The CW Network, Electronic Arts Inc. and the National Football League announced a new one-hour primetime esports special, EA Madden NFL 18 Challenge, that will debut on Dec. 27 at 8p on The CW. The special will offer viewers an inside look at what really goes on “in the intense world of competitive gaming, as well as provide a deeper portrait of the top Madden NFL competitors, their journey to the Challenge, and a look at the other side of the competition to claim the Madden NFL Challenge belt and championship prize.” “We are thrilled to partner with EA and Madden NFL, one of the most well-known games in the world, for The CW’s final eSports event of 2017,” said Rick Haskins, EVP of Marketing and Digital Programs, The CW. “Madden NFL is an iconic franchise, with millions of dedicated fans, and we’re excited to bring our viewers behind the scenes and up close to see some of the best Madden NFL players in the country compete for the title.”
More good news for Skillz, which announced $25 million in Series C funding led by leading media and telecommunications companies Telstra and Liberty Global. Other participants in the round included Sacramento Kings co-owner Andy Miller, Bridge Bank, and existing investors Accomplice and Wildcat Capital. “This year, the top eSport event had more viewers than game seven of the MLB World Series,” said Bruce Dines, Vice President at Liberty Global Ventures, the world’s largest international TV and broadband company. “It is important for Liberty Global to progressively support new forms of entertainment and content. We’re excited to be a part of the eSports growth story and particularly excited to collaborate with Skillz in the creation and development of new eSports content.”
Vainglory is tuning in to GINX Esports TV for its World Championships telecast, which run through Dec. 17 from Singapore. The partnership will see the event carried live on the television channel which is available in over 40 countries worldwide and in over 55,000,000 homes across the globe.
Blizzard Entertainment is locking in a deal for esports commentator Auguste “Semmler” Massonnat for its Overwatch League, according to ESPN, with the deal kicking in just before the Jan. 10 launch of the regular season of the Overwatch League.
Lagardere Sports is bringing another esports franchise under its umbrella, announcing a new deal with H2K to join the likes of SK Gaming, Splyce, Team ROCCATT and Unicorns of Love. Lagardere Sports will look to help H2K acquire new sponsors and expand and optimize the team’s marketing opportunities. The agency will also be responsible for ‘creative activation promotions and secure thematic partnerships for the organisation’.
UK Overwatch League franchise The London Spitfire announced a partnership with Code Red Esports in a move to help the team set up shop in the UK, including providing assistance with a move into new HQ, scouting local partnerships for the brand, and spearheading a slate of local events.
Meanwhile, more international sports teams continue to pick up esports squads. Bayer Leverkusen, from the Bundesliga, is adding FIFA pro Marvin ‘M4RV’ Hintz to its roster. Jochen A. Rotthaus, Director of Marketing and Communication at Bayer 04 stated that “With his skill and passion Marvin Hintz will be an excellent ambassador for us. Above all, he will make a major contribution to establishing the megatrend in our club. We are convinced of that.”
And Australian Football League club Essendon nabbed the rights to esports team Abyss, who will now reportedly rebrand under Essendon’s name and logo while relocating to Melbourne.
TEAM SPOTLIGHT-OpTic Gaming
The Game Awards proved OP for founder Geoff Keighley, as the honors tripled its viewership last Thursday to over 11.5 million global livestreams, up 202% from 2016’s record-setting performance of 3.8 million livestreams. On social platforms, The Game Awards posted double and triple digit gains in engagement – including on Twitter, where the number of people tweeting about Game Awards related-content doubled year over year, with #TheGameAwards hashtag usage up 2.7x compared to 2016. “We are thrilled by the viewership, engagement and reaction to The Game Awards this year,” said Geoff Keighley, executive producer. “With triple-digit viewership gains across the board, plus record setting social media metrics, one thing is clear: video games and gamers continue to grow in importance and prominence on the pop culture landscape.”
Speaking of the Game Awards, honorees included The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild winning Game of the Year, pioneering female game designer Carol Shaw receiving the Industry Icon Award. On the esports front, Overwatch took home to trophy for Best eSports Game, Cloud9 was a winner for Best eSports Team and Lee Sang-hyeok/Faker was named Best eSports Player.
Lifestyle and marketing agency Engine Shop acquired The Gamer Agency, an esports strategy, event production, and development company. TGA had been a part of GameCo Inc.. “By acquiring TGA, we are adding a team with profound expertise and connections in esports to our existing consumer engagement business model,” said Brian Gordon, Engine Shop, CEO. “It will enable us to create and activate esports solutions for brands looking to tap in to this passionate community of fans and endemics seeking to broaden their offering and expand their fan base.”
The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences announced that Phil Spencer, Executive Vice President, Gaming at Microsoft, will deliver the Opening Keynote at the 2018 D.I.C.E. Summit. The event runs Feb. 20-22 with Spencer, delivering a talk entitled “Building a Living and Learning Company Culture.” Additional speakers confirmed for the 2018 D.I.C.E. Summit event include Chet Faliszek – Creative Director at Bossa Studios and Lidwine Sauer – Director of Insights and Trends for Ubisoft’s Strategic Innovation Lab.
After being released in the spring, Nintendo reports that the Switch has sold more than 10 million units globally in the nine month span with the company projecting that around 14 million units will be sold by the end of the fiscal year in March.
Capcom is celebrating 30 years of Street Fighter with an anniversary collection, an anthology series that will include 12 games from the long-running series including: Street Fighter; Street Fighter II; Street Fighter II Champion Edition; Street Fighter II Hyper Fighting; Street Fighter II The New Challengers; Street Fighter II Turbo; Street Fighter Alpha; Street Fighter Alpha 2; Street Fighter Alpha 3; Street Fighter III; Street Fighter III: Second Impact; and Street Fighter III: Third Strike.
Roblox announced the addition of three Silicon Valley veterans to its senior staff, naming Jennifer Hedding as Chief People Officer, Daniel Williams as VP of Corporate and Production Engineering, and Matt Kaufman as VP of Product for Platform at Roblox. Hedding most recently served as Senior Vice President of Human Resources for Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Williams held various senior leadership positions managing technology infrastructures at Dropbox, the San Francisco 49ers, and Facebook. Kaufman was previously at Crunchbase.