01/09/20: Riot books date for Monday Night League

 

 

January 9, 2020

Good morning! It’s Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020 and this is your weekly Esports Brief.

 

 

A New Year and a new look format for Riot’s upcoming League of Legends season, with the publisher announcing changes to its playoff format as well as its schedule. With the LCS season kicking off on Jan, 25, while Academy starts Jan. 24, play will now see LCS games take place on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays, including Monday Night League with two “marquee” contests starting at 8:30p ET. Meanwhile, Academy matchups will take places from Friday to Monday, and see the addition of new show Academy Rush, running Fridays at 8p and featuring four Academy games played simultaneously while the 5th and final game shown in full.

As for the postseason, the league made some changes to the Playoff formats and how teams qualify for the World Championship. The Playoffs will take place over four weeks with the specific format changing between Spring and Summer. At the conclusion of the Spring Split regular season, the top six teams from the regular season will advance to a Best of 5 bracket, with the winner of the 2020 LCS Spring Finals advancing to the 2020 Mid-Season Invitational. For the Summer Playoffs, the top eight teams from the regular season will advance to Playoffs for a Best of five bracket. Teams will now qualify from Worlds as a result of the new Summer Playoffs format and will no longer get a chance via the Regional Gauntlet.

COMPETITION

ESL and DreamHack are adding more Blizzard to the mix, courtesy of a three-year-long strategic agreement with Blizzard Entertainment that will see the creation of new ESL Pro Tour formats for both StarCraft II and Warcraft III: Reforged, with Blizzard offering up a prize pool of more than $1.8 million and over US $200,000 respectively for the first season. The new StarCraft series will take over from the StarCraft II World Championship Series and will now feature tournaments on a minimum of four different continents with the global finals moving from BlizzCon to Intel Extreme Masters Katowice. The first season of the StarCraft II tour comprises seven tournaments in total, including both Katowice 2020 and Katowice 2021 to allow new players to make their way to the top. Two IEM competitions and four DreamHack tournaments will lead up to the Masters Championship at Intel Extreme Masters Katowice 2021. Meanwhile, Warcraft III: Reforged esports will consist of one ESL competition and three DreamHack tournaments, culminating in a Championship tournament in 2020. In addition to both ESL Pro Tours, weekly ESL Open Cups will be held for the wider amateur and grassroots community.

Blizzard is expanding Hearthstone Masters to six tours this year, dangling a cool $250,000 in prizes for each tournament which will get a boost from crowdfunding. The slate opens in Arlington from Jan. 31-Feb. 2, and will continue in Bali, Indonesia (March 20-22), Jönköping, Sweden (June 12-14), a TBD Asia-Pacific Location in July/August, Montreal, Canada (Sept. 11-13) and Spain in December. The year will see Hearthstone Esports partner with ESL and DreamHack for Hearthstone Masters Tour events next year.

The 2020 eMLS season kicks off this week in Philadelphia for League Series One presented by PlayStation. The event serves as the first of three eMLS tournaments that will take place in 2020, followed by League Series Two in February and eMLS Cup in March. Players from 25 MLS teams (including 2021 expansion side Austin FC) will compete to be crowned League Series One champion as well as for points in the 2020 eMLS standings. All 25 players will play 12 games during the regular-season portion of the event, which will take place throughout the day on Jan. 9 from 10a-5:30p.

ESTV and National Football League Alumni Association announced the inaugural ESTV NFLA Esports Experience at the SuperFest Miami LIVE festivities for Super Bowl LI in Miami. ESTV and NFLA will organize the esports entertainment experience at the 4-day event from Jan. 30-Feb. 2, blending pro NFL players and alumni, professional gamers, and gaming enthusiasts. The ESTV NFLA broadcast team includes former CNN senior correspondent and NFL Network on-air talent director, Marc Watts, former Green Bay Packers all-time leading running back and Hall of Famer, Ahman Green, former Chicago Bears safety, Brock Vereen, and former New England Patriots running back and Super Bowl winner, Shane Vereen, NFL Alumni, Aaron Beasley as hosts and commentators.

Method unveiled its next series, the Race to World First: Ny’alotha tournament, launching Jan. 28 in Krefeld, Germany from TaKeTV studios. US raids will feature non-stop, 24-hours, a day, seven-days-a-week raids, carried on Method’s Twitch channel with around the clock coverage featuring expert analysis and commentary, casting and original content. The latest iteration of WoW raiding takes place in the current expansion – Battle for Azeroth – the final raid before the new expansion, Shadowlands, launches. Method will once again host a charity drive for Save the Children, which raised a total of $60,000 in the last Race to World First. A total of 11 Method players will be raiding on location, with the broadcast covering guilds from around the world, particularly Ji Tian Hong, Alpha, Club Camel, Fused, Vodka, Ethical & Imperative and more to be announced.

PUBG Mobile unveiled plans for the PUBG Mobile Club Open Spring Split to kick off the 2020 season, which offers a prize pool of $1 million divided across the Spring and Fall. The PMCO will lead to the first PUBG Mobile World Championship 2020 later this year with contenders from a bevy of new regions this year.

More talent changes for Overwatch League’s third season, with Brennon “Bren” Hook and Josh “Sideshow” Wilkinson shifting from the desk and into casting during the 2020 season. The pair spent the first two seasons on the analysis desk, providing in-depth coverage before, during, and after matches. Meanwhile, a trio of staples behind the microphone will be parting ways with the organization, in Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykles, Erik “DoA” Lonnquist and desk host Chris Puckett.

CEO Gaming unveiled its official tournament schedule for 2020 with each of its three major events returning to Wyndham Orlando Resort, and this year will be “offering three individual events focused on the sub-genres of fighting games that inspired them.” CEO Dreamland runs March 13-15, featuring the Super Smash Bros. Series and other popular Platform Brawler titles. The CEO Fighting Game Championships take place June 26-28, featuring Street Fighter V: Champion Edition, Tekken 7, Mortal Kombat 11, retro titles, Pro Tour support, and more. The CEOtaku Anime Fighting Game Championships, meanwhile, run Sept. 25-27, featuring established anime flavored fighting games such as Guilty Gear, BlazBlue, UNICLR, Karaoke, etc.

Overwatch League will open its third season without some key faces, who announced their departures with the New Year. Among the talent not coming back as a regular is veteran esports host Chris Puckett along with analyst Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykles. Puckett told fans that “I want to thank everyone who made the first two seasons at @overwatchleague so special. Starting with the visionary who put it all together @natenanzer. When he first brought me in to see his master plan, I thought he was crazy. 2 years later he made it happen.”

Save the date and get in now as slots are already being filled! Be a part of the 2020 Esports Upfront, taking place this year on April 21, 2020 at CNVS New York. Last year saw some participants score millions in new business as a result of presenting, so don’t miss your opportunity to lay out your plans in front of an invitation-only audience of leading brands and agencies. Contact mkuczynski@accessintel.com for details.

TRENDS

 

 

Over the last week, Escape From Tarkov, a realistic survival FPS is changing the meta of the game streaming ecosystem. Battlestate Games, the publisher, has been able to pull significant audiences to streamers of their title by integrating viewer drops into streaming platforms like Twitch. Our insights focus on the top Tarkov streamers last week:
· Three of the Five top streamers are new to the leaderboards: Pestily, Anton and Veritas generated a combined 10.9M H. Watched while streaming Escape From Tarkov.
· Impact of New Streamers: 36% of the 30.5M H. Watched of Escape from Tarkov on Twitch last week, were from rising streamers: Pesily, Anton and Veritas.
· Had xQc only streamed Tarkov: xQc streamed 10 unique titles last week to an average audience of 24.3k. His audience while streaming Escape From Tarkov was slightly higher (26.4K) and we estimate he would have reached 1.48M H. Watched had he streamed the title exclusively.
For more insights on game streaming, esports and platforms, visit our blog at: blog.streamhatchet.com.

ACTIVATION

 

 

A new report from Superdata stated that non-endemic brands accounted for 60% of esports partnerships across the key Esport24 events the Nielsen company measured, up 7% year-over-year. Growth was spurred by the localized franchise models of esports leagues, noting that while rights holders were pursuing partnerships with national brands, teams were focusing on local partners such as quick service restaurants and healthcare providers to create messages designed to reach the 18-34 demographic of engaged esports fans.

Lenovo is bringing Legion to the new Apex Legends Global Series, announcing a deal with Electronic Arts and Respawn Entertainment for Lenovo Legion to become the exclusive PC and monitor for the esports program. The deal will see Lenovo provide more than 200 high-performance Lenovo Legion desktops and monitors for all Apex Legends Global Series Majors this year. In addition, Lenovo will also be providing Lenovo Legion laptops for the caster’s desks to spectate and commentate on the live performance. The exclusive partnership will kick off at the first Apex Legends Global Series Major on March 13-15 in Arlington.

G2 Esports is going deeper with GIGABYTE gaming brand AORUS in a deal that will see the release of more co-branded products in 2020. “With the precedent set by the Z390 AORUS MASTER G2 Edition motherboard, we are ecstatic to announce this is just the first stepping stone of AORUS’ Esports integration plan,” said Eric Tsai, Account Manager at GIGABYTE. “In the coming year of 2020 we are thrilled to have a product schedule lined up that includes many releases in collaboration with G2 Esports.”

The Orlando Magic’s Magic Gaming opened up a new partnership with Bud Light. The partnership will focus on “both the fans and the NBA 2k players, and Bud Light will become the presenting sponsor of the Bud Light 2K Tournament series,” according to Orlando Business Journal.

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PLATFORMS

 

 

Twitter released its key highlights in gaming and esports for 2019, noting that the year saw over 1.2 billion Tweets about gaming, up nearly 20% year over year. Leading the parade among the most talked about esports teams were: FaZe Clan; G2 Esports; Cloud9; Fnatic; 100 Thieves; Team Liquid; Team SoloMid; Flamengo; MAD Lions (Formerly Splyce); and OpTic Gaming. Leading the way among Esports Events was LoL Worlds 2019, followed by EVO 2019; Fortnite World Cup 2019; The International 2019; The Overwatch League 2019 Finals; IEM Katowice CS:GO Major; Call of Duty World Championship; LoL MSI 2019 CWL Anaheim and CWL Miami.

Vindex punched its ticket with IMAX, forging a partnership to create esports events and experiences exclusively for IMAX theatres worldwide. The partnership will be powered by Vindex Studios, a newly launched division of Vindex focused on developing, distributing and monetizing esports content for global audiences. “The Esports industry has never before had access to the massive reach and unmatched technology of the IMAX platform. Partnering with IMAX enables us to provide esports fans a remarkable experience – live esports on the largest, highest-quality screens in the world for the first time,” said Vindex CEO Mike Sepso. “We will focus on creating incredible experiences for fans by combining our deep relationships with esports leagues and game-publisher partners with our track record of producing some of the most watched events in esports history.”

DreamHack and SPORT1 announced that SPORT1 will carry two premium DreamHack Dota 2 tournaments live on pay-TV channel eSPORTS1 next year. The first event from Jan. 24-26 will be the Dota 2 major ”DreamLeague Season 13 – The Leipzig Major”, which will be held at DreamHack Leipzig. The second event, DreamLeague Season 14, is yet to be announced with additional details to be presented during Spring 2020. In addition to the live broadcast on eSPORTS1, highlights of the two competitions will also be shown in the magazine ”bwin Inside eSports” on eSPORTS1 and on free-TV. SPORT1 will also be the media partner of DreamHack Leipzig for the third year in a row and will report live from the event.

READYUP GAMES OF THE WEEK

 

 

 

TEAMS

 

 

The Los Angeles Valiant are getting a new look. Beginning with the 2020 Overwatch League season, the Valiant will shed its green hue in favor of blue and gold as its official colors, citing localizing as the driving force of the overhaul. Select LA Valiant players will debut the new color palette at Staples Center on Jan. 8 as part of Los Angeles Kings Video Game Night featuring IGC Esports. The LA Valiant kick off their season in Dallas on February 9-10.

Danish org North unveiled a new logo and organizational overhaul. “We have made significant changes to the way marketing is done at North, both by increasing our budgets substantially but also by professionalizing the team doing brand-marketing,” said Alexander Pedersen, CMO for North. “We want to create a ‘why’ to follow North, not just by doing what everyone else is doing.”

Overwatch League’s Florida Mayhem are getting a facelift, announcing new team colors, looks and logo for season three of the league. Abandoning the red and gold from the first two seasons, the team will now sport pink, electric blue and black, in addition to its newly-colored pink logo.

INDUSTRY

Esports merchandising company We Are Nations entered a long-term, global licensing agreement with Ultimate Media Ventures, per Esports Insider. The deal, which also includes a marketing partnership, will see We Are Nations license the ULT brand and IP to build its presence in North America, Europe, and further regions while Ultimate Media Ventures will also become We Are Nations’ marketing agency of record, working on ULT and other projects that the company has undertaken.

ROSTER MOVES

Excel Esports named Wouter Sliejjfers as the company’s new CEO, while Kieran Holmes-Darby, the former CEO, will shift to the role of Chief Gaming Officer, with Joel Holmes-Darby now the Chief People Officer and Robin McCammon as Chief Commercial Officer. “Excel Esports is the most beloved brand in UK esports, and I’m delighted to take up this new challenge of building the organization into a household name on a global scale,” said Sliejjfers. “My experience helping create one of the most established brands in the industry meant I recognized Excel’s extraordinary potential immediately, and I’m thrilled to be helping chart its course to become an international success.”

Swedish team organization Ninjas in Pyjamas named Jonas Gundersen as its new chief operating officer, per TEO. Gundersen is a former Counter-Strike professional player.

Envy Gaming tapped Sheri Simonson to serve as the team’s Director of Sponsorship Activation. Simonson has previously worked as Manager of Merchandise Marketing for GameStop.

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