10/12/23: The League of Legends World Championship is underway

 

Medias First Morning Read
Thursday October 12, 2023

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

The League of Legends World Championship is underway following the start of the Play-In Stage earlier this week in Seoul, South Korea. The main event will begin Oct. 19 following play-ins, with two more teams qualifying into the Main Stage field.

Perennially one of the most-watched esports events in the world, the League of Legends World Championship is being hosted by South Korea for the first time since 2018, and has started off hot in terms of viewership: The event drew more than 1 million peak viewers for Tuesday’s matchup between Brazilian organization LOUD and Vietnamese squad GAM Esports. Despite ongoing concerns about the foundations of the esports industry’s business, the audience seems to be as strong as ever, with some more big numbers on the way as North American, European, Chinese and South Korean squads get into the mix during the Main Stage.

It’s more important than ever to be in the know on industry trends and understand how your business can be impacted – and how it can thrive despite uncertainty. Join us at the Esports & Gaming Business Summit from Oct. 20-22 at MGM Grand in Las Vegas to get in on some must-have conversations about the present, and future, of these ecosystems. Get your tickets HERE.

COMPETITION AND GAMING NEWS

Ubisoft first-person shooter XDefiant’s launch has been delayed indefinitely, the company announced, casting some doubt on the would-be Call of Duty killer’s ability to hold momentum moving into its official release. XDefiant, an arcade shooter built on movement tech and high-quality gunplay, excited players and FPS pros during its beta phase but has since fizzled out somewhat. With the upcoming release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III, it appears Ubisoft has decided to take some more time and get the launch right without its primary competitor right within sightlines.

Steam will retain a frozen version of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive following the release of Counter-Strike 2, publisher Valve announced, giving fans an outlet to take in the old CS within the CS2 Betas tab. Support for CS:GO will end on Jan. 1, 2024, which means some functions of the game might fall apart over time. However, people searching for a look at the good old days will be able to get a taste (without matchmaking, anyway) whenever they want.

The latest Assassin’s Creed title brings the franchise back to its roots, and reception of Assassin’s Creed: Mirage, which released Oct. 5, has been warm so far. The game, which focuses more on the stealth gameplay that put Ubisoft’s title on the map initially, has landed well amongst both critics and consumers, according to Metacritic, with role-playing game elements turned down in favor of an adventure that runs a more manageable 20 hours compared to past 100-hour campaigns.

A new PlayStation 5 model with a removable disc drive will launch in November, with the new model decreasing the size of the disc drive version of the PS5 by about 30%. The unit will run for $499.99 and include 1 TB of internal memory, with the digital edition of the PS5 going for $449.99.

SPONSORSHIP & ACTIVATION

Global jewelry crafter Swarovski revealed its design for the Fortnite Championship Series trophy for the FNCS World Championship. Swarovski, which crafted the hardware for the second year in a row, stuck to a similar design as the first time around with a gold hue and larger frame. The trophy will match the occasion and be available for viewing both ahead of the $4 million championship, scheduled for Oct. 13-15 at the Royal Arena in Copenhagen, and in Fortnite’s item shop.

Pizza Hut will sponsor esports organization BIG’s League of Legends program, the duo announced, as well as its TrackMania squad. The Hut will be featured on social platforms for both of the German organization’s teams and collaborate on activations such as in-person and virtual community gatherings, pro meet-and-greets, giveaways and more. “This partnership marks another significant milestone for BIG, illustrating our ability to attract high-caliber partnerships even in a challenging global market,” BIG CEO Daniel Finkler said in a statement. “It’s a privilege to have such an established and globally recognized brand like Pizza Hut by our side.”

Automaker Mercedes-Benz is once again sponsoring Worlds and launching a new campaign alongside League of Legends’ premier international event. The German car manufacturer has joined forces with Riot Games for the past three world championships and has a deal with the game company through 2025. This time around, Mercedes-Benz will highlight T1, a team it also sponsors, along with Worlds 2023 in a campaign known as “The Hunt For Glory,” a global, virtual scavenger hunt-style activation.

The British Esports Federation has found itself in hot water following the announcement of a “historic” partnership with the Saudi Esports Federation. The decision was widely panned by local stakeholders, who noted Saudi Arabia’s history of human rights violations and ongoing “esportswashing” efforts, or attempts to use investment in the industry to downplay the country’s politics. In response, the BEF issued a statement saying it received no financial compensation in the deal and said it is committed to diversity and representation, though no actual action or go-forward plan to support those claims was noted in the statement.

STREAMHATCHET

CS2’S AVERAGE AUDIENCE BOOSTED 71% DURING RELEASE WEEK

After 11 years, fans finally got the long-awaited sequel to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive: Counter-Strike 2 this September. The game rolled out to all players on the 27th of the month, but has been in the hands of some creators for weeks prior for beta testing.

The game generated an average minute audience during the first week of release of 172,000 viewers, a 71% increase from its limited-release run September 1-27. The limited release saw just under 100K average viewers. This number was almost exactly the same as the month prior, despite the occurrence of the end of the IEM Cologne group stages and the playoffs at the start of August.

Read more on Stream Hatchet’s blog.

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YOUGOV LIVING DATA INSIGHTS

Factors shaping gamers’ favorite console brands”

Fresh YouGov Surveys data shows that functionality and value for money emerge as the top considerations when gamers think about their favorite console brands, accounting for 23% each. Durability contributes 7% to this brand loyalty, while only 5% say that the influence of their social circle is the reason that their favorite brand is their favorite. Design aesthetics and status account for 4% and 2%, respectively. Meanwhile, customer service holds a minor 1% share. Notably, nearly a quarter of American gamers say they don’t have a favorite console brand at all.

TEAMS

Twitch streamer Cody “Clix” Conrodhas joined XSET as a co-owner, the content creator and esports organization announced. Clix, a professional Fortnite player, brings a recognizable brand to the organization that XSET will leverage with merchandise lines, content, in-game promotions and more. Among the highlights is an Unreal Editor for Fortnite activation. “Since the start of 2023, I’ve taken major steps in my career, my personal growth, and the impact I’m able to make with my community,” Clix said in a statement. “I’m blessed to finally sign with an organization that aligns and believes in my vision as a content creator, competitive esports athlete, and entrepreneur supporting the growth of my apparel brand and UEFN studio.”

G2 Esports is working to merge with Version1, according to a report from The Esports Advocate, with Version1 and its Call of Duty League team, the Minnesota ROKKR, coming under G2’s umbrella. Discussions between both organizations have been ongoing since between late May and early June, according to the report, with Version1 continuing to undergo financial hardship.

Counter-Strike and VALORANT veteran Óscar “mixwell” Cañellas is retiring after nearly a decade as a first-person shooter esports pro. Mixwell, who most recently played for Team Heretics in the VALORANT Champions Tour Europe/Middle East/Africa circuit, is best-known for his time with OpTic Gaming’s Counter-Strike squad and as one of the early stars of VALORANT with G2 Esports prior to the franchising era.

Longtime League of Legends Championship Series pro Lucas “Santorin” Larsen is also retiring, he announced, after 10 years as one of the premier junglers in Western Europe. Santorin began his career in Europe before becoming a standby in North American League of Legends from 2018 to now. He finished his career with Dignitas following a disappointing 2023 campaign but made it to the world championship three times before retirement.

INDUSTRY

Rocket League is removing player-to-player trading of in-game cosmetics, effectively eliminating the secondary market for the purchase and selling of those items. Developer Psyonix is cutting off trades on Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. ET, it announced, “We’re making this change to align with Epic’s overall approach to game cosmetics and item shop policies, where items aren’t tradable, transferrable, or sellable,” the developers said in a statement. “This opens up future plans for some Rocket League vehicles to come to other Epic games over time, supporting cross-game ownership.”

Unity president John Riccitiello is stepping down following the botched launch of Unity’s Runtime Fee policy, which would charge game developers using Unity a per-download fee if their titles hit certain revenue or lifetime download thresholds. Unity has since revised, and revised again, its policy, but the reputational damage seems nigh-insurmountable, particularly given Riccitiello’s history as a major proponent of microtransactions. Riccitiello, the former CEO of EA, was at the helm when the former FIFA franchise introduced lootboxes and once made the argument that he could convince committed Battlefield (an EA first-person shooter franchise) players to pay to reload weapons.

A game developer union has formed in Poland following layoffs at Polish game studio CD Projekt Red earlier this year. CDPR, which is behind The Witcher video game series and misstep-turned-Game of the Year candidate Cyberpunk 2077, went through multiple rounds of layoffs and is set to cut 9% of its workforce by March 2024 despite the surge in success of Cyberpunk 2077’s recent expansion and major game overhaul. The union will not just be open to CDPR members but any full-time employee contracted in the country. The Polish Gamedev Workers Union hopes to provide employees “more security, transparency, better protection, and a stronger voice in times of crisis,” it said on its website.

News earlier this week confirmed layoffs at Telltale Games, the studio behind The Wolf Among Us and other innovative, episodic decision-based titles. The cuts affected “most of” Telltale’s staff, former Telltale staffer Jonah Huang said on X (formerly Twitter). It’s still unclear how the layoffs will affect ongoing Telltale projects or the impact they had, if any, on Flavourworks, a game studio Telltale acquired in August.

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