joining Clash of Clans under its umbrella, which itself has now generated over $6 billion. Players from the US account for the biggest piece of revenue at around 30%.
 
The International Olympic Committee announced that Rick Fox, former NBA champion and Echo Fox co-founder, will moderate its upcoming Esports Forum on July 21 out of Lausanne, Switzerland, which will help determine the potential inclusion of esports in the Olympics. In the 1964 Olympics, Fox’s mother Dianne Gerace competed in both the high jump and pentathlon. “He really has a bridge with that Olympic world, and now heavily in esports,” said IOC sports director Kit McConnell.
 
The opening of Super Nintendo World, an immersive theme park under construction at Universal Studios Japan with plans to come to the US, will “synergize” with the Nintendo IPs. The Nintendo-themed attraction is expected to open ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, at Universal Studios Japan. “A lot of people who are mothers and fathers today are from a generation that grew up playing Super Mario, and they are now playing products like ‘Nintendo Labo’ together with their own children,” said Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo Representative Director, Fellow. “There are a lot of families like this not just in Japan, but also around the world. When such families visit these theme parks to experience Nintendo’s worlds that have been carefully crafted and to interact with our characters, I think we can expect to see synergy with our dedicated video game platform business.”
 
Electronic Arts is adding Industrial Toys to its toybox. The14-person team of game makers are now joining the company, led by Alex Seropian, founder and former CEO of Bungie Studios and former executive at Disney Interactive. “Creating breakthrough games takes passionate developers and incredible creativity, and each time we’ve worked with the Industrial Toys team, we’ve been inspired by their unique approach,” said Samantha Ryan, SVP and Group GM in EA’s Worldwide Studios group. “We’re thrilled to have them join our studio organization, pursue new ideas together and bring amazing new games to our players.”
 
Capcom and Pure Imagination Studios announced plans for an animated special that will expand upon the universe of Capcom game Monster Hunter. The two companies will produce and co-finance the special with Pure Imagination overseeing domestic and international sales. Production will be completed this Winter and the special is expected to premiere globally in 2019 with the 3D animated special, dubbed “Monster Hunter™: Legends of the Guild,” telling the story of a “brave young man determined to prove himself as a monster hunter worthy of recognition. His chance will come all too soon when he discovers that his remote village lies in the path of an Elder Dragon—a veritable force of nature made flesh.”
 
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The Esports Tempest Awards
Presented by Cynopsis, Chief Marketer and Event Marketer
The Tempest Awards celebrate the brands, teams, leagues, players and business leaders driving the competitive gaming industry, with categories that span production, marketing, talent & technology. Winners will be announced live on stage during the Esports Business Summit at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas Tuesday, October 2.
 
 

ON THIS DAY in 1987: Konami releases Metal Gear for the MSX2 system in Japan.
 

Trivia: In honor of Donkey Kong’s 37th anniversary (July 9, 1981), what is the name of the girl that Mario (aka Jumpman) needs to rescue from the famed gorilla? (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: In 1979, four Atari developers left the company to form what current gaming powerhouse? Answer: Activision. Kudos: Julie Reuter/Sydney; Chris Davies-Virgin/London; Bart Vickers-VML/Kansas City; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA
 
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