05/24/18: Fortnite’s big bucks drew acclaim from across the esports industry

CynopsisESPORTS
It’s Thursday May 24, 2018 and this is your weekly early morning Esports briefing. 
 


Epic Games is lining up $100 million for Fortnite competitions during the 2018-19 season, with funding dedicated to esports prize pools. “We’re getting behind competitive play in a big way, but our approach will be different – we plan to be more inclusive, and focused on the joy of playing and watching the game,” the company announced. “Stay tuned for more details about competitive structures and eligible platforms in the weeks ahead!” The company also detailed plans for a Fortnite Celebrity Pro-Am tournament that will take place during E3 this year. Fifty pros and celebrities with team up on June 12 to battle for $3 million in charity prize money. Among the participants will be Tyler “Ninja” Blevins/ music producer Marshmello and Ali “Myth” Kabbani/Paul George. Other names will include Pokimane, Mark “Markiplier” Fischbach, Corentin “Gotaga” Houssein, Desiigner, Joel McHale, and Demetrious Johnson.
 
Here’s a sampling of analyst and key executives on the prize news:
  • OpTic’s Hector Rodriguez posted that “You either move when you need to, or you play catch-up. They’re just having fun tho, this is going to be SICK!!! Can’t wait to attend the first event.”
  • Benchmark venture capitalist Bill Gurley tweeted that “This is big. And bold.”
  • “To put this in some perspective, in 2017, the top 10 games COMBINED gave out $91.2mm in prize money.” tweeted esports personality Scott Smith.
  • “It’s the biggest I’ve seen … This is pretty phenomenal. It also speaks to how much they are making from the game,” Wedbush gaming analyst Michael Pachter wrote in an email, per CNBC.
  • “It is quite an impressive headline figure, but there is no detail on how the money is going to be divided, whether there will be a traditional tournament and a world champion player or lots of smaller tournaments.” said Piers Harding-Rolls, director of games research at IHS Markit., per the BBC.
 
COMPETITION and VENUES


ELEAGUE unveiled its talent team for the ELEAGUE Street Fighter V Invitational 2018. Tournament action begins June 1 at 11p on TBS with live coverage starting at 3p on the ELEAGUETV Twitch channel. Taking over hosting duties on the desk will be Michele Morrow, with Malik Forte returning to ELEAGUE to join regulars Steve “Tasty Steve” Scott, Stephen “Sajam” Lyon, Reepal “Rip” Parbhoo and Zhi “Zhieeep” Liang Chew. TBS carries a one-hour Invitational Preview Show on Friday at 11p.
 
Ubisoft is updating its framework for its Rainbow Six Siege esports competition. Changes to the structure of the Pro League will include shifting competition away from a tournament-style event and adapting it to a true league format. Each season will now run for six months instead of three, with two major final events per year. Every team in the Pro League will play each week, resulting in 14 matches each throughout the season. Of the eight teams in a region, the top two will automatically progress to the Pro League finals, while teams ranked third to sixth will remain in the Pro League. The team in seventh place will have to play a relegation match against the best team from the Challenger League, and will have to win to remain in the Pro League while the team in eighth place will be automatically relegated to the Challenger League.
 
The Gears of War Pro Circuit and the Halo Championship Series are joining forces to an Xbox Esports Event this summer taking place at the New Orleans Convention Center from July 13-15 in partnership with MLG. Gears developer The Coalition and Halo developer 343 Industries said in a joint statement that “the event will feature hundreds of players, two main stages, multiple feature stations and two open bracket areas” with both tournaments featuring a $250,000 prize pool.
 
Gfinity announced the GfinityCounter-Strike: Global Offensive Spring Series 2018, which will see contenders battle to become Champions of Europe and North America and take a share of the $50,000 prize pool. All participating teams will compete in Gfinity’s signature eight-week Swiss style regular season format in an attempt to qualify for the Online Playoffs and the chance to climb the ladder of ranked skill divisions. The regular season begins on July 2 with playoffs set for Sept. 2.
 
ESL reteamed up with Oculus to for the biggest VR competition series worldwide, dangling more than $220,000 in prize money to players. The VR League relaunched over the weekend with a new, more flexible tournament system, featuring up to seven games over a five-month period. “Oculus is committed to fostering long-term growth of the VR esports ecosystem, and season two – with its new format and additional games – is an amazing next step on this exciting journey,” says Oculus Head of Esports Chris McKelvy.
 
Speaking of ESL, the company is partnering to launch the inaugural esports season of Guns of Boom, starting June 9 with $200,000 on the line. All Guns of Boom players in North America and Europe are invited to compete through the first round Go4 Open Cups hosted by ESL. The Guns of Boom European Invitational will invite Europe’s four best teams to compete in the esports capital of Katowice, Poland on July 29th. Then later this year, eight of the world’s best teams will be invited to compete in Los Angeles for the title of Guns of Boom 1st Season Champion.
 
Hi-Rez Studios detailed plans for the SMITE Pro League: Season 5 Summer Split, announcing that – starting May 28 – the Summer Split will run for 6 weeks, feeding into the Summer Finals, and the top two teams from both North America and Europe will qualify for this event, which will feature a double round robin format with best-of-three matches. New broadcast times will be weekdays at 3p with Mondays offering one NA SPL match and one EU SPL match; Tuesdays & Thursdays dishing out two EU SPL matches, and Wednesdays & Fridays spotlighting two NA SPL matches.
 
Sega is partnering with SpeedGaming for a Sega-themed speedrunning tournament designed to promote the release of Sega Genesis Classic on PS4 and Xbox One. Qualifiers run May 25 -27 and will feature the first two Sonic the Hedgehog games, along with Vectorman, Ristar, Gunstar Heroes, Streets of Rage 2, Golden Axe, Columns, as well as Revenge of the Shinobi.
 
The Arab Esport Federation and Global Esport Resources inked a partnership agreement spanning twenty-five years that calls for GER, a global esport strategy, planning and execution company, to own, develop and operate on behalf of and in conjunction with AEF, marking a first ever all-inclusive esport gaming portal to aggregate and manage the Esport and video gaming activities of the 11 member AEF countries. The exclusive agreement calls for GER to own, build and operate an all-inclusive digital HUB for all things related to gaming and esports within the AEF countries and includes handling all AFE local, national and cross country tournaments, team activities, merchandising, sponsorships, and streaming and media rights.
 
 
INSIGHTS


This week Stream Hatchet explores how amateur gaming competitions stack up against major esports tournaments and leagues. We compared Keemstar’s Fortnite Friday tournament to the LCS Mid-Season Invitational. Here are the takeaways:
  • Last week, the MSI generated 7.3 Million views, 2.6 million more views than the Keemstar Keemstar and supporting channels generated significantly higher AVG CCV ratings, and a higher Peak CCV than the MSI.
  • Peak CCV occurred at the tail end of the MSI. In the Keemstar event, viewership trended downwards as the event progressed.
  • This suggests that esports fans are more interested in seeing the results of a tournament. Followers of Keemstar tune in for the entertainment value, and are not as interested in the final results.
For more information on our methodology, or analysis, head over to our blog at: blog.streamhatchet.com
 
 
ACTIVATION
 
DHL tied up a partnership with ESL in a move to expand its brand presence in the esports market. DHL provides core logistics services to ESL and, as a sponsor with creative live stream content, its brand will be featured on various social media channels and via further communications measures throughout the ESL One series tournaments. As the official logistics partner, DHL will handle the event logistics for the ESL One series, transporting not only the stage equipment to the venues throughout the series but also the individual gamer seating.
 
Speaking of ESL One, the esports company will reportedly work with Alienware as its partner for all ESL One events. This Dell-owned gaming hardware brand will serve as the official computer and monitor partner for the series, including ESL One Birmingham which runs May 24 to May 27. All esports players at ESL events will be using the Alienware 25-inch monitor during competition, and the analyst desks will use the latest Alienware laptops.
 
Global esports organization Gen.G is partnering with Netgear an expansion of the current sponsorship to now include the entire roster of Gen.G leading esports teams around the world. This partnership builds upon NETGEAR’s earlier sponsorship with Gen.G-owned Overwatch League team Seoul Dynasty to include all Gen.G teams competing in League of Legends, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Heroes of the Storm, Clash Royale and more.
 
Monumental Sports & Entertainment ordered up a round with Bud Light to become a sponsor of Wizards District Gaming in the NBA 2K League in 2018. Bud Light will be the presenting sponsor of two new shows centered around Wizards District Gaming. “Chillin with my Bud (Light)” will be a virtual happy hour with players interacting with followers. The second show – “Coaches Corner” – will feature team manager Patrick Crossan giving a state of affairs for the franchise. Bud Light will also be a title sponsor for Wizards District Gaming watch parties and will host a tournament open to the public in the Budweiser Brewhouse at Capital One Arena.
 
State Farm signed on as an official partner of the NBA 2K League and will present pregame segments titled Game Mode that capture strategy and insights from NBA 2K League players on Twitch broadcasts throughout the season. State Farm will also have a weekly highlights segment called Game Time on NBA2KLeague.com. State Farm will also receive courtside signage during in-season tournaments and NBA 2K League Finals games. “As a longstanding partner of the NBA and the WNBA, State Farm has a proven history of authentically connecting with fans and has demonstrated a commitment to eSports,” said Brendan Donohue, Managing Director, NBA 2K League.  “We’re excited for State Farm to engage with our NBA 2K League community through helping create unique content and compelling storylines about our players.”
 
In other deal news, AMD and Fnatic are partnering up, courtesy of an agreement that further expands AMD’s engagement in competitive gaming. AMD will serve as Fnatic’s exclusive partner across four competitive gaming hardware categories: motherboards, GPUs, CPUs and laptops. In this third year of collaboration, the partnership will include AMD’s top-tier brands, Ryzen and Radeon RX. “Fnatic is extremely proud to have AMD, a premium gaming hardware brand, on our side for the third year now,” said Wouter Sleijffers, CEO at Fnatic. “AMD and Fnatic both share a passion for high performance and top quality gaming hardware. Recently, Fnatic won the European Sponsorship Award and the exciting partnership with AMD was a big catalyst for this achievement. Fnatic will always strive to excel on-stage and off-stage, to bring maximum results for our fans and partners alike.”
 
Otter Pops unveiled a new partnership with the Los Angeles Valiant and Immortals. Details were not announced a press time but the deal will mark the brand’s first major foray into esports.
 
SteelSeries locked in a partnership with the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA 2K League team, Cavs Legion GC. SteelSeries will serve as the official peripheral partner of the team, supplying a full suite of peripherals including Arctis Pro headsets, Apex M750 keyboards, Sensei 310 gaming mice, Stratus XL controllers and QcK gaming mousepads. In addition to supplying all the peripherals for the Cavs Legion GC gaming house, SteelSeries will also outfit each player on the team with a full suite of SteelSeries products.
 
 
CONSUMER SNAPSHOT


FanAI confirms with this chart what everyone already suspected about the esports audience. As has been long asserted by industry insiders, esports fans have disposable income, they are digital natives, and over index on spending money online. In particular, they spend much more than the general population on digital products such as cloud services and digital audio subscriptions.
Source: FanAI.io
 
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PLATFORMS


A new report from Newzoo projects that over 14.1 million hours of major console esports events have been viewed on Twitch since the beginning of 2018, with the overall tally swelling to 20 million with the addition of YouTube. Twitch’s number alone is already up nearly 96% over the same period in 2017, spanning 46 events so far this year. Overall, console esports accounted for 4.5% of all viewership hours on Twitch and YouTube Gaming combined.
 
Meanwhile, the 2018 Mid-Season Invitational Grand Final shattered records as competition for the League of Legends event drew all-time esports viewership highs. According to Esports Charts, the 2018 MSI Grand Final ranked as the most watched esports event in history with over 127 million viewers tuning into the action with over 126 million of the viewers tuning in from China, accounting for 9% of the country’s population. That said, some pundits are now claiming that the viewing numbers were boosted due to bots being used on the large streaming platforms, although that hasn’t been confirmed.
 
Activision announced that the community reveal event for the new Call of Duty title ranked as the most the “biggest ever” for a CoD game reveal. The event bust previous viewing records, according to a blog post from the company, writing, “The reveal livestream broke franchise records, including the most day one views as well as the highest concurrent viewers, while also blanketing social media as the #1 trending topic on Twitter globally during the broadcast. Views from the reveal event have already surpassed 80 million, including the livestream, official trailers and content creator videos.”
 
ESTARZ announced a partnership with Immortals to produce Smashed, an original reality esports series that will feature Jason “ANTi” Bates, who is the team’s top-ranked Smash Bros. player. In each episode, viewers will follow Bates in the competitive Smash Bros. scene. “What you don’t see is the everyday life of these young and up-and-coming esports stars as they work their way up the rankings and into the public eye,” says Marco Mereu, CEO of ESTARZ. “We are excited to show viewers not only the competitive elements but the personal side of esports. Jason represents a great example of a modern day esports athlete evolved and we are excited to tell his story.”
 
Play2Live announced that it would be hosting the first-ever Hearthstone contest to be powered by blockchain technology. Eight players have been invited for the tournament with the grand final on May 25. All content will be carried on P2L.TV.
 
 
INDUSTRY


Blizzard Entertainment announced a licensing agreement with Hasbro to become the global master toy licensee for the Overwatch franchise. Hasbro will launch a slate of play experiences including NERF products, games and more, based on the growing Overwatch universe and its characters. “We are thrilled to announce this partnership with Blizzard for the Overwatch franchise,” said Samantha Lomow, senior vice president, Hasbro. “The roster of bold, diverse characters, and a passionate following of more than 40 million players have inspired our teams to create an amazing product line that will not only appeal to the passionate Overwatch fan base, but also attract new fans into the Overwatch universe.”
 
Meanwhile, Licensing Expo 2018 saw the Activision Blizzard Consumer Products Group detail more partnerships. Highlights include new partners for Call of Duty, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, Destiny, Overwatch, World of Warcraft and Hearthstone. “Since debuting at last year’s Licensing Expo, we’ve begun to successfully realize our vision of offering more value and more opportunities for our global licensing and retail partners by leveraging the blockbuster franchises that Activision and Blizzard have created and expanded over many years of dedicated development,” said Tim Kilpin, CEO and president, Activision Blizzard Consumer Products Group. “For our hundreds of millions of players around the world, we’re working hard to build lasting global franchises that they can connect with across game platforms and through esports and vibrant transmedia story content. We are well positioned to continue playing a leading role in shaping the future of entertainment.”
 
Speaking of licensing, Tinderbox is teaming up with ESL for licensing in both North America and Europe, according to Esports Insider. ““Esports have officially emerged into the mainstream and ESL has led the way,” said Dan Amos, Head of New Media at Tinderbox. “With exponential growth in attendance, viewership and prize pools, ESL has become the premiere hosting platform for developers and the most prestigious league for teams and players. Tinderbox is proud to join the esports revolution and we are excited to create a truly best-in-class consumer products program that further connects fans to the non-stop action that ESL provides.”
 
Big news for Team Liquid parent company aXiomatic, which reportedly raised $25 million in a Series B funding round led by Golden State Warriors executive board member Bruce Karsh. ESPN reports that the round includes additional investment from existing aXiomatic board members, including Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis, Warriors co-owner Peter Guber and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik. Chicago-based firm Vernon & Park Capital also invested into aXiomatic with Karsh.
 
Electronic Arts acquired the cloud gaming technology assets and personnel of a subsidiary of GameFly. The acquired technology and team members deepen EA’s capabilities and expertise in cloud gaming, and enable the company to continue exploring new ways for players to access and experience games from any device, according to the release.
 
Sony said that the PlayStation 5 is at least three years away. According to the Wall Street Journal, the company wants to spend three more years readying its next videogame move and will instead focus on its PlayStation Plus service.
 
 
POWER PLAYERS- Michael Prindiville


Team Dignitas’ newly-appointed CEO Michael Prindiville is hitting the position full throttle, with the team announcing the addition of the world’s top-ranked Rocket League team to its roster, signing players who competed as Gale Force, a European-based squad that will now compete under the Team Dignitas banner at the RLCS Season 5 World Finals from June 8-10 in London. Since being announced as CEO, where he joined following five years with NBC Sports Group, Prindiville also noted in various interview that he is also considering a brand update to the team, applying for Riot Games’ European League Championship Series and a potential move. Cynopsis asked Prindiville about his move and plans for the team.
 
Prindiville on taking the job: The ability to reinvigorate a storied esports org back to the pinnacle, and to do so in a new, innovative way in conjunction with the assets of Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment was an incredible opportunity to work with and learn from some of the most innovative executives in the industry (led by HBSE CEO Scott O’Neil) on one of esports most iconic and historic franchises.
 
On Team Dignitas: No other org has the combination of a storied history, global fanbase and unparalleled opportunity to shock the world. The franchise’s founder, Michael “ODEE” O’Dell, has been a luminary in the esports community since its inception – having at one time been a player, coach, manager, General Manager, President and Owner. This position allows me to capitalize and amplify Team Dignitas’ extraordinary brand position; our work will make esports history.
 
On goals: In short: Win. Entertain.  We do this for the fans – and we have the most loyal fan community in esports. Team Dignitas has a storied history within esports. Founded in 2003, the org has won 26 world championships across 16 titles. We’re looking to take that history and build on it through three main verticals that we’ll look to ramp up over the next 6-12 months – specifically with regard to our (1) brand, our (2) community and (3) fan engagement and our content. We have a real opportunity here to marry our brand history with fresh perspective.
 
On franchises: We will look at all opportunities in the space to determine if they make sense for our brand, business and vision – knowing that many more, potentially bigger opportunities, are always right around the corner. After all, this is esports. We’re generally interested in leagues that treat esports as a business rather than marketing, which means recognizing that without the players and organizations, there is no league. This means working with top orgs to build the appropriate infrastructure, compelling content, robust monetization plans and long term security.
 
On his takeaway from helping NBC launch esports: Esports is not merely a sport or form of entertainment – it is the blueprint for modern day media, engagement and consumption.
 
 
ROSTER MOVES

Gfinity appointed Garry Cook as Executive Chairman of the company. Cook replaces Tony Collyer, who will step down from the Board after four years. Cook previously served as President and General Manager for Nike’s Jordan Brand, was the CEO of the Manchester City Football Club, and most recently held the Chief Global Brand Officer position for the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
 
Magic Gaming named Gabriel Causse as its partnership development manager. Causse will be charged with locoing new partners for the team, coordinating with players and staff to produce content, and boosting the team’s social media following.
 
 
COMMENTARY

As player contracts evolve with the growth of esports, Dan Ciccone, SVP, Managing Director of REV/XP, offers his thoughts on pro player contracts and pro player rights. For the full commentary/call to action, visit http://www.cynopsis.com/cynsiders/.
 
Many player/org issues that have arisen are primarily due to the fact that the professional esports scene has evolved more rapidly over the past 24 months than it has in the past 10 years. While it is great to see esports now at the forefront of the entertainment industry, it is coming at a rapid pace and with a price. The price is more pressure on orgs to generate revenue for investors and to be accepted by publishers to compete in franchised leagues like OWL and the LCS. So while we have seen much “outside investment” in esports over the last 18 months, many of the orgs are struggling to keep up and evolve with the financial demands of professional esports without updating/altering player contracts to coincide with these demands. This is due to a number of reasons:
  • While many games have become more organized and offer more structure with new schedules and rules, many leagues now require orgs to spend millions of dollars to be recognized by the publishers for official slots to compete – as an example, a few years ago, any team on the planet had a shot at becoming champs in the LCS.  Now, it’s going to set you back at least $20 million for a slot in the league.
  • Traditional sports franchises are buying existing esports orgs and realizing that their traditional sports business model does not complement, and cannot replace, the inherent structural differences between the operations of an esports organization and a traditional pro sports team.
  • VC companies are buying orgs – people who know little to nothing about esports are buying into the space as an “investment” and treating the space like a commodity that will be flipped in a short amount of time for a nice profit. There is a sense that because esports is inherently digital, there are all of these untapped revenue streams and that’s just not the case.
 
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ON THIS DAY in 2002: Super Smash Melee is released for the Gamecube.
 

Trivia: Name the character pictures above. (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)
 
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Cynopsis 07/19/24: Beloved Bob Newhart dies at 94

Beloved Bob Newhart dies at 94

Friday July 19, 2024 Today’s Premieres A+E: Cold Case Files: DNA Speaks at 9p; Tell Me How I Died at 10p AppleTV+: Omnivore; Lady in the Lake PrimeVideo: Betty La Fea: The Story Continues Today’s Finale WeTV: Mama June: From Not to Hot at 9p; Deb’s House at 10p Saturday’s Premiere A&E: New House No […]

Cynopsis 07/18/24: Shogun rakes in Emmy nods

"Shogun" rakes in Emmy nods

Thursday July 18, 2024 Today’s Premieres ABC: Press Your Luck at 8p; Lucky 13 at 9p BET+: Bruh Hulu: How I Caught My Killer Max: Kite Man: Hell Yeah! MTV: The West Coast Hustle Netflix: Cobra Kai; Master of the House Peacock: Those About to Die Prime Video: Top Class Tennis IN THE NEWS Hulu’s […]

07/17/24: Cynopsis Jobs

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ASSOCIATE, GLOBAL LICENSING & DISTRIBUTION HEARST MEDIA PRODUCTION GROUP CHARLOTTE, NC Coordinate and execute asset delivery to content distribution partners and assist with ideation and execution of marketing campaigns with channel partners as well as capture, analyze, and report viewership data. You will also follow and report on industry trends and create weekly programming schedules […]

Cynopsis 07/17/24: Apple TV+ renews “Loot” for season three

Apple TV+ renews "Loot" for season three

Wednesday July 17, 2024 Today’s Premieres BritBox: 24 Hours in Police Custody CBS: Big Brother at 8p Hulu: UnPrisoned Netflix: Simone Biles: Rising; The Green Gang; T P Bon Syfy: The Ark at 10p IN THE NEWS Global entertainment & media industry revenues rose 5% to $2.8 trillion in 2023, and are projected to hit […]

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