07/27/23: The Overwatch League’s future might be in jeopardy

 

Medias First Morning Read
Thursday July 27, 2023

Good morning! It’s Thursday and this is your early morning Esports and Gaming brief.

The Overwatch League’s future might be in jeopardy following Activision-Blizzard reportedly significantly reducing its esports staff.

The Verge first reported the layoffs along with the news that Overwatch League franchises will vote at the end of the 2023 season on whether to continue the OWL under an “updated operating agreement.” “If the teams do not vote to continue under an updated operating agreement, a termination fee of $6 million will be payable to each participating team entity (total fee of approximately $114 million),” Activision-Blizzard said in its Q2 earnings report. “Total revenues from the Overwatch League comprise less than 1% of our consolidated net revenues.”

The earnings report does not mention the Call of Duty League, another franchised esports league that completed its 2022-23 season in mid-June. The Overwatch League will complete its 2023 season on Oct. 1. Amid concerns about the future of Overwatch esports, OWL commissioner Sean Miller told The Verge that “Overwatch remains committed to a competitive ecosystem in 2024 and beyond,” though competition might shift back to a third-party or grassroots model.

“We’re building toward a revitalized global scene that prioritizes players and fans,” Miller said.

GET INVOLVED IN TEMPEST

Looking to get involved in this year’s Tempest Esports & Gaming awards? We’re looking for professionals in the esports and gaming industry to join our judge’s panel. Email Carley Ashley by August 9th with a short blurb on why you would be a great judge. Know a company that deserves to be recognized? Submit your entry by visiting our website.

COMPETITION AND GAMING NEWS

Diablo IV is catching some heat from fans as the action role-playing game enters the first edition of its seasonal model. Blizzard’s latest release for the popular Diablo franchise drew rave reviews at launch in June, but Season 1 of its battle pass model came with tweaks to the game that made both the eternal and seasonal game realms frustratingly more difficult for casual and hardcore fans alike. Blizzard has been quick to hot-fix and provide solutions for players in the past, but a rocky start to the first wave of seasonal content for the game could make the playerbase shy away from future seasonal installments.

International Counter-Strike: Global Offensive event IEM Cologne kicked off Wednesday with 16 teams competing in the play-in stage of the $1 million CS:GO tournament. Group stage play will begin July 29, with the playoffs scheduled to run from Aug. 4-6. The winning team will get $400,000 of the IEM Cologne prize pool and automatically qualify for the IEM Katowice 2024 Major.

A new Nintendo title is atop the U.K. boxed sales charts this week: Pikmin 4. The quirky collection game, which is among Nintendo’s most beloved IPs but doesn’t have the star power of the Mario, Pokémon or Legend of Zelda franchises, has inched further and further into the mainstream over the course of its past few releases and made a splash this week in physical sales, though digital totals have yet to be reported by Nintendo. Box numbers still serve as a strong indicator of overall performance, however, with consumer interest in hard copies still drawing correlation to the digital marketplace for most titles.

The $15 million Riyadh Masters Dota 2 tournament wraps up this weekend, with upper bracket semifinals taking place today in the Gamers8 festival’s main event. The Saudi Arabian Gamers8 event features competition across a slew of games, with $45 million in prize money distributed across titles including Fortnite, Rocket League, Rainbow Six: Siege, CS:GO, Street Fighter VI, Tekken 7, and more. Riyadh Masters will close July 30, but Gamers8 competition in other esports will continue until the end of August.

SPONSORSHIP & ACTIVATION

Esports organization Pittsburgh Knights will host an offline VALORANT tournament through its Knights Arena business arm. The event, Knight’s Forge, will take place Sept. 21-24 in Bridgeville, Pennsylvania, with a $15,000 prize pool. Thirty-two teams will take part in the tournament, which will be the first LAN event for Knights Arena; it had previously supported VALORANT Champions Tour Challengers and VCT Game Changers competitions online.

STREAMHATCHET

Stream Hatchet Releases its Q2 2023 Live Streaming Trends Report

Stream Hatchet dives into live-streaming trends and insights from Q2 of this year with their latest free report. Live-streaming hours watched are still up 97% from Q2 2019 and have decreased just 9% from Q2 of last year.

Twitch is still the major player in the live-streaming market, gaining 3 percentage points from Q2 last year, while YouTube Gaming gained 2 points. Kick has emerged as a new player, coming in as the 5th most-watched platform, but only capturing 2% of the market.

In the report, we dive deeper into Kick stats, look at creator leaderboards, and outline some case studies including the top game launches of Q2.

Get the free Q2 Report from Stream Hatchet.

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YOUGOV LIVING DATA INSIGHTS

How has excitement for metaverse changed since last year among esports fans?

According to results of a fresh YouGov survey, excitement for the metaverse has grown among American esports fans on the whole. A fourth of all American esports fans say they are much more or somewhat more excited about the metaverse than they were last year (25%) compared to just 6% of all US adults who say the same. On the other hand, 11% of esports fans say they are less excited about the concept now (vs 17%).

TEAMS

Liverpool F.C. forward Diogo Jota has invested in esports organization Galaxy Racer, with the standout Premier League forward bringing his personal esports team, Diogo Jota Esports, under the Galaxy Racer banner. Jota’s team will be rebranded as Luna Galaxy and will compete in FIFA (or presumably EA SPORTS FC moving forward), Dota 2 and Rocket League, the company said in a statement. As part of the deal, Jota picked up shares in Galaxy Racer and will help shape his team’s and the organization’s esports strategy.

FaZe Clan is reportedly fielding acquisition offers, with the Sports Business Journal reporting conglomerates GameSquare and Enthusiast Gaming have shown interest in purchasing the gaming lifestyle organization. While Enthusiast Gaming CEO Nick Brien denied his organization’s involvement, saying EG has not submitted an acquisition offer and doesn’t anticipate doing so, the news speaks to a desire from FaZe for a parachute amid financial woes and an upcoming reverse-stock split to bring the company back in compliance with Nasdaq regulations. Both GameSquare and EG are also publicly traded.

In other GameSquare news, Complexity’s parent company has a new board chairman, with former board member and GameSquare president Lou Schwartz stepping into the lead role for the gaming entertainment company. Schwartz stepped into the chairman role on July 7, GameSquare announced this week, in place of Tom Rogers, who will take a spot on the company’s board. Rogers was the executive chairman of Engine Gaming & Media prior to it being merged into GameSquare in late 2022.

Version1 and the Minnesota RØKKR have laid off several staff members as the esports organization and its Call of Duty League affiliate continue to maneuver for a potential sale or merger. Version1 + Minnesota RØKKR is owned by the Wilf family, which also owns the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, as well as investor Gary Vaynerchuk. The organization operates teams in Rocket League and VALORANT as Version1, with the RØKKR most recently going 0-2 at the CDL Championship in June.

INDUSTRY

The Witcher and Cyberpunk 2077 game developer CD Projekt Red plans to lay off 100 employees, CEO Adam Kici?ski announced, as CDPR focuses on “refining the shape of our teams” to suit project needs. The layoffs affect 9% of CDPR’s workforce, Kici?ski said, and he expects the cuts to run as late as Q1 2024.

White label production, data, and marketing solutions company Vindex has laid off 65 employees across its Vindex and Esports Engine business units as the organization seeks to “strategically align the business with our partners’ needs,” according to a statement from parent company ESL FACEIT Group. Vindex and Esports Engine were acquired by EFG earlier this year, but it appears publisher cuts on esports spending, like that of Activision-Blizzard, might have had a noticeable impact on the white label side of the industry. “While this decision was difficult, we believe the changes to the business units will allow us to better serve our publisher partners and quickly adapt to the needs of the rapidly changing global esports industry,” an EFG spokesperson told Esports Insider.

Chinese gaming conglomerate Tencent has purchased a majority holding in Techland, the developers of the Dying Light game series. Technald CEO Pawel Marchewka announced Tencent as Techland’s new majority shareholder on Monday, with Techland retaining ownership of its IP and Marchewka staying on as CEO. The company will also “maintain creative freedom, and continue to operate the way we believe is right,” Marchewka said, and use the additional capital from Tencent to “move full speed ahead with the execution of the vision for our games.” Techland joins Riot Games, Supercell, Epic Games, Krafton, and several other AAA studios as part of Tencent’s investment portfolio.

The latest venture in the game-to-TV trend might surprise you: Twisted Metal, a demolition derby video game series where drivers fought to be the last car standing, launches on Peacock today. The most recent Twisted Metal game launched in 2012, but Sony Pictures Television is banking on the success of films such as The Super Mario Bros. Movie and TV adaptations like The Last of Us as a sign that fans are looking for new ways to engage with older franchises.

Top Women in Media Awards Gala

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TRIVIA
According to X’s style guidelines, what is the new name for what was previously known as a tweet? (Email [email protected] with your answer, and be sure to include your name, company and city).

Answer to Our Last Trivia Question
What are the names of the two much-anticipated and much-memed-upon movies hitting theaters tomorrow? Answer: Barbie and Oppenheimer. Kudos: Benjamin (B.J.) Robinson | D50 Media, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts; Jim Himmel | TCB Media, San Clemente, California; Lorrie Shilling | El Segundo, California; Barb Throm | Stealth Media, St. Louis, Missouri; Dom Pasquarella | Mediassociates, Sandy Hook, Connecticut; Michelle Bergmann | Mediassociates, Sandy Hook, Connecticut; Kevin McIntyre | EsportsU, Boston; Jim Snider | jVISION, Toronto; Tom Moore | Kalt Productions, Los Angeles; David Westberg | SAG•AFTRA Federal Credit Union, Burbank, California

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