05/12/16: Disney plots the end of Infinity; ELeague sponsors plug in; Machinima’s keys to branding success



CYNOPSISeSPORTS & GAMING
05.12.16

It’s Thursday, May 12, 2016, and this is your weekly early morning eSports & Gaming brief.

There is an end to Infinity, after all. After leveraging brands that include Stars Wars, Marvel, Pixar and Disney characters into the Disney Infinity gaming line, Disney Interactive announced this week that it was pulling out of the console business and will now shift to a licensing model, shutting down developer Avalanche Software. The company will still unveil two final releases with “Alice Through the Looking Glass” later this month, and the “Finding Dory Play Set,” launching in June. The company revealed during its quarterly results call that it would absorb $147 million from the franchise due to lower results. “Our goal for Disney Infinity was to bring the best of Disney storytelling to life in homes around the world, and with your support, we accomplished that,” said John Blackburn, SVP and GM of Disney Infinity. “We hope you had as much fun playing the game as we had making it.”

“I’m really surprised that Disney couldn’t make a big profit at this level,” Michael Pachter, video-game analyst at Wedbush Securities told Bloomberg. “It’s great news for Activision, as they are the last man standing in a market with more than $1 billion of annual demand.”

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COMPETITION

ESL announced “bigger and better” Intel Extreme Masters events coming down the pike, including a prize pool of more than $1 million for season 11 tournaments featuring players from Counter-Strike Global Offensive, League of Legends and StarCraft II. The league will see a return to Goyang, Korea, as well as a move from San Jose to Oakland. The calendar opens in Shanghai on July 28 and wraps up in March 2017 in Katowice. “It’s a big deal for us to be doing a three-stadium IEM season,” says Michal Blicharz, VP Pro Gaming at ESL. “Adding one in Korea is historic and will make Season 11 more special than any other before.”

Speaking of ESL, the company locked in a deal with Pilgrim Media Group to create and distribute original eSports entertainment content for television and digital platforms. "Pilgrim has a long history of creating competition programming that taps into the passion of fans – whether the playing field is the Octagon, the wilderness, on a fishing boat or in an arena,” said Pilgrim Media Group CEO Craig Piligian. “We’re extremely excited to bring the power, scope and mental muscle of gaming to television in a way that helps these loyal fans experience eSports as never before."

Two European soccer stalwarts have made moves into the eSports scene. West Ham United announced the signing of its first official eSports player Sean Allen, aka Dragonn, to become the first football club in the UK to sign an official e-sports player. In addition, German staple Schalke has reportedly agreed to purchase the 2016 EU League of Legends Championship Series spot owned by eSports team Elements, according to eSports Observer.

Riot Games announced plans to launch an alternative network dedicated to League of Legends in North America via Riot Direct. The game developer has been partnering with internet service providers to lay out their own fiber lines and server routers across the country for a more stable playing experience.

Eclipse TV and 2K Sports are partnering on NBA 2K Road to the Finals, a syndicated one-hour eSports special. The tournament takes place on June 1 with a winning team taking home $250,000. The program’s syndicated window spans June 11-Aug. 1 with 85% of the country already cleared, including ABC, CBS, NBC, Cox, Raycom and Sinclair stations.

PUBLISHING & PLATFORMS

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Nintendo and Mojang are hoping that two great tastes taste great together, announcing that the worlds of Super Mario and Minecraft will finally meet in a Super Mario Mash-Up Pack for Minecraft: Wii U Edition. Out on May 17, the edition will give players access to 40 new skins, a Super Mario-themed world and a slate of themed music and item textures. “Both the Super Mario franchise and Minecraft embrace the magic of exploration and discovery,” said Steve Singer, Nintendo of America’s Vice President of Publisher & Developer Relations. “Players will have a great time adventuring and creating in this free game update that embraces the unique and memorable elements of both franchises.”

The Star Wars brand was a winner for Electronic Arts, which reported quarterly results the easily beat analyst estimates, led by the success of Star Wars Battlefront, which sold more than 14 million copies and expanded the company’s user base over 15%. In addition, more than 54 million unique players engaged with the EA Sports console titles during fiscal year 2016, up 65% from last year; The Sims saw its user base swell by nearly two-thirds during the year. "It was a year of milestones, demonstrating our unique ability to connect hundreds of millions of players across genres," Andrew Wilson, EA’s CEO, said in a statement. "The year ahead is packed with excitement."

Capcom saw its sales grow, too – 19.8% for the fiscal year ending March 31, topping $710 million despite Street Fighter 5 falling short of its projections to see 2 million copies (the title hit 1.4 million). The company did see its Monster Hunter X series beat forecasts, with more than 3 million units sold. The company announced plans to boost revenue “by promoting the continuous growth of its Digital Contents business via major title releases and strengthened digital download sales while stabilizing releases of Pachislo machines in its Arcade Equipments business.”

SQUARE ENIX and Disney announced that the first mobile game in the Kingdom Hearts franchise has been downloaded more than 2 million times in under a month. Kingdom Hearts Unchained x is available as a free-to-play app (with in-app purchases) through the App Store for iPhone and on Google Play for Android devices.

INSIGHTS

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Source: Newzoo.

More than a billion people will know of eSports’ existence by the end of the year, according to Newzoo, which scouted 16 markets around the world and found that awareness for competitive gaming grew from 53.7% in 2015 to 65.7% in 2016. “Explosive growth in coverage from global and local media, an intensified effort from game publishers, as well as the launch of an abundance of new leagues and events have accelerated the global exposure of eSports beyond initial expectations,” the report reads, with an audience of 292 million who occasionally watch and 148 million who watch frequently.


A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE


DON’T MISS THE 2 MOST IMPORTANT DAYS FOR THE
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Sponsored by Neulion, Sportradar, rEvolution & Magid

June 22: Cynopsis Sports Business Summit
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June 23: Cynopsis eSports Conference
Learn how to understand and leverage the eSports market, and to maximize and monetize the world of competitive gaming


MARKETING & SPONSORSHIP

Turner and WME/IMG unveiled its first lineup of brands that will be sponsoring the upcoming ELeague as official marketing partners. Arby’s is on board as the Official Quick Service Restaurant partner, with Credit Karma inking a deal as the Official Personal Finance partner and Buffalo Wild Wings as the Official Casual Dining partner. All three brands have signed on for the inaugural and second season of ELeague, set to launch May 24. The trio of companies will receive customized, contextual brand exposure spanning the league’s multi-screen coverage across TBS and digital platforms. Personalized brand campaigns include sponsor integration within the AdTrack feature, which facilitates uninterrupted game coverage, contextual brand integrations and ad space within limited commercial time.
 
The eGames is partnering with M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment to lock in a European sponsorship strategy for its eSports events in Rio during the Olympics. M&C Saatchi will offer strategic counsel and sponsorship advice to the International eGames Group in Europe, as well as support for brands seeking to be involved with the event. “The eGames will inspire future generations in competitive video gaming by creating new national heroes. We want to remove the smokescreen of what eSports actually are and work with brands that want to be part of this exciting journey,” said Chester King, CMO of International eGames Group. “We chose M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment as they have a great track record and passion for eSports.”

Sport and entertainment marketing consultancy Strive Sponsorship nabbed Gfinity as its first rights holder, advising the eSports business on how to monetize “the rapidly expanding global community of competitive gamers through sponsorship.” Strive will assist Gfinity in refining its commercial proposition and build a comprehensive rights schedule as well as a narrative that clearly articulates the engagement opportunities for brands to connect to the millennial audience that eSports attracts.

Xbox pushed out its E3 plans, with the Xbox E3 2016 briefing set to take place on June 13 at 9:30p PT. Fans will be able to explore in-depth looks at previously-announced games as well as trailers for unannounced titles. The event can be viewed on Xbox.com, the Xbox Twitch Channel, YouTube, via the Xbox Live Events Player on Xbox One and Xbox 360 consoles. In addition, the Xbox E3 2016 Briefing will run on Spike TV. Xbox will also partner with Twitch to offer wall-to-wall coverage of the entire week of E3 on the Xbox Twitch channel from noon-4p on June 14, 10a-4p on June 15, and 10a-5p on June 16.

Mountain Dew unveiled a global partnership with DR1 Racing that will stream on the platform for a new drone racing series that marks the first branded partnership and national broadcast for the fledgling sport. The DR1 Invitational presented by Mountain Dew will air this August in a one-hour broadcast special that will run on Twitch. In addition to the partnership with DR1, Dew unveiled its new TV and digital spot "Drone Hunting" to anchor year two of the brand’s global "Do The DEW" marketing campaign. Additional PepsiCo brands supporting the DR1 Invitational presented by Mountain Dew include Amp Energy and Doritos. In addition, Mountain Dew signed and sponsored a drone racing pilot: DR1 drone racing pilot Tommy "Ummagawd" Tibajia from Huntington Beach.

Dolby is getting into the eSports space, sponsoring an Overwatch tournament, Agents Rising. The event will offer up a $10,000 prize pool, making it the largest in the game’s history on May 28-29, according to MCVUK. The Blizzard title will be the first game to feature Dolby’s Atmos technology via headphones

BOSSES

The IEGC and the eGames announced its first wave of Advisory Board members with: Dr Jo Twist CEO Ukie, Andy Payne OBE Chair of the European Gaming League, Jude Ower MBE Founder and CEO Playmob, Daniel Cossi President of Brazilian National eSports Confederation, Veronique Lallier Vice President of European Publishing at HiRez Studio and Andrew Smith Pinewood Corporate Affairs Director Pinewood Group. The Advisory Board will assist with the organization’s goal to “install good governance for the eGames, help promote and develop the eGames movement and make sure diversity and inclusivity are at its core.”

POWER PLAYERS: MACHINIMA

Last week saw gaming stalwart Machinima announce plans to give a lifeline to non-endemic brands looking at the eSports space, launching the MACH-1 gaming agency in a move to “connect brands with the emerging culture of gaming and eSports, providing actionable insights and strategy to architect key partnerships, influencer programs and fan event experiences that move the needle for brands.” With a reach of more than 170 million viewers each month and a rank as one of the largest online video platforms in the world, Machinima is also launching Inside eSports this week, described as a seven-day-a-week SportsCenter-style show that covers news, highlights and analysis from the industry’s biggest tournaments. Machinima CEO Chad Gutstein spoke with Cynopsis about the attitude shift from sponsors in recent years, the company’s unique position in the market and how passion is driving the gaming industry.

Gutstein on the company’s current mission: We are very focused now on growing our business as a multi-platform social content company. We are concentrating on producing, distributing, aggregating and monetizing the best content in the world for video game and fandom audiences and continuing to scale our marketing-services business, partnering with brands and helping them achieve their goals and reaching this incredibly vibrant and passionate, active audience that happens to be young and hard-to-reach. And we are very focused on growing our programming services business.

On the power of desire: People are very passionate on following great creators who speak to them; it’s an incredibly powerful connection. Games have become passion platforms that people use to generate content, and that generation is an extension of the game and self-reinforcing. If you’ve got a lot of people playing the game and creating a lot of content – with a lot of people are watching that content, then those people are going to be engaging [others], which drives more people to play the game. It’s a very virtuous cycle.

On the launch of MACH-1: When I got into this space a few years ago, advertisers basically asked, “Why should I care?” They don’t ask that anymore. They understand why they should reach these audiences – that they’re young, have disposable income and are in-market to buy their products and services. But they struggle to connect with them, which is why we launched MACH-1. How we begin to solve that is with data. The proprietary data that we get from Machinima and the data sets that we get across the major social platforms allow us to look at the motivational and behavioral aspects of why people pick games. Then we can cross-reference that with their interactions with brands.

On launching the “SportsCenter of eSports”: The show is now soft-launching, with the goal for it to hit its stride around E3. You’re going to see a lot experimentation between now and E3 as we try out different things. But really it’s about news, analysis and getting inside the game behind the scenes  the personality storytelling of what motivates these gamers and what it’s like to live their life. It will be the best of traditional sports coverage, clipped into the language of eSports. And it’s going to have what Machinima has, which is the voice of the superfan.

You can hear more from Machinima at the Cynopsis eSports Conference, taking place on June 23 in NYC. Click here for tickets and info.

READY FOR LAUNCH THIS WEEK

May 12
·       Super Meat Boy (Wii U)
·       BattleSouls (PC/Steam)
·       Rocket Fist (PC/Steam)

May 13
·       Doom (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC)
·       Disney Art Academy (3DS)

May 14
·       Dungeon of Zolthan (PC/Steam)

GAMING SPOTLIGHT- Trailers that struck a chord this week.

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EA’s Battlefield 1 scored big this week with nearly 1.3 million likes on YouTube amid 24+ million views since being posted on May 6 to rank as the most-liked trailer ever, spanning all mediums. The latest chapter of the franchise takes place during World War One and will be released on PS4, Xbox One and PC on October 21st. Click here for the trailer.


ON THIS DAY in 2003: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is released for the PC.

Trivia: With Doom returning tomorrow, what action hero starred in the 2005 movie based on the game? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: What is the name of the company behind the T-virus in the Resident Evil franchise?  Answer: Umbrella Corporation. Kudos: Chris Jalandoni-Bleacher Report/NY; Glen Ross/NY; Danny Araque/NY; Joy Olson-Lowe’s/Fairfax; Amanda Thornton-Red Arrow Industries/Knoxville; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Benn Watson-GRB Entertainment/LA; greg Dudsic/Venice; Riley Eckert-Berkshire Hathaway/Las Vegas; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank.

Later — Chris
Chris Pursell for Cynopsis | eSports @VegasandVine
05.12.16

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Develop a rich API for the user interface, mobile apps, and 3rd party integrations.
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Performs technical analysis, design and software development using appropriate technologies to support department and company objectives.
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Research, design and implement reporting infrastructure that leads to automated and flexible reporting.
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Build and mentor a team, both locally and abroad, who can put official policy into practice.
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