01/12/23: Riot Games has changed the format of its League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational and World Championship


Medias First Morning Read
Thursday January 12, 2023

Good morning! It’s Thursday and this is your early morning Esports brief.

Riot Games has changed the format of its League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational and World Championship and will bring the tournaments to London and South Korea, respectively, this year, the developer announced.

This year’s MSI will feature 13 teams, an increase from the 11 that participated in 2022, with eight play-in teams and five that directly enter the main stage. For the first time, several regions will get multiple participants in MSI: League Champions Korea will see two teams directly qualify to the main event, while the League Europe/Middle East/Africa Championship, League Championship Series (North America) and League Pro League (China) will each send one team to the bracket stage and one to play-ins. MSI will also feature a double-elimination format, which fans have called for over the past few years to make the results of the tournament feel more significant when evaluating regional strength compared to other leagues.

Worlds will return to South Korea for the first time since 2018 following South Korean squad DRX’s victory at the 2022 world championship in North America. The competition will feature 22 teams this year with an additional leg of competition, the Worlds Qualifying Series. The fourth seeds from North America’s LCS and EMEA’s LEC will face off in a best-of-five series at this event to determine which region gets a fourth Worlds slot.

This year’s Worlds will feature an eight-team play-in stage as usual while adjusting its groups format to a five-round, 14-team Swiss style stage, with teams who reach three wins advancing to the knockout stage and teams with three losses being eliminated. All matches to reach knockouts or to avoid elimination will be best-of-three, Riot said, while other matches will be single-game affairs. The knockout stage of Worlds will remain a single-elimination tournament with eight teams seeded based on performance in the Swiss round.

The changes should lead to a wider array of matchups throughout Worlds 2023 and more significance to series throughout. In previous years, teams have competed on final days with no chance to qualify; the Swiss format, and double-elimination decision for MSI, will alleviate concerns about inconsequential matches and, Riot hopes, will drive viewership for both of its premier international League of Legends events.


Dota 2 developer Valve has revealed the locations of its three Dota Pro Circuit Majors for 2023, with Lima, Peru; Berlin, Germany; and Bali, Indonesia hosting the DPC Majors. Lima’s event, put on by 4D Esports, will wrap up the DPC’s Winter Tour, with ESL’s Berlin Major capping off the Spring Tour and the IO Esports Bali Major wrapping up the Summer Tour. These events will lead into The International, Dota 2’s biggest esports event and a tournament that holds the record for the largest prize pool in esports — despite a dip in tournament earnings in 2023 due to restructuring of crowdfunding for the event.

Mobile Legends: Bang Bang is back at it again with another peak viewership record during the M4 World Championship. The mobile game championship drew nearly 4.2 million peak viewers during playoff competition on Wednesday, with a matchup between RRQ Hoshi and Blacklist International drawing millions of viewers. RRQ Hoshi, an Indonesian esports organization, has been a fan favorite throughout the event, with nearly 2.3 million peak viewers for its playoff matchup Monday against TODAK and the top four series in terms of peak viewership throughout the event. The M4 World Championship is averaging nearly 650,000 viewers so far, with more than 45 million hours watched as the two-week event nears its Jan. 15 final.

Tournament organizer Intel Extreme Masters will return to Brazil for another event after the landmark success of its IEM Rio Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament. Set to take place April 17-23, IEM Brazil follows up on the first-ever CS:GO Major hosted in South America. The Rio tournament sold out both the Jeunesse Arena and the Riocentro Convention & Event Center throughout the two-week event in late October and November 2022 and drew standout viewership compared to other 2022 events. IEM organizer ESL Gaming has yet to announce a venue for the competition.

BLAST Premier has also released its CS:GO event schedule for 2023, with competition beginning Jan. 19 and concluding with the world final Dec. 13-17. The year consists of a Spring and Fall season, with 10-day group stages taking place in Berlin. Every group stage series will be a best-of-three, BLAST announced, providing “more hours of Counter-Strike than ever before” as BLAST enters its fourth season. Group winners will advance to seasonal finals, which will take place June 7-11 in the Spring and Nov. 22-26 in the Fall, while other competitors will get another chance to qualify in the Showdown stage that takes place between groups and the finals. Regional qualifiers for the Showdown stage will also return in 2023, giving less-known teams a shot to make it to the big stage.


19% of 2022 esports viewership was from mobile events

Mobile games have become a staple in the gaming and entertainment industry because of their accessibility and the increasing quality of the games developed as the years go on. In the live streaming industry, however, the most popular mobile games played on live streaming platforms are the esports-centric titles: PUBG Mobile, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, and Garena Free Fire consistently top the charts.

In 2022, viewers watched 360 million hours of mobile esports events, which accounts for 19% of all esports viewership (or about 2.53 billion hours watched). While mobile esports viewership is down about 24% from last year, the industry was affected by the ban of several popular titles in India, including PUBG Mobile and Battlegrounds Mobile India (the game created to replace the former). Additionally, one of the biggest MLBB events, M4, was pushed to January of 2023, taking some viewership numbers away from 2022.

MLBB was by far the biggest mobile esports title of the year, with 165 million hours watched of esports events. That makes it the fifth-biggest esports title of last year overall, including non-mobile games.

Read more on Stream Hatchet’s blog.


Ninjas in Pyjamas has formed NIP Group following a merger with Chinese company ESV5 E-SPORT GROUP CO. The Swedish esports organization’s merger via an equity share swap has been in the works since 2020, ESV5 chairman Mario Ho, who will be chairman and co-CEO of NIP Group, said in a statement. NIP Group hopes to “expand its overseas business” in “one of the largest cross-border mergers and acquisitions in the global esports industry to-date,” the company said. NIP Group confirmed former Chinese League of Legends Pro League team Victory Five will begin competing as Ninjas in Pyjamas in 2023 as well, and the combined entity will field teams in League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Rainbow Six: Siege, VALORANT and other esports.

Team Vitality announced a three-year partnership with apparel brand Hummel that will increase Hummel’s footprint in the esports space and give Team Vitality a new jersey provider. Hummel works with Astralis, another CS:GO organization with multiple other esports arms, and has a deal with the Danish organization through 2025, according to Forbes. “The esports industry is experiencing tremendous growth, not only in terms of active players and fan communities but also the associated merchandise market,” Hummel CEO Allan Vad Nielsen said in a statement. “That’s also why we are extremely proud to join forces with Team Vitality.”

Giants and KitKat have renewed their sponsorship deal, and the candy brand will remain across all of the Spanish organization’s branding and social channels for the third year in a row. Giants competes in the Spanish SuperLiga in League of Legends, CS:GO, Rocket League and VALORANT, among other titles. KitKat has also sponsored the League of Legends EMEA Championship, and its parent company, Nestlé, has inked deals with Giants in the past.

South Korean esports organization DWG KIA is rebranding to Dplus KIA, the company announced. This is the second rebrand for the organization in the past three years; DWG KIA was known as DAMWON Gaming until 2020, when it changed its name to bring its automobile-manufacturing sponsor front-and-center in the branding. Dplus KIA, the winners of the 2020 League of Legends World Championship, debuted the brand’s new logo and apparel at the LCK Season Kickoff on Tuesday.

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Which factors influence purchase of gaming accessories?

Three-fifths of American gamers (62%) consider the price of gaming accessories when making purchases. But a low price cannot come at the expense of quality, as a similar proportion of gamers (60%) emphasize that factor too.


Former Cloud9 White captain Melanie “meL” Capone has joined Version1, with the organization planning to put its women’s roster in contention in both VALORANT Challengers and the all-women’s VALORANT Game Changers competitions. Fellow C9 White alum Alexis “alexis” Guarrasi will also compete for Version1 alongside 16-year-old star Ava “florescent” Eugene, former XSET Purple player Nicole “Noia” Tierce and Sarah “sarah” Simpson of Immortals. “When we learned the core of this roster was interested in coming to Version1 it became a no-brainer this was the right path forward,” Version1 COO Brett Diamond said in a statement. “We’re honored that legends such as meL and alexis are continuing their career with Version1 and excited to see them compete alongside top up-and-coming VALORANT players.”

Retired CS:GO pro Vincent “Happy” Cervoni Schopenhauer has joined M80’s VALORANT team as head coach, he announced Tuesday. Happy, a France native, had a noteworthy career with Team EnVyUs, now known as Team Envy, in the mid-2010s and also spent time with Team Vitality and Team LDLC. He also served as a commentator and analyst. “Watching all these games (and international tournaments too) and seeing how much experience and guidance I could give to so many players made me realize my value was no longer as a player on the server but as someone who is working behind the team,” Happy said in a statement. “It came naturally and after a short period of time, my mind was set on the task: I want to help a team achieve greatness.”

Former Immortals Gaming Club CEO Jordan Sherman left the company in December, according to a report from Digiday. Sherman, who took on the CEO role in late September 2021, was the president and chief commercial officer at IGC prior to taking the lead role and has previous executive experience with esports org Gen.G and has worked in traditional sports with the LA Clippers and MLB. IGC has not commented on Sherman’s departure, but Digiday reports unrest among employees and Immortals players, as well as turnover at the company, might have played a role in the decision.

Meanwhile, EXCEL Esports announced some changes to its executive team, including former COO Tim Reichert’s promotion to CEO and former CEO Wouter Sleijffers moving to a strategic advisor role. The company also announced the addition of former head of legal Rosenbelle Ganan to the EXCEL leadership team as the organization’s new director of operations and legal affairs.


The U.S. Federal Trade commission’s proposal of banning non-compete clauses from employment contracts could have a particularly strong impact on the esports world, which has a particularly dubious history when it comes to producing fair contracts for workers. From non-competes for freelance contractors across other gaming competitors to clauses that are binding even should a person be laid off or terminated, the use of non-competes to strongarm employees or contractors has remained a point of contention in the gaming landscape for years, with unionization efforts popping up both in game development and in games journalism circles. Between this proposal and pay transparency laws revealing discrepancies in compensation across both games and esports salaried and hourly opportunities, there could be some course-corrections — or at least more worthwhile scrutiny — coming for companies leaning on exploitative policies.

Former League of Legends World Championship performer Chrissy Costanza announced she is spearheading the launch of a new MMO as the CEO and Founder of Starfall. Costanza, a popular streamer and leader of the band Against the Current, has tied herself to several Riot Games titles and become embedded in the esports scene in multiple ways. From producing League of Legends World Championship theme songs to working as an on-air talent for the VALORANT Championship Tour, Costanza’s attachment to gaming as well as performing informs this next step in her career. Costanza said her team is building the indie title using Minecraft, a sandbox game that’s notable for being easily modifiable. Minecraft has been the bedrock of multiple popular streaming moments, from battle royale-style creations to survival genre integrations. It remains one of the most popular games in the world, with hundreds of millions of downloads across console and PC platforms.

Around 30 employees were laid off from esports organization 100 Thieves Wednesday, according to multiple posts from laid-off personnel on social media and a report from The Jacob Wolf Report. Chief revenue officer Matty Lee was among those laid off Tuesday, according to an announcement on his LinkedIn page, while The Jacob Wolf Report also indicated “vice president of account management and integrated marketing Katy Chapel, vice president of IT Nichele Dudley, director of people Amber Fonts, director of talent Bailey Heidhues, director of post production Frank Door, director of production operations Alex Salamunovich, director of facilities Rowena Dy and head of partnerships Hillary Gilmore” had left the company. The most recent round of cuts follows staff reductions in July 2022 that saw around a dozen members of the 100 Thieves content team removed. The decision is part of ongoing struggles for the company, which lost Cash App’s sponsorship for its 100 Thieves Compound in late 2022. The company has yet to announce a replacement sponsor for the venue.

In the latest real-life streaming competition adaptation, streamer QTCinderella has created a competitive baking show known as “The Master Baker.” The series, which will take place Jan. 15-19 on Twitch, is part of the streamer’s ongoing efforts to activate beyond personal and peer streaming. QTCinderella, the founder of The Streamer Awards, joined esports organization Misfits to create more curated content series like “The Master Baker,” and the trend of more show-style activations has seen success recently. One flagship example: streamer Ludwig “Ludwig” Ahgren’s Mobile Chessboxing Championship, which drew nearly 320,000 peak viewers and an average of 252K viewers throughout the near-six-hour competition.

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What is the name of the video game-based TV series scheduled to premiere on HBO this week? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city).

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