CYNOPSISeSPORTS & GAMING
It’s Thursday, December 1, 2016, and this is your weekly early morning eSports & Gaming brief.
Angry Birds creator Rovio is prepping to launch Hatch, described as “the only place to play, share and watch games on mobile.” Early content partners are set to include the likes of Bandai Namco Entertainment America, Taito Corporation and Ubisoft Mobile. Entry into the platform will initially be by invitation only on Android devices during first half of 2017. The platform allows players to stream the games they play without the need for downloads, updates or in-app purchases and will offer social features to allow gamers to compete against friends and family. In addition, according to the company, any single-player game can be turned into a multiplayer experience, opening the doors for new esports experiences.
“It’s not just about playing games, it’s about sharing new experiences with the people in your life,” says Hatch Founder and CEO Juhani Honkala. “Hatch represents a new social frontier and a new beginning for mobile games. We are soft launching in 2017 for Android users, but ultimately our intention is to bring Hatch to other platforms such as iOS as well. Our mission is to bring everyone together over the games they love.”
2K announced plans to launch NBA 2K17’s first ever European All-Star Tournament, running Dec. 10-11 with finalists getting the shot to compete at the NBA headquarters in London as well as attend the NBA Global Games London featuring the Pacers/Nuggets at the O2 Arena. Champions will then win an all-expense paid trip to the NBA All-Star Weekend in New Orleans. “We believe NBA 2K17 offers a unique competitive experience for eSports enthusiasts worldwide,” said Alfie Brody, VP of Marketing for NBA2K. “Following our first esports tournament, Road To The Finals, culminating this past June in Los Angeles, it was a high priority for our brand to expand the competition to Europe. We’re excited to offer our European customers the same thrill of global competitive gaming and the chance of being crowned the top NBA2K team in Europe.”
Intel Extreme Masters is returning to Katowice, Poland, for the fifth year in a row for the 2017 World Championship, this time spanning two consecutive weekends — Feb. 25-26 (League of Legends) and March 3-5 (CS:GO and StarCraft II) with more than $600,000 in prizing. Last March saw IEM Katowice shatter ESL records as one of the most watched esports events in history, attracting over 34 million unique viewers with peak concurrent viewership online reaching 2 million. For 2017, both weekends will be broadcast live across the globe on Twitch, Yahoo, Hitbox, and HuoMaoTV in China. The IEM Season 11 World Championship will be sponsored by INTEL, HyperX, Gillette, GFUEL, Kinguin, Acer.
ELeague launched its Season 02 Playoffs yesterday with a slate of best-of-three matchups in the quarterfinals, and the semifinals set to begin tomorrow with live coverage on Twitch starting at 5p. Season 02 will culminate by crowning a champion in the Grand Final match on Saturday with live coverage at 4p on TBS.
MLG unveiled its talent lineup for the Las Vegas NA Regional Open this month. Over 160 teams are expected to show up to compete. Calling the contests will be Ben “Benson” Bowe, Chris “Puckett” Puckett, Matt “Mr. X” Morello, Jack “CouRage” Dunlop, Cling “Maven” Evans, John “Reven” Boble, Joe “Merk” DeLuca, Tyler “TeePee” Polchow, Thomas “Chance” Ashworth, Jamie “Dirk” Ruiz, Rondez “Fox” Green, and Landon “Lando” Sanders. Fans can watch the action live on MLG.tv and Twitch.com/CallofDuty.
UK Interactive Entertainment revealed a whitepaper calling on the UK government to initiate reforms that would propel the country into a global hub for eSports. The 20-page document lays out industry opportunities and growth areas that the country could capitalize on. Recommendations included government departments working with eSports stakeholders go develop a trade and investment offer to major international tournament holders, IP owners and brands as well as the sharing of best practices. The report also suggests designating 15 UK eSports ambassadors to promote the sector in the UK and around the world from a blend of players, developers, publishers and event organizers.
ESPN2 is set to showcase the top eight of the Capcom Cup, running the competition on Dec. 4 at 8:30p. Content will be delayed a day from the actual event, taking place at the PlayStation Experience on Dec. 3 and streamed live on Twitch.
Another big event for Overwatch as Next Generation Esports announced the Overwatch Winter Premiere, described as a multi-month tournament featuring that title that starts in December. Competition is open to all North American Overwatch teams and launched with four days of online qualifiers, after which the top 8 teams – vying for a share of the $100,000 prize pool – will face off in 3 weeks of Double Round-Robin group play, followed by a 2-day live finals event in January 2017. Next Generation Esports will work with Blizzard Entertainment to fully produce, direct, and broadcast the Overwatch Winter Premiere.
This weekend sees Amazon launch the Champions of Fire Invitational, described as the first-ever Amazon Appstore esports tournament dedicated to casual mobile game competition. This new tournament will see 16 of the world’s biggest celebrity video game streamers battle for their share of a $100,000 cash prize with titles that include Disney Crossy Road, Pac-Man 256, Bloons TD Battles, 8 Ball Pool and the Fruit Ninja Tournament Edition. The one-day event will be held Dec. 2 at Paris Las Vegas. “Competitive video gaming has seen huge growth, and we see tremendous customer value in expanding the tournament experience to include the casual mobile games played by millions of people today,” said Aaron Rubenson, Director, Amazon Appstore. “The Champions of Fire Invitational will see some of the top gaming pros square off in the same fun games our customers can download and enjoy today from the Amazon Appstore.”
A new esports study by research company Leger found that 25% of US Adults have someone in the household who has watched an esports tournament. Data also showed a boost in viewership over the past six months, with the level of adults who watched an eSports event increased from 15% to 18% between May and October, while overall household viewership grew from 22% to 25%. While the overall household viewership for esports is 18%, viewership surges to 41% among households with children.
The door is officially open for esports here in Las Vegas with UK online bookmaker William Hill announcing that the Nevada Gaming Policy Committee gave the company approval to accept bets starting from last weekend’s IEM Oakland eSports event. The company partnered with the Downtown Grand Las Vegas casino to become the first provider in the United States to offer eSports betting. “It has been an honor and a privilege to work closely with Chairman Burnett and the Governor’s Gaming Policy Committee to gain collective support for wagering on esports,” said Seth Schorr, Chairman of the Downtown Grand Casino. “This has been an excellent example of a public/private partnership working together to create a new innovative way of gambling which will have a positive impact on State revenues.”
What’s on deck…
How will accessibility boost esports numbers? SuperData took a look at how deals with the likes of Facebook, ESPN, Yahoo, etc. will transform audiences over the next three years, projecting a 54% spike in audiences over the next three years.
Facebook opened the doors to Instant Games this week, with the gaming platform allowing Messenger users to play games against each another through the chat app. The platform is now available in 30 countries — including the US — through the latest versions of Android and iOS by leveraging HTML5, which allows you to “play games without having to install new apps” with users tapping on the controller icon ad then selecting from a list of games. That includes Galaga, Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Endless Lake, Arkanoid, Words with Friends Frenzy, EverWing, Hex FRVR and more.
Meanwhile, developers are announcing investments into the platform. Game Insight announced the launch of Tribez Rush for the platform, with seven more games currently in production and an investments of over $5 million. “Game Insight has made sizable investments in new technologies and existing brands over the last year, which has helped us make an early entry onto Instant Games,” said Anatoly Ropotov, Game Insight CEO. “We have always been among the first to support new platforms so that we can offer the most enjoyable games on the most exciting platforms.”
Elsewhere, Viking Games launched a $10 million publishing fund targeting developers interested in the Instant Games program and launching space-shooter Galatron on the platform on December 15. “We believe there is a massive amount of talented developers that are hungry to work on new platforms that provide new more interesting opportunities around instant games on messengers,” said Albert Lai, co-founder and CEO of Big Viking Games. “We are excited to partner with other game developers to leverage our know-how, technology and distribution channels to help studios, of all sizes, capitalize on this new amazing opportunity with mobile HTML5 games. The focus of this publishing fund is to allow us the flexibility to work with other studios, IP holders, and companies looking to enter the HTML5 messenger gaming market.”
PlayStation is launching Communities, designed to let players join groups with similar interests and game preferences. The initiative will also suggest communities for players to join based on what games you’ve played.
Nintendo is set to hold a private event on Jan 13 to discuss the price and release date for Switch. The hybrid console is expected to launch in March 2017. Polygon reports that the event will see a live stream footage straight from the Tokyo Event to New York on January 13th.
Riot Games’ groundbreaking deal with MLBAM will reportedly be worth around $200 million for a two year span once parties sign on the dotted line, according to the LA Times. The League of Legends developer would give the company rights to stream matches through an app developed by MLBAM’s BAMTech.
HyperX locked in a global sponsorship with eSports professional and Street Fighter legend Daigo “The Beast” Umehara that will see him don HyperX gaming headsets exclusively. The deal sees Daigo use the HyperX Cloud Stinger as well as as HyperX Cloud, Cloud 2, and Cloud Revolver. “Whether training for my next event or on-stage at a major tournament, I need the best quality sound so I can perform at the highest level,” said Umehara. “HyperX gaming headsets are the most comfortable I’ve ever worn, while also providing world-class audio at a reasonable price. I’m excited to be a part of HyperX and look forward to working closely with them.”
Anchor streaming platform Twitch is adding a new dynamic to its partnerships with team. The company announced a deal with esports organizations Cloud9 and Team SoloMid designed to help the outfits reach new sponsors. “Our goal is to help introduce more sponsors into the space through broad reach that includes media and now sponsorships,” Twitch COO Kevin Lin said in a statement. Twitch already serves as a sponsor and exclusive streaming service of both organizations.
Speaking of Cloud9, the organization raised $2.8 million in investments, according to theScore eSports, which found a document filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission detailing the investment. The $2.8 million in equity was sold to 21 separate unnamed investors.
Jinx Inc. released an original collection of officially licensed apparel and accessories featuring Echo Fox. The collection features the team’s logo and signature burnt orange hue with the first set of shirts, hoodies and hats from J!NX’s Echo Fox label available at JINX.com. Additional items, including performance-wear jerseys and shorts, will roll out over the coming season, spring 2017.
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Mobile esports company Skillz unveiled a suite of solutions designed to help brands engage consumers through mobile eSports. Offerings include the ability for brands to sponsor mobile eSports tournaments across thousands of Skillz-enabled games with options that include sponsor an entire game or specific tournaments within a game. They are also able to host and sponsor physical events where players can compete at in-person tournaments, or work with social influencers via live-streamed events on Twitch, YouTube and other streaming sites. “As eSports continue to gain popularity, we’re seeing the same evolution we saw with offline sports like basketball and football. It starts by defining rules, then building a player base, and finally adding broadcast and spectator opportunities. When the transformation of a game into a sport hits an inflection point, major brands want to get involved,” said Andrew Paradise, founder and CEO of Skillz.
Paul “ReDeYe” Chaloner announced plans to launch Code Red, described as a new eSports agency that will offer services that range from consultation to providing broadcast talent for events. Chaloner joins Dota 2 caster Austin “Capitalist” Walsh, Luke Cotton and Ben Woodwood to back the company, which has already signed talent that includes Shane “SHANEOMAD” Clarke, Beth “LittleFreeman” Freeman, Ramesh “r2k” Singh and Chanel “SUCCUBUS” Van Der Merwe.
Tonight’s run of The Game Awards will include a plethora of game trailers from the slate of sponsors backing the event. One peek will include an exclusive new look at the Assassin’s Creed movie and the Movie VR Experience, presented by AMD Radeon, Fox and Alienware from the RED Room at the Microsoft Theater. The Game Awards runs live tonight at 9p across the likes of Twitter and Facebook Live as well as at TheGameAwards.com
Square Enix locked in a deal with beverage company Jones Soda Co. and Target stores nationwide for the release of Final Fantasy XV. Fans who purchase a copy of the game in will receive one free bottle of Wiz’s Energizing Elixir, the first-ever FINAL FANTASY-themed soft drink in the US. Meanwhile, Square Enix also announced a deal with Langer Juice Company for Dragon Quest Builders that will see Langers Juice bottles offer a $5.00 discount coupon towards the purchase of the game.
343 Industries, developer of the Halo series of video games, and TV production company Pilgrim Media Group struck a deal to develop a reality-competition esports series featuring Halo 5: Guardians. “We’re thrilled to be partnering with Pilgrim on developing a reality series that will bring the intensity and extreme competition of Halo 5: Guardians esports to a television audience,” said 343 Industries’ Kiki Wolfkill, Studio Head of Halo Transmedia. “There is no better partner than Pilgrim to give our fans insight into the world of Halo esports.”
Game-centric platform Machinima is officially part of the Warner Bros. family, which locked in a deal to acquire the digital company. The agreement makes Machinima part of the recently formed Warner Bros. Digital Networks division. “Machinima is a strong gamer and fandom content and social brand with enormous reach and high engagement with audiences that play our games and are big fans of DC films and television shows,” said Warner Bros. Digital Networks president Craig Hunegs in a statement. “Machinima also produces great, high quality content for their community, and together we can create an even more compelling experience and do some really exciting things involving our key franchises. This acquisition is another meaningful move forward as Warner Bros. develops more direct relationships with our consumers.”
Nintendo is moving forward on a deal with the Universal theme parks that will bring the company’s famed worlds and characters into the theme park’s attractions. Targeting Universal Studios Japan, Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood, the experiences are being promoted as expansive, immersive and interactive and that “guests will feel as if they are playing inside their favorite games.”
POWER PLAYERS — Mike Fischer, President of AIAS
The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences, the not-for-profit dedicated to the advancement and recognition of the interactive arts, announced the immediate appointment of Mike Fischer as president of the organization. He replaces Martin Rae, who led the organization for six years and stepped down in October. As the AIAS president, Fischer has been tasked in taking the helm of the professional organization that promotes and advances the worldwide interactive entertainment community of more than 35,000 video games industry professionals. He will oversee the upcoming 2017 D.I.C.E. Summit and the 20th D.I.C.E. Awards, which will take place February 21-23 at The Delano Las Vegas in the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Cynopsis asked Fischer about his plans at the helm of AIAS.
Fischer on goals: My short-term goal is to lead the Academy towards another great D.I.C.E. Summit and celebrating the 20th Anniversary D.I.C.E. Awards in February of next year. In the long-term I think there is a great opportunity to expand the Academy’s global reach. You can see from my background that I’ve lived all around the world in my video game career, and I find the same passion for games everywhere I go. I’d also like to see us provide more tools and resources to help our members be more successful in both their careers and creative work.
On innovation: Our D.I.C.E. Summit is a key area where we try to focus and promote innovation in our craft. Our speakers bring to the stage a discussion of what’s coming next in innovation. You might have seen from a couple years back how Jesse Schell first coined the phrase “gamification” in a talk that sparked the social gaming revolution. Also, Epic Games’ Tim Sweeney presented a very forward-looking talk about technology innovation a couple years back that attendees still reference today. We have already confirmed speakers for 2017 that will challenge conventional thinking in whole new ways — stay tuned for details!
On the future of D.I.C.E.: When I started in video games, the media formats of choice were cartridges and floppy discs. Nothing ever stays the same. The D.I.C.E. Summit and the D.I.C.E. Awards are no exception. As the preeminent peer-based Awards program in the video games industry, D.I.C.E. has evolved over the past couple years to accommodate and celebrate the changes in technology and platforms. We’ve added mobile and online game to our award recognition in the past, and have recently added awards for Immersive Reality Game of the Year and Immersive Reality Technical Achievement.
Around our Summit we have opportunities for our attendees to get hands-on experience with our special Experience Rooms where we host a range of new technology, many of which include the AR/VR space. I am sure you know that the D.I.C.E. Summit is famous for the sheer amount of new ideas and business that gets done amongst our attendees. Yes, a lot of deals that get done at the conference — that’s a big draw, but I’m also proud of the creative exchanges and discussions that take place at our events.
On how esports has changed the industry: This is an important topic. eSports is not just a genre or a platform. It’s a whole new way that hundreds of millions of people are playing, watching, and sharing their video game experiences. And of course, it’s a legitimate new form of sports competition. Recently the AIAS Foundation, in conjunction with Intel and FACEIT, held a full-day workshop focused on the eSports space. We had a chance to bring many heavy hitters from the eSports industry to join us in a discussion around this segment — including team owners, venture capitalists, developers, publishers, etc.
Additionally, we also have had an extra eSports layer at our D.I.C.E. conference. We host an eSports tournament with our sponsor FACEIT as an opportunity to have our own friendly tournament amongst our high-level attendees. Last year’s competition was a Quake tournament with participants like Randy Pitchford from Gearbox Software, Brandon Beck from Riot Games, Johnathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel, Feargus Urquhart from Obsidian Entertainment, just to name a few.
TRAILER OF THE WEEK — Final Fantasy XV
Making one last push as Final Fantasy XV hits shelves, Square Enix released a barrage of new trailers for the title. Blending battle sequences and story elements with the vast game world in one trailer, dubbed Ride Together, the trailer is backed by the song Fast Lane by Eminem featuring Royce Da 5’9. Click here to watch.
ON THIS DAY in 1988 – Nintendo releases Zelda II: The Adventure of Link for the NES in the US. The game cartridge includes a battery for saving the game.
Trivia: What historical figure is Princess Zelda named after? (Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)
Answer to Our Last eSports Trivia Question: What was the name of the ship commanded by Morpheus in the Matrix movies? Answer: (Thought this one would be easier and the answer is NOT The Neo.) The Nebuchadnezzar. Kudos: Chris Davies-Virgin/London; Danny Araque/NY; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank
Later — Chris
Chris Pursell for Cynopsis | eSports @VegasandVine
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