05/04/17: ESL populates Wonderworld; Clash Royale ups the ante; GG Media Network appoints captains

It’s Thursday May 4, 2017 and this is your weekly early morning eSports & Gaming brief.

ESL and Wonderworld VR are looking to transform the league’s viewing experience, announcing a long-term partnership to stream events in virtual reality. While the two companies will be livestreaming Intel’s Extreme Masters Sydney event this weekend in 360 VR, the partnership will dive deeper, reportedly bringing VR event streaming to all major ESL events and launching an “in-arena VR experience” from the ground floor of each event, per TEO. “Wonderworld VR has demonstrated a strong ability in delivering a flawless live camera stream, as well as creating a solid foundation for driving the whole production,” said ESL product manager Stuart Ewen. “We look forward to continue offering premium experiences for our audiences, including innovative and unique VR broadcast features, throughout the duration of 2017 and beyond.”

Simon Romanus, Founder and CEO of Wonderworld VR commented, “We are thrilled to be able to build on the ESL relationship. There are millions of esports fans out there that deserve the opportunity to be part of the action during the big arena events, even if they can’t physically be there. In live VR, we give audiences an extraordinary experience that will bring them closer to the players, in addition to exclusive backstage and behind-the- scenes access that isn’t accessible to live visitors. We also want to build a relationship with brands and give them an opportunity to be a part of VR and esports. With our creative production, we will bring the whole essence of competitive gaming into the future.”

The makers of Clash Royale are dangling $1 million in an effort to crown the world’s best player, announcing The Crown Championship for the mobile game. Supercell will kick off the spring season on May 11 with a slate of open play tournaments in the Clash Royale app, allowing any player level 8 and above to participate. At the end of the year, qualifying players will participate in the Global Finals in London.
In other mobile game news, Finnish publisher Critical Force is teaming with ESL to launch the first Critical Ops Championships Series to Europe and North America. The online tournament circuit kicks off on May 14 and runs through July 16 on ESL Play, culminating in a live international championship held in Los Angeles this August. Teams can compete in six open cups held throughout May and June to finish top eight in their regional standings. The online portion of the Critical Ops Championship Series will run on the ESL Play platform and feature a prize pool of $6,500 and over 20,000 weapon cases.
The Rocket League Championship Series is adding auto-qualification to its tournament, with the top two teams from both North America and EU receiving automatic entries into next season’s league play in addition to the world champion. “As the RLCS continues to grow with each season, we are constantly looking for ways to evolve and create a more sustainable environment for our players,” the company posted. “We believe this is the first of many steps in doing just that. In the coming months we’ll have more information to share on changes to come in RLCS Season 4,”
The Call of Duty World League Championship locked in on the Amway Center in Orlando, with play slated to run from Aug. 9 – 13. The will mark the event’s first time in the East Coast, as 32 teams vie for a prize pool of $1.5 million. “The CWL 2017 season is already shaping up to be the biggest one yet,” said Rob Kostich, EVP and general manager of Call of Duty, Activision. “The live events all over the world, including Atlanta, Dallas, Las Vegas, Paris and Sydney have been incredible, and the Global Pro League has already featured intense match ups with teams going after the big Stage 1 prize purses. So, the CWL Champs in August becomes even more fitting as the culmination of the best that Call of Duty esports has to offer this year. We can’t wait for Orlando.”
The Australian Football League became with latest organization to tap into esports, and will look to run a league tournament at Etihad Stadium with a call for AFL clubs to sponsor or create their own eSports teams, according to The Age.
ELeague will see Group C take action for the Street Fighter V Invitational on TBS this Friday at 10p. Group C will feature six contenders – Joshua “WOLFKRONE” Philpot, Ai “Fuudo” Keita, Kun “Xian” Xian Ho, Ryan “FChamp” Ramirez, Joe “MOV” Egami and Hajime “Tokido” Taniguchi.
Mobile esports company Skillz announced that it has doubled its revenue run-rate to over $100 million in the past eight months. Since June 2016, the Skillz user base has grown by more than 32 percent to 11.9 million with the number of female players growing from 49% last June to 53% today. Meanwhile, June saw the average Skillz player competed for over 50 minutes per day, which swelled to over 61 minutes a day for a gain of 5%. 
China’s LPL League of Legends competition became the first in the world to officially end regulation and start franchising. Wanplus reports that the process would launch for the 2017 Summer Split with teams that qualify for the event being guaranteed franchise spots. The story adds that the league will be expanded to 14 teams in 2018.

Source: Esports Ad Bureau/Magid

Ahead of E3 2017, publisher plans for the annual event continue to roll out. Bethesda released an amusement park-looking map for this year’s show, with themes that include Fallout, Dishonored 2, Prey, Elder Scrolls Online, Doom and Quake Champions, in addition to two announced sections of the experience. The tour will begin on June 11 at 6:30p, offering “a special night in store for you that’s packed with fun – and, of course, games! You’ll have the opportunity to mix and mingle in Bethesdaland, see what we’ve been working on, then enjoy a live musical performance from a top-secret act.”

WWE has a new partner. Psyonix announced that Rocket League will serve as a sponsor for WWE’s upcoming event, Backlash on May 21. In addition, the title will continue to partner with the promotion for multiple events moving forward with multiple activations in the works between the two brands. 

Meanwhile, Nintendo reports that – for E3 – it “will not be hosting a large-scale press conference for institutional investors, analysts and the media. Nintendo of America will present further information on our plans at a later date.” Of course, the company will still take part in the event, including a Splatoon 2 exhibition tournament planned as well as a reported reveal of Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle,. a new role-playing game blending the franchises being developed by Ubisoft.
Oculus VR confirmed that it will not officially attend E3 this year, according to VentureBeat. This will mark the first time since 2014 that Oculus will not have a booth on the E3 show floor. The company told the site that it will have more games and other announcements to make later this year.
At this year’s Newfront presentation, Twitter revealed that esports spawned a bevy of social conversation, announcing via Twitter that “Esports = massive opportunity. In 2016 250+ billion gaming Tweet impressions.”
Blizzard is going all in for The Running of the Gnomes charity event, which is run on an annual basis by the World of Warcraft community which calls upon gamers to create level one gnome characters and make a dangerous expedition to support the cause. Blizzard is now taking the fan event and making it an official one, as gnomes start in New Tinkertown, run to Ironforge, and move on to Stormwind via the Deeprun Tram before hitting Stranglethorn Vale, and ending their journey at Booty Bay. Running of the Gnomes supports Cleveland Clinic’s Tuohy Vaccine, while the Running of the Trolls event supports the Trevor Project, a 24-hour suicide hotline for LGBT Youth. Blizzard will now include an achievement for running through 40 gates and crossing the finish line, while decorations will grace the course.
PENTA Sports locked in stake-to-play gaming platform Epulze to serve as the first exclusive sponsor for its Dota 2 team, per TEO. The platform allows players to bet on their own matches using either real money, or the platform’s own Epulze Emeralds currency.
The International University Sports Federation and International e-Sports Federation inked a memorandum of understanding to promote esports in FISU, with the deal also exploring ways to synergies between the two federations. As a first step, IeSF will be supporting the FISU Web Games developed by FISU in a move to engage university youth through international on-line competitions and contests, promoting sport, knowledge, entertainment, education, art and culture worldwide.
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment is teaming up with GameSpot to launch the Injustice 2 GameStop Hometown Heroes tournament, anchored by the upcoming game. Operated by ESL, open online qualifier tournaments will begin June 4 before eight Regional Finals tournaments take place in local GameStop retail locations on Aug. 12, leading up to the Injustice GameStop Hometown Heroes Finals at the GameStop Managers Expo in Las Vegas on Aug. 27.
European team ASUS ROG Army locked in a sponsorship deal with Adidas to supply the squad with custom-designed uniforms that showcase team and sponsor insignias until 2020. The outfit will also be sold to fans  in the Spanish professional videogaming league’s official store.
In other sponsor news, Acer was named Official Sponsor and Monitor Partner for League of Legends Esports this year and will offer Predator gaming monitors for a series of events that includes the 2017 League of Legends World Championships, Mid-Season Invitational, and the Summer Split League of Legends Championship Series in both North America and Europe. The brand will also serve as the presenting sponsor of the “Big Plays” broadcast segment, which will air each week and recap the week’s biggest and best plays.
The Brisk brand is going all in with OpTic Gaming, announcing that it is expanding its sponsorship of the team to include the entire Brisk portfolio of products. The deal, according to the announcement, will include new content, giveaways, a fan Smooth competition and more.

Overwatch continues to over-deliver. Blizzard Entertainment announced that the popular title and esports pillar has surpassed 30 million players since launching in May of last year via PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. Blizzard previously announced that 25 million players were on-board for the game in January.
Meanwhile, Blizzard reports that esports stalwart Hearthstone reports that the game has passed 70 million players, according to the game’s official website. That number more than doubles the 30 million reported in February 2016.
Publisher Wavedash Games raised $6 million in Series A funding, led by March Capital Partners. The company, founded by game developers from EA, Riot Games, and Blizzard, will leverage the financing to grow its team and complete the development of its new Platform Fighter game. “The Platform Fighter community is one of the most vibrant in gaming,” said Matt Fairchild, Wavedash’s CEO and co-founder. “But it has yet to reach its full potential. We’re following the trail blazed by Riot Games and Valve by bringing community passion together with world class developer talent.”
Nintendo of America confirmed that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on Nintendo Switch has become the fastest-selling edition in franchise history, reporting 459,000 units sold on launch day for the Switch title. Overall, US sales of the Nintendo Switch hardware have reportedly reached 1.02 million units.
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GG Media Network locked in its senior leadership team for its eSports media production company, with CEO Christian Bishop Bryan Cashman as Vice President of Operations, Jim DiPrima as Chief Financial Officer, David Mullins as Chief Technology Officer, and D. Nikki Wheeler as Chief Communications Officer. They will join company COO Mariel Reyes atop the organization. “I am beyond excited about the group of talented and experienced leaders who will be working with me toward the achievement of our strategic business objectives,” Bishop said. “The eSports and gaming industry is experiencing tremendous growth. With these leaders we have the opportunity to realize our goal of building a collaborative gaming community, in which anyone can live their dream, whether it is playing professionally, creating a following for your stream or interacting with your favorite gamer, GG Media Network is where your story begins.”
Gaming social network World eSport is rebranding to gleetz.gg as the platform comes out of its beta phase. All World eSport users will still be able to access the platform as before, with profiles shifted to the new site, according to Esports Insider. 
Amid the announcement that Nintendo would be launching the new 2DS XL, company president Tatsumi Kimishima told investors that Nintendo 3DS sales grew during the last fiscal year, noting that the company still sees “We do not think that [the 3DS and Switch] compete directly in terms of price point or playstyle. We will run businesses separately and in parallel. We have also already stated that we think it is critical that we provide software unique to Nintendo 3DS in order to run both the Nintendo Switch business and the Nintendo 3DS business in parallel.”
The Entertainment Software Association released a statement applauding US Reps. Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Bill Flores (R-TX), Darrell Issa (R-CA), and Ted Lieu (D-CA) for the launch of the Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality/Mixed Reality Caucus, designed to educate policymakers about the technologies, while promoting the economic, educational, social, and health benefits of this new interactive entertainment sector. “The dynamic technology and explosive growth potential of virtual, augmented, and mixed reality will spark the creation of thousands of American jobs and billions of dollars in investment for the US economy,” said Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of ESA, the trade association that represents the US video game industry.
Following the weekend’s announcement that China would be launching a franchising system for the LoL Pro League, PVPLive reports that a new Chinese esports TV channel – dubbed ESPTVis being launched by Tencent, Riot, PerfectWorld and to showcase esports content in China.
ESL founder Jens Hilgers raised $18.5 million for BitKraft Esports Ventures, the world’s first esports-specific venture capital fund. Hilgers and his partner Markus Fuhrmann put up $11.5 million of BitKraft’s first fund with the other $7 million coming from a slate of investors that include aXiomatic Group, Inner Circle Sports, and GGV Capital, according to Forbes.


2004: Rockstar releases Red Dead Revolver for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox in the USA.
Trivia: This first-person shooter transformed the console wars in 1997, with the title featuring Oddjob, Jaws, and the Golden Gun. What was the name of the game?
[email protected]
with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)
Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question:
Which American university was the first to offer scholarships for esports?
Answer: Robert Morris University. Kudos: Chris Davies-Virgin/London; Danny Araque/NY; Julie Schell/DC; A
ndy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Mitch Rasmussen-DreamHack/Denver; Daniel Hanson/Vail; Molly Fehr-hulu/Santa Monica; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank

Later — Chris
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