03/02/17: Xbox pays homage to the Creator; Cinedigm launches esports channel; Halo’s Vegas mission


It’s Thursday, March 2, 2017, and this is your weekly early morning eSports & Gaming brief.

Microsoft hit GDC 2017 with a bevy of news that included details of a new Xbox Live Creators program, which offers game developers a new path to bring their games to the console and Windows 10. Offering “fully open game publishing” to Xbox One, the Creators Program is described as offering “a straightforward way for developers to address a huge audience across Windows and Xbox One, with minimal additional development time” and noting that “An important element is that developers can continue using the tools they’re already using today to create UWP games. Game engines with “out of the box” support for UWP games include Construct 2, MonoGame, Unity, and Xenko.”

Chris Charla, director of the ID@Xbox program at Microsoft, said that “everyone” can use the Xbox Live Creators Program to make games for Xbox and PC. “With the Creators Program, anyone can integrate Xbox Live sign-in, presence, and social features into their UWP games, then publish their game to Xbox One and Windows 10,” Charla posted on Xbox.com. “This means their title can see exposure to every Xbox One owner across the Xbox One family of devices, including Project Scorpio this holiday, as well as hundreds of millions of Windows 10 PCs, and millions of folks using the Xbox app on mobile platforms.”


Turner and IMG’s ELeague announced plans to broaden its esports lineup, announcing the first-ever ELeague Street Fighter V Invitational. The inaugural event will feature 32 of the world’s best Street Fighter players competing live from G Fuel ELEAGUE Arena in Atlanta beginning March 27 with preliminary rounds on Twitch as well as a special one-hour recap show on March 31, at 10p on TBS. The 32 professional Street Fighter V players will consist of the top 16 competitors based on the 2016. Overall, six players will compete per week in the regular season with live competitions running April 7 & 21 as well as May 5 and May 12 on the network and Twitch. Playoffs run May 26 and the final stages  including the Championship live on TBS at 10p.

Blizzard Entertainment announced a deal with Chinese games company Banana Culture to partner for the first Overwatch Premier Series. Play begins on March 6, according to ESPN, and will feature two seasons as well as a total prize pool of nearly $600,000. Overall, 24 teams will compete in a preseason battle, and the top 10 finishers will earn spots in the OPS.

EA announced a deal with Europe’s BT Sport to extend EA SPORTS FIFA across the UK and Republic of Ireland. BT Sport will now carry the remaining four EA FIFA Majors this year – Season Two North American Regional Final in Vancouver  on April 8, Season Two Asia-Pacific Regional Final in Singapore  on April 22, Season Two European Regional Final in Madrid (May 6) and the FIFA 17 Ultimate Team Championship Final in Berlin (May 20-21).

2K and the NBA saw nearly two million fans tune into the livestreamed NBA 2K17 All-Star Tournament championship event via multiple digital channels during NBA All-Star. Viewership included one million on Twitter as competitor Still Trill won the $250,000 grand prize and tickets to the 2017 NBA All-Star Game.

Blizzard’s Nate Nanzer stated in a press conference in Korea that the upcoming Overwatch League will begin play in the third quarter of this year, according to WWG, noting that the period will involve acquiring players and forming new teams while 2018 will see the start of regular seasons. In addition, he noted, that the host cities for the championship games will rotate cities every year.

Betway is launching a slate of esports events beginning with a Dota 2-dedicated contest called King of the Hill, hosted by Moonduck Studios and streamed on its Twitch channel. “We’re excited to introduce the Betway Arena to eSports fans, which begins with an all new format of world-class DOTA2 action running for five consecutive weeks,” said Anthony Werkman, company director of marketing and operations, “I’m confident that the King of the Hill series will be a fantastic event.”

The Dota 2 Asia Championships will return from April 1-4, taking place at the Shanghai Oriental Sports Center in Shanghai. This will mark the second time the event has taken place, with the first hosted in February 2015, according to ESPN.com.

The Capcom Pro Tour 2017 unveiled its plans for the season, dangling $600,000 in prize money and making changes to the tour to help streamline the Capcom Cup qualification process. As in previous years, Capcom Cup will feature 32 of Street Fighter players from around the world, with previous champions auto-qualifying for the tournament but will still having to compete throughout the year for top seed at the finals. The tournament structure has been streamlined this year, with the Top 30 on the global leaderboards qualifying for the Capcom Cup. The tour will also launch a point system based on event results, with more points allocated to larger events.

Who are esports fans? According to Gamescape – a new report from Interpret  states that the number of people who have watched professional eSports tournaments in the US hit 31 million. Stateside, the median age for eSports viewers is 28, with nearly half of viewers holding a college degree, while 55% are employed full-time. eSports viewers also report higher than average household income and most admit to having spent money on eSports related goods (69% in the US). “As eSports audiences grow worldwide, they represent significant business opportunities for a multitude of companies,” said Yuanzhe (Michael) Cai, President of Interpret, LLC.


Source: Superdata


From now through April, Cynopsis will be offering weekly updates for our upcoming Cynopsis World Esports Summit, set to take place on April 12 in NYC. Just ahead of the advertising upfronts, the event will see a slew of brands/media buyers in attendance interested in partnering in the esports space, along with our A-list lineup of speakers, exclusive research, breaking news and more! Click here for more information and to get tickets.

Cynopsis Esports locked in our final lineup for our Spring Owners Meetings, featuring owners and key executives representing teams from around the world breaking down the new dynamics of running an eSports team, what new investment mean for the industry, how franchises are working with brands, and more. Moderated by rEvXP Managing Director Dan Ciccone, panelists will include: WESA CEO Ken Hershman; Akshay Khanna, VP of Strategy for the Philadelphia 76ers/Team Dignitas; Marty Strenczewilk, CEO & President Splyce; Hector Rodriguez, Owner/CEO OpTic Gaming and Ben Spoont, co-founder/CEO Misfits.

The clock’s ticking! Looking for funding? Are you ready to take esports to the next level? Then you need to take part in Bruin Battles! Taking place at the Cynopsis World eSports Summit on April 12 in NYC, and sponsored by Bruin Sports Capital, a select group of inventive attendees will have the opportunity to present their eSports idea (league, game, product, event, etc.) on-stage in front of hundreds of attendees in a Shark-Tank style session with one lucky attendee having a shot to get their project funded. Click here for more info and to get your plan into the spotlight and on the fast-track now!

By the way, be sure to check out our new esports jobs page. Click here for to check it out or to submit your own listings.


Team Dignitas locked in their first all-female CSGO team, picking up Selfless Gaming’s squad. The team consists of Emmalee “emuhleet” Garrido, Lynnie “artStar” Noquez, Mounira “Goosebreeder” Dobie, Amanda “rain” Smith, Catherine “Cath” Leroux and Heather “sapphiRe” Garozzo. The team will compete in international coed and all-female CSGO competitions and debut under the Team Dignitas banner at the Intel Challenge hosted at IEM Katowice in Poland this week.

Splyce is expanding its presence within fighting games, announcing the addition of Ryan "Filipino Champ" Ramirez to its roster. Ramirez was the Evo 2012 Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 champion, who moves from Panda Global.

European eSports team Unicorns of Love signed sponsor Gerolsteiner, a mineral water company, in a deal brokered by Lagardere Sports. Gerolsteiner will now supply the Unicorns with mineral water and flavored drinks and see a logo presence on the UoL jerseys. “Gerolsteiner’s decision shows that the eSports market, and the UoL in particular, is an attractive platform to achieve ambitious communications goals and to reach a young, digitally savvy target group,” said Dr. Nicolas Gaede, Senior Vice President Marketing & Business Development at Lagardère Sports Germany. “The Unicorns are delighted to be supported by a strong and reliable partner starting at the IEM.”


Cinedigm is making moves for a US-based 24/7 esports network, partnering with The WHAM Network, to launch a streaming channel offering news, information and entertainment focused on the global eSports and Gaming lifestyle. The companies will jointly operate and market the channel, called The WHAM Network, which will be available across all major connected mobile devices, gaming consoles, and set top boxes. In addition, the companies are in talks with additional platforms, skinny bundle providers, and cable operators in a move to make the channel broadly available on all modes of distribution. The channel is expected to launch in the third quarter of 2017. WHAM has over twenty original series slated for production, with a target of at least 160 hours of original programming in 2017, the network will also host Button Mash Live, a consumer-centric Gaming festival to be held in the Los Angeles area in October 2017.

Twitch opening the doors to selling games directly through its streaming service, and is offering talent a cut. The platform will now feature a purchase button will appear below the video frame when a streamer is playing a game that’s available through the Twitch store and every sale will see partnered streaming receive 5% of the revenue share. In addition, consumers who buy via Twitch will receive a digital Twitch Crate that contains a randomly generated reward like an emote, badges, or Twitch currency. Among publishers, Ubisoft, Telltale Games, Digital Extremes, Hi-Rez Studios, and others have signed on as partners.

Microsoft is prepping Xbox Game Pass, priced at $9.99 per month, offering over 100 Xbox One and Xbox 360 backwards compatible titles that will include the likes of Halo 5: Guardians, NBA 2K16, and SoulCalibur II.  The service will allow players to download full games and add-ons onto an Xbox One console. Launch date is expected to take place in late Spring.

Just ahead of the launch of the Nintendo Switch tomorrow, Nintendo announced a slate of deals with independent publishers and developers for Nintendo eShop with more than 60 titles confirmed for the new console this year. “Our Nindies Showcase gives fans a taste of some of the great content on its way to Nintendo eShop,” said Steve Singer, Nintendo of America’s Vice President of Publisher and Developer Relations. “We’re working with both mainstream and independent developers to make Nintendo Switch the destination for entertaining games and experiences.” To view the Nindies Showcase video in its entirety, visit http://live.nintendo.com.

The Fusion Media Group is bringing together talent from Deadspin and Kotaku for the launch of Compete, a new esports vertical “that will tackle esports with the same discerning, probing, and relatable style that readers have come to expect of Deadspin and Kotaku.” The new vertical includes editorial coverage, video series, and a never-been-done esports event. Meanwhile, Gillette will serve as its launch partner. Compete will be lead by Deadspin Editor-in-Chief Tim Marchman and Kotaku Editor-in-Chief Stephen Totilo. “This partnership reflects Gillette’s decade long commitment to the world of sports, and we could not have found a better partner than FMG to expand into eSports. Gamers at all levels recognize the importance of precision  split seconds and minute movements make big differences. We get that obsession with precision better than anyone, and are looking forward to supporting players at the elite level as well as those looking to level up in their everyday gameplay together with COMPETE,” said Pankaj Bhalla, Brand Director, Gillette North America.  

Challengeme Esports GmbH, a provider eSports Matchmaking & Tournament Platforms, announced the acquisition of US-based eSports Hero Inc., which will be responsible for the company’s operations in the North American market. The new structure will allow for a rapid expansion of the ChallengeMe.GG tournament and matchmaking platform beyond Europe with new territories that include North America, Southeast Asia, and Australia. “We believe in the strength of the combined entity and are very happy to become part of the Challengeme team,” said James Heldridge, CEO of eSports Hero. “We are looking forward to taking the North American and global market by storm. With eSports growing exponentially, we are well placed to become one of the leading companies in this space.”


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Google hit GDC with news that included new ad formats, along with better monetization and game analytics, for game developers. The new ad format is named Playables and is described as an interactive ad format in Universal App Campaigns that allows users to test out a light version of a game and/or an app’s features that can be played in-advertisement before full installation. Meanwhile, new feature Auto-Flip automatically reorients video ads to the way users are holding their phones.

Newzoo reports that sponsorship investment from brands in North America hit $72 million last year, with the majority of revenues dedicated to leagues, events, and teams. “Brands have been trying to get into gaming for decades. Esports now provides the ideal entry point into the favorite pastime of digital natives and Millennials,” said Peter Warman, CEO Newzoo. “Brands know how to benefit from large viewership numbers, teams, and events. For companies within the esports landscape, long-term investments are being made and ROI is still low, or, as in the case with game publishers, indirect through spending on their games.”

Versus Systems is partnering with Rockstar to expand the Versus in-game prize offerings for video gamers. Players will compete in-game for exclusive access to Rockstar events, apparel, and branded products. "Rockstar is a perfect partner for the Versus engine," said Matthew Pierce, CEO, Versus Systems. "Events, apparel, gear, and the iconic Rockstar Energy Drink – these are ideal rewards for so many gamers in so many games. We can’t wait to start offering Rockstar prizing, and the Rockstar lifestyle, inside all Versus-enabled games."


Oculus is getting a price cut. At GDC 2017, Epic announced that the Oculus Rift and its Touch controllers will now cost $200 less for consumers with a retail price of $598, effective immediately (that’s $499 for the Rift and $99 for Touch controllers). The announcement came with a roster of new games that will be released throughout the year for the platform. Oculus head of desktop VR told attendees that the two driving components for the industry were content and price, both of which were addressed at the event.

Unity’s keynote at GDC detailed the future of its game engine, with the company laying out plans for Unity 2017, along with a final update for Unity 5. That company stated that it was looking to improve team productivity and collaboration features for non-programmers, especially artists and designers . In addition, the company unveiled two new partners with Facebook now joining with their Gameroom for premium support as well as Chinese handset manufacturer Xiaomi.

AMD and Bethesda Softworks are teaming up for a long-term strategic partnership designed to “rapidly advance game technology development, fuel new PC game experiences, and reshape the gaming landscape.” The alliance was announced on stage at the AMD “Capsaicin” webcast and press event during the 2017 Game Developers Conference-and will see the two companies collaborate to develop and accelerate the implementation of new technologies, including the full potential of low-level APIs, such as Vulkan, and the computing and graphics power of AMD Ryzen CPUs, Radeon GPUs, and AMD server solutions across existing Bethesda franchises, as well as blending hardware, software and game engineering talents at both companies.

POWER PLAYERS  Frank O’Connor, Halo Franchise Creative Director at 343 Industries

With a $1 million prize pool on the line, the Halo World Championship sees its next North American qualifier hit Las Vegas this week, serving as the debut event for a new esports arena in the city. The weekend’s LAN tournament was preceded by the Halo World Championship making its next stop in Mexico City, marking the first ever official open HaloWC or HCS event in Latin America as the season heads toward the Halo World Championship Finals 2017 in Los Angeles from March 24-26.

As the Halo Universe continues to explore new frontiers, Cynopsis asked Frank O’Connor, Halo Franchise Creative Director, about Halo’s legacy in esports and what we can expect in the year ahead.

On Halo’s influence on esports: Actually I think our evolution goes all the way back to 2001 when halo Combat Evolved first launched. It was before Xbox Live, and so to play competitively, even hobbyists had to create mini-tournaments and daisy chain Xboxes and TVs together with LAN cables. Although the lack of online seems at first blush like a limitation for that game – it actually engendered a culture of collaborative competition and “real-life” events. Not to mention creating thousands of indelible friendships  and maybe the occasional enemy!

On 2016 takeaways: Not only did we get feedback about the game content, rules and tournament setup, we also got and continue to get, really useful feedback about how brackets, tourneys and open events are, and could be better set up. We do see interesting feedback on a region by region basis, and the idea that our esports competitors and viewers are all in monolithic agreement  I’m sure I don’t need to tell you  is faulty. So while there’s definitely some hard science involved in the numbers, settings and logistics, there’s also a great deal of art and diplomacy involved in finding settings, venues and timing that works for a global community. Based on feedback coming out of Summer Season 2016, we added back in open LAN events to our roadmap, and for the first time this year, Halo World Championship LAN qualifiers were all open events. We will continue to focus on these and have seen great support and reaction from our community as our attendance, participation and viewership continue to grow. We are doubling down on storytelling and content, and hired a new team member specifically to tell the amazing stories of players and teams from around the globe
On 2017 changes: We have a team that is focused on continued support for Halo 5, including basic maintenance, making tweaks and adjustments, playlist updates, as well as a few test scenarios that are focused on learnings for our next big game. Naturally we’re not going to mess with successful bits of the formula, so players don’t need to worry about permanent overshields or active camo, but we may test a few things in well-marked hoppers.
On Las Vegas: The eSports scene is already massive, and growing every day. So while there’s an allure to Vegas with its rich history of sports competition and giant events, boxing, for example, there’s also the matter of scale. Vegas is big enough to support players and fans in terms of hotel and event infrastructure. Picking cities is easy when you’re thinking about event space and player infrastructure, but it’s also important to have cities that work as hubs and have plentiful air and transport options so that fans can get there  and not break the bank in terms of hotels and entertainment.

We want our events to be welcoming and we’re rapidly approaching events that are as big as, and in some cases bigger than traditional physical sports events. The beauty of our sport is that it isn’t tied to a geographical location, like a single stadium, so we can scale to national and international events quite easily.

On the Halo Universe: Of course 2017 is going to be another big year for Halo 5  our qualifier events and the HaloWC Finals in March, but we’re also just getting started with Halo Wars 2, so expect additional content and a few announcements in the coming weeks and months. As for future game features, our CVP, Bonnie Ross, recently announced at the DICE conference, that Halo shooters in the future will include split screen mode. This won’t have an effect on Halo 5,but the team is already hard at work on this and other compelling competitive (and co-op=) features for future games. Split screen is really important to fans, since it enables competitive and co-op play with minimal setup and maximum social interaction. We know it is a big deal for a bunch of our fans, and we’re committed to supporting it for future games.


Big executive moves in the esports world. Electronic Arts Chief Competition Officer Peter Moore is ending his long run at the company to become CEO of England’s Liverpool Football Club. Moore will oversee the business operations of the Premier League soccer team, and will report directly to the Fenway Sports Group that owns the club.

Meanwhile, Major League Gaming tapped former UFC Chief Content Officer Marshall Zelaznick as its new global head of business development. At MLG.tv, Zelaznik will oversee maximizing the revenue opportunities around the distribution of MLG and Activision Blizzard’s eSports content, building and executing on the growth strategy for MLG’s proprietary content distribution platforms. Projects on Zelaznik’s plate currently include the Call of Duty World League as well as Activision Blizzard’s upcoming Overwatch League.

SPYR announced that Farshid Almassizadeh, former VP and COO of EA Interactive, will join the SPYR team as its Chief Strategic Advisor.

ON THIS DAY in 2010: Wade McGilberry pitches a perfect game in MLB 2K10, winning $1 million in a contest sponsored by 2K Sports.   
Trivia: In honor of the new Nintendo Switch release, what is the name of the actor who has voiced Mario (among other characters) since 1995? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: Name the character pictured last week Answer: Shao Kahn. Kudos: Chris Davies-Virgin/London; Anthony Gutierrez-A+E Networks/NY; Luis Lebron-Stream Diva/Hoboken; Alex Javelly-Left/Right/NY; Jason Valluzzi-Active International/Pearl River; Jorge Tatto-Wasserman/Toronto; Glen Ross/DC; Daniel Hanson/Vail; Greg Dudsic/Venice; Julie Moran/Adelaide.

Later — Chris
Chris Pursell for Cynopsis | eSports @VegasandVine

Roberta Caploe: Publisher @robertacaploe
Diane K Schwartz: Senior Vice President, Media Communications Group

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Edit marketing material produced by the global teams so it’s perfectly relevant to the North American Market.
B2B Marketing Manager
Create believable, high-quality animations and implement them in games.
Lead 3D Animator
New Orleans LA
Utilize technical knowledge to complete design, development, testing, and integration of software tasks and projects.
Senior Software Engineer
Las Vegas NV

Analyzes software requirements to determine feasibility of designs, timelines and completion schedules for product releases.
Software Engineer –Games
Las Vegas NV
Design and implement original sound effects within a production schedule timeline.
Senior Sound Designer
Sucker Punch Productions
Bellevue WA
Collaborate with the art and design teams to design and layout game play spaces and create visually striking game environments.
Senior Environment Artist
Sucker Punch Productions
Bellevue WA
Convert wireframes and mockups into prototype pages and applications.
Front End Developer
En Masse Entertainment
Seattle WA
Develop and execute strategic marketing plans from the ground up.
Product Manager
En Masse Entertainment
Seattle WA
Visualize, create and implement real-time visual effects.
Visual Effects Artist
Naughty Dog
Santa Monica CA
Contribute to bringing the telltale technology to new challenging platforms: XboxOne, PS4, Mobile, and TV.
Senior Platform Engineer
Telltale Games
San Rafael CA
Create robust, long-lived, content-agnostic systems with abstraction layers that enable maximum cross-platform feature fidelity.
Senior Systems Engineer
Telltale Games
San Rafael CA
Excellent grasp of strict environment art texel allocation and uv mapping.
Senior Environment Texture Artist
Ready at Dawn
Irvine CA
Development of design documentation for level progression (flow) , level layouts and 3D block-outs for in-engine playtesting.
Senior Level Designer
Ready at Dawn
Irvine CA
Investigate and implement new rendering techniques to make ROBLOX graphics more immersive and expressive.
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San Mateo CA
Participate in determining technical approaches and developing new or enhancing network technologies.
Senior Game Network Engineer
San Mateo CA

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