05/19/16: Google’s gaming Daydream ; Warcraft’s film tactics; Turtle Beach turns up authenticity to gamers



CYNOPSISeSPORTS & GAMING
05.19.16

It’s Thursday, May 19, 2016, and this is your weekly early morning eSports & Gaming brief.

Google unveiled new plans in the VR gaming space at I/O yesterday, entitled Daydream, that will serve as a dedicated VR hub in the Play Store and offer immersive mobile gaming content from companies such as EA, Ubisoft and others in addition to content partners that include Hulu, Netflix and IMAX. The company is also revving up a platform-ready headset and wireless controller as part of the initiative that is entrenched into Android N with a target launch for the fall.

“VR should be mobile, approachable and for everyone," said Clay Bavor, VP of Product and head of VR for Google at the event. "But there’s a limit to how immersive an experience you can do with phones and Cardboard."

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COMPETITION

Analysts had positive thoughts about Activision Blizzard’s plans to leverage Facebook Live for its eSports offerings. The company’s Newfront presentation saw the company unveil plans to offer live content daily, including match highlights, statistics, expert commentary and player interviews on the MLG page. Videos will echo the SportsCenter theme with broadcasts powered by the MLG.tv streaming platform. Activision also announced new broadcast tools designed to give fans more information to viewers during eSports events, dubbed the enhanced viewer experience aka EVE. “This marks an important step given Activision’s broader ambitions as a media/entertainment company, and is a natural evolution of the Major League Gaming assets acquired early this year,” Baird analyst Colin Sebastian said in a research report Thursday, per Investor’s Business Daily.

The formation of the World Esports Association, created with the backing of eSports teams and ESL, will look to offer “an open and inclusive organization that will further professionalize eSports by introducing elements of player representation, standardized regulations, and revenue sharing for teams” in addition to predictable schedules for fans, players, organizers and broadcasters. A total of eight teams have contributed to the formation of WESA so far, including Fnatic, Natus Vincere, EnVyUs, Virtus.Pro, G2 Esports, Faze, Mousesports and Ninjas in Pyjamas. Pietro Fringuelli will take on the role of the Interim League Commissioner. When Gamespot asked Fringuelli about the need for team to be independent from the organization, he stated, “What we tried to do was build this triangle of governance; most of the time the leagues have more of an aligned interest with the actual players, and the teams sometimes have more of an aligned interest with the players than the league, and we are trying to balance that out.”

Blizzard Entertainment is stepping up plans to deal with harassment on Twitch, following an incident involving African-American Hearthstone gamer Terrence ‘TerrenceM’ Miller, who was racially targeted by some commenters during a livestream recently. Blizzard President Michael ‘Mike’ Morhaime issued a statement about the incident, telling Polygon that, "We’re extremely disappointed by the hateful, offensive language” used by some of the online viewers during the event. Twitch, meanwhile, stated that the company was “exploring new tools and processes to increase awareness and mitigation of these issues, and will continue to take action against chatters who committed reported violations”

Endemol Shine Beyond USA is launching the first-ever Legends of Gaming fantasy league, with fans able to visit the Smasher website and authenticate via Facebook to enter the contest for the chance to prizes. The league will see contestants given the opportunity to choose the winner for 8 games, including episodes 17 – 24 as player legends battle it out in Rocket League, CS:GO, Towerfall Ascension, Black Ops 3 and more.  Entries must be complete by May 23. "Digital media enables content creators to make the lean back experience active, so we wanted to take advantage of that and give our incredible ‘Legends of Gaming’ audience an opportunity to truly participate in the show," Matthew Forrest, VP, Production & Operations, Endemol Beyond USA. "Fantasy leagues are a fun way to build a community and make the traditional experience active and engaging for fans."

Take-Two Interactive unveiled a new streaming service that will showcase The Road to the Finals via 2K StreamCast on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The platform will allow audiences to watch the top 2K Pro-Am teams compete for the winner’s share of the $250,000 top prize.

Electronic Arts is bringing UFC into the eSports scene, announcing a new competitive experience in UFC 2 Live Events mode that allows fans around the world to play for the chance at trips, cash and a title belt. Fans can enter the qualifiers in the Live Event Competition to compete for a chance to earn Ultimate Team rewards and a trip to the live finals coinciding with the UFC Fan Expo and UFC 200: Cormier vs. Jones 2 in Las Vegas with the winner of the grand final match taking home $10,000.

MLG is teaming with Gears of War and The Coalition to host the Gears eSports MLG North American Open in Columbus at the MLG Arena from July 30  31. Up to 32 Pro and Amateur teams will compete for a $30,000 prize pool. 30 teams from North America will qualify for the tournament by MLG Pro Points awarded per player via GameBattles Team Ladder and 2000 Series Weekly Online Tournaments.

Wanna dive into eSports but don’t know where to start or how to engage? The solution lies at the Cynopsis eSports Conference on June 23 in NYC. Hear from the leagues, players, platforms, owners and brands that have spawned hundreds of millions of fans around the world, breaking down the data, marketing tactics and the future of the industry to get in the game. Don’t miss out and get your tickets today by clicking here!

FC Schalke 04 made it official, announcing the acquisition of its own League of Legends LCS team. Starting June 2, the new roster will compete against the best European teams in the League of Legends Championship Series. “We acted quickly in order to be able to participate in the upcoming summer split. Our players are hungry for success, talented and passionate about every match they play”, says Tim Reichert, Head of eSports at Schalke. “By completely integrating a team of professional eSports contestants into our club structures we are aiming to set new standards for the scene.”

INSIGHTS

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Source: PwC

How are eSports fans connecting with tournaments? According to PwC, traditional devices  i.e. laptop and desktop computers  continue to dominate viewership. 57% of respondents who have watched an eSports competition have done so on a laptop or desktop computer. Their survey showed that the devices are even more popular among Asians (79%), 18-24 year olds (73%) and males (67%). Meanwhile, gaming consoles are being used more frequently among females (60%) and hardcore gamers (56%).


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PUBLISHING & PLATFORMS

With Sony’s announcement of its E3 plans next month, the annual conference has its final lineup of press conferences. The event will be livestreamed and feature presentations that include: EA (4p ET) and Bethesda (10p) on June 12; Microsoft (12:30p), PC Gaming Show (2:30p), Ubisoft (3p) and Sony (9p) on June 13.

Is the end of consoles in sight? Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot projected that streaming will be an eventual replacement to consoles during an earnings call. "We believe in streaming  it demands lots of bandwidth," he said. "We think it’s going to grow but today, with the types of games we have, it will still take a bit of time to be more popular."

Microsoft is resurrecting more than 1 million dormant Gamertags for its Xbox Live Gold users who have had a subscription to the service for a year or longer. Availability of the usernames were published yesterday with options that include "proper names, pop culture references, types of food, geography and travel, science and technology, math and numbers, animals, and some of the greatest inventions of all time," according to ARS Technica.

Blizzard Entertainment scored over 9.7 million players around the world during the Open Beta for upcoming team-based shooter Overwatch. The ranks as the company’s biggest open beta ever. During the span, participants had joined forces for more than 4.9 billion minutes across more than 37 million matches. The first-person shooter hits stories on May 24.

Microsoft is pulling the plug on support for Project Spark. Thomas Gratz, community manager of "Project Spark" stated in the official forum that it was an "extremely difficult decision for our team" with members of the development team shifted to other projects within Microsoft Studios.

The new Forza Motorsport 6 NASCAR Expansion Pack is out, offering an all-new NASCAR World Tour mode which features 10 hours of play and allows gamers to race on circuits across the globe, as well as compete against other racing series. The pack offers 24 2016-season cars and 16 drivers from the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series from teams like Joe Gibbs Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing, Stewart-Hass Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, and Team Penske.

MARKETING & SPONSORSHIP

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Blizzard Entertainment and Regal Entertainment Group are launching for the upcoming Warcraft movie that will see anyone who buys a ticket to see the film at participating cinemas receive a free digital copy of World of Warcraft. The film hits theaters on June 10. Players will also be able to customize in-game weapons with four movie-inspired looks. “A whole new audience will experience the war between the Alliance and the Horde when the Warcraft movie hits theaters,” said Mike Morhaime, CEO of Blizzard Entertainment. “We’re excited to give Regal moviegoers in the U.S. a chance to participate in that conflict firsthand and explore Azeroth for themselves after seeing it on the big screen.”

AMP Energy locked in a deal with Twitch in a move to bring gamers a “one-of-a-kind program that encourages AMP Energy fans and the Twitch community to ‘level up’ their gaming experience this spring and summer.” The promotion includes a national fan and broadcaster sweepstakes, a new website, limited-edition gear and co-branded AMP Energy + Twitch cans, marking the first time the iconic Twitch logo has ever been used on any non-gaming retail product. "Through this partnership with Twitch, we are excited to bring together two brands that have a deep sense of camaraderie and energy," said Greg Lyons, senior vice president, marketing, AMP Energy. "AMP brings flavor to the energy category so that fans can enjoy the great taste of their energy drinks while they fuel up. Similarly, AMP wants to provide gamers a heightened level of enjoyment by teaming up with Twitch to provide unique experiences and help energize gamers for the challenges they face both in and out of the virtual world.”

PokerStars signed on to become the newest sponsor for Team Liquid. The deal will seem some of the team’s players begin streaming poker between regular programming, including Janne “Savijz” Mikkonen, Jeffrey “SjoW” Brusi and Dario “TLO” Wunsch.

VR game studio Lucid Sight locked in a $3.5 million Series A round of funding led by Rana Capital Partners, B.V. and Salem Partners. The announcement comes with the company’s release of a VR Ad SDK.

IGN is reviving GameTrailers, which closed down in February. The company has purchased the company’s library and will be “committed to archiving GT’s massive library.”

LICENSING & EXTENSIONS

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The Angry Birds Movie appears on target before opening in North America. Game publisher Rovio announced that the movie has already grossed $43 million overseas, hitting the top spot in 42 markets altogether while setting a record May opening for an original animated film.

Speaking of movies, Nintendo will push into the film business with reports that the company is plotting feature films featuring characters from its Super Mario and Zelda franchises. In an interview with the Asahi newspaper, Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima stated that the company in talks with multiple partners and plans to oversee production and produce its own films instead of licensing characters.

Meanwhile, Threshold Entertainment’s film adaptation of the staple puzzler Tetris will move forward as a trilogy. Deadline reports the movie is "billed as a sci-fi thriller" with filming slated to begin next year in China with a Chinese cast.

Tetris isn’t the only classic set to return in the movie theaters. Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films locked in a deal with Atari to turn the likes of Centipede and Missile Command into films.

BOSSES

EA Chief Creative Director Richard Hilleman has departed the company. "Rich Hilleman is a pioneer  a creative mind whose work influenced many games at EA and beyond," John Reseburg, EA corporate spokesman, told Polygon. "We are thankful to Rich for his contribution over more than 30 years with the company, and we look forward to seeing what he pursues next."

POWER PLAYERS: TURTLE BEACH

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After first connecting with gamers 10 years ago, audio technology company Turtle Beach is now diving even deeper into the eSports space, recently announcing the launch of the Turtle Beach Elite Pro Tournament Gaming Headset, Elite Pro Tactical Audio Controller (T.A.C.) and Elite Pro accessories line designed for competitive gamers and locking in OpTic Gaming to sport the line as their official gaming audio gear of choice.

Cynopsis asked Andrew Lilien, Vice President of Marketing at Turtle Beach Corp. about the company’s history with gamers, the keys to connecting and its new foray into eSports.

Lilien on the gaming community: Our personal relationships with gamers really developed in 2011 when we kicked-off our partnership with Activision to produce officially licensed Call of Duty headsets for Modern Warfare 3. From there, more licensed product partnership opportunities began to build, via future Call of Duty releases, Disney Infinity, EA for Titanfall and Lucasfilm Star Wars properties, as well as numerous cross promotional programs with other leading publishers.

On opportunities in eSports: We’ve also spent the past five years building up relationships with eSports and livestreaming industry leaders such as MLG and Twitch. We now anticipate taking our relationship with gamers even further with the release of the Elite Pro, our recently announced eSports headset created for competitive gamers. The Elite Pro’s advancements in gaming headset comfort and performance has led us to partnerships with top eSports teams including OpTic Gaming, who are now wearing the Elite Pro at home when they practice, when they compete, etc.

On marketing tactics: The most important tactic when marketing to gamers (well, really when marketing to any audience)  whether serious, hardcore competitive gamers or simply casual gamers  is to be genuine and authentic. To not speak to them as marketers trying to speak to gamers, but to be gamers talking to other gamers (who just also happen to do marketing for a gaming headset company). We want engage with gamers about what our headsets offer them from a features and functionality standpoint, and talk about it in a way that matters to us, and to them.

On activation: We’re creating authentic, organic content with and through our partners, who are some of the leading and influential eSports teams in the world, such as OpTic Gaming and another soon to be revealed partnership. This content is focused on the features and functionality that make the Elite Pro stand out from the rest of the market  like our Pro Specs Glasses Relief System which finally makes it comfortable for gamers who wear glasses to wear a headset, or the cooling gel-infused memory foam in the Elite Pro’s ear cushions, or one of another dozen other features that make the Elite Pro a unique and innovative offering from Turtle Beach.

Here more from Lilien and Turtle Beach at the Cynopsis eSports Conference on June 23. Don’t miss out and get your tickets today by clicking here!

READY FOR LAUNCH THIS WEEK

Downwell (PS4, Vita) – May 24
Dungeons 2 (PS4) – May 24
The Last Blade 2 (PS4, Vita) – May 24
Lumo (PS4, PC, Mac, Linux) – May 24
Overwatch (Xbox One, PS4, PC) – May 24
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan (Xbox One, 360, PS4, PS3, PC) – May 24
Tropico 5 (Xbox One) – May 24

GAMING SPOTLIGHT- Trailers that struck a chord.

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With New England Patriots Tight End Rob Gronkowski anchoring this year’s cover, EA released a Madden NFL 17 promo showcasing Gronkowski and several new features for next-gen consoles in this year’s game, including a new path assist feature, new defensive AI and expansion of ball carrier special moves, which give players new creative controls on the ground. View the new moves here.


ON THIS DAY in 2009: UFC 2009 Undisputed released for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Trivia: How many different shapes are there to use in the classic Tetris? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: With Doom returning, what action hero starred in the 2005 movie based on the game? Answer: The Rock. Kudos: Glen Ross/DC; Matt Rankin-WDAF-TV/Kansas City; Peter Steckelman-Tennis Channel/Santa Monica; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank; Dan Patrick-Comcast/LA; Benn Watson-GRB Entertainment/LA; Glen Gale-Hyundai/Australia

Later — Chris
Chris Pursell for Cynopsis | eSports @VegasandVine
05.19.16

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

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