03/15/18: SXSW Gaming opens with tournaments, awards and key esports speakers

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CynopsisESPORTS & GAMING
It’s Thursday March 15, 2018 and this is your weekly early morning Esports & Gaming briefing.

 

The SXSW Gaming Expo is officially underway in Austin, exploring the boundaries between technology, culture and videogames. Amid the lineup of tournaments, booths, parties and awards show are a slate panels featuring esports key players that include (to name but a few): Player Unknowns Battlegrounds Creative Director Brendan Greene, former professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player for Cloud9 Jordan “n0thing” Gilbert, ELEAGUE GM and Vice President of Esports at Turner Sports Christina Alejandre, Co-CEO and Owner of Team Liquid Steve Arhancet, VVP Partner and Echo Fox owner Rick Fox, NBA 2K Managing Director Brendan Donohue, Unikrn CEO Rahul Sood and the President and CEO of Major League Gaming, Pete Vlastelica, among others. If you are in town, make sure to stop by to see our conversation today at 2p CT with Overwatch League Commissioner Nate Nanzer, who will break down the opportunities and pitfalls of launching the global league.
 
“We are looking forward to the upcoming panel to dive into the world of sports and esports as they converge to create a new entertainment monolith,” said Daniel Kelley, director of global marketing, HyperX, who will take part in the panel, “Colliding Worlds, Shaping the Future of Esports.” “The gaming community continues to expand, and we see this as an opportunity to educate and engage with the community to help advance the future landscape of esports.”
 
 
COMPETITION and VENUES

 


We’ll open with some venue news today, as the City of Arlington announced plans for the Esports Stadium Arlington. Described as a state-of-the-art esports venue designed to draw competitive players and fans from around the world, the stadium will have a 100,000 square-foot space that will open this fall. Mayor Jeff Williams announced the city’s innovative venture with Esports Venues, LLC, during a news conference Wednesday at the Arlington Convention Center, which would become home to Esports Stadium Arlington, with the city’s proposed agreement including an initial 10-year lease with a 10-year renewal option.
 
Red Bull is opening the doors to the Red Bull Gaming Sphere, the UK’s largest public esports studio, on March 21st. The studio will act as a hub for the UK’s gaming and esports communities with ‘state of the art gaming technology and an ever-changing schedule of events’. The venue will also host esports tournaments and community events, with the ambition of helping the UK esports scene to grow and improve.
 
Valve is giving its new card game Artifact a grand opening, with company president Gabe Newell announcing that the company will host a $1 million tournament next year. More details are forthcoming.
 
Mavs Gaming drew the lucky ball in the first NBA 2K League Draft Lottery and will have the No. 1 overall pick in the inaugural draft, taking place on April 4 at The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden’s Lobby at 1p. “We are very much looking forward to putting together the best possible team and organization for the first game in May.  We think the NBA 2K League is going to have an incredible first season,” said Mark Cuban, owner of Mavs Gaming and the Dallas Mavericks.
 
Meanwhile, Raptors Uprising Gaming Club is partnering with WorldGaming for a new competitive video gaming tournament series for Take-Two’s NBA 2K18. Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment and WorldGaming will, on March 25, launch MLSE’s first LAN tournament at Real Sports Bar & Grill in Toronto for prizes and an opportunity to join the Official ‘Practice Squad’ of Raptors Uprising GC. In addition, Raptors Uprising GC will host an online three versus three NBA 2K18 Tournament which will get underway early April 2018, and will run through May, culminating in a Grand Finals
 
The NHL opened the doors to its esports plans with the announcement of a 2018 NHL Gaming World Championship with $100,000 on the line for the best of EA SPORTS NHL 18. Players will be able to register on the FACEIT platform, the Official Tournament Platform of the tournament, with play beginning March 24. In addition, NBC Sports, Sportsnet, and Viasat will each host a Regional event in their respective markets and produce event content. The winner and runner-up from each Regional Final will advance to the 2018 NHL Gaming Championship hosted at the new Esports Arena Las Vegas at Luxor Hotel on June 19.
 
FACEIT detailed plans to bring its FPL Circuit to North America to “create a new CS:GO competitive space for seasoned professional players, as well as a system for players to climb the ranks on a clear path to becoming a professional player.” Structured similarly to the FPL in Europe, the FACEIT Pro League North America will have a $20,000 prize pool every month, in addition to the FPL Challenger League which will have a prize pool of $3,000 and act as a venue for amateurs and established professionals to play together.
 
The H1Z1 Pro League is off and running, announcing its lineup of franchises, a venue and a media outlet. At launch, 15 teams will take part with the season featuring two 10-week splits, including: Alliance, Cloud9, Counter Logic Gaming, Echo Fox, Epsilon Esports, Gankstars, Impact Gaming, Luminosity Gaming, Noble Esports, Obey Alliance, Rogue Gaming, SetToDestroyX, Team SoloMid, Tempo Storm and Team Vitality. The league partnered with Caesars Entertainment Group to produce the first battle royale league live from Las Vegas at H1PL Arena, with matches carried on Facebook.
 
The PGL PUBG Spring Invitational has its teams and talent locked and loaded for its run from March 22-25, with16 PUBG teams battling for their share of a $100,000 prize pool out of PGL Studios in Bucharest. The English stream will be hosted by Mike “Porosaurus” Navarro on twitch.tv/pgl_pubg, with analysts Jakub “Lothar” Szygulski and Martin “Avnqr” Goth and casters Toby “TobiWan” Dawson, Bogdan “Boogie” Carp, Cameron Davis, and Derek “WTFMoses” Moseley.
 
Dreamhack is going big on Rainbow Six, announcing the addition of four global DreamHack events that will feature the title and competing for a collective prize pool of $50,000 per event. Events will include: DreamHack Austin (June 1-3rd,); DreamHack Valencia (July 12-15th); DreamHack Winter – Jonkoping (Nov. 30th – Dec. 3rd); and another one in early 2019 in a city TBD.
 
ESL One Birmingham, powered by Intel, will serve as the first Dota 2 Major this year as well as the first ESL One ever to be held in the UK. The event will be held at Arena Birmingham on May 25-27, with a dozen teams battling for their share of 1,500 qualifying points for The International 8, plus a prize pool of $1 Million. “This is a dream come true for the ESL UK team and a fantastic win for the UK scene,” commented James Dean, managing director at ESL UK. “Dota 2 was the very first tournament we ran just after starting up in 2012.  We are honoured to have this opportunity and hope to make the Dota 2 community extremely proud.”
 
EVO boss Joey Cuellar posted that he reported a potential mass shooting threat for the August event to the FBI on Saturday following a Twitch message. “We are aware of the threat that was made against Evo 2018, and have contacted the FBI and Twitch regarding this matter,” he Tweeted. “We take this very seriously, and they will be punished to the full extent of the law.”
 
AliSports CEO Zhang Dazhong told Bloomberg that any push from Alibaba to get esports into the Olympics would revolve around non-violent games, with a focus on titles based on sports and racing. “In our communication with the Olympics committee, we’ve come to have a better understanding of their values, which is to promote peace,” Zhang said. “That’s why for the future development of esports, we will focus more on titles that are actually related to sports, instead of games that focus on violence and slaughter.”
 
Japanese soccer league the J.League announced plans to enter esports, and join a growing roster of the sport’s top organizations around the world to take part in a FIFA league, including MLS, La Liga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, Eredivisie, and A-League. The Meiji Yasuda eJ.League leanching on March 30 with an eye to promote competitive FIFA in Japan whilst offering participants a spot at the EA Sports FIFA 18 Global Series Playoff in June.
 
Clash Royale players can now try to go pro via the Clash Royale League Challenge, which runs through March 19, as players look to get to 20 wins before being knocked out by three losses. Players who complete the challenge advance to the next round of the competition and gain eligibility to be drafted by a Clash Royale League pro team.
 
 
INSIGHTS

 


This week, Stream Hatchet takes a look at five of the most impactful tech brands on Twitch. Here’s how we obtained our brand impact data:
  • The Stream Hatchet team compiled a list of 20 of the top tech brands contained in Twitch Tile Twitch Tiles can include a sponsorship banner and descriptions of the gear specifications used by a streamer, displaying brand affinity. Stream Hatchet narrowed down this data set to the top 5 brands based on impressions.
  • Stream Hatchet defines an Impression as a visit to a channel page. Viewers visiting a channel can use Twitch Tiles to access information about a streamers schedule, sponsorships, or gear specifications.
  • Among channels associated with the top five brands, total hours watched for all channels during February was fairly consistent, as shown in the relatively even distribution in the pie chart.
Source: Streamhatchet.com
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We’re ready to celebrate the work of the most talented producers, hosts, sponsors and executives in the sports industry, saluting the initiatives that drove audiences and turned sports viewers into fans. Category finalists will be announced this week and – In addition to our phenomenal category finalists, we’ll be awarding these sports media leaders with the annual Luminary Awards. See you in April!
 

COLLEGIATE

 

A whole lotta college news this week. The BIG EAST Conference and ESL are joining forces to launch the BIG EAST Esports Invitational Powered by ESL, starting March 19 with finals broadcast on April 14-15 on Twitch. Participating colleges have the option to compete in Rocket League and League of Legends by Riot Games as ESL conducts matches online on ESL Play. “ESL’s extensive experience in esports will be a major asset as we begin to build an exciting new student program under the BIG EAST umbrella,” said Val Ackerman, BIG EAST Commissioner. “The BIG EAST has a strong, deep sports culture, and the integration of esports on our campuses will only fuel that passion.”
 
Collegiate StarLeague is bringing the 2018 North American Collegiate Grand Finals to Huntington Beach, where teams will compete at the new esports venue of Ultimate Media Ventures from April 27-29 and $100,000 in scholarships on the line. Individual and team titles will be awarded across Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, League of Legends Junior Varsity League as well as invitational and showcase events for Super Smash Bros.WiiU & Melee, Fortnite, H1Z1 and Madden NFL 18. More than 38,000 students from over 1,500 university and college campuses in the United States and Canada have registered and competed in CSL leagues and tournaments. CSL also confirmed that Twitch, through the Twitch Student program, will be the exclusive streaming and distribution partner for the Grand Finals and all playoff matches.
 
The National Association of Collegiate Esports locked in a partnership agreement with the National Junior College Athletic Association, the governing body of athletics for 500 two-year colleges and universities in the US. The partnership recognizes NACE as the governing body of collegiate esports and marks the second endorsement by a traditional governing body of collegiate athletics with the first coming from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. “The needs and challenges that exist in collegiate esports are the same for two and four year institutions,” said Michael Brooks, NACE Executive Director. “The partnership with NJCAA will allow NACE to provide support and resources to two year institutions with an interest in offering esports.”
 
Wrapping up the college news (we may have to keep a permanent section), the American Video Game League announced plans to partner with Beachcon and Thunder Gaming to “develop the largest gaming festival dedicated to collegiate esports in the US, titled April Anarchy as AVGL’s national collegiate esports championship runs alongside Beachcon’s student gaming festival. The championship event will feature the top two collegiate teams in the nation from CS:GO and Dota 2 competing for $20,000 in scholarship prizes.
 
 
ACTIVATION

 


Cynopsis Esports, in partnership with the Esports Advertising Bureau and Player 2, is proud to announce the 2018 Esports Upfront presentation taking place on April 24 at Yale Club in NYC. Select brands, agencies and media buyers will be shown a slate of opportunities for partnerships from around the industry, anchored by heavyweight companies such as Major League Gaming. Marketers will hear how they can activate and engage by leveraging properties from the most popular titles and tournaments to up-and-coming leagues, from mobile play to teams to key streamers/influencers. Note: this is NOT a conference, as the event is designed solely to connect buyers with some of the most interesting esports properties in the market. We’ll reveal more in coming weeks but looking forward to seeing everyone there. 
 
Psyonix announced that Season 5 of the Rocket League Championship Series will now have Snickers as a sponsor. The brand will join the likes of State Farm and Old Spice as partners for the RLCS. is underway, and it’s been announced that Snickers has jumped on board as the official sponsor. Snickers has joined the ranks of State Farm and Old Spice as partners of the RLCS. The regular season will run for five weeks with teams playing best-of-five games.
 
Overwatch League’s Los Angeles Valiant unveiled “Be Valiant,” a four-event community initiative intended to target and pay tribute to several distinct communities in southern California. From March through June, the Valiant will host monthly large-scale events across Los Angeles targeting specific fan groups including a “Community Block Party” on March 24, the “LA Valiant Fan Art Showcase” on April 13-15, “Girls in Gaming Summit” in May and a “LA Valiant Pride Party” on June 10. “Los Angeles is a culturally diverse city, and we are a culturally diverse organization. The local franchise model of Overwatch League gives us the opportunity to literally go into our market, Los Angeles, and connect directly and specifically to individual fans and fan groups often neglected or left behind,” said LA Valiant CEO Noah Whinston. “With our ‘Be Valiant’ events, we are taking active measures to spread our organizational beliefs of inclusivity, diversity, and sense of belonging.”
 
Spain’s La Liga isn’t launching its first esports competition alone, announcing a partnership with McDonald’s for McDonald’s Virtual La Liga eSports. The first stage of the online qualification process begins March 19 and will be played on ArenaGG, a gaming platform from LVP, while stage two begins on April 16. The 32 participants who qualify will compete each week until they’re knocked out of the tournament.
 
In other sponsorship news, Overwatch Contenders NA landed Old Spice as an official partner. During this year’s Season 1 of Overwatch Contenders North America, the grooming brand will take part in broadcast activations and product sampling at Contenders events.
 
DreamHack extended its partnership with Monster Energy for another two years. The deal sees the energy drink brand serve as the Global Strategic Partner to DreamHack through 2019 along with sponsoring each festival and esports tournament produced by DreamHack.
 
Turtle Beach inked a new partnership with Gfinity to become the official audio partner of the Gfinity Elite Series for Season Three and Season Four. Ten pro teams will be using Turtle Beach’s Elite Pro Tournament Gaming Headset and Tactical Audio Controller.
 
ESL is partnering with Gameflip, a marketplace for gaming digital goods, making Gameflip an exclusive partner for ESL Pro League Season 7, the key Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament run by ESL. In addition to working together with ESL to drive awareness for the Gameflip marketplace and its FLP crypto-token to an audience of more than 180 million gamers, Gameflip will sponsor the Preshow for the entire online season as well as the finals at Verizon Theatre in Dallas.
 
 
PLATFORMS

 


Turner & IMG’s ELEAGUE is back on Friday, following live NCAA March Madness coverage on TBS. The new tournament will feature the first-ever ELEAGUE | TEKKEN Team Takedown. Richard Lewis will host the show, with casting, match analysis and player interviews provided by Reepal “Rip” Parbhoo, Steve “Tasty Steve” Scott, Stephen “Sajam” Lyon, Mark “MarkMan” Julio and Michele Morrow.
 
Elastic Media is relaunching as Blink, described as a pioneering mobile-first esports platform. Blink will focus on offering a mobile-first platform that’s custom built to “dramatically increase interactivity between all erports players and their favorite games.” “When we looked at eSports content, and specifically gameplay video, we discovered an exciting opportunity hidden in plain sight: these games were designed to play, not to watch,” CEO Ronen Shoval said. “But the enormous worldwide growth in video gaming has already demonstrated huge spectator appeal at the professional level.”
 
Riot Games is launching Must Watch Matches on its League of Legends esports platforms, described as “a packaged rebroadcast of the three most exciting games from each week of LPL, LCK, EU LCS, and NA LCS.” Must Watch Matches runs twice on Tuesdays for both EU and NA audiences at 1p and 9p with matches decided by a group of casters from each of the four regions, airing on Lolesports, YouTube and Twitch.
 
Facebook continues to gobble up esports rights. Gfinity is the latest company to announce a partnership, streaming digital broadcasts of the Gfinity Elite Series esports tournaments exclusively on Facebook throughout 2018. The arrangement covers the UK and extends to new territories which are part of Gfinity’s global expansion plans with the exception of Australia and starts with immediate effect with the Gfinity Elite Series Season Three in the UK.
 
A new poll from the Washington Post-University of Massachusetts Lowell reveals that almost three-quarters of Americans ages 14-to-21 either played or watched multiplayer online games or competitions in the previous year while half of adults under 30 have played or watched online games. Nearly as many Americans ages 14-21 are fans of esports (38%) as are fans of professional football (40%), with teen and young adult gamers significantly more likely to be fans of football than non-gamers.
 
 
INDUSTRY

 


Tyler “Ninja” Blevins officially became the most followed streamer on Twitch, with over 150,000 monthly subscribers and 3 million followers on the platform. Following the mark, he told audiences that “I want to be at five million followers by the end of the year on Twitch, minimum. And we’ve gained almost two million followers in, like, a month so the sky’s the limit.”
 
Infinite Esports and Entertainment added Obey Alliance to its portfolio, with the newly-acquired company boasting over 500,000 YouTube subscribers on its main channel. “Our plans now are for expansion: push for further growth in our esports initiatives, solidify the best possible foundation in the industry for our content creators to grow the brand, and finally – provide a positive experience for all contributors and individuals, uplifting and supporting those responsible for Obey’s continued success,” the company posted following the announcement.
 
For the second year in a row, the University of Southern California and the Southern Methodist University were ranked as the best schools to study game design, according to the Princeton Review. The complete listing and ranks can be found here for undergraduate and here for postgraduate.
 
Valve is opening the doors to Dota Plus, a subscription platform that will offer players additional features for $3.99 a month, including hero levelling and challenges, and free entry to the weekly Battle Cup where players can compete for reward shards.
 
Twitch Prime users are in line for free games each month. The platform unveiled Free Games With Prime, where a selection of PC games will be made available each month, starting today with Superhot, Shadow Tactivs, Tales from Candlekeep, Oxenfree and Mr. Shifty.
 
 
ROSTER MOVES

 

Super League Gaming CEO Ann Hand has joined the Board of Advisors for the upcoming Esports Business Summit, produced by Cynopsis, Event Marketer and Chief Marketer from Oct. 1-3 out of Las Vegas.
 
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ON THIS DAY in 1997: GameWorks opens for business, courtesy of a partnership between DreamWorks, Universal Studios, and Sega Enterprises of Japan.
 
Trivia: Name all six original “suspects” in the game Clue. (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)
 
Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: In which sci-fi franchise would you find humanity battling Cylons? Answer: Battlestar Galactica. Kudos: Chris Davies-Virgin/London; Glen Ross/DC; Jason Morrow-Toyota/Houston; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Holly Stanton-DISH Network/Denver; Peter Steckelman-Tennis Channel/Santa Monica; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank; Andy Babb-Super League Gaming/Santa Monica
 
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