12/08/16: Sliver.TV changes the VR game; ELeague season two numbers; The NFL discusses its esports Madden play


It’s Thursday, December 8, 2016, and this is your weekly early morning eSports & Gaming brief.

SLIVER.tv is officially going deep into esports, announcing the launch of its VR Live Cast and Live Replay platform for tournament and league operators to live stream titles such as CS:GO, League of Legends and Dota2 in full 360 virtual reality. VR Live Cast leverages its patented “Virtual Camera Array” technology to transport viewers into top eSports games, real-time rendering the 3D game world in a fully immersive 360 VR video experience. The turnkey VR Live Cast solution includes: on-site production services; real-time 360 capture and Live Replay rendering GPU technology; VR streaming and content delivery platform; end user eSports viewer apps; and post-event tournament highlights and videos on-demand. The company served up a beta test at ESL ONE NY and IEM Oakland, which drew over 130,000 unique viewers and drove 40% greater engagement and 13x more video content consumed over the NY event.

 “We’re truly excited about our VR Live Replay platform as it delivers a new and dynamic perspective on eSports spectating beyond today’s current static streaming experience,” said Mitch Liu, Co-founder and CEO of SLIVER.tv. “By leveraging our virtual camera array technology, we’re able to generate both immersive 360 and regular video highlights, replays and special effects from angles that’s never been seen before.  We hope to deliver an out of this world experience to eSports fans worldwide.”


With season two in the books and season 3 now confirmed, according to reports, ELeague is heading into the new year on a high note, noting that the second go-around for the tournament on TBS and Twitch logged 460 million minutes of video consumption on the two platforms, with 15 million total viewers, including 8.8 million new ELeague viewers. The latest season handed TBS with 2.9 million new viewers to the network, which sawaudience composition grow 28% in Men 18-34 and Men 18-49 when compared with the same telecast window over the previous month. Finally, ELeague telecast on TBS were up 10% over season one, and delivered more than 50 million social impressions.

The British Esports Association – the UK’s esports national body  locked in its Advisory Board and launched its full website. Led by British Esports Chair, Andy Payne OBE, the board for 2017 includes: Paul “ReDeYe” Chaloner, Veteran Esports Host, Caster and Presenter; Richard Lewis, Esports Journalist of the Year; Michael "ODEE" O’Dell, President Team Dignitas; Craig "Wizzo" Fletcher, Founder Multiplay; Chris Mead, Twitch’s UK Director of Partnerships; Ryan Hart, World Champion Esports Player; Ceirnan “ Excoundrel ” Lowe, Color Caster; Josh Williams, Founder, National University Esports League; Carleigh Morgan, Academic and Andrew Nixon, Partner at Sheridans.

Riot Games reports that the 2016 League of Legends World Championship finals were seen by 43 million people worldwide, according to its site, which noted that peak concurrent viewership for the final matchup hit 14.7 million. The total number of viewers was up over last year’s record of 36 million. Riot also said that its titla prize pool garnered $6.7 million.

The Call of Duty World League, Presented by PlayStation 4, unveiled plans for the upcoming season. The new CWL season will feature a series of 4 LAN-based competitions as well as an all-new, worldwide LAN league for Pros. Players across the board will be able to earn CWL Pro Points through the season to lead to qualification for the CWL Championship in August with events taking place in Las Vegas, Atlanta, and Anaheim. 16 teams are slates to take part, including 9 North American and 7 international. “The 2016 inaugural season of the CWL was incredible. We saw more than 1,000 teams from around the world compete, and well over 1 billion minutes of broadcast content featuring some of the greatest Call of Duty competition ever,” said Executive Vice President and General Manager of Call of Duty, Rob Kostich.

The Houston Rockets are going deep into the esports scene, hiring former Team Archon CEO Sebastian Park as the first director of esports in the team’s front office. Bloomberg broke the news of the deal, writing that the team’s interest/investment “could mean buying teams, or getting involved at the event or league levels. It also could place the Rockets brand directly into the world of competitive gaming, a step taken by various clubs in Europe, but not yet adopted by the handful of other NBA owners who have recently invested in esports teams.” “What really drew me to the Rockets was their ability to say, ‘There are things we know, and things we don’t know. We know the esports space is valuable, now let’s take time and really figure it out,”’ Park said.

Super Evil Megacorp is introducing the Vainglory Team Franchise Program in 2017. The move will see the company work closely “to align interests and share revenue with professional Vainglory teams from around the world, ensuring a healthy esports ecosystem.” Franchise holders will be entitled to a cut of revenue from broadcast rights, ticket sales, sponsorships or other esports activities while the parties will also collaborate on digital and physical merchandise sales and other ways to build the business of the franchisees.

Ownership has its privileges! Team owners/executives, join us on April 12 in NYC for the Cynopsis World eSports Summit and Spring Owners Meetings, a gathering of the industry’s top names discussing the business, opportunities and challenges of esports just ahead of the 2017 advertising upfronts. Grow your share of the sponsorship pie, forge the future of competitive gaming and save the date! (Contact us with any questions.)

Univision had its first foray into esports over the weekend, with Univision Deportes showcasing the EA Sports Madden NFL 17 Classic. The competition was livestreamed on UnivisionDeportes.com with a broadcast on Univision Deportes Network on Monday. Rodolfo Landeros and Ramses Sandoval hosted the show.

Ultimate Media Ventures is teaming up with developer The Coalition to deliver an officially sanctioned Gears of War 4 Pro-Am tournament as the next installment of UMV’s Pro-Am Battle on the Strip esports tournament series. The Gears of War 4 Pro-Am Battle on the Strip live finals will be held at The Foundry, SLS Las Vegas’ premier live entertainment venue on Dec. 18.

MLG unlocked its talent lineup for next week’s Overwatch Invitational at MLG Vegas, spanning Dec. 16-18. Donning microphones this year will be Christopher Mykles, Erik Lonnquist, Matt Morello, Chris Puckett, Andrew Smith, Rachel Quirico, Chris Loranger, Steven Serge, Matt Rodriguez and Alex Mendez. Previously, the company detailed its talent lineup for the Call of Duty Las Vegas NA Regional Open with names set to include: Ben "Benson" Bowe, Chris "Puckett" Puckett, Matt "Mr. X" Morello, Jack "CouRage" Dunlop, Clint "Maven" Evans, John "Revan" Boble, Joe "Merk" DeLuca, Tyler "TeePee" Polchow, Thomas "Chance" Ashworth, Jamie "Dirk" Ruiz, Rondez "Fox" Green, and Landon "Lando" Sanders.


Sony announced yesterday that the PlayStation 4 console has now passed 50 million units in sales worldwide following what the company is calling its best-ever Black Friday week. That number bests the combined sales of both the Xbox One and Wii U. Meanwhile, PS4 software sales have seen over 369.6 million copies sold in retail stores globally and through digital downloads on PlayStation Store as of December 4. “We’re truly delighted that the PS4 community continues to flourish since launch three years ago.” said Andrew House, President and Global CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment. “With tremendous support from our fans and partners across the globe, this year we were able to deliver an unprecedented lineup of hardware such as the new slimmer PS4, PS4 Pro and PlayStation VR. We will continue to provide the best gaming experiences available through our ground-breaking software lineup and network services, as we focus on accelerating our business and expanding the PS4 ecosystem.”

Another TV channel is looking to leverage esports into viewership success. Sinclair Broadcast Group announced today the upcoming launch of ‘TBD,’ described as a “pioneering new over-the-air TV network that will deliver fresh and relevant digital-first programming into millions of US homes while also reinvigorating traditional television for today’s millennial audience.” Programming will be dedicated to esports as well as fashion, comedy, music, and viral content, curated through partnerships with creators, including some of the biggest content companies in the digital world – Jukin Video, Legendary Digital Networks (Nerdist & Geek and Sundry), Whistle Sports, Kinonation, Zoomin’ and Canvas Media Studios, among others. TBD will officially launch in early 2017 on digital sub channels across Sinclair Broadcast Group’s extensive platform.

Ubisoft is going multi-platform for its VR titles, announcing that gamers can now play titles regardless of whether they’re using PSVR, Oculus Rift, or HTC Vive.



Awards Deadlines:
JANUARY 10 – Top Women in Digital
JANUARY 31 – Sports Media Awards


Hi-Rez Studios announced that Twitch Prime signed on as the title sponsor for the upcoming Hi-Rez Expo, home of the SMITE World Championship and the Paladins Invitational. “We have a long history of working with Twitch to enhance our player experience both in game and out of game,” said Todd Harris, COO of Hi-Rez Studios. “This will be our first year combining two of our major tournaments into one event, and we couldn’t think of a better partner to help us bring Hi-Rez Expo to fans, gamers, and esports enthusiasts across the world.” The event takes place at the Cobb Energy Center in Atlanta, Georgia from Jan. 5-8.

Activision Blizzard unveiled an expansion of its in-game program supporting the Call of Duty Endowment’s nationwide effort to help veterans land high-quality careers. Now available for PlayStation 4 and coming soon to Xbox One, the Call of Duty Endowment (C.O.D.E.) Courage Personalization Pack for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, developed by Infinity Ward, includes the likes of: Weapon Camo and Weapon Accessory, a Reticle and Emblem, and an animated Calling Card. The pack retails for $4.99 in the in-game store and the Sony and Microsoft online stores. “Infinity Ward is thrilled to partner with the Endowment to support getting vets back to work,” said Infinity Ward Studio Head Dave Stohl. “We’ve poured our hearts into making the incredibly cool, specially themed C.O.D.E. Courage personalization pack. The pack features more ways than ever before to help players demonstrate their charity and show a willingness to help the most veterans possible as they come home from war and readjust to civilian life.”

Meanwhile, a number of Russian MPs are targeting EA for its support of LGBT rights. The Guardian writes that the officials contacted the state communications oversight agency, complaining about FIFA 17’s support of the Rainbow Laces gay rights campaign. The story states that Communist MP Valery Rashkin suggested that authorities should force developer EA Canada to “introduce changes to the programming code or the age classification of this information product, and if it refuses, adopt corresponding restrictive measures”.

Truth Initiative released a report examining smoking in videogames, noting that 93% of parents surveyed were unaware of the findings of the University of California San Francisco’s research that verified 42% of the video games studied contained tobacco images. The organization called for game developers and publishers to stop including images of tobacco use in their games and that the Entertainment Software Rating Board should consistently identify and disclose whether a game contains images of tobacco use or tobacco references and rate games containing those images with a "Mature" rating.


Geoff Keighley’s latest entry of The Game Awards chalked up a new record for the honors events, running live across a record number of screens and platforms including Twitch, the first live 4K event broadcast on YouTube, Twitter Live, Facebook Live, Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, Steam, IGN, GameSpot, NicoNico in Japan, Tencent in China, and Next VR. That spelt a 65% spike of live viewership year-over-year to hit 3.8 million live streams for the show and preshow. On Twitter, #thegameawards became the top worldwide trend throughout the entire broadcast, eclipsing Thursday Night Football. While Snapchat’s The Game Awards Snapchat Live Story was seen by over 5 million unduplicated unique users around the world over a 24-hour span.

After tackling the likes of NASCAR, ice skating, basketball and soccer, Will Ferrell is now taking on a new competition… esports. Legendary Pictures announced that Ferrell will star in a new comedy about the esports scene, portraying a professional player “an anomaly in a sport where players usually retire in their 20s due to slowing hand-eye coordination” with Michael Kvamme and Jordan Dunn writing the script. The company reports that two franchises, Evil Geniuses and Fnatic, are in discussions to have a presence in the film.

Sony is preparing to hit the phone market, announcing that the company would be releasing mobile games starting in April in a move to drive casual gamers to the PlayStation. Smartphone titles will include versions of PlayStation franchises that include Everybody’s Golf and PaRappa the Rapper.
Speaking of mobile, Apple named Supercell’s competitive tower defense title Clash Royale as its Game of the Year. The Clash of Clans spin-off bested the likes of Reigns, INKS, and FIFA Mobile for the title.


Russell Shanks stepped down as the president of Daybreak. He had overseen the H1Z1 and PlanetSide 2 developer for 16 months after then CEO John Smedley departed the company.

POWER PLAYERS  Chris Halpin at the NFL

The NFL doubled down on its plans for esports, announcing plans with EA Sports to launch a new line of programming and events centered around the Madden NFL video game franchise. Moves will include the launch of weekly series Madden NFL America on Fridays at 9p on NFL.com and on NFL Network every Saturday at 8a and sponsored by Under Armour. The 30-minute show, partnered with Defy Media, is hosted by Dave Grunfeld and explores the universe around this game through the eyes of top gamers while focusing on the four Madden NFL Championship Series tournaments. The league is also building out its tournaments with EA Sports, the recent Madden Classic, the Madden Bowl from Jan. 25-Feb. 4, the Madden Challenge from March 31-April2, and the Madden Championship concluding May 21. On a grassroots level, the league is launching the Madden 17 Club Series, in which participating NFL teams will conduct their own Madden competitions to crown the best Madden player among their fans.

Cynopsis eSports spoke with Chris Halpin, SVP of Consumer Products at the NFL, about the launch, why the league is dedicating resources and the natural ties between the league and esports.

Halpin on the decision to go deep with Madden: Like many sports properties, we’ve been looking at the esports space, researching it, and understanding the dynamics there with the goal of finding the right way for our league, teams and our fans to participate in it. We came to the conclusion that, given the strength of our Madden franchise, and the embedded fanbase and popularity there, combined with the strength of our partnership with Electronic Arts, the right answer was to work with EA and build an esports program.  This is a cross-functional effort at the League focused on our strategic priorities across Consumer Products, Media, Marketing, Clubs and International.  The prioritization is first here in the US and then internationally, beginning with Canada and the UK.
On benefits: The profile of the esports fan is a younger, digitally-oriented group that is fragmenting off of traditional linear TV and is consuming new forms of live and on-demand content through platforms like Twitch. For our teams and sponsors, it is an attractive demo that they are trying to reach. It is also a dynamic space that is continuing to evolve with a huge international footprint and we all believe it will continue to grow and adapt beyond the current platforms.  Our goal would be to in the middle of that with our intellectual property by accessing both gaming fans and football fans. Of course, another key driver of our focus on esports is that point of content: using our owned-and-operated media in NFL Network and NFL Digital, etc. to produce both live events and ancillary and shoulder programming around the Madden gamer community.
On the Madden Championship Series: The core series, which is what EA announced this summer and has been fleshing out and marketing is the Madden Championship Series, which represents four series spaced throughout the year and we just had the first this past weekend. They serve as the four majors that crown the Madden competitive series. It’s all going to developed around online entry into those Madden majors, with the top-ranked players invited to the in-person events. It’s really about identifying the best Madden players with a total purse of just over $1 million. It’s about building a year-long Madden lifestyle and tour where players compete, get ranked and can win prize money.
On the club series: We are testing it for this season ahead of what will probably be a broader rollout the following year. We will be announcing in about two weeks the lineup of clubs who will be participating and holding live events, where Madden players can sign up for their favorite club’s tournament. At the end of the day, the fan affinity and the right to be the champion of your team is incredibly exciting and a great way to connect a fan’s passion for Madden with the passion for their favorite team.


Hideo Kojima released a new Death Stranding trailer, anchored by Guillermo del Toro’s ventures (sorta) beyond the bridge and flushed with a haunting track of Easy Way Out by Low Roar. As we head into the appearance of Mads Mikkelsen big bad, viewers are left to wonder about the story to come. Click here to watch.

ON THIS DAY in 1990: Nintendo holds the Nintendo PowerFest grand finale to their nation-wide video game competition at Universal Studios Hollywood.  
Trivia: What videogame franchise dedicated an expansion pack to Katy Perry? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)

Answer to Our Last eSports Trivia Question: What historical figure is Princess Zelda named after? Answer: Zelda Fitzgerald. Kudos: Chris Davies-Virgin/London; Danny Araque/NY; Joey Olson-Lowe’s/Arlington; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Adam Leston-Weigel Broadcasting/Milwaukee; Jason Morrow-Toyota/Houston; Elena Chavira-OMD/LA; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank; Elouie Gopez-DIRECTavenue/Carlsbad; Dominic Arcana-Valve/Bellevue.

Later — Chris
Chris Pursell for Cynopsis | eSports @VegasandVine

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