ESL announced that the world’s top Counter-Strike: Global Offensive competition, CS:GO Pro League will now run exclusively to Facebook in 2018. In partnership with WESA, the deal kicks off with the upcoming Season Seven starting Feb. 13 and run for four seasons of Pro League, through December 2019. ESL will also broadcast one of its flagship circuits, ESL One on Facebook, featuring Dota 2 and CS:GO with the first event being ESL One Genting 2018. ESL will also produce and broadcast a weekly five-minute show celebrating the Dota community on Facebook Watch, while competitions will be streamed exclusively via Facebook Live in English and Portuguese, with other languages available as well.
Raycom Sports is getting into esports courtesy of a partnership with Tespa, Blizzard Entertainment’s college esports network, for “Heroes of the Dorm.” The broadcast partnership will get a dedicated national-syndication run during a five-week period of competition from Feb. 17-March 15. Raycom will produce the weekly, one-hour Heroes of the Dorm programs, featuring schools competing in the tournament’s Atlantic Coast Region. The original series, which will cover competition as well as spotlight player and team stories, and be broadcast across Raycom Sports’ syndicated network of affiliates. Distribution has already been secured to over 50 markets nationwide.
Cloud9 and London Spitfire owner Jack Etienne hit Reddit this week to state that Overwatch League is already out-performing expectations. “I would have been thrilled with 50K-70K concurrent viewers and I was blown away by what I’ve seen in the first two weeks of OWL,” he wrote, referring to the 400,000 concurrent viewers the league hooked on Twitch in its first week.
Real-time data and analytics company Esports One unlocked the close of a $3 million seed round. The funding was co-led by XSeed Capital and Eniac Ventures, with participation from Crest Capital. “2018 has already been a shaping up to be a big year. The close of our $3MM seed round is just the beginning. We’re continuing to make key hires, expanding operations and offices along with the upcoming launch of our esports podcast,” said Matthew Gunnin, Co-founder and CEO, Esports One. “We couldn’t be more excited to have the backing of our investors. Their support will be pivotal as we get ready to expand games and execute on our biggest launches yet.”
Psyonix is kicking off the year with a new website dedicated to Rocket League Esports at rlesports.gg. The site will serve as the main hub for RL Esports news from the company as it gears up for RLCS Season 5, which will see teams from NA, EU, and OCE compete for a $500,000 total prize pool for RLCS, which is our largest prize pool to date. North American qualifiers begin on Feb. 17.
FanDuel founder and former CEO Nigel Eccles is launching a new esports-driven company called Flick, focusing on sharing esports and gaming experiences. On the site, the platform is described as giving fans “an entirely new way of sharing their gaming experience with their friends” and that initially they will be “moving quickly on concepts and working with gamers to refine ideas that work for them.”
Unikrn announced plans to begin distributing their weekly broadcasts to listeners of Dash Radio. The channel, “Unikrn Radio,” will focus on cryptocurrency and esports content directly from Unikrn, with the show airing weekly with 60-minute segments starting Jan. 29. The first series will be hosted by Rahul Sood, CEO of Unikrn, and Kingsley Edwards, VP of Business Development at Unikrn. They will be joined by special guests and experts, and will offer Q&A sessions for members of Unikrn’s growing Discord community.
The National Association of Collegiate Esports is teaming up with BeRecruited, a college recruiting platform, to improve the recruiting process for prospective collegiate esport gamers and college coaches. BeRecruited has now added esports as part of its college recruiting network, allowing gamers to create a free recruiting profile with all of their game stats, academics and video.
Team Dignitas, owned by Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, is hungry for Rocket League, announced the signing of the internationally-ranked Rocket League team comprised of Reed “Chicago” Wilen, Zoli “zol” Digness and Isaac “Turtle” App. The new team will be the youngest squad in Team Dignitas franchise history and will now join the Team Dignitas Counter Strike Global Offensive women’s team, Heroes of the Storm team, SMITE team, PUBG team and Super Smash Bros. Melee team. The Team Dignitas Rocket League team will participate in its first tournament at DreamHack this weekend. .
It is the end of the line for Lunatic-Hai’s Overwatch team. The South Korean Overwatch organization announced its departure from the game on the team’s official website, citing “radical changes” in the game’s competitive play.
Russian internet staple Mail.Ru is adding esports company ESforce to its locker courtesy of a deal valued at over $100 million. ESforce owns two teams in Virtus Pro and SK, in addition to running tournaments.
The worldwide digital video games market grew 17% year-over-year in December, according to new numbers from Superdata. While social and pay-to-play segments shrank 4% and 10%, respectively, the market saw the premium PC segment ignite the greatest growth this month, up 28% with the console market up 15% year-over-year due to the large triple-A release slate this holiday season. Among titles, Call of Duty WW2 marked a new record for digital unit sales for a console title in a quarter, while GTA V Online broke its previous revenue record back in June 2017, making it the title’s best month to date for its multiplayer segment. Fortnite Battle Royale earned $89 million in December.
A new report from the Entertainment Software Association stated that US games revenue hit a record total of $36.4 billion in 2017. The study, jointly released by market research firm The NPD Group, sees an 18% spike in revenue over 2016 numbers with the figure blending hardware revenue, including peripherals, and software revenue from physical and digital sales, including in-game purchases and subscriptions. Specifically, hardware revenue was up 19% to $6.9 billion, while software revenue grew 18% to $29.1 billion. “The spectacular growth of our industry in 2017 proves video game developers, artists, and storytellers are the brightest lights in the US economy, finding more ways to delight the world’s 2.6 billion gamers each year,” said Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of ESA.
Microsoft announced that new release first-party Xbox titles will now be incorporated into its Xbox Game Pass subscription service on the day-and-date with their retail debut. In a post, the company stated that “This means that when Sea of Thieves launches on March 20, it will be included in Xbox Game Pass to all members,” and adding that “We’ve only scratched the surface of the opportunity this new model brings to the industry and what we can deliver to our fans. We firmly believe Xbox Game Pass will be a catalyst to create new opportunities for game developers and publishers to innovate in the way games are developed and delivered, leading to entirely new ways to play.”
Siri and Alexa will now need to make room for Sam. Ubisoft announced Sam, the company’s first personal gaming assistant designed to enhance players’ gaming experience, leveraging players’ profile information, game library, friends list, community and Ubisoft services to deliver tailored tips and information. “With Sam, our ambition is to create an innovative and helpful service for players, one that knows them and helps push them get more out of their gaming experience. Sam provides a more personalized experience for our fans and delivers them what they need faster, so they can spend less time searching and more time playing,” said Stephanie Perotti, VP of Online Services at Ubisoft. “Incorporating Google Cloud’s Dialogflow Enterprise Edition has helped us work dynamically and iterate faster so we can better service our fans.”
POWER PLAYERS – Turner’s Craig Barry
Amid the action of the ELEAGUE Major: Boston, Cynopsis Esports spoke with Turner Sports EVP and Chief Content Officer Craig Barry about the league’s new deals, playing the field, and the future of the esports outfit.
Barry on Boston: Boston provides our biggest stage yet for ELEAGUE and an opportunity to further evolve the fan experience. We’ve had strong support from the esports community for our events in Atlanta, including the Fox Theatre last year, and expanding the footprint into a full arena will further enhance our live event coverage.
On Twitch: We value all of our partnerships and ELEAGUE will continue to distribute its premium content across a number of digital platforms. Twitch is now our official partner for ELEAGUE’s live event coverage. When it came to the live streaming platform, we evaluated what was going to be best for fan consumption. We also wanted to remain authentic to the esports community and, ultimately, be where the fans are gathering to consume this content. Twitch has been a great partner since the origin of ELEAGUE and we’re thrilled to continue working very closely with them.
On challenges: Esports is still in its infancy, but it also continues to grow at a rapid rate. Everything shifts quickly and we’re pivoting, while maintaining an ability to achieve our goals. Over the last year, we significantly bolstered our ELEAGUE portfolio – including events featuring CS:GO, Street Fighter V, Injustice 2, Rocket League and Formula E – as well as expanding into the amateur ranks. The byproduct was over six billion minutes of content consumed and tripling our number of sponsors. In 2018, we’re going to remain focused on delivering best-in-class content and continue to be additive to the community and network of publishers. We’re also going to further push the envelope with innovation and creativity around content and products that drive engagement with our fans.
On talk with sponsors: It’s interesting because it’s gone from curious to engaged. As time goes on, and esports continues to scale, everyone is getting more educated and realizing that esports is legitimate and the opportunities surrounding it are real. There’s less browsing and more buying.
Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg is stepping down from his position at the end of his contract in March. VentureBeat broke the news “Eric leaves the company in a strong position for growth, with the franchises, pipeline of future products, and leadership team all in a great place,” the company said in a statement. “We are grateful for Eric’s strong leadership during his tenure. He is departing with our utmost respect and gratitude for his contributions to the company.”
Meanwhile, former Sony and Xbox pillar Phil Harrison is on his way to Google where he will serve as a VP and GM, where he is expected to drive the company’s gaming strategy, among other projects.
PlayStation head of third-party developer relations Florian Hunziker is leaving Sony Interactive Entertainment, according to GamesBeat. Hunziker joined SIE in January 2017 afgter serving as COO of Harmonix.
Glory Sports International named Marshall Zelaznik as Chief Executive Officer of the organization where he will lead the company’s global operations. Zelaznik most recently served as Global Head of Business Development and Content at MLG and previously served as Executive Vice President and Chief Content Officer for UFC.
Millennial Esports Corp. announced that Stephen Shoemaker, an accomplished senior executive with more than thirty years of financial and operations management experience, wll lead worldwide financial operations and the finance team at Millennial Esports. Shoemaker previously served as CEO/Chairman of the Board of Ho Tram Project Company.