01/20/22: Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard makes a content powerhouse

Medias First Morning Read
Thursday January 20, 2022

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

The competitive esports scene continued to react to Tuesday’s announcement that Microsoft would acquire Activision Blizzard, the publisher behind franchises as Call of Duty, Overwatch, League of Legends, along with mobile titles such as Candy Crush, and more. Potentially putting the Halo Championship Series under the same umbrella as Call of Duty League and Overwatch League, as well as the dormant MLG brand. The deal is reportedly valued at $68.7 billion, and is subject to regulatory approvals.

“Over many decades, the studios and teams that make up Activision Blizzard have earned vast wellsprings of joy and respect from billions of people all over the world,” said Spencer in a post announcing the deal. “We are incredibly excited to have the chance to work with the amazing, talented, dedicated people across Activision Publishing, Blizzard Entertainment, Beenox, Demonware, Digital Legends, High Moon Studios, Infinity Ward, King, Major League Gaming, Radical Entertainment, Raven Software, Sledgehammer Games, Toys for Bob, Treyarch and every team across Activision Blizzard.”

Stream Hatchet analysis:

If the deal goes through, Microsoft will become a force to be reckoned with in the gaming industry, and could generate a significant share of video game streaming in future years. Stream Hatchet has analyzed live stream viewership data and here are the greatest takeaways from the largest all-cash deal in corporate history.
· The combined entities already represent over a 10th of video game streaming watch time: Combined live stream watched hours of games by Activision, Blizzard, and Xbox Game Studios for 2020-2021 equaled about 8.1 billion hours, or about 13% of the total live stream hours watched across the major Western streaming platforms.
· The value of IP remains balanced between the three game publishers: Each of the major video game publishers contributed roughly 1/3rd of the video game streaming watch time over the two-year period, suggesting that each game studio will bring a fair share of IP to the merger.

For more information on how live streaming data can be utilized to help businesses understand underlying trends across the video games market landscape, visit us online at: www.StreamHatchet.com

COMPETITION

Plans for the Brawlhalla Esports 2022 season were revealed with a total prize pool of $1,320,000 on the line across all regions. This season will see four Seasonal Championships, the Omen Oasis Championship, a Crew Battle Invitational, the Japan Invitational, the Midseason Invitational, and conclude with November’s Brawlhalla World Championship 2021, which will offer a half million in prizes. Play opens this month with the Winter Championship.

ESL extended its partnership with 14 major CS:GO teams through at least 2025. The Louvre Agreement sees Astralis, BIG, Complexity, Evil Geniuses, ENCE, FaZe Clan, Fnatic, Furia, G2 Esports, Mousesports, Natus Vincere, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Team Liquid, Team Vitality, join the tournament organizer to help drive the growth of the ESL Pro League. The extension also brings a vote of confidence for the recently launched CS:GO Hub. “Despite the global challenges and uncertainties of the last 24 months, I’m proud that together we have created something so dynamic for the CS:GO ecosystem,” said Alex Inglot, Commissioner of the ESL Pro League. “The Louvre Agreement is a manifestation of a joint desire to create a sustainable yet ambitious framework within CS:GO – one that can serve to positively impact and influence the rest of the ecosystem.”

Just ahead of Call of Duty League’s 2022 Kickoff Classic (at Esports Stadium Arlington on Jan. 21 -23), the league revealed its season schedule with live and in person LAN events throughout the year. The seven events will include the Kickoff Classic, the four Majors tournaments, the first-ever $250,000 Pro-Am Classic, as well as the championship, plus two midseason tournaments played online: All-Star Weekend and the first-ever $100,000 Call of Duty League Warzone competition. The first major will take place March 3-6, with qualifiers running Feb. 4-20 with OpTic Texas playing host. Other majors will take place in Minnesota, Toronto and New York.

Raidiant is gearing up to host one of the largest Women’s Rocket League tournaments in history, teaming with Psyonix and Twitch for the Raidiant Rocket League Series, running Feb. 26-27. Competition will be open to a mix of professional, amateur, influencer, and collegiate all-Women’s teams. The event will be produced from the Verizon 5G Gaming Center I Los Angeles, on Verizon’s XR Stage.

The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series is set to debut new tracks for the 13th season of the series with drivers competing on virtual circuits that more closely mirror the NASCAR Cup Series schedule. Six tracks make a first-time appearance on the 19-race calendar, including the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which opens the season with an exhibition race on Feb. 1. In addition to the L.A. Coliseum, virtual events will also debut at the newly reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bristol Dirt Race, Dover International Speedway, World Wide Technology Raceway and Nashville Superspeedway. For the first time in its history, the series will conclude at Phoenix Raceway on October 25. “The 2022 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series season is shaping up to be one of our most exciting yet,” said Tony Gardner, iRacing President. “With a refreshed schedule, led by our opening exhibition at the L.A. Coliseum, a track developed in iRacing, the pursuit of this year’s championship will take some exciting new turns this year. We’re excited to kick off the chase for one of the largest purses in sim racing, with well over $300,000 on the line, and look forward to crowning a champion in Phoenix!”

Speaking of racing, CBS Sports Network is on deck to carry all three races of the General Tire eShort Course Triple Crown, the iRacing-based series of virtual short course events, in 2022 with competition kicking off this week. “Over the past two years, the Jim Beaver eSports General Tire eShort Course World Cup Fueled by Fistful of Bourbon has grown from a one-off event we assembled during COVID lockdowns, to one of the most prestigious iRacing events in the world,” said team owner Jim Beaver. “Last year, with the support of CBS Sports, we were able to bring the event to television for the first time; this year, thanks to the increased commitment of General Tire, we’re able to bring the full Triple Crown to TV!”

Riot is tapping the services of Nerd Street Gamers to serve as its exclusive partner for stage one of the 2022 VALORANT Champions Tour in North America where the company will oversee operations and broadcast. VCT Stage 1: Challengers NA will begin play with two 128-team Open Qualifiers, should launch later this month. Nerd Street Gamers will also operate all of Riot Games’ Game Changers series in North America this year.

Think you are S-Tier? Then bring your esports property and compete against the heavyweight pillars of the sports industry! The doors are open! Nominations for the Cynopsis Sports Media Awards are now being taken for their year’s ceremony, taking place on April 19, live (hopefully) in NYC. New categories are seeking champions! Have a gander by clicking here.

Activision Blizzard revealed esports plans for World of Warcraft this year for Arena World Championship, Mythic Dungeon International, and Classic Arena Tournament, announcing both changes to the ecosystem as well as over $1.8 million in prizing across all three programs. Competition opens on March 18 with competition for the Arena World Championship. The Great Push tournaments also return via a multi-weekend mini season with an additional $210,000 in prizing after the Mythic Dungeon International global finals.

BLAST rolled out the roadmap for the 2022 BLAST Premier CS:GO tournament series, with seven events scheduled throughout 2022 and a prize pool of $2.47 million. Spring groups open play starting Jan. 28 with the Spring Showdown set to run April 20-24 and the Spring Final live from Jun 14-19.

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SPONSORSHIP AND ACTIVATION

North American esports organization Immortals locked in a multi-year League of Legends naming rights deal with Progressive that will see its LCS squad compete under the moniker Immortals Progressive. Progressive will also serve as the official insurance sponsor of Immortals. “Our new branding previews how we intend to integrate visual representations of the Great Lakes Region throughout our merchandise, content and other collateral,” said Brad Peters, Immortals Director of Brand. “This jersey design demonstrates how we are breaking the traditional mold of what fans expect to see from esports teams visually.”

FlyQuest named Mastercard as the Official Financial Services Partner of their League of Legends teams with the brand showcased on team jerseys throughout the 2022 LCS Season. “We have always been committed to ensuring that any partner that joins the FlyQuest family must match our values, which is why I’m so thrilled FlyQuest is partnering with Mastercard,” said FlyQuest CEO Tricia Sugita. “Together, FlyQuest and Mastercard will be bringing a synergistic partnership that emphasizes our shared values.”

Riot Games renewed its partnership with Red Bull and Warner Music for the fourth year in a row, in addition to welcoming back Secretlab as the Official Gaming Chair Partner for the LEC and EU Masters. Red Bull will create content activations that will appear throughout LEC events and also promoting grassroots LoL esports over the next 12 months. Further, Red Bull Solo Q, the official 1v1 League of Legends tournament, in which fans can compete against each other, is returning for 2022.

Riot Games also announced that Kia will return for the fourth year in a row as Automotive Main Partner for the League of Legends European Championship Spring and Summer 2022. “We are delighted to extend our partnership with the LEC, one of the world’s premier esports leagues,” says Hyojung Jung, VP and head of Marketing Communications Group of Kia. “As the LEC’s longest-running main partner, we look forward to deepening our engagement with global esports fans in 2022, while introducing innovative experiences based on Kia’s brand belief that movement inspires ideas.”

PLATFORMS

ONE Esports inked a long-term partnership with Samsung in Southeast Asia that will see ONE Esports develop an exclusive ONE Esports mobile app for Samsung devices in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, that will be launched in the second half of 2022. The app will be positioned as the go-to source for esports news and content in Southeast Asia, and will be integrated into the ONE Esports media ecosystem.

Esports engagement platform Yesports has raised $2.25 million in seed funding with dollars being dedicated to developing its NFT-based esports marketplace and esports-focused metaverse. Yesports’ list of investors includes Polygon Studios, Alphabit, Cosmos, Kernel Ventures, Mozaik Capital and NGC Ventures.

TEAMS

Envy Gaming is picking up the operating rights for Esports Stadium Arlington with the org set to use the stadium to host home team matches in addition to drawing events to the city. The team acquired the operating contract for the stadium from Esports Venues. “Esports Stadium Arlington is without a doubt the best venue in North America right now for any publisher or league considering an esports event with spectators,” said Geoff Moore, president and COO at Envy. “Keeping Esports Stadium Arlington operating at a high level is a natural extension of what we strive for at Envy Gaming: we want to give all people that love gaming the opportunity to enjoy amazing competitions in a social environment.”

G2 Esports opened the doors to Samurai Army, a new NFT initiative in partnership with Metaplex. The slate of randomly generated samurai NFTs offering 6262 possible combinations of samurai to collect. G2 Esports describes the platform as a ‘social club for gamers’ in which members will be able to develop the backstory of each samurai, defeat bosses and earn rewards.

INDUSTRY

Simplicity Esports and Gaming struck a deal with live stream broadcast company Huvi to provide consulting services and gaming center equipment sales for Huvi’s first two gaming center locations. In addition, Simplicity Esports will hold exclusive rights for consulting and equipment sales for all future Huvi gaming centers for the next 5 years.

ROSTER MOVES

Subnation appointed a quartet of executives in the gaming and esports space to bolster its operations. Incoming names include former SXSW and DreamHack executive Justin Burnham, who will now serve as Subnation’s SVP of Physical and Digital experiences, while Daniel Herz, formerly of Complexity Gaming and ESL Gaming, joins as Head of Business Development. Former Activision Blizzard executives Andy Ochiltree and Seth Pyrzynski, will also join the company with Ochiltree as VP of Gaming and Head of The Players League, while Pyrzynski will be VP of Strategy & Innovation.

Evil Geniuses signed former Los Angeles Sparks Vice President of Corporate Partnerships Caroline (Cay) Young. As a Director of Corporate partnerships, Young will focus on identifying, negotiating and securing new partnerships that expand Evil Geniuses’ brand recognition to broader audiences.

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