12/20/18: A slate of esports executives are teaming up to launch Popdog

It’s Thursday December 20, 2018 and this is your weekly early morning Esports briefing. For additional longer-form esports news plus jobs, a team directory, glossary, calendar and data, check out our new esports hub updated daily: http://cynopsisesports.com.


Esports staple Alexander Garfield, founder of Evil Geniuses and Alliance, unveiled his newest initiative, announcing the league of Popdog, a technology and services company developing products designed to help optimize esports and gaming live streaming for brands, publishers, talent, teams, tournaments, and other stakeholders. Garfield will serve as Founder and CEO of the company, with co-founder that include: former SK Gaming cofounder Andreas Thorstensson, now Popdog’s CTO and CPO; Niles Heron, Popdog’s CSO; and Colin DeShong, Popdog’s CCO.
The org launches with a $9 million Series A funding round led by Makers Fund, with participation by Korea Investment Partners, and features three initial key components: Loaded — a leader in sponsorship sales, creative, and merchandising services for gaming influencers, and NoScope — an enterprise Twitch discovery and analytics solution, are both now part of the Popdog ecosystem. Additionally, the esports division of Catalyst Sports & Media, which was created to be the preeminent advisory firm to businesses seeking to enter and thrive in the esports industry, is also now part of Popdog. Josh Swartz, Co-Founder of Catalyst Sports & Media, will serve as Popdog’s COO.
“We’re building our company around the core belief that esports and gaming video content, born more from technology than any other sports or entertainment verticals we’ve seen, need better technology in order to be properly understood, monetized, and optimized. The industry needs a backend, and our mission is to be that backend by supporting the ecosystem as a whole with a comprehensive offering of technology and services. This funding brings us one step closer to fulfilling that mission,” said Alexander Garfield, Founder and CEO of Popdog. “We’ve already assembled an incredible team of industry leaders, product experts, and esports veterans, and we’re excited to begin rolling out a suite of products that we think will make operating in the space transparent and scalable, as opposed to opaque and speculative.”

Black Ridge Acquisition Corp. and Ourgame International Holdings Ltd. announced a deal that will see Black Ridge acquire two of Ourgame’s global esports and entertainment assets, Allied Esports International, Inc. and WPT Enterprises, Inc. The combined company will be renamed Allied Esports Entertainment, Inc. and serve as an esports entertainment company “dedicated to providing world-class in-person experiences, multiplatform content and interactive services to the global video gaming community through a unique fusion of two leaders in the esports and entertainment industries, Allied Esports and WPT.

ESL’s CS:GO Pro League is getting tweaked for the 2019 season, announcing plans to add more teams, along with a new format for year nine. According to the ESL announcement, changes were made following talks with the World Esports Association in order to help with “oversaturation of events and Pro League being online as well as time consuming.” Starting with the New Year, the regular season will now be played in three separate regions: Europe, Americas and Asia-Pacific with each divided into four groups of four teams with seeding based on the ESL World Ranking. While APAC matches will remain online, EU games will be hosted offline at the ESL studio in the United Kingdom and the AM region in the United States in a move to “provide the most competitive environment possible to all participating teams.”

Allied Esports continues to think global, announcing the formation of the world’s first esports venue affiliate program, titled the Allied Esports Property Network and designed for global partners interested in participating in Allied Esports’ global event programming, and licensing Allied Esports’ design, development and operations knowledge for their own esports venues. The network will look to offer members access to Allied Esports’ global platform of events and content production, providing participants and viewers with integrated experiences both in-person and online. Allied Esports also announced a multi-year agreement with Fortress Esports Pty Ltd, a new gaming, esports and entertainment venue enterprise in Australia that will include exclusive rights to esports venue development in Australia and New Zealand. The first Fortress Esports venue to be part of the Allied Esports Property Network is expected to open in Melbourne in 2019.
It is the end of the line for an esports title that helped blaze esports into mainstream popularity. Blizzard on Thursday announced that it was pulling the plug on its support for organized esports for Heroes of the Storm – the Heroes Global Championship and Heroes of the Dorm. The company stated that a number of developers would be pulled in to help with other games, noting that Blizzard have more live games and unannounced projects than at any point in company history. Characters would still be added to the game, along with themed events, but the “cadence” would change for players.
Nielsen released an “in-depth, first of its kind” research study that dives into esports fan attitudes and behaviors in the US. Insights include:
  • Twitch esports fans are well-seasoned with nearly 60% following esports for four or more years. In contrast, among the broader U.S. esports audience, only 1 in 5 have been following this long, with 23% new to esports within the past year.
  • 50% of Twitch esports fans have a paid TV subscription service; less than 40% claim to view television on a weekly basis.
  • 90% of Twitch esports fans can recall at least one non-gaming related sponsor within esports.
  • Esports fans are more likely to spend time engaging with esports over traditional sports – Twitch fans significantly so, with 70% dedicating more time to esports than traditional.
  • Over 60% of Twitch esports fans engage with gaming personalities on a daily basis, and nearly one in three viewed at least five hours of live Fortnite video content on Twitch in the past year.
 The North American League of Legends Championship series, aka the NA LCS, is rebranding ahead of the 2019 season, which kicks off next month. Riot announced via Twitter that the NA LCS will now simply be known as the LCS, following the recent proclamation that the EU LCS would be rebranded to the LEC.
ESP Gaming announced plans for its second World Showdown of Esports event, taking place today and tomorrow at the OGN Studios in Manhattan Beach. Competition will see 16 women Hearthstone players from around the world duel for their share of more than $30,000 in prizes and a chance to become the first WSOE Hearthstone Champion. The event will be streamed live at twitch.tv/WSOE. Leading Hearthstone personality TJ Sanders will host and be joined by a top crew of analysts, commentators, and reporters including Brian Kibler, Dan “Frodan” Chou, Nathan “Admirable” Zamora, Paul “Zalae” Nemeth, and Lauren Jbara.
The League of Professional Esports mapped out plans for the new organization, announcing plans to debut on Jan. 22 with Clash Royale competition. Teams are recruiting players and will announce their participation before the league draw on Jan. 19. “For months, the LPE has been building and preparing for its first season with Clash Royale. The broadcasts on Twitch.tv and YouTube will mark a first for the esports industry. It will be the first time pro-sports teams compete exclusively with each other in a league with non-sports simulator games, and they’re doing so with a mobile video game hit like Clash Royale no less. We believe mobile titles have a big role to play in the future of esports, and are excited about the opportunity to take concrete steps towards making that future a reality.” said LPE CEO Xavier Cortés.
NASCAR and iRacing celebrate season ten of the eNASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series in 2019 with a prize pool boost of $100,000, up more than a 500% increase from the previous year. The 2019 season kicks off on February 12 at Daytona International Speedway and runs through October with the series champion receiving his or her championship trophy and check on stage during pre-race ceremonies at the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November. All 18 rounds of the eNASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series will be broadcast live on the iRacing eSports Network as well as on www.iRacing.com and www.nascar.com.
Gfinity announced plans to host four events as part of the EA SPORTS FIFA 19 Global Series. Tournaments consist of one FUT Champions Cup and three Licensed Qualifiers with all held at the Gfinity Esports Arena in London and streamed across digital platforms. Each of the events form part of the journey that players will take on the road to the FIFA eWorld Cup 2019.
Luxury car brand Porsche and iRacing are launching the Porsche iRacing World Championship Series, offering competitors a $100,000 prize pool, competing in ten rounds, with the series qualifiers starting next month. The series was announced at the recent Porsche SimRacing Summit at the Porsche Factory in Leipzig, Germany.
Monumental Sports & Entertainment and the Washington Capitals ae set to host to an official NHL Esports Activation, the Chel Classic – a 3v3, best-of-five showcase series against the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 19 at Capital One Arena. Players will be selected to represent the Caps in the Capitals Esports Faceoff – qualifying online tournaments slated for Jan. 12, 19, 26 and Feb. 2. The final eight participants will then challenge each other at an in-person, double-elimination tournament Feb. 22 for a shot at one of the coveted final three roster spots and a chance to take home part of a $10,000 prize purse.


As the year winds to a close, Stream Hatchet presents 2018’s key game streaming trends. We’ve focused on top publishers, Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins the top gaming influencer, and platform growth rates. Happy Holidays from the Stream Hatchet team, here are our final insights of 2018:
  • The Fortnite Effect: Epic Games Experienced the greatest jump in publisher hours watched this year, experiencing a 54% increase in hours watched from Q1 to Q2. 
  • Ninja defined 2018, but 2019 will be different: Since the start of 2018, Ninja’s followers have increased by 173%. In recent months, follower gain rates have plateaued opening the door for new leaders in game streaming like Tfue, NICKMERCS and . 
  • Twitch is the most popular streaming platform, but competition grows: The unique channels on YouTube Gaming quadrupled from May to November.  
For more insights, analysis, infograph ics and everything related to game streaming, visit us at: blog.streamhatchet.com.
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Allied Esports is diving deeper into its partnership with HyperX, announcing that the brand signed a multiyear naming rights agreement for Allied’s mobile esports arena, which is now named the HyperX Esports Truck. The truck, formally known as Esports Arena DRIVE, made its debut during CES 2018 and will return to the event next month at the Sands Convention Center to make its first 2019 appearance under the new moniker. During CES 2019, HyperX will be showing new products including gaming headsets, mice, keyboards, RGB memory products, and its first HyperX USB microphone for streamers, influencers and casters. HyperX will announce a new gaming headset designed in collaboration with a Southern California headphone manufacturer, featuring fully immersive audio capabilities. The products will be demonstrated at The Venetian press suite and CES Unveiled and Pepcom Digital Experience press events.
Long-time partners Intel and ESL are strengthening their bonds, announcing a $100 million extension that will be invested by the companies to shape the future landscape of esports via “innovative technology, tournaments, and events, marking the biggest brand and technology esports partnership in history.” In addition to kicking off Season 14 of the Intel Extreme Masters, the longest running pro esports circuit in the world, the New Year will see the partnership encompass support of ESL’s premier live esports circuits, including ESL One powered by Intel and the CS:GO Pro League, in addition to the $1,000,000 Intel Grand Slam. The investment will also introduce esports to new regions of the globe, including the hosting and introduction of large scale esports events in certain countries within the APAC region.
Cynopsis Esports, Chief Marketer, Event Marketer, and parent company Access Intelligence announced dates for the 2019 Esports Business Summit, taking place in year two at MGM Las Vegas from Sept. 10-12, 2019. Registration is now open for Esports Business Summit 2019 at discounted rates for a limited time. The full 2019 program will be released in early Summer 2019. Tempest Awards Call for Entries will open Spring 2019.
Socios Esports’s new battle royale sponsorship program designed to assist small to medium-sized teams in gaining a foothold in the competitive scene saw over 15,000 votes from fans that resulted in sponsorship money for Conquer Gaming, Copenhagen Flames and 3DMAX Gaming. Sponsor funds must be used to cover the costs of running a PUBG or Fortnite team. Uses include player salaries, coaching costs, marketing or other activities that will help the team and its members build their brand and profile in battle royale esports.
Esports organization Immortals saw its collaboration with heritage sneaker and lifestyle brand K-Swiss come to life on Friday when the shoe Immortals Icon was made available to consumers for $110 at kswiss.com/immortals. The sneaker sports Immortals branding and comes with two pairs of shoelaces in Immortals colors of black and teal. “Esports is exploding, and we’re excited to be at the forefront,” said Barney Waters, K-Swiss’ brand president. “Immortals is a great organization to be partnered with as we explore together the intersection of sneakers and esports. As shown in the Immortals Icon, this creative zone is one we continue to focus energy on.”
DreamHack is celebrating the end of the year via partnership with Lights All Night – described as the longest running end of the year party – and will offer a video game experience and lounge onsite at this year’s festivities at Dallas Market Hall in Dallas on Dec. 28-29. This marks the first partnership of its kind for DreamHack, which will bring a 50-person freeplay zone featuring a variety of games, including popular titles like Fortnite, Rocket League, PUBG, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and many others. This news also corresponds with the announcement that the first-ever DreamHack Dallas will take place from May 31-June 2 in downtown Dallas.


St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is partnering with Immortals for a “first-of-its-kind” alliance to support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Immortals, and its Overwatch League franchise team, the Los Angeles Valiant, committed to raising a total of $500,000 over two years to support the St. Jude mission. Among the activations to raise money, the team will utilize a unique digital fundraising activation in esports, the LA Valiant will launch a campaign where fans can donate based on the outcomes and achievements of the LA Valiant team and players during the Overwatch League season.
Speaking of Immortals, founder Noah Whinston is shifting gears, moving from CEO to Executive Chairman of the esports organization. Ari Segal will now take over as Immortals CEO. “Excited for the opportunity to elevate [Ari Segal] and give him more autonomy in his running of the Immortals organization,” Whinston posted on Twitter. “If it was anyone else, this decision might have been harder for me, but Ari has been the best CEO in esports long before his title reflected it.”
MLB executive Chris Park is departing to serve as CEO of Gen.G. Park had been serving as executive vice president of product and marketing at MLB.
Denial Esports appears poised for a comeback, with new executives seemingly taking on the franchise. The team once had a lineup of contenders, but financial trouble see players and fees go unpaid, spawning legal action. Zach Smith, CEO of MoneyMatches, and Patrick ‘BlackBeardAP’ E. Smith Sr. both tweeted that they had worked out debt settlements and would be reviving the Denial banner.  


The Twitch Holiday Spectacular hit streamland recently as a special edition of Twitch Weekly that featured guests from the community and highlighted key moments and milestones from 2018. The company reported that the number of partner and affiliate streamers who can generate revenue on Twitch grew more than 86% from 2017 to 2018, with more than 248,000 streamers gaining Affiliate status and more than 7,800 streamers becoming Partners. Meanwhile, the number of streamers per month increased, growing from 2 million in 2017 to more than 3 million in 2018 with now close to a half a million streamers going live every day and – at any given time – an average of more than a million people are on Twitch. 2018 also saw the overall minutes watched increased to 434 billion (YTD). Other highlights:
  • Ninja set the all-time record for highest concurrent viewership on an individual’s channel with more than 667,000 concurrent viewers in April at the opening of the Las Vegas Esports Arena, setting the highest concurrent viewership on an individual’s Twitch channel ever.
  • ELEAGUE’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Major Grand Final match set a record with over 1 million concurrent viewers on a single organization’s channel.
  • E3 in June set the record for the highest concurrent viewership across all of Twitch with more than 2.9 million tuning in, surpassing the previous record set in January 2018 of 2.5 million.
 Speaking of Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, the streamer will be hosting a New Year’s Eve countdown event from New York City’s Times Square beginning December 31 at 4p where he will stream live for 12-hours straight. The event can be seen at www.twitch.tv/ninja.
Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six: Siege is hitting theaters courtesy of a new documentary titled To Win It All: The Road to the Six Invitational, which will run in Cinemark theaters next month. The documentary, which debuts on Jan. 24, follows three teams and three players as they prepare for the Six Invitational: Team Liquid, Penta Sports, and Evil Geniuses.


Discord made its move to leave its mark on the new game store wars, announcing that next year will see developers keep 90% of all revenue from their games made through the Discord Store. In addition, Discord will open developers’ access to its storefront through a self-serve game publishing platform. “No matter what size, from AAA to single person teams, developers will be able to self publish on the Discord store with 90% revenue share going to the developer,” the company said in a post. “The remaining 10% covers our operating costs, and we’ll explore lowering it by optimizing our tech and making things more efficient.”
The NPD Group announced that Nintendo Switch now ranks as the fastest-selling video game system of this hardware generation through 21 months on the market, selling more than 8.7 million units in that span. In fact, the report states that Nintendo hardware unit and dollar sales for 2018 are at their highest annual totals since 2011, while Nintendo eShop sales have grown 105% over that span.
The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences announced its 23rd Hall of Fame recipient, Bonnie Ross, Microsoft Corporate Vice President and Head of 343 Industries which oversees the Halo franchise. Ross has been integral in the vision and expansion of the Halo franchise that has continued to excite generations of fans, generating nearly $6 billion in worldwide sales to date and has transcended video games to grow into a global entertainment phenomenon. The 2019 Hall of Fame Award will be presented to Ross during the D.I.C.E. Awards ceremony on Feb. 13 by Phil Spencer, Executive Vice President and Head of Gaming at Microsoft.
Cynopsis is thrilled to announce the finalists for our 2019 Short Form Video Festival! Winners will be announced at the second annual industry event, taking place on Wednesday, March 6 at the SVA Theatre in NYC. The festival will also feature panels offering best practices in business and advertising in the short form space as well as opportunities to network with creators, buyers, distributors, brands and more.
ON THIS DAY in 2001: Disney Online is incorporated.
Trivia: The Belmont clan, including Simon, Trevor, Richter, and Sonia, anchors which long-running game franchise in the family’s multi-generational fight against otherworldly beasts? (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: What is the name of game pictured last week? Answer: Minesweeper. Kudos: Luke Watson-Essential TV/NY; Scott Jenkins-Gracenote/NY; Lauren Weeks-Viacom/NY; Danny Araque/NY; Jorge Tatto- WorldGaming Network/Toronto; Rick Dascher-Turner Studios/Atlanta; Gabrielle Fredrick-National Geographic/DC; Annie Quaile-Full Sail University/Winter Park; Will James-Midan Marketing/Mooresville; Chris Durkin-Viacom/Nashville; Brad Stern/Carbondale; Andy Babb-Super League Gaming/Santa Monica; David Vincent Gagne- Jacket Industries/LA; Greg Dudsic/Venice; Asa Livingston-A Living Production/LA


For more news and coverage, check out: http://cynopsisesports.com (updated daily).


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