09/21/17: Blizzard starts OL countdown at 12; EA athlete Alex Hunter strikes it big; Q&A: Coca-Cola talks game theory

It’s Thursday September 21, 2017 and this is your weekly early morning eSports & Gaming briefing.

Activision Blizzard is locked and loaded for season one of Overwatch League, formally unveiling the final teams for the first go-around of the league. New franchises include Philadelphia (owned by Comcast Spectacor), Dallas (owned by Team Envy) and Houston (OpTic Gaming). With the dozen teams in place, the debut season is now slated to begin on December 6 with preseason play and a regular season kickoff starting Jan. 10. In addition to the three new franchises, cities in the league are set to include: LA (with two teams), San Francisco, Boston, New York, Miami-Orlando, with international representation from Shanghai, Seoul and London. All preseason and regular season games will take place at Blizzard Arena Los Angeles, the new venue in Burbank.
“With the first 12 teams in place, we’re now just a few short months away from the inaugural season of the Overwatch League,” said Mike Morhaime, CEO and co-founder of Blizzard Entertainment. “This is a huge milestone for the league; we can’t wait for the action to get underway and to see some of the top competitive Overwatch players in the world facing off to become the first-ever Overwatch League champions.”
“Comcast Spectacor is thrilled to play a central role in the Overwatch League’s inaugural season and energize the growing esports community in Philadelphia and beyond,” said Dave Scott, President and CEO, Comcast Spectacor. “An esports franchise is a great addition to our portfolio of sports and entertainment assets and we believe that Overwatch League is uniquely positioned to succeed.”
“We are beyond excited to be joining the Overwatch League and helping to build the future of esports in Dallas,” said Mike Rufail, owner and CEO of Team Envy. “Envy already has a significant history in competitive Overwatch, and we are pleased to be able to build upon that legacy in the league later this year.” Hersh Interactive Group, the esports investing entity affiliated with Hersh Family Investments, is a substantial investment partner in Team Envy, which continues to be led by Mike Rufail. The Dallas Overwatch League team is owned by a wholly owned subsidiary of Team Envy.

DreamHack reports that its DreamHack Masters Malmo 2017 programming drew over 92 million started streams online and over 31 million unique views across all platforms to become the most viewed DreamHack tournament to date in the five days of competition. “Last year’s edition of DreamHack Masters Malmö was a breathtaking experience and set a new event standard for us. The anticipation for this year was higher than any other event we’ve pulled off,” commented Michael Van Driel, Chief Product Officer at DreamHack. “Judging from the amazing energy and enthusiasm from the crowd, we hope that we delivered another memorable esport event.”
The Gfinity Elite Series announced that it will return for a second season starting on Oct. 6 and running through Dec. 9 with the series’ second champion crowned at the Gfinity Esports Arena at Fulham Broadway. Play will see Rocket League matchups shift to Saturday mornings, with CS:GO play running in the afternoon and evenings.
ELEAGUE CS:GO Premier 2017 takes on Group C action tomorrow at 10p on TBS as Virtus.pro, Ninjas in Pyjamas,Cloud9 and EnVyUs compete for two of the four remaining playoff spots. Digital coverage kicks in Friday at 6p across Twitch, ELEAGUE.com and YouTube in addition to the Friday night showcase with live match coverage continuing Saturday at 2p across those digital platforms
Blizzard announced that the Hearthstone stage at BlizzCon 2017 will play host to the Hearthstone Inn-vitational, described as a “unique team-based competition between three player groups of your favorite Hearthstone personalities, pros, and prodigies” Over the course of a series of round-robin matches in Standard, Wild, and other formats, teams will accrue relics that will afford them benefits in the final, yet-to-be-revealed portion of the competition.
Allied Esports opened the doors to its second dedicated esports arena in China, the Allied Esports SEG Arena in Shenzhen. The new arena was built in partnership with e-commerce leader Shenzhen SEG and measures at nearly 22,000-square-feet, offering a multi-use production studio, 168 top-tier gaming stations and an interactive VR experience. The venue will serve as a one-stop-shop for large and small-scale productions, including professional and amateur tournaments, as well as casual daily use.
The new head of the Asian Electronic Sports Federation, Kenneth Fok, quickly announced plans to target IOC recognition for esports following his election this week as President. Fok is the son of Timothy Fok, who serves as the President of the Sports Federation & Olympic Committee of Hong Kong. “Our mission is to develop esports in all the countries and regions in Asia-Pacific so that we develop a healthy ecosystem for the development of electronic sports,” he said, according to ATR. “I mentioned esports being an Olympic sport, but of course we have to set some ground rules and we have to start aiming towards this in the right direction.”
Sportradar locked in another esports deal, agreeing to a partnership with Fortuna Esports to serve as the exclusive provider of audio-visual stream and transmission for betting for all the league organizer’s tournaments, including the new Esports Balkan League.

Source: ESPN/ Elias Sports Bureau
Save the Date
Cynopsis Digital’s Model D & “It List” Awards
The  Cynopsis Model D Awards   brings together innovators and creators at the forefront of online video, elevating the industry with their contributions to branded content, technology, ad campaigns and original content. We’ll also be celebrating our honorees who will be named to the  Cynopsis Digital “It List” , recognizing digital media’s movers and shakers.
“It List” Honorees and Model D Finalists will be announced soon – Stay tuned!


YouTube Gaming is adding sponsorships to its offerings for streamers, allowing fans to pay $5 a month to support their favorite channels in return for custom badges, emojis, and potentially special chat rooms just for Sponsors. YouTube notes the CS:Go squad Rocket Beans drew 1,500 sponsors in its first day during tests. Sponsorships will also replace YouTube’s Paid channels.
Jump Gaming launched Jump, a new on-demand video game subscription service that emphasizes indie games. The platform will offer gamers a 14-day free trial of the service at playonjump.com (and $9.99 a month thereafter), which offers a curated launch library of more than 60 games, including The End Is Nigh. Jump is playable first on all Windows and Mac desktop systems via a native app, as well as offering Linux and Chrome OS access via web browser. “As a former indie developer, I learned first-hand what challenges a majority of independent studios were facing regarding distribution and discoverability,” said Anthony Palma, CEO and founder of the company. “When WebGL exports started popping up in game engines in 2015, we saw the potential that web technologies held for the future. It was then that we had a vision of how this new tech could create a platform that could alleviate some of the problems for indie developers and make their games easily discoverable by gamers searching for cutting-edge content. Enter Jump.”


The Madison Square Garden Company named Nick Allen as head of MSG’s growing esports division, effective October 2. He will be responsible for driving the company’s efforts to expand its presence in the esports industry, with a primary focus on operating Counter Logic Gaming, where he will serve as CLG’s chief operating officer, working closely with CLG Founder and President George “HotshotGG” Georgallidis on advancing the company’s initiatives. Allen most recently served as VP of Esports for Twitch.
Team EnVyUs made its new investor official, announcing a partnership with Hersh Interactive Group worth a reported $35 million investment that will see the organization relocate to Dallas from Charlotte. “In order to be the best esports team in the world, you have to be playing the best esports games and have the best partners. We’re doing that while cultivating a growing, engaged and loyal fan base for Team Envy,” EnVyUs CEO Mike Rufail said. “Envy teams have played live in front of tens of thousands of fans at some of the largest arenas in the world. There is nothing like being surrounded by 20,000 passionate fans in a live setting, and with the support of Ken Hersh and Hersh Interactive Group, we will build that type of thrilling fan experience in Dallas.”

The centerpiece of EA Sports FIFA 18, Alex Hunter, has signed a big endorsement deal with Coca-Cola. The collaboration between EA and Coca-Cola features the virtual athlete Alex Hunter landing the big sponsorship as part of “The Journey: Hunter Returns” mode in the upcoming game, where he will serve as the brand’s ambassador to launch the new Coca-Cola Zero Sugar. The partnership will extend beyond the game through specialized packaging and retail partnerships within the US and globally and include an ad spot that echoes the brand’s famed Mean Joe Green commercial that will be shared on social channels. “It’s a long process because story mode has got a long lead time,” said EA Creative Director Matt Prior. “Overall, it took about two years to create and execute the whole idea with the script-writing process starting about 18 months ahead of time. We actually wrote the script before we partnered with Coke, but it was a great opportunity to work with them and identify an area in the story where this would work. We didn’t change the story in any drastic way to accommodate it so it was a win-win.
Speaking of the game, the upcoming edition of FIFA 18 will sport new kinds of team jerseys, with the additions of jerseys from the likes of Fnatic, Vitality and Team Liquid to use in the game and marking the first time players will be able to represent their favorite esports teams on the field in the franchise. The special-edition playable kits will only be accessible in the Ultimate Team mode. Hashtag United, a YouTube-based football club that boasts both esports and traditional sport teams, will also be represented. FIFA 18 is scheduled for release at the end of the month.
Twitch detailed its initial list of exhibitors, sponsors, and showcases at TwitchCon 2017 with this year’s attendees experiencing a larger expo floor and expanded list of activities compared to last year with more than 180 participating game publishers, developers, and vendors. Serving as platinum sponsor this year will be Netmarble Games, which will be showcasing Lineage 2: Revolution at booth #522 and on the TwitchCon Esports Stage. Other sponsors include Cygames, Razer and Wavedash Games. The event will also be taking over the entire harbor and the Queen Mary for a Dark Harbor party on Oct. 21, featuring gaming stations, rides, haunted mazes, concession stands, and more. Meanwhile, the H1Z1 Arena sees the return of The H1Z1 Invitational with $500K in cash prize pools on the line. Other tournaments include: Lineage 2: Revolution 30 vs 30 Fortress Siege Showcase; Power Rangers: Legacy Wars Showdown; OMEN Challenge: PUBG Edition; Shadowverse Showdown; the 1v1 Challenge and Team Dignitas Showdown, presented by Buffalo Wild Wings; and The Hearthstone Oktoberbrawl Final Skirmish.
Ratchet & Clank developer Insomniac Games is giving its logo an overhaul as part of a studio rebranding initiative. On its blog, the company explained that “As we contemplated a re-brand of our visual identity, we challenged ourselves to ‘think beyond the moon.’ That meant eschewing a simple logo refresh. Instead, we wanted a redesign that reflected our evolution as a studio and as people while retaining some familiarity to our past logo treatments.”
English Premier League football club Everton locked in a multi-year deal with Rovio to make Angry Birds the team’s first sleeve sponsor. Alan McTavish, Head of Commercial at Everton, said “Rovio Entertainment recognize the global reach that Everton can deliver through its international fanbase and the global exposure of the Premier League. In return, working with Rovio and the Angry Birds brand gives Everton exposure in key international markets through their breadth of digital channels in gaming and animation, as well as a wide range of co-branded merchandise.

iSpot.tv reports that Nintendo spent an estimated $4.5 million in August for television ads, leading the category for the period. The company’s spend topped PlayStation’s $2.5 million, InnoGames $1.5 million and King and Xbox who each spent an estimated $1.3 million, according to the VentureBeat report. All told, TV ad spending for gaming brands was up to an estimated $17.1m from July’s $12.2 million. Overall, game companies representing 29 brands ran 81 spots nearly 9,000 times and generated over 1.1 billion TV ad impressions.
Betway and NiP are “on” again, announcing that the team has “re-established the partnership with Betway as our participation agreement for the League of Legends Championship Series expires, and we assess the future of League of Legends in Europe. The partnership continuation is for the long term, as we continue to grow our organization and brand around the world.”
What’s hot this week…

Provided by: Esports One & Esportspedia: Revolutionizing Esports Data

The “signing” of Alex Hunter marks the latest innovative activation in the gaming industry for Coca-Cola, and also marks the first non-apparel brand to sponsor a virtual athlete. In addition to the spots and in-game scenes in EA Sports’ FIFA 18, activations from the deal will also include display on marquee out of home sites including the recently installed Coca-Cola Times Square sign as well as specialized packaging and retail partnerships within the US and globally.
Cynopsis Esports spoke with Alban Dechelotte, Senior Entertainment Marketing Manager  at The Coca-Cola Company and Matt Wolf, VP Entertainment, Ventures & Strategic Alliances about the new activation, Coke’s role in the gaming world and the keys to approaching fans.
Dechelotte on the new campaign: We feel like this is a very inventive way to approach content creation. Personally, I’ve done sponsorships in videos and movies and this was the first time I’ve worked with a team that works on creating video games, and this mix that they’ve used to create interactive content is something I’m very excited about. We have been working with EA for decades and now we are evolving that relationship.
On Coca-Cola’s approach to fans: Connecting with the fans is something that we’ve been doing for almost 128 years. That is something this project does on a whole new level. We have collaborations already with some of football’s highest competitions such as the World Cup, as well as the other leagues and national teams, along with clubs, venues and more. We are always talking about approaching our activations in three dimensions: time – such as tournaments; attending – which includes all the presence you see from Coke in the Stadium; and watching – where we active through the broadcast for the people at home.
On gaming: Now we have the fourth dimension as well, which is gaming. For us gaming is really about being a part of the daily lives of the next generation and going where the fans are. Coke has been building a legacy in gaming since the earliest days of gaming, when the people were playing Pong and Space Invaders. Back then, Coke had a collaboration with Atari to create a Coke-version of Space Invaders. That was probably the first-ever activation between a brand and gaming. Later on, as people started to be able to play with their friends or even people remotely, we continued to embrace the community with spots like the “Video Game” Super Bowl ad that represented how we invited gamers to see out role. In the last five years, we have been seeing this growing stage of people watching other people play video games, called esports now, and again Coke was one of the first brands to embrace this by becoming a global partner of the League of Legends series.  
Wolf on Coke’s approach to gaming: Evolution is ever-present in technology and gaming is not immune from that. Gaming is constantly growing and reinventing itself along the way. So with gaming, our goal is to stay as nimble as possible and to move to opportunities where we feel we can bring value to both our consumers as well as the players. As we look through that lens, we look to all different forms of gaming, whether that be esports or console or –in this case- FIFA, because FIFA is so ingrained into the World Cup and the Coca-Cola DNA, it made perfect sense to collaborate with Electronic Arts to do this program. As we look holistically at the landscape, we look at all forms of gaming and – depending on what’s going on internally – we’ll reach out and do partnerships that make sense and where we feel we can be the most authentic.

Telltale Games named Pete Hawley as President and Chief Executive Officer where he will look to drive the next stage of evolution in interactive playable narrative, expand the global footprint, and develop new experiences to maximize the company’s reach. Co-founder and current CEO Dan Connors will step back to an advisory role at the company. Hawley previously served as SVP and GM of Games at Zynga.

The Indiana Pacers and Pacers Sports & Entertainment named Robert “Cody” Parrent as the Director of eSports Operations for the franchise, reporting to Kelly Krauskopf, Pacers Senior Vice President. “Cody brings solid competitive gaming experience in many eSports titles such as Halo, CS:GO, FIFA, and NBA 2K,” said Krauskopf.  “He has built numerous connections in the NBA 2K community through his background in developing the 2K Lab which focuses on analyzing data from the NBA 2K video game franchise in order to give players an edge over the competition. We are fortunate to have him leading our operation.”

Sure, Millennials still matter but…
Gen Z is the largest, most diverse group of media users ever!
That’s why it is time to get familiar with this generation an understand their passion points, adapt your marketing strategy and start “clicking” with Gen Z.
Sign up for Cynopsis Digital’s newest webinar:
How to Connect and Engage with Gen Z (Tuesday, September 26).

ON THIS DAY in 2004: LucasArts releases the Star Wars: Battlefront game for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox in the US.
Trivia: Markus Persson is best known as the creator of what game? (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: How many buttons on an Atari 2600 Joystick?  Answer: Shy Guy. Kudos: Chris Davies-Virgin/London; Brian Traynor-WME/IMG/NY; Danny Araque/NY; Glen Ross/DC; John McHugh/Charleston; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; Greg Dudsic/Venice
Later — Chris
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JOB OPENING: SALES ASSOCIATE PROGRAM/NBCU/NYC: Accelerated development exp for early-career sales professionals. This highly competitive program identifies outstanding aspiring media sales professionals who bring diverse backgrounds to the org. Min 1-5 yrs exp work exp, sales related pref’d. Full info: HERE (9/28)
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Work alongside leading artists and supervisors to create high-level content for console games.
Senior Artist
Chicago IL
Code, debug and manage critical engine systems
Senior Software Engineer
Chicago IL
Lead the design, development, architecture, and implementation of the core game systems
Lead Programmer
Human Head Studios
Madison WI
Provide demonstration and guidance for new tools, work flows and best practices to fellow developers.
Technical Artist
Human Head Studios
Madison WI
Collaborate with Product Management throughout the entire product lifecycle, from ideation, definition, and development, to roll out, growth, and sunset
Marketing Director
Curse Inc.
Huntsville AL
Lead development team to meet key business goals on time with high quality.
Software Development Manager
Curse Inc.
Capable of coordinating a multi-discipline team to ensure the feature meets the needs of the game.
Senior Systems Designer
Trion Worlds
Austin TX
Work closely with artists and engineers to design, research, schedule and implement rendering features
Senior Graphics Programmer
Arkane Studios
Austin TX
Ensure that final assets meet performance requirements and constraints for each target platform
Senior Technical Artist
Arkane Studios
Austin TX
Create high quality, highly realistic, industry leading environment art content that includes modeling, sculpting, texturing, and material development for props, architecture, geology and organic features.
Senior Artist, World
Kirkland WA
Design, author, maintain and document robust and highly optimized systems that meet all design, technical and schedule requirements.
Advanced Software Engineer
Kirkland WA
Collaboratively design, implement and balance top notch gameplay systems.
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Bellevue WA
Collaborate with a small team of peers in completing projects and tasks.
Senior Animator – 1st Person
Bellevue WA
Looking for an engineering leader to own a significant portion of this product portfolio, focused specifically on the developer and team productivity parts of the suite.
Senior Manager AWS Developer Productivity
Cloud 9 Esports
Seattle WA
help coordinate a multi-discipline team of engineers, designers, artists, and QA.
Senior Gameplay Engineer
Trion Worlds
Redwood City CA

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