11/16/17: New League of Legends franchises snag monikers

CynopsiseSPORTS & GAMING
It’s Thursday November 16, 2017 and this is your weekly early morning eSports & Gaming briefing. Note: due to next week’s holiday there will be no issue next week but – as usual – we will continue to deliver esports news in or daily sports edition.
 


The Houston Rockets and Cleveland Cavaliers have reportedly signed off on their brand monikers for their new North American League of Legends Championship Series franchises. ESPN writes that the Rockets will name their team Clutch City Gaming, while Dexerto reports that the Cavaliers will take on the 100 Thieves brand previously owned by Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag. The two NBA team affiliates were approved for franchises last month.
 
 
COMPETITION


Intel Extreme Masters Oakland 2017 has talent locked and loaded for its tournaments this week. The action in PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds will see James Carrol as deck host, with Richard Simms handling interviews, while Martin Goth and Josh Steel handle analysis. Commentating on the action will be Leigh Smith, Matt Oates, Lauren Scott and Steve Pierce. Meanwhile, CS:GO action will see Alex Richardson on the desk with OJ Borg as stage host and Tres Saranthus running interviews. Analysts will be Chad Burchill, Janko Paunovic, Jordan Gilbert, and Henry Greer with commentary from Matthew Trivett, Harry Russell, Jason O’Toole, John Mullen and James Macaulay.
 
ESL One Hamburg powered by Intel saw more than 25 million unique viewers watch the tournament online, marking a 250% growth from ESL One Frankfurt 2016. Over 7 million hours of content were consumed through Twitch, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, HuomaoTV and Douyu with a peak concurrent viewership across all platforms topping 1.5 million viewers. Throughout the tournament, a high level of digital engagement was logged as 38.5 million social media impressions have been generated by over 8 million users, featuring a 50% increase compared to last year’s ESL One in Frankfurt.
 
The $50,000 Paladins Premier League Fall Finals kicks into gear today, with the top five teams competing this weekend qualifying for the Paladins World Championship, to be held at Hi-Rez Expo 2018 in Atlanta from Jan. 4-7. Play begins at 11a daily running through Sunday where fans can view the action live from the PPL Facebook Show Page and the PaladinsWorld website. Calling the shows will be Nick Keogh and Evan Raynr.
 
The Drone Racing League launched the DRL Simulator and is tapping esports to uncover next great drone pilot via the 2018 Swatch DRL Tryouts. The competition runs through Jan. 15, followed by a live esport tournament to be streamed globally, with Swatch on-board as sponsor for the 2018 Tryouts. The winner of the 2018 Swatch DRL Tryouts will fly as the designated Swatch pilot throughout the 2018 Championship series. Online players will race Levels 1-5 of the DRL 2017 season on the Simulator, featuring real maps of the racecourses from Miami Nights, Atlanta Aftermath, Mardi Gras World, Boston Foundry, and the Munich Playoffs.
 
After detailing plans for its regular season, Overwatch League has now locked in its preseason schedule as well. Exhibition matches will run Dec. 6-9, beginning one day one with the Florida Mayhem/Philadelphia Fusion at 7p, followed by the Los Angeles Valiant/San Francisco Shock at 9p and Seoul Dynasty/Shanghai Dragons at 11p.
 
Speaking of Overwatch League, the org announced plans to dedicate a seasonal award to the late Dennis “INTERNETHULK” Hawelka, who passed away last week. The Dennis Hawelka Award will be presented at the end of each Overwatch League season to the player that we deem to have had the most positive impact on the community. “To the esports world, Dennis was more than just an accomplished player and coach – he was a friend, a confidant, someone people looked towards for guidance and support. He reached out to those around him, drew them in and built them up. In doing so, he not only helped forge the foundation of competitive Overwatch worldwide, he changed countless lives for the better, in game and out,” the league stated on its site.
 
Amazon locked in the return of Champions of Fire, the company’s third major esports tournament in the past year. The event will focus on casual mobile games designed to make competitive gaming accessible to a wider audience and run Dec. 2-3 from Time Inc. Studios in NY. Faming celebrities will include Swiftor, NampaiKid, Mystic7 and Sky Williams battling for a share of $50,000. The tournament will be broadcast live on Amazon Appstore’s Twitch channel, and will air nationwide at a later date on CBS Sports Network. Participating games will include Beach Buggy Racing, Beat Fever, Cooking Craze, Minion Rush, Flabby Bird Family, Pac-Man 256, Real Racing 3 and Sonic Forces: Speed Battle.
 
Riot Games detailed plans to invest $7.6 million in the South Korean LoL esports league this year and will create a new LCK Studio in Seoul that would open next September, reportedly titled LoL Park. The venue would be capable of hosting as many as 450 fans and see Riot handle production of events there for the first time. In addition, the studio will sit alongside a PC bang, a coffee shop, and feature backstage and practice areas for players across nearly 57,000 square feet.
 
Ubisoft will see the eight best teams worldwide compete in the Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Pro League Season 3 Finals from Sao Paulo, Brazil from Nov. 18-19. The Finals will bring together four different regions for the first time: Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America competing for a total Season 3 prize pool of $275,000, bringing the total prize pool across all official Year 2 tournaments to $1,250,000.
 
World Sailing plans to enter the gaming arena, launching the first virtual World Sailing Championships in partnership with Virtual Regatta. The eSailing World Championships will be held every year starting in 2018 and see a new set of World Sailing regulations used to allow the sports Racing Rules of Sailing to be adapted to the virtual world. Inshore regattas will be held through the year with players accumulating points that will establish their standings in the eSailing World Rankings leading into th final in Sarasota next November.
 
Konami is teaming with eFootball.Pro to launch a pro league for its Pro Evolution game franchise. Competition will be showcased around the world, according to the release. Hideki Hayakawa, CEO of Konami Digital Entertainment Co. stated “eFootball.Pro’s unique position in eSports, combined with its strong football leadership, will allow us to deliver a fresh way for customers to enjoy our products. We are thrilled to collaborate with eFootball.Pro.”
 
 
INSIGHTS


 
Esports tournaments dominated Twitch viewership over the past two weeks.
Blizzard’s Overwatch World Cup led all esports tournaments in hours watched between October 30 and November 12, while the League of Legends 2017 World Championship Finals brought twice as many max concurrent viewers (CCV) during the same time period. Dota’s fragmented channel distribution makes its viewership much more significant than it appears. Five of the top ten most watched esports channels on Twitch were devoted to three different Dota 2 events.
 
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MARKETING/PROMOTION

ESL opened the doors to a new loyalty reward program titled ESL Rewards. The initiative comes in partnership with Fanmiles and its designed to reward fans who engage in ESL activities, dangling rewards that include the likes of VIP tickets to ESL events, game skins, premium keys and sponsor products.
 
Roblox’s newest partnership will see licensed apparel and accessories merchandiser Bioworld team with the company to create and sell Roblox branded apparel in retail stores and online across the US and Canada. Roblox-branded apparel will include shirts, sweatshirts and more for fans of all ages with various products incorporating the Roblox logo, Roblox characters and other Roblox assets, with apparel available this month in Kohl’s with additional retailers later this year.
 
 
PLATFORMS

ESL and Hulu unveiled launch dates for the league’s growing portfolio of programming with series set to debut of the next month on the platform. Player vs. Player, hosted by Nerdist’s Jessica Chobot, will see new episodes debut on Fridays this month to kick off the slate with Bootcamp: Immortals. Meanwhile, episode one of Defining Moments is up with a look at ESL One Hamburg. Subsequent eps will debut on Nov. 27, Dec. 3 and Dec. 17. Finally, ESL Replay will run Fridays beginning Dec. 8.
 
New Snapchat investor Tencent stated that the social video platform could soon become a streaming hub for gaming. GamesIndustry reports that an email statement from Tencent states that “The investment enables Tencent to explore cooperation opportunities with the company on mobile games publishing and newsfeed as well as to share its financial returns from the growth of its businesses and monetization in the future.”
 
Machinima now boasts its own linear-style channel on the Amazon-owned Twitch platform. Machinima is a division of Warner Bros. Digital Networks; it was wholly acquired by Warner Bros. about a year ago. The new channel, which is ad-supported and runs 24 hours a day, features content focused on gaming, fandom, and animation. To start, the programming will derive mostly from Machinima’s existing originals, including videos from Mega Man Dies at the End and Body Count Fighting. The channel will also broadcast two hours of live programming each weekday, with shows such as VR Power Hour and the geek-oriented talk show Spacebar.
 
 
TEAM SPOTLIGHT – SK Gaming


Courtesy: Esports One & Esportspedia: Revolutionizing Esports Data
 
 
INDUSTRY

Geoff Keighley unveiled nominees for the 2017 edition of The Game Awards, with categories led by The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Horizon Zero Dawn, destiny 2 and Super Mario Odyssey leading the pack of nominees with six each. In the esports categories, up for Best Esports Game will be Rocket League, League of Legends, Dota2, CS:GO and Overwatch. The Best Esports Player category includes nominees Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi, Je-hong “ryujehong” Ryu, Nikola “Niko” Kovac, Marcelo “coldzera” David and Lee sang-hyeok aka “Faker.” For Best Esports Team, noms include Team Liquid, SK Telecom 1, Lunatic-Hai, FaZe Clan and Cloud9. The ceremony will take place on Dec. 7 from LA.
 
Meanwhile, Twitter will once again partner with The Game Awards to live stream The Game Awards 2017 for the second consecutive year on Dec. 7. The social platform will also live stream a pre-show beginning at 5:30p PT. This year’s live stream will also be accompanied by a Twitter timeline, featuring related real-time conversation to create a unified experience for viewers to watch, Tweet and view commentary on gaming’s biggest night. Fans will be able to help select winners in select categories via online voting across Twitter as well, using Twitter direct Message, in addition to Facebook Messenger and Google.
 
Finally, The Game Awards announced a partnership with Tencent to carry the show live in China, including on QQ.com. In addition to watching a live translated version of the show with an exclusive pre-show, Chinese viewers will be cable to vote on a special fans Choice Award for the country, based on nominees selected by Tencent’s gaming editors.
 
Speaking of awards, the second annual NOW TV Esports Industry Awards unveiled this year’s winners, with over 600,000 votes cast in total this year. Here’s who took home the honors:
  • Esports Breakthrough Game of the Year – PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
  • Esports Commercial Partner of the Year in association with Gamesindustry.biz – G-FUEL
  • Esports Coverage Website of the Year in association with Sizzle – ESPN Esports
  • Esports Game of the Year in association with Twitch – Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
  • Esports Journalist of the Year – Duncan “Thorin” Shields
  • Esports Photographer of the Year in association with Snugg – Joe Brady
  • Esports Publisher of the Year – Riot Games
  • Esports Hardware Provider of the Year – Intel
  • Esports Videographer of the Year – Davis ”OpTic Hitch” Edwards
  • Streamer of the Year – Disrespect
  • Streaming Platform of the Year – Twitch
  • Esports Broadcaster of the Year – Alex ‘Machine’ Richardson
  • Esports Console Player of the Year in association with Scuf Gaming – Matthew ‘FormaL’ Piper
  • Esports Live Event of the Year in association with Thomas Lyte – League of Legends World Championship (RIOT)
  • Esports PC Player of the Year – Amer ‘Miracle-‘ Barqawi
  • Esports Personality of the Year in association with NOW TV – Eefje ‘Sjokz’ Depoortere
  • Esports Rookie of the Year (Console) in association with Simba – Victor ‘Punk’ Woodley
  • Esports Rookie of the Year (PC) in association with Simba – Abay ‘HObbit’ Khassenov
  • Esports Team of the Year – OpTic Gaming
  • Esports Unsung Hero of the Year – Megan “RheingoldRiver” Cutrofello
  • UK Esports Player of the Year in association with L’Oreal Men Expert – Spencer “Gorilla” Ealing
    Esports Play of the Year – Matthew ‘FormaL’ Piper
 
Elsewhere, Electronic Arts announced plans to acquire Respawn Entertainment, maker of Titanfall, for $315 in cash and stock with the potential for an additional $140 million if Respawn hits its incentive targets.
 
IGN released a statement addressing a sexual harassment scandal that reportedly caused the network’s daily news show Daily Fix to not air due to a staff walkout. The allegations stem in the wake of allegations late last week that a former editor – Vince Ingenito – sexually harassed two women at the company. After reporting what happened after she and her co-worker to human resources, former employee Kallie Plagge said that she and the other woman were told to sit and work in a glass conference room while IGN decided what to do before she was forced to sign a document stating that she had conducted herself inappropriately, without being told what she had done. When the women made management and human resources aware of the situation involving a now-former employee, those women, in the estimation of the IGN team, did not get the respect and care that they deserved as IGN employees and as people. That system, plainly put, failed them. It especially failed them but it also failed all of us.” IGN said in a statement.
 
Controversy over EA’s Star Wars Battlefront II loot box system (the game comes out tomorrow) spawned the most downvoted post on Reddit ever after the publisher tried to justify the cost of unlocking heroes and caused users to claim the system was pay to win. Following the backlash, EA changed the amount of credits needed for certain characters by dropping the price as much as 75%.
 
The Game Developers Conference detailed plans for the inaugural GDC Film Festival, taking place March 19-21 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. GDC is inviting a slate of video game documentaries and other films centered on gaming to take part, opening the doors for submissions here.
 
Illumination Entertainment is close to a deal with Nintendo to make an animated Super Mario Bros. movie based on the game franchise, per WSJ. Illumination, which is owned by Chris Meledandri and Universal Studios, and is the company behind the likes of the Despicable Me franchise. Universal had previously locked in a deal to bring Nintendo-themed elements to its parks.
 
 
POWER PLAYERS – Team Totality’s Jeff Fluhr and Shawn Barcal


October saw the announcement that former StubHub CEO Jeff Fluhr had launched a new esports squad titled Team Totality that has already emerged as a force for PlayerUnknown’s BattleGrounds. The team is currently training in Las Vegas, with Fluhr providing seed capital and serving as co-founder of the organization with CEO Shawn Barcal.
 
Cynopsis spoke with Fluhr and Barcal about launching a new esports brand.  
 
Fluhr on learning about esports: Shawn is the one who tapped me on the shoulder four or six months ago and said that we should be looking at this industry as it was super exciting and a growing space. I took a look at it and while I had heard of esports, it wasn’t something I was paying a lot of attention to. He suggested that we go to Orlando for the Call of Duty World League Championship in August and it was a really interesting experience for me. I had never been to an esports event prior to that and I finally got to see it first-hand. That was all it really took for me to get interested.
 
On investing: We thought about a couple of different ways we could get involved, Shawn and I both have experience building technology-based products and we talked about doing something at the intersection of esports with that type of consumer product but ultimately, it felt like having a team would be the best way to immerse ourselves in the business and still have an opportunity to do some consumer-focused mobile apps or other things down the road. One of the things we are trying to do with Totality is that we want to get involved in products that are focused on the gamer community where we can either develop the products ourselves or take an equity position in someone else’s product in exchange for promoting it from our team.
 
Barcal on building a team: When we decided to form a team, we were looking at all of the established titles, and they all had long-established teams and legacies and then came along PUBG, which I enjoy playing and I started asking around about what organizations were getting into PUBG, salaries, etc. and I learned that not only was it one of the fastest growing games, but in Germany, the last big tournament drew around 700,000 viewers. Because this was a new competitive scene in esports, it seemed like a natural fit for a new team like ours to get into.
 
On building the brand: We have three legs to our stool. The first is a world-class esports team, the second leg is the to have the best media team in esports, so I am now building a great content team and developing lots of content. We have a YouTube Channel, a Twitch channel and a website we are launching soon. We’ve been filming a docuseries with them in Las Vegas for boot camp. We’ll have educational content such as how to play like a pro, frag like a pro, etc. We are plan to create a fun brand with both esports and social media stars who will be sprinkled in the mix as well.   
 
 
ROSTER MOVES

McLaren named Ben Payne to serve as the company’s head of esports where he will oversee the growth and development of McLaren’s esports strategy, including all aspects of the World’s Fastest Gamer program. Additionally, he will lead the development of the WFG partner community, activating gaming partnerships across retail, media partnerships and key industry events.  Payne joins from Microsoft, where he held roles in third party marketing, partnerships and events for Xbox EMEA, as well as working on global campaigns for Windows. Prior to Microsoft, Payne held positions at SEGA, 2K Games and Future. McLaren was the first Formula 1 team to announce its own esports property, in April this year.
 
Gamestop executive chairman Daniel A. DeMatteo has been named interim CEO following the news that J. Paul Raines would need attention due to “a reoccurrence of his previously disclosed medical issue and is seeking treatment.”
 
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ON THIS DAY in 1997: WCW vs. NWO: World Tour is released.
 
Trivia: In what film do the protagonists see if they can make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed while playing NHL ’93? (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: Ten years ago, this game – led by John-117 – claimed the title of best-selling in the US for 2007. What was that game?  Answer: Halo 3. Kudos: Chris Davies-Virgin/London; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank
 
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