09/07/17: Hi-Rez’ new Paladins League books exclusive distributor; Riot plays up double draw; Ubisoft’s Monster Creed

It’s Thursday September 7, 2017 and this is your weekly early morning eSports & Gaming briefing.

Hi-Rez Studios continues to forge partnerships designed to propel Paladins as an esports knight. Last week saw the publisher announce an alliance with WESA to launch the a new Paladins Premier League; now the publisher is taking the league to Facebook Live, which will carry content exclusively on the platform. The Paladins Premier League will see 10 member organizations from WESA take part, including EnVyUS, Fnatic, G2 Esports, mouseports, Natus Vincere, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Renegades, SK Gaming, Splyce and Virtus.Pro, with players in the league earning a minimum salary and teams participating in revenue sharing of league profits. Content on Facebook Live will include gameplay, live coverage and community-based features that “encourage interaction and bring players closer together” in addition to a weekly Paladins Esports Show on Watch, Facebook’s new platform. The league’s livestreams will launch this fall.
 “Every day, through Paladins Global Series, fans around the world are connecting in meaningful ways through Facebook Groups,” said Leo Olebe, director of global games partnerships at Facebook. “The PGS is a great foundation for building the broader Paladins community, and we are excited to bring things full circle by making Facebook the home for professional Paladins Premier League esports content too. The passion and popularity surrounding Paladins is fueled from the ground up by its community of fans. Hi-Rez’s use of Facebook to discover new player talent and elevate players to a professional stage is a great fit for the community-driven platform we’re building for the gaming video ecosystem.”
Catch our exclusive interview with Todd Harris, COO and Co-Founder of Hi-Rez Studios, below as he breaks down the company’s approach to esports and what we can expect from the new partnerships.

Riot Games is rebooting the format for the group draw for the League of Legends World Championship. This year two draws will be conducted with a livestreamed show set to carry the selections on Tuesday at 8a. The Worlds Draw Show is the process by which teams are placed into groups for the Play-In Stage and the Group Stage of the 2017 World Championship with the two draws running back-to-back. The first will be the Play-In Draw, where the Play-In teams will be sorted into groups, with the second serving as the Group Draw.
Speaking of Riot, the League of Legends developer is reportedly set to reformat the European League Championship Series 2018 summer season with the launch of four regions in a Champions League-inspired configuration, according to ESPN. The league, which currently has 10 teams, will split into four separate regions — London, Paris, Berlin and Barcelona with each hosting six teams. Participating teams will be granted a multi-year license from Riot Games to compete in the league. Meanwhile, Misfits owner Ben Spoont offered more insight into the move, posting on Reddit that “While I can obviously not get into specifics of which are included in Jacobs article (some right, some wrong, lots of critical pieces not discussed), I can emphatically say that the proposed competitive system from the Riot EU side is a game-changer and shakeup necessary to revitalize a diverse and strong region, a region in which by player size is MUCH bigger than NA.” He added that “The new competitive format they’ve created will make every match significantly more meaningful than as currently stands.”
Meanwhile, as ESL One New York inches closer with the event launching next week, ESL revealed the format and groups for the CS:GO tournament, with eight teams competing at Barclays Center with $250,000 at stake. The teams attending the event are Astralis, Cloud9, Virtus.pro, Natus Vincere, SK Gaming, FaZe Clan, and the two winners of the open qualifiers, Team Liquid and Team EnVyUs, who all voted on the tournament format with a double elimination group stage selected. There will be two groups of four teams and the opening and winners’ matches will be decided in a best of one. After these matches have been played, the elimination and decider matches will be best of three. The top two teams from each group will advance to the playoffs, which will be single elimination with best of three games. The grand final will be a best of five.


With the first season under wraps, NBC Sports Group and FACEIT’s Universal Open Rocket League esports tournament saw the Grand Finals (running Aug. 26-27 from Esports Arena in Santa Ana) drum up a total audience of 355,000 viewers across the two telecasts on NBCSN. Meanwhile, that Sunday stream on Twitch averaged more than 50,000 viewers and peaked with over 66,000 viewers. Overall viewership numbers are still being tallied including early round action that ran on its RSNs as well as on over 25 countries on Syfy. 

Six classes. One unique experience. Countless business opportunities. Only a few tickets left! Join us on Sept. 15 for the Cynopsis Esports Master Class taking place behind the scenes of ESL One New York. Space is extremely limited so register now!
DreamHack locked in its talent lineup for the DreamHack Hearthstone Grand Prix, which starts on Friday in Montreal. Broadcasting this year’s event will be Cora “Songbird” Georgiou, Kacem “Noxious” Khilaji, Neil “L0rinda” Bond and Dan “Falconepunch” Falcone. The event will be carried on DreamHack.TV, along with Twitch, Facebook and Twitter.
DreamHack announced plans to align to ESIC recommendations on sanctions for cheating in esports. Effective immediately, DreamHack will implement org sanctions for cheating, match-fixing/betting-fraud, doping and Competition manipulation and bribery. “We are proud to be members of ESIC,” said Michael Van Driel, Chief Product Officer at DreamHack, “As all aspects of our esport competitions continue to grow, the need for an assisting regulatory body has become more and more apparent, while it took us some time to internally review and ratify the ESIC recommendations which came out a couple of months ago, we are happy to be able to rely on ESIC’s consultation and expertise on these matters.”
Racing developer SimBin is launching Women and Wheels, described as a woman-only esports racing competition slated to take place at the European Women in Games Conference in London. “Around seven per cent of our race competitors are female,” said SimBin studio head Allan Speed, per PC Insider. “Unbelievably, that’s probably over average. We want to see more women enjoying the thrills and spills of the virtual track, and eSports in general. At SimBin we’ve achieved 50/50 gender balance in our studio workforce, so we thought we’d try to encourage more women to compete in our competitions too.”
The AVGL announced that the Collegiate League of Legends Championship is partnering with DreamHack with all collegiate teams and skill levels able to participate with the Grand Final set to be played on the DreamHack Denver Main Stage. Registration ends on Sept. 10 with the first matches running Sept. 14.
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FlyQuest Sports is boosting its reach into the Rocket League scene, picking up the roster of eQuinox gaming – Gabriel “CorruptedG” Vallozzi, Robert “Chrome” Gomez, and Kais “Sadjunior” Zehri. The move comes just ahead of the beginning of Season 4 of the Rocket League Championship Series. “We are extremely excited to announce our involvement in the Rocket League community and the expansion of our brand into other titles,” said FlyQuest General Manager Ryan Edens. “We have been following the scene for some time now and are really impressed with Twitch, Psyonix, and especially, the boys of eQuinox. We look forward to supporting the entire Rocket League community and making a run for the title in Season 4 of the RLCS.”
NRG Esports grabbed headlines around the world with the signing of 17 year-old North American Overwatch pro Jay “sinatraa” Won to a deal worth $150,000 per year, per ESPN.
With Splyce set to take part in the new Paladins Premier League, the roster added a quintet of players to take part, including: Kevin “Rovaniik” Segura; Javier “El Zulu” Figueroa; Dallas “Envy” Smith; Tomas “killerumbrella” Verdugo; and Adam “amosts” Wong. The team’s first appearance will be in week 2 of the Paladins Global Series.

Eilers & Krejcik

Blizzard and Twitch are unpacking the Twitch Prime Loot for Hearthstone as part of Oktoberbrawl, a special event pitting two teams of Hearthstone luminaries from Twitch facing off in weekly grudge matches. From Sept. 11 to Oct. 10, Twitch Prime members can redeem two new Hearthstone card backs from Prime Loot: Call of the Void and Call of the Light. Competing this year will be Kripparrian, Reynad and Alliestrasza for Team Light, while Team Void consists of Dog, Thijs and J4CKIECHAN.
YouTube is beefing up its livestreaming features for gamers, announcing in a blog post that new perks will include ultra-low latency, allowing streamers to correspond with their audience with minimal delay as well as new moderation tools for the live chat section. Streamers on the platform will now be able to moderate inline as well as hide abusive or inappropriate messages and share hidden user lists.
Online tournament platform Oomba announced that it was buying the chain of GameWorks arcade/restaurants where the company will look to evolve existing GameWorks locations into local esports venues. There are currently seven GameWorks locations still in operation. Oomba CEO Michael Williams told VentureBeat that the large arcade venues are ideal for not just esports but VR experiences and “game nights” as well. “We plan to transform GameWorks into the experiential anchor for triple-A locations all across America and beyond,” said Williams.
Dot Esports reports that ESL’s parent company Turtle Entertainment is suing Azubu, alleging a fraudulent breach of contract with potential penalties topping $1.5 million due to – according to the complaint – Azubu never paying for ther rights to stream ESL content.
Esports platform PvPRO inked a deal with Sportradar to distribute audiovisual streams and data from all its upcoming competitions on an exclusive, worldwide basis. In addition, Sportradar will utilize its Fraud Detection System across PvPRO competitions.
Inverse announced a new esports series for the Facebook Watch platform, titled Button Mashers. The program will look to profile esports gamers around the world with host Zach Cherry visiting the home of a different elite gamer as we learn about their daily lives, training rituals, and gaming strategies. Gaming stars profiled include: Benita “bENITA” Novshadian, Visal “El TOWN” Mohanan, Alex “Khaos” Greenstein, Osama “Zag” Alkhalaileh, and Kayla “Faye” Murray. The series premieres on Monday with new episodes weekly.

Ubisoft unlocked a new partnership with Monster Energy for the publisher’s upcoming Assassin’s Creed Origins. The deal will see fans gain access to special in-game items and prizes in addition to drink cans sporting character designs from the game. The promotion begins Oct. 1 with cans offering a redeemable code for in-game resources that include iron, wood, animal skins or currency packs in addition to unique weapons.
Gillette continues to grow its esports investment, announcing plans to partner with TSM. The deal marks the brand’s second team sponsorship in recent months.
Team Kaliber inked a sponsorship with PvP Live, announcing the alliance in a YouTube video with the partnership seeing members of the team receiving promotion codes for fans to use with signing up for PVP’s new gaming platform.

What’s hot this week…

This week is dominated by two epic CS:GO competitions, the biggest being the ELEAGUE CS:GO Premier with a prize pool of $1,000,000! 16 teams will battle through both group stages and playoffs to become the Champions. The ESG Tour features $240,000 in prizes and will see all players not only compete under the same roof, but sleep there as well.
Provided by: Esports One & Esportspedia: Revolutionizing Esports Data

PlayerUnknown’s BattleGrounds hit yet another milestone, with Bluehole revealing that the Battle Royale video game has now sold over 10 million units since its Steam Early Access launch on March 23 this year. PUBG also set a new mark for peak concurrent users with over 970,000, highlighted by the strong reception at the PUBG Invitational at gamescom 2017. During the four day PUBG Invitational tournament event. “It is amazing and gratifying to see the love and support the passionate fans have shown to PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS,” stated Chang Han Kim, Vice President and Executive Producer for Bluehole. “Watching the thrilling moments during the PUBG Invitational with the great feedback from viewers is a realization of the continuing popularity of PUBG and our team is working diligently to bring a solid gameplay experience for full launch on the PC and Xbox One Game Preview versions later this year.”

Microsoft saw the recently-formed Minecraft Marketplace earn more than $1 million through content, anchored by Minecraft Coins, which are used to buy in-app content. “Minecraft has some ~amazing~ Marketplace partners, and we’re continually bringing new folks onboard,” Microsoft said in a statement. “We started the program with nine folks back in June, and since then have expanded our partner roster to 12, with plans to keep adding more partners. The program offers our players a wide variety of community-created content that they can safely and easily access, while also allowing the community to support one another’s work and allow creators the chance to turn their creativity into a way to make a living!”
The Korea Esports Association is picking up the services of American law firm Legacy Pro Law through a memorandum of understanding designed to offer legal counsel to players on KeSPA teams. Services would include advice on visas, taxes, contracts, etc. among the players of KeSPA’s official e-Sports titles. Furthermore, pro players in the international scene in addition to the amateur players will be also able to receive the legal services.
Finnish mobile games heavyweight Rovio confirmed that it was looking to offer its shares through the Helsinki arm of NASDAQ, with a share issue of around $36 million. “Our results for the second quarter of 2017 show that Rovio continues its strong, profitable growth,” said Kati Levoranta, CEO of Rovio. “Through our games-first strategy, we have strengthened our games portfolio and improved the key performance indicators. All of our recent launches – Angry Birds Evolution, Battle Bay and Angry Birds Match – have shown better performance in key performance indicators than any previously launched Rovio game, thus suggesting additional growth potential ahead.”
Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot announced the launch of a new studio in Saguenay in Canada, along with a big investment plan for the region. Ubisoft Saguenay will open as soon as January 2018, with former director for Ubisoft’s online technology group Jimmy Boulianne serving as the studio’s managing director. The new office will focus on online services and technologies and will hire 125 employees within five years. Guillemot also announced the creation of another studio in Quebec within the next ten years. “At the end of this new growth phase, the company will employ 4,600 people and will have made direct investments in Quebec totalling $9 billion since 1997,” the company stated.
POWER PLAYERS – Todd Harris, Hi-Rez Studios

With SMITE and Paladins continuing to embrace the esports community, Cynopsis Esports spoke with Todd Harris, COO and Co-Founder of Hi-Rez Studios, about the company’s new partnerships with WESA and Facebook Live, the importance of paying players and the company’s growth.
Harris on 2017: This continues to be a big year for us in esports. Hi-Rez Studios is now over 400 employees and a lot of that growth has been due to the continued success of our games and new growth with Paladins. Most of us are in Atlanta, but we have also opened an office in the UK and in China, which is an important developing market.
On the company’s approach to esports: Our principals are two. One is that everything we do is very community driven and number two is that we want the ecosystem to be sustainable. Historically, with Smite specifically, we have taken a very hands on approach with esports because we want to make sure the competitors are treated well and there’s a history of professionalism with the organizations involved. So we want to make sure they are treated well, are paid, and that they have a good, sustainable lifestyle. The landscape is starting to change, however, and organizations like WESA are trying to professionalize the industry and also trying to do that less specific to a single game. So that is really what drove the partnership for Paladins.
On working with WESA: This was a chance to partner with WESA, which has a history with one of the most popular esports titles around in Counter-Strike, and also a chance to work with these endemic brands, many of which have been in esports for five or even ten years. That’s what drove us to take this partner approach, although certainly for the Paladins League, we are going to continue to be hands on enough to make sure it is run well. We received great confirmation from the teams that there is an appetite to play this game competitively.
On paying players: We have history with huge prize pools. The first season of SMITE, we did crowd-sourcing and had a first world championship of $2.6 million, which was great for PR headlines. But it is hard to tell players that they should work all year for just a chance to claim a giant prize pool. So we have generally moved our esports ecosystem to more frequent payouts throughout the year. That is what we are now doing with Paladins with guaranteed salaries. It is also what we are going to be doing with SMITE going into season five by introducing a similar concept.
On Facebook LIVE: This is actually more than a media deal because it supports this whole infrastructure of two people being able to share a passion on a social network, which is Facebook, and then interact with each other through a group. We have a group for the Paladins Global Series which in a month has grown from zero to 30,000 people interested in competitive play and then they can form a team, compete in the PGS or maybe get picked up by an organization themselves. So it was important to partner with a network that has both a huge reach and is interested in serving a gaming audience more and more now.

Friday, September 15 | Barclays Center | BKLYN
Nielsen  is launching a new unit focused on esports, offering global research and consulting services for the exploding industry – in 2017, revenue is projected to increase 41% to $696 million, with a 50% growth in global audience, to 191 million. To learn more about how to get in the game, register for the information-packed event with experts in the esports space AND a VIP/behind-the-scenes tour of ESL One.

ON THIS DAY in 2000: Sega launches the SegaNet online gaming network.
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