08/31/23: Evil Geniuses brought down Paper Rex to claim the VALORANT Champions title

 

Medias First Morning Read
Thursday August 31, 2023

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

Evil Geniuses brought down Paper Rex to claim the VALORANT Champions title on Saturday in Los Angeles. Evil Geniuses became the first North American organization to win a VALORANT Champions title and made history in some other ways, too, with EG coach Christine “potter” Chi becoming the first woman to coach a co-ed team to an international title in a franchised esport.

Riot Games’ tactical first-person shooter was in the news for all the right reasons this week, from a memorable and smooth finale to the VALORANT Champions Tour season to news that its VALORANT Champions bundle, a cosmetic package available in the game to celebrate the tournament, raised more than $20 million that would be split evenly amongst participating teams. The ingenuity of that revenue share design, combined with a marquee event that drew nearly 1.3 million peak viewers, gives Riot a high-impact cap on its first franchised season. This offseason will also see the first expansion of the program, as the top Challenger teams from each regional league move up to VCT competition – with the exception of one team you can read more about below.

Interested in hearing more about VALORANT esports, its distinct model and building competitive gaming systems that work for stakeholders across the board? Then get your ticket to the Esports & Gaming Business Summit from Oct. 22-24 in Las Vegas. We’ll be welcoming all the major brands in the space to discuss the future of the industry, best practices, and how to get the most out of your marketing dollars. Tickets are available HERE.

COMPETITION AND GAMING NEWS

Starfield’s upcoming Friday release could set the tone for Xbox’s future, as the long-anticipated and presumed mega-hit hits storefronts five years after it was first announced. Starfield, a Bethesda role-playing game centered on space exploration, will bring players 1,000 planets to explore and near-countless ways to interact with the universe around them. The Xbox exclusive title could be either the highest high or lowest low of the current console generation, with Microsoft’s $7.5 billion acquisition of Bethesda front-and-center should the game flop as Xbox exclusive Redfall did earlier this year.

The International Esport Federation has lifted its ban on Russian players representing their country at IESF competitions, according to multiple reports. Competitors representing Russia were barred from participating following the country’s launch of a war with Ukraine in early 2022. The decision came during the IESF’s 2023 World Championship, which brings together competitors representing their home countries rather than established teams.

Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is stirring up adoration and frustration thanks to the game’s tough first test for players. The mech combat franchise is known for its somewhat unforgiving gameplay, but Armored Core VI’s tutorial boss takes that to the next level, with some players dropping the game after being unable to complete the first step toward playing the actual game. The result: Whole guides to beating the boss across many major publications, a few frustrated fans, and a tried-and-true FromSoftware release that challenges players every step of the way.

Riot Games is still looking for ways to make League of Legends esports break even, said Raul Fernandez, Senior Director of Esports Operations in the Americas, in an interview with Axios. “We’re trying to find our footing, trying to find a way to refresh our league,” Fernandez told the publication, as League viewership declines across Riot’s major regions. The secret might lie in the game itself, as Riot seeks ways to bring back former core fans and make League more approachable for casual audiences in the years to come.

SPONSORSHIP & ACTIVATION

Esports competition data provider Abios is partnering with betting organization BETER Esports to create a soccer esports betting product. The “esoccer” platform “fills the holes in the seasonal sports calendar,” Abios said in a statement, by providing additional wagering opportunities through competitive gaming. ““Esports contests can help operators fill gaps in the sports calendars, creating new opportunities for acquisition and retention,” BETER Esports General Manager Evgeniy Bekker said.

Misfits Gaming Group is taking some of its most popular creators on tour with the launch of Pixel Playground LIVE and Name Your Price Live. Pixel Playground, a Roblox game studio headed by Misfits Creative Director Karl Jacobs and Roblox content creator KreekCraft, will leverage Jacobs and his fellow studio co-founder during the cross-country activation, while Misfits content creator and executive producer AustinShow will put on his marquee Name Your Price gameshow live in-person for the first time. The tour begins with an Oct. 7 stop in Miami Beach, Florida, and will hit Houston, Texas, and Long Beach, California, later this year.

Red Bull has opened a gaming space in Sydney alongside GameSquare and venue host University of Technology Sydney, the partners announced Tuesday. The Red Bull Gaming Hub will operate out of the UTS tower and provide PCs, streaming setups, and a practice venue for esports competitors, according to a statement. “The Red Bull Gaming Hub provides a platform for gamers and esports enthusiasts to connect, learn, and compete,” UTS Esports president Stephen Hanna said. “As the home of the UTS Esports Program, the Red Bull Gaming Hub is set to revolutionize the student experience on campus.”

Gen.G is adding some more potatoes to its diet in an intriguing partnership with Idahoan Foods that will activate at PAX West and DreamHack Atlanta this year, as well as PAX East and Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo in 2024. Gen.G and Idahoan Foods will operate the Potato Shreds booth at these events, a gaming experience that will provide meet-and-greets with content creators, competition against talent in game title Overcooked, Shreds product giveaways and free samples, and more.

STREAMHATCHET

Ever since the dawn of the esports era, Rocket League has secured its position as one of the most watched and loved games.

The car-football game witnessed an astronomical rise in viewership, with a record-breaking 212 million hours watched (HW) in 2021. A lot of this unprecedented surge can be attributed to the global pandemic, which had people staying home and exploring new forms of entertainment.

Viewership declined a bit after the pandemic, however, it remains in line with the drop in overall live-streaming viewership across the board. 2023 is on track to see similar viewership numbers from Rocket League, which already has 93M hours watched.

The recent 2023 Rocket League World Championship set new viewership benchmarks. At its peak, the tournament reached close to 438K viewers, compared to almost 386K from the World Championship in 2022. It also generated a similar amount of hours watched this year compared to last, at just over 9 million, indicating a steady continued interest in the sport.

Read more on Stream Hatchet’s blog.

Cynopsis Top Women in Media Awards

2023 Honorees Announced
The fifth annual Top Women in Media Awards salutes the contributions of the women leading the media industry. This year’s celebration will be held on October 11 at the Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers in NYC. Here are some of our honorees:
Denise Ocasio, GroupM
Marybeth Strobel, Warner Bros. Discovery
Louise Cousins, Onyx Collective
Want to join in on the celebration?

REGISTER TO ATTEND & VIEW ALL HONOREES

TEAMS

Esports organization The Guard has lost its VALORANT Champions Tour Americas spot after failing to agree to the league’s team participation agreement. The Guard, which shut down the majority of its esports operations earlier this year, earned a spot in VCT Americas via the Ascension tournament, which awarded the top-finishing VCT Challengers team in each region with a spot in the premier league. The Guard will reportedly cover player buyouts as they seek new rosters for the 2024 season, but the org’s future in esports appears to be all but buried.

Former Excel Esports CEO Wouter Sleijffers is leaving the company, he announced over the weekend, ending an executive tenure with Excel that began in 2019. Sleijffers had moved to the organization’s advisory board in January following the appointment of former Schalke 04 Esports CEO and SK Gaming co-founder Tim Reichert to CEO of Excel. “Excel Esports is in top form, and sometimes we deserved so much more,” Sleijffers said in his LinkedIn announcement. “I’ll be looking forward to everything that’s still to come, and will remain a supporter from the sidelines.”

Former XSET VALORANT players and their coach are taking legal action against the gaming lifestyle org for alleged unpaid revenue from their VALORANT Champions appearance in 2022. The lawsuit centers on merchandise payouts and the revenue from Riot Games’ VALORANT Champions bundle, which is split with organizations that compete in the tournament; those organizations are required to then provide some share of that revenue to players. XSET had allegedly agreed to a 50-50 split of what the organization received from Riot but then reneged on that agreement, according to the lawsuit. The proceedings are set to take place in the Los Angeles County Superior Court of California system.

Former League of Legends Championship Series interviewer and host Gabby Durden will not be part of the LCS in 2024, she announced Tuesday. After years on the broadcast, Durden plans to pursue other interests: The caster, who is still working in the esports space, has also begun creating music, and her debut single and video launched in mid-April of this year.

INDUSTRY

The mobile games industry is expected to draw $108 billion in revenue in 2023, according to the latest report from data.ai and the International Data Corporation. Data.ai, a mobile analytics provider, worked alongside the IDC to predict mobile will maintain a 2.7x lead in the marketplace in terms of revenue over PC gaming, which is projected to hit $43 billion this year. The growth, in part because of the rise of high-quality mobile devices in global markets, is “leveling the playing field for gaming,” Lexi Sydow, Head of Insights, data.ai, said in a statement. “Now more than ever, publishers can target consumers in niche areas, and many markets are primed for growth. The ‘new gamer’ is one of the most diverse and inclusive cohorts yet.”

Esports gambling platform Rivalry revealed its Q2 results Tuesday, with a reported 192% increase in its betting handle year-over-year and $3.8 million in gross profit, an 86% increase year-over-year. Rivalry’s net losses of $6.3 million held nearly steady compared to 2022, and with its user base and handle continuing to grow – alongside innovations like its introduction of same-game parlays to the esports ecosystem – the company anticipates it will reach profitability in H1 2024.

BioWare, the company behind the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series, is laying off 50 people, the developer announced. It was an “unavoidable” move for BioWare, known for some of the most well received role-playing games in the market, the company said in a statement. “In order to meet the needs of our upcoming projects, continue to hold ourselves to the highest standard of quality, and ensure BioWare can continue to thrive in an industry that’s rapidly evolving, we must shift towards a more agile and more focused studio,” the company said.

The Nintendo Switch has officially outsold the company’s Wii console in the U.S. after six years on the market, according to a GamesIndustry.biz report sponsored by research organization Circana. Buoyed by the release of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, the Switch is also now 1 million units away from passing Microsoft’s Xbox 360 in lifetime sales and 5 million off Sony’s PlayStation 2, two of the most popular consoles ever on the market. The Wii sold more than 100 million units globally in its 10 years on the market, Circana reported, with the Switch at 129 million globally as of June 2023.

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