11/02/17: Brands blitz Blizzcon; London, Philly claim names; Ed Boon talks serving up Injustice

CynopsiseSPORTS & GAMING
It’s Thursday November 2, 2017 and this is your weekly early morning eSports & Gaming briefing.
 


With BlizzCon kicking off on Friday from Anaheim, Blizzard detailed activation plans for its roster of sponsors. In addition to partners Cisco, DXRacer, and Intel, brands hosting activities for attendees at booths around the show floor include:
  • ASUS—serving up BlizzCon vending machines, fans can collect a special WoW coin, and enter giveaways for more than 10,000 prizes ranging from patches to a brand-new laptop. They will also be able to see the latest ROG products and find out how their skills match up playing alongside an Overwatch
  • CORSAIR—attendees will be able to try their hand at the CORSAIR Claw machine to win exclusive prizes, take a seat on the “Throne of Games,” and be the Overwatch Play of the Game in the CORSAIR photo booth.
  • HP—Offering 3v3 Overwatch Arcade action, a real-life Loot Box, and a photo op with an Overwatch
  • NVIDIA—Fans can participate in an Emissary quest, discover collectible patches, enter a raffle to win some amazing prizes, find exclusive Overwatch buttons, and more.
  • NZXT—Gamers can enter a raffle for one of four Blizzard-themed custom-wrapped H700i PCs, and learn how to build your own PC, including setting up liquid cooling and more.
  • Razer—Providing a giveaway at the Hearthstone Tavern, claim an exclusive Razer patch, fans can meet Overwatch and World of Warcraftcelebrities, and win prizes including the latest Overwatch peripherals at the Razer booth.
  • T-Mobile—Opening a vote for the Overwatch World Cup MVP using #TMobileMVP and the player’s BattleTag on Twitter, in addition, fans can take your photo with the MVP trophy at the Un-carrier Lounge, and stay connected to all the BlizzCon action with free Wi-Fi at the convention, presented by T-Mobile.
Meanwhile, opening ceremonies begin at 11a PT, with the event featuring four live stages of developer and community events in addition to the final rounds of the World of Warcraft Arena World Championship, Overwatch World Cup, StarCraft II World Championship Series, Heroes of the Storm® Global Championship Finals, and Hearthstone Inn-vitational all in action.
 
“The community is the heart of Blizzard’s games, and BlizzCon is our favorite way to connect directly with our players and geek out over the things we’re passionate about,” said Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. “We’ve worked hard to make this our biggest and best BlizzCon yet, and we’re looking forward to seeing everyone this Friday.”
 
 
COMPETITION


Amid the action at Worlds, Riot announced that the European League of Legends Championship Series will shift to a franchise model in 2019, echoing its North American counterpart. Riot will start taking applications for permanent partnership from existing ownership and interested outside parties next year, with both the number of available spots and the buy-in price still not determined. The European League Championship Series will remain in Berlin and will move to a single-game, double-round-robin format starting in the new year. Meanwhile, relegation and promotion from and to the league has been removed from the 2018 midseason with the European Challenger Series set to be canceled.
 
EA SPORTS and FIFA announced the launch of the EA SPORTS FIFA 18 Global Series on The Road to the FIFA eWorld Cup 2018. The new competition will expand the global competitive audience and feature football leagues and football clubs around the world with competition running Nov.-Aug. and Stage 1 allowing players to qualify by participating in a series of online and/or live events, including the FUT Champions Cups, FIFA eClub World Cup, Licensed Qualifying Competitions and Official League Partner Qualifying Competitions. “Last year was a pivotal achievement for competitive FIFA, engaging millions of competitors and spectators through world football and global competition,” said Todd Sitrin, SVP and GM of the Competitive Gaming Division at EA. “In partnership with FIFA, we’re accelerating the growth of competitive gaming through the EA SPORTS FIFA 18 Global Series on The Road to the FIFA eWorld Cup 2018, producing more competition, attracting more competitors and connecting with more fans than ever before.”
 
After a successful opening volley in week one, the ELEAGUE Injustice 2 World Championship presented by PS4 continues on Friday with eight players facing off for the final two spots in the championship round. Live Group B coverage will include a showcase of the bracket’s final matches at 10p on TBS with the action beginning at 6p on Twitch, ELEAGUE.com and YouTube.
 
The IOC detailed its views toward esports at the sixth Olympic Summit, announcing that members had agreed that: esports are showing strong growth, especially within the youth demographic across different countries, and can provide a platform for engagement with the Olympic Movement; competitive esports could be considered as a sporting activity, and the players involved prepare and train with an intensity which may be comparable to athletes in traditional sports. In order to be recognized by the IOC as a sport, the org stated that the content of esports must not infringe on the Olympic values and that further requirement for recognition by the IOC must be the existence of an organization guaranteeing compliance with the rules and regulations of the Olympic Movement (anti-doping, betting, manipulation, etc.).
 
FACEIT announced that the Season 4 Finals of ECS will take place December 15-17, live from the Hard Rock Hotel in Cancun. The initiative is supported by YouTube and host CS:GO players for the second ECS finals of the year. The top four qualifying teams from both North America and Europe will compete for a prize pool of $750,000 on top of participation fees.
 
Riot Games also laid out plans for the 2018 College League of Legends season, with the season beginning Jan. 15 and wrapping up with the League of Legends College Championship running June 7-10 at the NA LCS Arena in Los Angeles. Overall, there will be six rounds of regular season matches and the top teams will advance to the playoffs. Changes this season include: a move to the more competitive Swiss format, which matches teams with the same or a similar record against each other on a weekly basis; four regional conference champions will earn automatic bids into the college championship; and additional conference champions and all conference runner-ups will meet in the Play-In event.
 
Evo 2018 booked another return trip to Las Vegas, this time running Aug. 3-5 from the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, slightly later that its normal July tentpole. This year’s event saw nearly five million total viewers watch Evo’s Street Fighter finals.
 
Vainglory opened pre-registration for its upcoming 5v5 mode, which was built from the ground up by former competitive players and designers from leading PC MOBAs, will offer “the definitive 5v5 MOBA experience on mobile.” “When we started Super Evil Megacorp, we set out to challenge the notion that mobile-first gamers were somehow inferior to gamers on other platforms,” said Super Evil Megacorp CEO Kristian Segerstrale. “We believed that every phone was a portable next-gen console, and that every mobile player deserved games just as core, strategic and performant as players on PC. Over the past three years, millions of players across the globe rallied to our cause, embracing real-time multiplayer gaming on touchscreens, shifting the market in our direction.
 
 
INSIGHTS


While Twitch accounts for just more than half of all streaming channels (51.3%) it accounts for more than 75% of all hours streamed and more than 84% of all streaming hours watched between July and September 2017.
 
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TEAMS


As the countdown continues for the launch of Overwatch League, a slew of teams locked in their monikers and branding elements ahead of play. In London, the franchise – owned by Cloud9 – will be known as the London Spitfire, chosen as an homage to the iconic British aircraft used by the Royal Air Force. Team colors will be blue and yellow with Cloud9 President Daniel Fiden telling VentureBeat that the team will build a facility that will act as home and training grounds for the Spitfire team, as well as the local Cloud9 staff as well as include an internet cafe, an esports bar and restaurant, and a retail store.
 
Comcast Spectacor’s Overwatch League squad will be known as the Philadelphia Fusion, team name drawing “inspiration from the word’s origin, which surrounds the process of several distinct entities coming together to create a new whole that generates power and heat.” The team’s marks depict “a visual of speed and energy as the Philadelphia Fusion stand at the genesis of an amazing journey.” “We are thrilled to introduce the Philadelphia Fusion brand and team colors as we continue our exciting march toward the start of the season,” said Dave Scott, President and CEO, Comcast Spectacor. “Orange and black are colors of passion here in Philadelphia, and we are proud to incorporate them as we continue to formulate our coaching staff and roster of players.”
 
Parent org OpTic Gaming formally debuted the Houston Outlaws as the name of its franchise, with the name referring to the region’s “hardy, self-reliant cowboy culture, where people live by their own rules” and featuring a logo sporting the star, longhorn skull and twin revolvers. Meanwhile, the green in the team’s colors reflects the signature colors of the Green Wall made famous by Optic Gaming. 
 
Blizzard also unveiled branding details for the New York franchise of Overwatch League. The team, owned by Sterling VC, will be known as the New York Excelsior and is inspired by the “everyday heroism of New York. The team nickname will be NYXL and sport a flag logo representing different people, cultures, and ideas coming together.
 
Finally, the official name of the Seoul, South Korea franchise will be known as the Seoul Dynasty. The logo features a tiger – a national symbol of South Korea, representing strength, courage, and good fortune – while the team’s golden color emphasizes the connection to royalty.
 
 
TEAM SPOTLIGHT – MISFITS

Courtesy: Esports One & Esportspedia: Revolutionizing Esports Data
 
 
MARKETING


Red Bull Energy Drink revealed five unique, limited edition Street Fighter cans characters in celebration of Street Fighter’s 30th anniversary. Images feature the likes of iconic Street Fighter characters including Chun-Li, Guile, Ken, Ryu and Zangief with cans offering a custom code under the tab that can be redeemed for in game value like custom skins for PlayStation4 system. Cans also feature a Snapcode which can be scanned to reveal unique Street Fighter filters, tying to the specific character on the can, with one can unlocking an interactive lens. The brand is also celebrating the 30th anniversary of the game at Red Bull Battle Grounds, running Nov. 18-19 at The Castle in Boston, where heavyweights will battle it out first in an open-bracket competition, then in an 8-player bracket.
 
A synergy of promotional proportions saw the Miami Heat, the Misfits and Alienware serve up a cross-brand activation during halftime of the Monday’s NBA game against Minnesota. The event saw about 500 people hit XFINITY East Plaza at AmericanAirlines Arena to meet the Misfits’ CSGO team, as well as Smash and Marvel players. In addition, players held a jersey exchange with the Heat;s Hassan Whiteside and Josh Richardson. All fans in attendance at the game also received 10% off coupon for all Alienware products. Misfits owner Ben Spoont noted that more event activations are in the works.
 
Aircraft manufacturer Airbus revealed a deeper dive into the esports industry, locking in a sponsorship of a new League of Legends team which would be known as Out of the Blue. The company previously announced a partnership with ESWC.
 
Nintendo’s holiday plans are set to begin on Nov. 11 and run through Dec. 17 when the company will open pop-up experiences at 17 malls across the country. Shoppers will be able to try the Switch and 3DS family of systems along with games such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey. “We want to bring smiles to people’s faces this holiday with experiences the whole family can enjoy,” said Doug Bowser, Nintendo of America’s Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “The Nintendo Holiday Experience is a great opportunity for people to try Nintendo Switch and Nintendo 3DS, this season’s must-have holiday items.”
 

PLATFORMS


Source: Superdata
 
Blizzard announced a slate of upgrades designed to improve the esports viewing experience. In the game’s developer update, Jeff Kaplan announced features viewers will experience during the Overwatch World Cup broadcast at BlizzCon that will include: team uniforms/team color palettes; a top down interactive map; third person smart camera; kill feed replays; automated tournament interface; and auto-pauses during disconnects. The action gets underway on Nov. 3.
 
Roblox opened the doors to become the first platform to allow for “seamless play on every device from Xbox to mobile to PC to VR” with its Xbox cross-platform this week. The expansion allows users to play the same game across all devices with all users playing together at the same time. In a blog post, the company announced that the upgraded platform will offer “a single unified community” along with advanced matchmaking for players.
 
Pinnacle gave its esports portal an overhaul with the platform now featuring an up-to-date schedule and blog posts for fans interested in betting on esports.  Users have the option to drill down to see odds panels, in-depth content and schedules for their preferred game while also offering entry level content for those who are new to betting.
 
Esports One laid out its plans and goals for the data capture and analytics company in a post mapping out its plans to “revolutionize the esports viewing experience” by adding a layer of engagement to esports broadcasts through real-time data capture and analysis.” Details can be found here.
 
 
INDUSTRY


Speaking of which, Nintendo stated that it estimates the new release of Super Mario Odyssey sold around 2 million copies in its first two days on sale. In a call with investors, Nintendo execs stated that “about 7 million units” of Switch hardware are now in homes. The company estimated that it expects to sell-in close to 17 million units of the Switch by the end of March 2018.
 
The British Esports Association joined the country’s Sport and Recreation Alliance as a member where it will look to get closer to sporting societies and bodies and “show them what esports is and the benefits it offers, to help educate them and work with them.”
 
News site Slingshot Esports announced plans to shut down this week. Joe Ragazzo, co-Founder of the site, posted that the platform was unable to generate the funding needed to continue operations.  “For the past eight months or so we have been trying to raise funds and simply did not raise enough to continue Slingshot in the way we wanted,” he wrote. “We had offers to purchase the site, but for several reasons those offers did not make sense. So we declined”. 
 
Kotaku reports that GameStop’s new PowerPass program offers a six-month membership program for $60, allowing members to pick up games from the retailer’s pre-owned library to play for as long as they want with no limits on the amount of games that can be rented during the period. In addition, when the period ends, members will be able to choose one game to keep for good. The program will launch on Nov. 19.
 
Microsoft announced the PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds will launch for Xbox One via Xbox Game Preview on Dec. 12. The game will play on Xbox One X with HDR enhancements, while 4K support is slated to be added later. The announcement was made during Microsoft’s presentation at Paris Games Week.
 
Sony revealed that 67.5 million PlayStation 4 consoles have been shipped as of Sept. 30 of this year. Numbers for the second quarter of this fiscal year showed that Sony Interactive Entertainment shipped 4.2 million units to retailers this quarter bringing up the lifetime total to 67.5 million units shipped.
 
 
POWER PLAYERS – Ed Boon of NetherRealm Studios


With the ELEAGUE Injustice 2 World Championship presented by PS4 underway, the title continues to serve up audiences for a battle of DC icons (plus a few others) and $250,000 at stake. Live TBS coverage continues Friday and wraps up on Nov. 10 at 10p with the championship round. The game, from Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and developed by NetherRealm Studios, is looking to elevate the fighting game genre by leveraging a roster that ranges from superheroes such as Superman and Wonder Woman (and Hellboy on the horizon) to infamous villains such as the Joker and Brainiac. Last week, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and DC Entertainment brought the game to PC (Steam and Windows Store), where fans re be able to participate in an open beta.
 
Cynposis asked Ed Boon, creative director at NetherRealm Studios and creator of the famed Mortal Kombat franchise, about sinking his teeth into the DC world and how it will impact esports.
 
Boon on the challenges of the DC universe: The biggest challenge for us was probably the size and scope of this game. We have almost 40 iconic DC heroes and villains in the game, all with their own unique powers, abilities & personalities that we feel a strong responsibility to make authentic to what their fans are expecting. Each of these characters has hundreds & hundreds of costume pieces that not only make them look different but makes them more powerful as well. Players are constantly being rewarded with costume/gear pieces which they can use to create their own custom version of their favorite heroes and villains.
 
Injustice 2 also has a full length (movie like) story mode that looks and feels like a feature film. The story is broken down into 12 chapters, each featuring a different DC character that the player fights with to advance the narrative. In addition we have an endless game mode called the MULTIVERSE that presents new challenges and rewards to players. Injustice 2 is easily the biggest fighting game ever made.
 
On his favorite character: The Flash has always been my favorite DC character since I was about 6 years old. That will never change. However, as far as which character I enjoy playing the most….right now that’s either Green Lantern or Atrocitus.
 
On esports and the fighting genre: Competitive gaming is great and fighting games in particular lend themselves to e-sports very naturally. Fighting games can be followed, commentated on and learned from more than any other game genre because there are only 2 characters fighting. It’s very similar to a boxing match where you can easily tell “who is winning” even if you aren’t familiar with all the rules. I hope to see e-sports growing to be featured in more televised events, although streaming online will also play a big role in watching e-sports. There is big money at stake in some of these e-sport competitions and everyone seems to be participating.  It’s very exciting!
 
 
ROSTER MOVES

Millennial Esports Corporation announced that former Sony executive Doug Belgrad had joined the company’s Board of Directors, effective immediately. Belgrad previously served as the President of Motion Picture Group at Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. “Having been involved in the film business for more than 25 years, I’m excited to translate my experience of crafting stories that captivate audiences to sports content production and distribution,” said Belgrad. “With esports expanding globally at a phenomenal rate and the appetite for well-produced content increasing exponentially, Millennial Esports is perfectly positioned for growth and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”
 
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ON THIS DAY in 2012: The animated, video game themed-film Wreck-It Ralph is released in theaters.
 

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