09/29/16: Executives break down the sports/esports co-op; Collegiate StarLeague triggers uLoL series with Riot; GameCo opens up the Danger zone


Good morning. It’s Thursday, September 29, 2016, and this is your weekly wrap-up eSports & Gaming brief.

Any remaining mental lines dividing sports and eSports continued to fade in the US this past week with the trifecta of news that included: the 76ers nabbing controlling stakes in Team Dignitas and Team Apex; Team Liquid selling controlling interest to an ownership group led Peter Guber and Ted Leonsis (along the likes of Magic Johnson); and the news that Grizzlies co-owner/vice chairman Stephen Kaplan is increasing his stake in The Immortals and joining the team’s board. These high-profile moves raise the stakes as eSports mines the resources and experience from within the traditional sports industry that includes key executive roles over the past couple of weeks at MLG and WESA for executives from FOX Sports and HBO Sports respectively.

The 76ers became the first North American sports team to acquire an eSports franchise with the pickup of Team Dignitas and Team Apex, which will now combine to play under the Team Dignitas banner. The Sixers will manage the day-to-day operations of the eSports squad, sharing best practices in sponsorship, sales, branding, digital marketing, merchandising, publicity and more; as well as devote resources to player recruitment, development and wellness.

"For us it was very much an opportunity to help turn Team Dignitas into the marquee eSports brand. We had to ask ourselves if we wanted to invest in eSports. The answer is yes, the numbers in eSports are incredible and it represents everything that our owners are all about, which is innovation in sports entertainment," Akshay Khanna, Vice President of Strategy at the Philadelphia 76ers, told Cynopsis. He noted that synergies between the two organizations would open new doors for the eSports franchise. "In many ways, it is a completely different industry than traditional sports, but on other ways the skills and assets and resources required are not that different than what we can bring. We have a lot of resources that we can help with whether it is licensing or sponsorship sales or ticket sales or maybe an opportunity to shape future revenue streams that maybe don’t exist yet in the eSports space."

Meanwhile, Steve Arhancet and Victor Goossens will continue in their respective roles as Co-CEOs of Team Liquid. Guber and Leonsis will serve as Co-Executive Chairmen of their new eSports ownership group aXiomatic.

"I think [the interest from sports entities] gives eSports more of a mainstream legitimacy," Leonsis told ESPN. "There are talented people in this industry, and we will learn from them, and they will learn from us. We understand how to negotiate a CBA and naming rights, and how to sell media content to major networks. So we all add value, but so many people in this industry built this from scratch without us."

Indeed, other teams welcomed the backing of the organizations. Jace Hall, CEO of Echo Fox, owned by NBA athlete Rick Fox, noted that "We continue to see increasing professional interest and involvement taking place in this ever expanding eSports opportunity and we are excited and supportive of the Philadelphia 76ers recent decision to engage," he said. "As the number of experienced management organizations involved with eSports grow, the overall opportunity potential can be better realized. While Echo Fox is uniquely positioned to navigate and grow in this environment, it is also focused on encouraging and supporting others in the wider community where it can for the collective benefit of all."


The Collegiate StarLeague inked an exclusive deal with Riot Games for the 2017 uLoL Campus Series, with the agreement seeing CSL working as the engine running the tournaments, managing logistics like registration, scheduling, qualification, production and broadcasting the upcoming season. In addition, CSL will beef up broadcasting to a minimum of six matches per week with additional content that includes in-depth game previews and analysis, player interviews and more throughout the season. The league will be formatted to include a round-robin group stage with qualifiers moving onto the play-off bracket and then to the live Campus Series finals. Teams will be divided into four divisions — north, south, east and west — and include club or varsity teams. Schools are permitted one team to participate in the Campus Series.

CS:GO staple Mohan "launders" Govindasamy announced today that he is founding his own eSports franchise, which will be known as BOXR. ESPN reports that the commentator/content creator signed Super Smash Bros. Melee player Julian "Zhu" Zhu as the team’s first player and that he will compete at the upcoming Big House 6 under the BOXR banner.

ELeague announced plans for a CS: GO major that will be held from Jan. 22-29 at Fox Theater in Atlanta The Grand Final will be carried live on TBS with a simulcast on Twitch with the ELeague Major serving as the tenth Major Championship in the history of CS:GO and one of only a few majors held each year. "When we launched ELEAGUE, we set out to deliver a best-in-class experience for esports teams, players and fans and we’re grateful to the entire community for their ongoing support and engagement with our content," said Lenny Daniels, President of Turner Sports. "Less than one year since ELEAGUE’s debut, we’re thrilled to host the next CS:GO Major Championship and we will utilize all of our collective resources to help further elevate this prestigious event."

Riot Games laid out is vision for the future of eSports, following recent criticisms, with a strategy targeting revenue sharing, league partnerships, prize pools and sponsorships. The League of Legends publisher released a statement addressing the changes, noting "As we move into 2017 and beyond, we’re continuing to take steps towards a future where top LoL players have very well paid, long careers doing what they love – and where LoL eSports team organizations are thriving businesses led by empowered owners who share responsibility and accountability for the long term prosperity of the sport." The initiatives kick in at the World Championships, where Riot says 25% of Championship skins and Wards will be added to the total prize pool while another 25% will be put into the Mid-Season Invitational prize pool. Riot also announced that each of the 13 regional leagues will be guaranteed a lump sum to counter gaps in team revenue.

Blizzard announced that it will be shaking up Heroes of the Storm eSports in 2017, tipping that it will shift to a uniform online league format in North America, Europe, China, and Korea with players on the top eight teams in each region contracted and "guaranteed both compensation and regular competition." In addition, as part of the new Heroes Global Championship program, the company will also offer more international events matching rival teams from different regions against one another as well as a promotion and relegation system that allows amateur teams competing in the Blizzard-sponsored Open Division to "know exactly what’s required to make it into the HGC league."


ESL hits Brooklyn with the announcement that it would be partnering with the Cybersmile Foundation as part of a wider incentive designed to address toxicity within the gaming and tech industries. ESL’s support will widen the reach of Cybersmile resources for those who are affected by online abuse and promote positive gaming campaigns and experiences. Cybersmile will also increase its presence at ESL events around the world.

Speaking of ESL, the company nabbed a big new sponsor with Fuse making a major play into eSports. The two organizations inked a deal to make Fuse the exclusive music sponsor for ESL One New York 2016 from Oct. 1-2 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn with duo Krewella on deck to close out the event with a performance. The agreement marks the network’s entrance into eSports and the network will subsequently offer coverage of the tournament across all platforms including Fuse, Fuse.tv, the Fuse TV app and @Fuse on all social channels. Fuse will also produce and premiere an eSports themed special from the event. "This partnership is an incredible opportunity for Fuse to enter the eSports arena and connect with players and fans, and to bring our audience a glimpse into a sport that is growing exponentially in popularity," said Fuse Media President & CEO Michael Schwimmer. "Gaming culture resonates deeply with our core multicultural, millennial audience, and ESL One New York 2016 is the perfect entry point for us as we enter this space."
Bud Light is activating at TwitchCon, announcing that its eSports initiative the Bud Light All-Stars will be joined by the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Snoop Dogg, Adrianne Curry, Greg Jennings, and Ron Funches at this year’s event for the first-ever Bud Light All-Stars Bash on Saturday.
OpTic Gaming achieved another engagement milestone as its Twitter account surpassed the 2 million follower threshold on Sunday. This milestone makes the organization the first eSports team to hit that mark.


SiriusXM is adding to its eSports lineup, announcing the launch of Machinima’s Inside eSports Radio, hosted by Alex "Axeltoss" Rodriguez and Joshua "Piscator" Lee, yesterday with eps running weekdays from 6-7p on SiriusXM Bleacher Report Radio (channel 83). The show will look to offer listeners "the latest news, highlights, and analysis from the biggest tournaments, with an in-depth focus on first person shooter, multi-player online battle arena (MOBAs), real time strategy, and fighting games."

YouTube announced a new videogame-driven series — titled Live with YouTube Gaming – with Geoff Keighley that will debut on Sept. 29 at 8p and feature Keighley sitting with YouTube creators, offer music performances and showcase video game world premieres.

Endemol Shine Group expanded its Legends of Gaming franchise, announcing deals to rollout the series in the Netherlands and Israel. Legends of Gaming NL launched earlier this month and has already garnered more than 155,000 subscribers and nearly 3 million views. Legends of Gaming Israel launched at the end of last month and has generated nearly 2.5 million views.

ESL locked in a deal the M7 Group, one of Europe’s largest satellite and IPTV operators that will see its 24/7 eSportsTV channel become available on a slate of new satellite TV platforms across Europe. Outlets include the Netherlands (Canal Digitaal), Belgium (TV Vlaanderen), as well as the Czech Republic and Slovakia (Skylink).


Sony laid out plans for PlayStation Experience 2016, set to take place in the Anaheim Convention Center on Dec. 3-4. In a post, the company said attendees will get hands-on time with the PS4 Pro on 4K TVs and dozens of PlayStation VR demos, PlayStation Showcase, developer panels, merchandise, and a whole lot more. In addition, the Capcom Cup will return with the finals taking place on Saturday at 6p as players compete for more than $250,000 in prizing and the chance to be crowned the Street Fighter V world champion.

Ubisoft is boosting its mobile game, locking in a deal to add mobile company Ketchapp to its portfolio. Ketchapp was founded in 2014 and offers a gaming lineup that include 2048, ZigZag, Stack, Stick Hero, Twist, and Jelly Jump with titles that have been downloaded nearly 700 million times. "With Ketchapp, Ubisoft acquires a highly profitable publisher with a successful portfolio of free-to-play games for mobile," said Jean-Michel Detoc, Executive Director of Ubisoft’s mobile business. "This acquisition gives Ubisoft one of the world’s leading mobile game publishers and reinforces our advertising capabilities in mobile gaming."

Most streamed gaming categories for the week ending Sept. 18, per Gamoloco

1.   League of Legends with 16,803,711 hours streamed

2.   Hearthstone 7,726,436

3.   CS:GO 6,419,426

4.   World of Warcraft 6,323,684

5.   Dota 2 5,667,792

6.   Destiny 3,969,860

7.   Overwatch 3,203,920

8.   H1Z1: King of the Hill 2,260,059

9.   FIFA 17 1,580,772

10. NBA 2K17 1,403,570

POWER PLAYERS: GameCo’s Blaine Graboyes

What’s the relationship between gamers and (casino) gaming? According to GameCo CEO Blaine Graboyes, it isn’t ideal. That’s why his company is launching the world’s first skill-based video game gambling machines into the marketplace with the first machines hitting the in Atlantic City inside Caesars, Harrah’s Resort and Bally’s Wild Wild West. The shooter game, titled "Danger Arena," pays out according to the player’s skill level. It is a first-person action video game in which player skill determines the payout. Each VGM features a single-player game, generally 60-90 seconds to play, and is adapted from top console, PC and mobile developers. The company also announced a new round of financing this week, totaling $8.25 million with the latest round led by Javelin Venture Partners. Cynopsis eSports spoke with Graboyes about the importance of adding this type of experience to the casino floor for gamers.

On the company’s growth: The thing I’m most proud of at GameCo is that it was only a year ago when we did our first fundraising, so in only a year we’ve now done two rounds going from concept and prototype to final machines on the floor in Atlantic City. I think that’s probably unprecedented in the casino industry. It’s been very challenging but we’ve put together an amazing team.

On opening with a shooter: We’ve prototyped a ton of games, racing, shooter, fighting, casual games, etc. But when you talk to people about video games, the first thing they say is Call of Duty. So that was one reason we did it. Another is that it clearly differentiated us from anyone else in the industry, clearly showing that we are going for a new market of gamers and aren’t cannibalizing from anyone in the slot market. But over time, we would expect to release other types of games, action/adventure, racing, sports, etc.

On gamers: The average gamer is 35 years old, over-indexes in household income and education, and is really looking for a place that makes them feel like a VIP. I think it is fair to say that no industry is more successful at that VIP, sexy, cool experience than casinos. So ultimately, our vision is to create a space or experience that gamers want to come and feel like a VIP. I like to say that the first gamer that win’s bottle service from the casino will be our greatest ambassador ever.


Zynga named Doug Scott as the company’s new CMO. He joins from BandPage/YouTube Music and previously worked with DeNA and EA.

Game Trailer of the Week: Sundered

Leveraging the beauty of hand-drawn art, Thunder Lotus Games offered fans its first good look at the upcoming title Sundered, described as "a darkly atmospheric hand-drawn action-horror game" that will be released on PlayStation 4, Windows, Mac, and Linux in 2017. Sundered will make its public debut this week at TwitchCon 2016 with a playable version. Click here to watch.


Do you have what it takes to be on the Leaderboard?

CYNOPSIS SPORTS is now accepting entries for the 2016 LEADERBOARD.

Open to any organization that utilized its social media platforms to promote its product to sports fans throughout 2016. From global brands to local stations, million-dollar campaigns to viral-on-a-budget, social media has proven to be the great equalizer.

Showcase your talent and ENTER TODAY.

ON THIS DAY in 1996 – Nintendo releases the Nintendo 64 console in North America for $199.95.
Trivia: What is the name of the pig-tailed protagonist in Candy Crush Saga? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: In which game did we meet Dirk the Daring? Answer: Dragon’s Lair. Kudos: Julie Moran/Australia; Chris Davies-Virgin Media/London; Lawrence Finnegan-Eden Road Training/NY; Stuart Winchester-Viacom/NY; Jeff Walters-Leftfield Pictures/NY; Luke Watson-Roker Labs/NY; Louis Lewow-FITE TV/Atlanta; Erin Allen-Turner Entertainment/Atlanta; Patrick McOwen-Comcast Spotlight/North Wales; John McHugh/Myrtle Beach; Kurt Melcher-Intersport/Chicago; Jason Morrow-Toyota/Houston; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Charlie Peacock-Fandom/Chicago; Greg Glass-BCII/LA; Greg Dudsic/Venice; Joey Olson-Manhattan Beach; Andy Babb-Super League/Santa Monica

Later — Chris
Chris Pursell for Cynopsis | eSports @VegasandVine

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Lead the creative direction and execution of high-end creative projects for our products.
Lead Designer
Major League Gaming Corp.

Create visual images using video, computers, and other media for marketing, branded events, installations, and websites.
Multimedia Artist
Las Vegas, NV

Looking for an experienced Esports Producer who knows and loves the Esports space.
Producer, Esports
Major League Gaming Corp.

Become a key collaborator on a team of game developers creating engaging, connected experiences for our gamer customers.
Monetization Product Manager – Double Helix Games
A2Z Development Center, Inc.
Irvine, CA

Develop recruitment strategies for WB Games across North America to attract and match talent with studio needs.
Manager, Talent Acquisition – WB Games
Warner Bros. Entertainment Group
Burbank, CA

Supervise production and delivery of IMDb Originals pilots and series.
Senior Video Producer
IMDb.com, Inc.
Seattle, WA

Experience in all aspects of the Visual Effects industry with an emphasis on television.
Executive Producer
Stargate Studios
Atlanta, GA

Manage both the strategic and operational aspects of all Premier Play and e-Sports programs.
Director, Competitive Gaming & eSports
Renton, WA

Provide direct support and guidance to designated locations within our mid-US region.
Regional Human Resources Manager
Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc.
Arlington, VA

Transform data about apps usage & video consumption into business recommendations.
Sr. Manager, Multiplatform Business Intelligence
Viacom Int’l Media Networks
Miami Beach, FL

Coordinate ad campaigns and help drive incremental value to our Snapchat Discover editions and Live Stories globally.
Snapchat Editor/Preditor
Viacom Int’l Media Networks

Be the data hunter and gatherer, joining a team that’ll conduct player-facing studies.
Esports Researcher
Riot Games
Los Angeles, CA

Looking for a strategic B2C marketing strategist to join our team.
Marketing Director
Haste (eSports)
Atlanta, GA

Create game systems content using a combination of Unity, scripting and in-house editing tools.
Mobile Game Systems Designer
Warner Bros. Entertainment Group
Needham, MA

Responsibilities include creating graphics and editing photos and videos for social media platforms.
Graphic Designer/Video Editor
Fox News

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