10/19/17: Echo Fox lands League slot; CW wanted by Bureau; Amazon’s Mobile infantry

CynopsiseSPORTS & GAMING
It’s Thursday October 19, 2017 and this is your weekly early morning eSports & Gaming briefing.
 
The franchise base for the North American League of Legends Championship Series continues to grow. After an ESPN report that the franchise applications of Team SoloMid, Counter Logic Gaming, Team Liquid and Cloud9 had been accepted by publisher Riot earlier this week, multiple reports surfaced that Echo Fox was also granted a franchise. They would join the previously reported groups from both OpTic Gaming and Golden State Warriors majority owner Joe Lacob to represent seven teams in the league. The teams will have to pay the league $5 million up front, with an additional $5 million over a period of time, which is $3 million less than non-endemic applicants. With ten teams expected to be selected, three more franchises would still need to be awarded.
 
 
COMPETITION

ELEAGUE
, in partnership with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, launches the first-ever ELEAGUE Injustice 2 World Championship presented by PS4 starting Oct. 27 with live Group A coverage at 10 p.m. ET on TBS and 16 players in contention. A rotation of fighting game experts and former pro players will cast each match from ELEAGUE Arena with Richard Lewis tapped to return as studio host, where he will be joined by Joshua Gray (reporter), Bryant “Kitana Prime” Benzing (commentator) and David “Ultra David” Graham (commentator). ELEAGUE will also bring back casters Stephen “Sajam” Lyon, Steve “Tasty Steve” Scott, Reepal “Rip” Parbhoo and Zhi “Zhieeep” Liang Chew from the ELEAGUE Street Fighter V Invitational.
 
DreamHack Denver kicks off tomorrow, with the company announcing the tour’s first-ever Drone Racing and Drone Combat competition courtesy of Aerial Sports League for the 3-day festival. Meanwhile, the event locked in pairings for the Overwatch Grudge Match, the first LAN event involving multiple varsity esports programs from FBS schools, with Friday opening with University of Denver/University of Northern Colorado at noon, followed by University of Colorado at Colorado Springs/Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State/Boise State; Utah/Arizona State and Arizona/University of Colorado at Boulder.
 
Supercell revealed that Clash Royale’s first-ever official global esports competition, The Crown Championship, will culminate on Dec. 3 at London’s Copper Box Arena to determine the best play in the world. The competition began in August with more than 27 million players, and will see the full-day Crown Championship event broadcast live on YouTube and Twitch as competitors fight for their share of this year’s $1 million prize pool.
 
Meanwhile, Halo updated its esports plans, announcing that the game will be receiving a Local Server to allow anyone hosting tournaments as well as new in-game team skins featuring the likes of Luminosity, Splyce, and Str8 Rippin. And the road to the 2018 World Championship will begin in North America with an Open LAN event, along with Open Regional Finals in the United Kingdom, Latin America, Europe-Middle East, and Australia/New Zealand with finals taking place in the US for a prize pool of $1,000,000.
 
Ryan Howard’s venture capital firm, SeventySix Capital, is investing in esports event producers N3rd Street Gamers. The deal will help the company orchestrate a nationwide expansion, courtesy of the venture capital firm, managed by Wayne Kimmel, Jon Powell and Howard. NSG empowers esports communities with arena facilities, production studios, gaming equipment, administration and broadcast services. “There’s no denying that esports are rapidly growing in popularity,” said Howard. “Events and leagues are now broadcast to tens of millions of viewers online and on traditional television.”
 
League of Legends’ 2017 World Championship locked in teams for the Knockout Stage with play starting tomorrow with Longzhu Gaming/Samsung Galaxy at 4a. Meanwhile, SK Telecom T1/Misfits square off on Oct. 20, Royal Never Give Up/Fnatic on Oct. 21; and Team WE/Cloud9 on Oct. 22. So far, the prize pool has topped the $4 million mark.
 
Hi-Rez announced plans for a Paladins Console Series that will offer $250,000 in prizes. The Paladins Console Series will be entirely streamed on the Paladins Mixer channel every weekend, with 12 monthly tournaments taking place on both Xbox One and PS4 from through Oct. 2018. Each monthly tournament will feature three weeks of open bracket play, rewarding teams with “Crystals” before the top eight teams in each region qualify.
 
Speaking of which, the EACL announced that the amateur esports league will launch its 1v1 Duel gaming roster with Paladins. Tournaments roll out this fall stating Nov. 1.
 
ESL will kick off the New Year with an event from ESL One powered by Intel which will take place at the Arena of Stars at Resorts World Genting, Malaysia. ESL One Genting 2018 runs Jan. 23-28, and marks the third official Minor tournament of the year, as the top 16 Dota 2 teams will battle over a prize pool of $400,000 and for 400 Qualifying Points that are collected to determine the eight direct invites to The International 2018.
 
INSIGHTS
English language dominates on Twitch, but Russian is #2 in September
It’s not surprising that the English language dominates on Twitch, but in September the combination of a pair of Dota2 events and strong streaming results from streamers SilverName and DreadzTV, along with channels Dota2RuHub, and Starladder1 pushed Russian-language streams to the number two position in the most hours watched on Twitch by language in September 2017.   

 

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PLATFORMS

Valve is opening the doors for community broadcasting of Dota 2, posting that they believe that “anyone should be able to broadcast a match from DotaTV for their audience,” and allowing streamers to feature competitive event on their channels, provided that amateur streams don’t broadcast “in a commercial manner or in a way that directly competes with the tournament organizer’s stream” or that the reuse official broadcast assets such as camerawork and the events’ official casting. 

Gamingzone Entertainment entered into a distribution partnership with Bomanbridge Media and Passion Distribution, to represent the live esports reality format, GAMERZ.’ Bomanbridge Media will be distributing the format in Asia Pacific, while Passion Distribution will be distributing across the rest of the world including Australia and New Zealand. The series will see a dozen amateur talents live together in the GAMERZ House where they will be pushed “to their mental, physical, and gaming limits.”
 
 

TEAMS

 

Another team brand has been launched for Overwatch League. NRG Esports, which was awarded the San Francisco franchise, announced that the team would be known as the San Francisco Shock, with its name and logo representing the “seismic energy and activity of the region.” The seismograph logo is presented in gold, honoring San Francisco’s historic gold rush heritage. The seismograph waveform presents itself as a silhouette of the Bay Bridge. “There is no better market to establish as the epicenter of esports than San Francisco,” said Andy Miller, Founder and CEO of NRG Esports, parent organization of the San Francisco Shock. “We are so excited to bring a hometown esports team to the region that has been central to the growth of gaming in North America.”

Former StubHub CEO Jeff Fluhr is the latest corporate heavyweight to jump into esports, where he will launch a new esports team that will reportedly be based in Las Vegas. The squad will go under the moniker of Team Totality and mainly focus on PlayerUnknown’s BattleGrounds. “I’m bullish on esports, particularly PUBG, because the audience sizes are tremendous and growing rapidly,” said Fluhr who provided seed capital for Totality and co-founded the organization with CEO Shawn Barcal, per Dexerto.
 

MARKETING

The Esports Ad Bureau locked in The CW as a member this week, where they will join current companies that include Turner, MLG, EA, Twitch, ESL, Imagina, HITN, MSG, Machinima, Magid, and Canoe. The CW has aired H1Z1:Fight for the Crown as well as Machinima’s Chasing The Cup and has plans to continue esports programming that incorporates sponsorship partner opportunities with ad inventory including on-air, VOD, and digital integrations.

Red Bull has given Tempo Storm wings – the team and Red Bull have announced an official partnership. “This partnership with Red Bull is something we’ve been working on for a very long time, and I couldn’t be more excited to get started,” said Andrey Yanyuk, CEO of Tempo Storm. “”Red Bull has been doing amazing stuff in the space with event production, content creation, and athlete performance; I can’t wait to do more of that stuff directly with them, now that Tempo Storm and Red Bull are officially working together.”

Buffalo Wild Wings locked in a partnership with Team Dignitas to become the “Official Hangout for Team Dignitas” and will receive “prominent” logo placement on the sleeve of Team Dignitas jerseys, player appearances at restaurants, exclusive content featuring players, and branding on monthly Team Dignitas live streams on Twitch and Facebook. The partnership will officially kick off with the first “Buffalo Wild Wings Stream of the Month” when Elle “Ellektrikk” Lockyer conducts an all-day live stream on Twitch today at 10:30a. Buffalo Wild Wings and Team Dignitas will also present a 1v1 amateur League of Legends tournament at TwitchCon this weekend and host an online amateur tournament in the coming months.

Fnatic unveiled the team’s first-ever music partner in Deezer. “We’re extremely excited to enter into a partnership with Deezer, a leading and innovative music streaming service. Music makes an important part of everyone’s life and so is gaming for our massive fanbase. Deezer’s passion for music makes it a perfect fit for Fnatic. Our partnership enables us to enhance the experience of Fnatic and esports fans alike and will see us breaking new grounds in esports partnerships,” said Wouter Sleijffers, CEO of Fnatic.

Adidas filed an opposition to ELEAGUE’s trademark application. Dot Esports reports that the opposition relates to ELEAGUE’s “E” logo, which consists of three lines, which Adidas believes is too similar to its own logo of three lines and would lead – according to the sports brand – to confusion and dilution.
 
 

INDUSTRY

Overwatch spawned another highpoint, with Blizzard announcing that the title had topped 35 million players worldwide. That marks a rise of five million players since April.

Meanwhile, Blizzard and Chinese partner NetEase are suing the creators of heroes of Warfare, 4399, for the mobile game’s strong similarity to Overwatch. Japanese news site PC Watch reports that Blizzard is asking for 4399 to cease production of its copycat games, for monetary compensation for damages, and that Heroes of Warfare be removed from iOS and Android app stores.

Electronic Arts is pulling the plug on Visceral Games, which had been working on a long-running Star Wars project which will now shift to EA Vancouver. In a statement about the closure of the division, EA Worldwide Studios EVP Patrick Soderlund stated that “It has become clear that to deliver an experience that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come, we needed to pivot the design. We will maintain the stunning visuals, authenticity in the Star Wars universe, and focus on bringing a Star Wars story to life. Importantly, we are shifting the game to be a broader experience that allows for more variety and player agency, leaning into the capabilities of our Frostbite engine and reimagining central elements of the game to give players a Star Wars adventure of greater depth and breadth to explore.”

IGN acquired Humble Bundle. Humble Bundle CEO and co-founder Jeffrey Rosen announced the sale, stating “We will be working harder than ever to bring you the best gaming bundles, book bundles, and store sales, while nurturing the Humble Monthly and our new publishing initiative,” Rosen said. “We will keep our own office, culture, and amazing team with IGN helping us further our plans. We will raise even more money for charity.”

On a weekend that saw Marvin Musquin make history by taking home the Monster Energy Cup and winning $1 million in front of a sell-out crowd at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, Monster Energy Supercross owner Feld Entertainment announced that the sports brand is also making history in the gaming sector. The company is teaming up with game developer Milestone for the release of Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame, available on February 13, 2018 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC and shortly after on Nintendo Switch. The title features official bikes, tracks, and athletes from both 250SX and 450SX Classes; a career mode with extreme customization options and a track editor.

Multiple headlines this week about Activision landing a patent for a microtransaction-driven system for matchmaking in multiplayer games. The system is described as a system and method that “may match a more expert/marquee player with a junior player to encourage the junior player to make game-related purchases of items possessed/used by the marquee player.” “This was an exploratory patent filed in 2015 by an R&D team working independently from our game studios,” an Activision spokesperson told Glixel. “It has not been implemented in-game.”
 
 

POWER PLAYERS – Amazon’s Benjamin Gauthey

Amazon continues to double down on its mobile esports play, hosting Mobile Masters Las Vegas over the weekend, where 24 professional teams and players competed in titles that included Vainglory, Power Rangers: Legacy Wars and World of Tanks Blitz. The move served as a sequel to June’s inaugural Mobile Masters New York and extended Amazon’s ownership in the space, which also includes events such as Champions of Fire. Mobile Masters Las Vegas was presented in partnership with eSports Productions and ESL and held at the Millennial Esports Arena at Neonopolis in the city.

Cynopsis Esports caught up with Benjamin Gauthey, head of Amazon Esports, to discuss the company’s play into mobile esports and lessons learned along the way.

Gauthey on mobile events: About a year ago, my team approached me with the idea of hosting the Super Bowl for casual, mobile games. It would be in Las Vegas and feature this great lineup casual games and that turned out to be Champions of Fire, which took place last December. What we saw based on that event went beyond what we were expecting, and we had players ask us if they could return for the next one. We were then approached about doing something for the hardcore gamer with games such as Vainglory. So we decided to make Champions of Fire more casual, while Mobile Masters would be for the core audience. Meanwhile, Champions of Fire will be coming back for a second time.

On content: With Amazon, it is all about content when it comes to esports. The quality of the content is getting better and better as the industry continues to evolve and of course Twitch is a get way distribute content as well as have two-way communication. Right now, you can watch and play, and you can have a conversation with a player, which is something you can’t do with a TV. We are about bringing people together through our content and we are trying to amplify the gameplay with the story of the player.  

On surprises: My biggest surprise was how excited people were to take part in these events and how they connect. Here at Mobile Masters, you see someone who plays Vainglory playing beside someone who does World of Tanks. They don’t know each other but they end up playing a game together because they are here together. We are trying to build a bridge to connect gamers in much the same way that a Coachella will bring together fans of music.
 
 

ROSTER MOVES

Brandon Beck and Marc Merill, founders of Riot, are shifting gears to get back into active development at the company. In a post, the pair stated that they had been spending most of their time managing the company rather than “creating incredible experiences for player” and are opting to rejoin active development on the company’s second game.

Millennial Esports Corporation announced that sports executive Bob Reif and his Audible Group will be working with Millennial Esports. “We are extremely excited to have a seasoned executive with the direct sports sector experience of Bob Reif joining our team,” said Igelman. “I’m confident that Bob’s experience as an innovator with leading sports and lifestyle brands will translate well to what we are doing at Millennial.”

 

ON THIS DAY in 2010: Bethesda Softworks releases Fallout: New Vegas for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in the US.

 


Trivia: Name the game pictured above…
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Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: At what location do the majority of Friday the 13th films (along with the video games) take place? Answer: Camp Crystal Lake. Kudos: Chris Davies-Virgin/London; Rob Casalaina- ITN/NY; Luke Watson-Essential TV/NY; Danny Araque/NY; Joe Olson-Lowe’s/Arlington; Jason Morrow-Toyota/Houston; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank; Greg Dudsic/Venice; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA
 
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