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02/04/21: DreamHack resumes content blitz; Blast Premier’s new Czar; VALORANT’s renewed surge



Medias First Morning Read

Thursday February 4, 2021

Good morning! This is your weekly Esports Brief.
DreamHack will keep its foot on the accelerator for its content plans, announcing that the festival will be ringing back DreamHack Originals, an online slate of original programming, in 2021. Content will include: DreamHack Tonight (March 1), DreamHack Plays (March 2) and Community Clash (March 4). In addition, The Dreamies” Award Show, which premiered at DreamHack Anaheim in 2020, will return online on April 30, following the conclusion of Season 3 of “The DreamHack Originals” with 20 gaming categories and 10 community categories.

“DreamHack creates an arena where you can come to connect, explore, win, play a part, and be yourself through the gaming lifestyle experience,” said DreamHack Global Creative Director Justin Burnham. “With this ongoing initiative, we’ll bring fans lots of trending gaming news, industry tips and tricks, gamer lifestyles and hobbies, community tournaments, and much more — which allows us to extend the festival experience for our fans online, while also welcoming others to the larger gaming community we love so much.”

COMPETITION
BLAST has a new commissioner for global tournament series, BLAST Premier, naming Andrew Haworth for the role. Haworth will oversee the tournament format, rulebook, competitive integrity, and more. “For over two years, Andrew has been the driving force behind our operations department, and he’s helped create a highly successful BLAST Premier tournament series,” said Robbie Douek, BLAST’s CEO. “He’s the perfect person to continue to maintain and foster new industry partnerships, help teams follow rules and regulations, and ensure we’re providing a platform to empower other industry stakeholders and regions around the world.”

Six Invitational 2021 took another hit as a result of the global pandemic and will no longer begin on its rescheduled date of Feb 9. Multiple reports state that the championship was delayed following France’s decision to ban all non-essential travel from non-EU countries, a move that effectively prevents 12 of the 19 invited teams from competing in the country.

February 14 sees B/R Gaming serve up a special presentation of the Twitch Rivals Streamer Bowl II Featuring Fortnite at Midnight on TBS. The special 2-hour broadcast event will showcase the best of the best from the Twitch Rivals February 4 stream, featuring 30 three-person teams of top NFL players including Christian McCaffrey, Kyler Murray, and Saquon Barkley, along with top Fortnite players and content creators, competing for a share of a $1 million charity prize pool.

KRAFTON revealed additional details around the format for PUBG Global Invitational.S, running Feb.5 – March 28 as an eight-week long LAN/online-hybrid event featuring 32 teams from eight regions. Teams will compete each week to earn part of the $3.5 million prize pot, with the team that earns the most being crowned champion. All matches will be broadcasted globally on various platforms in 12 languages, including English, Russian, Turkish, Korean, and Vietnamese.

The final rounds of the EA SPORTS Madden NFL 21 Club Championship run Thursday and Friday with winners facing off in the Madden NFL Club Championship Finals, airing at 10p on ESPN2, and a prize pool of $750,000. Katie Emmer hosts, with Nick Mizesko on play-by-play and commentary from Tyler “TDavis” Favis and Brian “OneGreatUser” Armstrong.

Blue Mammoth Games announced that the 2021 competition for Brawlhalla will offer a $1 million prize pool across its regions, and starting with the Winter Championship, which begins on Feb. 27 and culminating with the Brawlhalla World Championship 2021 in November. In addition, the Brawlhalla Pro Series is also returning with a new format in June.

With Capcom Cup 2020 cancelled, Capcom laid out its plans for the online-only Season Final event to crown a champion. Competition will span Feb. 20-21 across Capcom Fighters channels, and will showcase all 20 players who originally qualified for Capcom Cup along with four additional invitees.

The Dota Pro Circuit has its first major, with the launch of the ONE Esports Singapore Major 2021 and running March 25-April 4 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. The prize pool will dangle $500,000 and 2,700 DPC points that will be divided between the top eight teams.

ESL Gaming announced that DreamHack Open is returning in 2021 with $700,000 up for grabs across seen tournaments. The first tournament runs through Jan. 31 and will be split between the European and North American regions as CS:GO players battle it out. Additional tournaments include a U.S. stop at DreamHack Atlanta, scheduled to take place in November of this year. “This first DreamHack Open Online of 2021 represents a crucial part of the ESL Pro Tour for CS:GO,” said Shaun Clark, ESL Pro Tour Director at ESL Gaming. “ESL and DreamHack share the same vision of creating an open-ecosystem that provides aspiring players the platform to succeed, following the path from ‘zero to hero.’ Following in the footsteps of what we’ve announced, we are excited to release the entire year’s worth of competition with a roadmap to return to live events.”

SUPER WEEKEND
Misfits Gaming Group’s Florida Mutineers will host the second annual “In The Know Bowl 2021” with Verizon Media’s content brand In The Know. The live Call of Duty showdown is set to feature Call of Duty League franchise team Florida Mutineers players alongside professional athletes in sports including Jarvis Landry, Stephen Jackson, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Justin Jefferson, Chase Claypool, Henry Ruggs III, Mark Ingram and DeVonta Smith. The event will take place online on Friday and will be livestreamed on InTheKnow.com from 5-8p. The exhibition is sponsored by Pizza Hut and will pair top professional Call of Duty players and influencers with pro athletes in a single-elimination 2v2 Call of Duty tournament. Anthony “Nameless” Wheeler and Jeremy “StuDyy’” Astacio will provide in-game action and commentary throughout the event, and Kay Adams will be interviewing players and athletes throughout the show.

ESE Entertainment Inc. partnered with the National Football League Alumni Association, the American Cancer Society, and ESTV to organize the “Madden The Yard Legends Challenge” esports event, running through Feb. 6, and offering the likes of gaming tournaments, a live virtual music concert, networking events, broadcasting, and extensive social media interaction. It will be broadcast on ESTV’s TV channel, Twitch, YouTube and Facebook, as well as through other distribution partners including Amazon Fire TV, Samsung TV Plus, Roku TV, Sling TV and more.

Fandom announced the first Muthead Tyson Bowl, set for Saturday at 8p on Fandom’s Muthead Twitch channel. The Tyson Bowl will showcase top competitive Madden players, exclusive giveaways, and celebrity guest caster Joe Thomas, retired Cleveland Browns offensive lineman, who will serve as host for the competition. Streamcasters Nick Mizesko and Reginald “Boogz” Brown will be calling the Tyson® Bowl action.

ACTIVATION

BLAST Premier agreed to a partnership expansion with premium audio and device company EPOS for 2021. The expanded partnership will see EPOS work with the tournament organizer “to help raise awareness about how premium audio elevates the gaming experience for all gamers” and deliver a present for the brand across BLAST Premier’s Counter-Strike tournament in 2021. EPOS’ branding will feature heavily across all seven CS:GO tournaments this year, including more branded content opportunities and a number of bespoke giveaways on offer.

Immortals Gaming Club inked a deal with HotelPlanner for a multiyear partnership for the brand to serve as the Official Hotel Booking Partner of MIBR CS:GO & Immortals LCS teams. MIBR and Immortals will be sharing their own travel stories showcasing local food and entertainment while also giving fans insight into a day in the life of the players as they travel around the world competing in esports events.

Elliott Sadler eSports announced its full-time partnership with Nutrien Ag Solutions as a sponsor for the 2021 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series season. “I fell in love with iRacing once I retired,” said Sadler. “I’ve been building this team for a year now, and we’re ready to go win races and compete for a championship. We’re bringing a new sponsors into this space with Nutrien Ag Solutions. This is going to be a lot of fun. This isn’t just a hobby for me. We are pouring a lot of resources into this to be able to go out and win.”

STREAM HATCHET TRENDS
This week, Stream Hatchet is analyzing the recent surge in popularity for Riot Games’ tactical shooter VALORANT. The publisher announced the structure of the new VALORANT Champions League in December which has similarities to the League of Legends esports scene; including a world championship at the end of the season. Recent competitions have already begun sparking the upward trend in viewership over the past few months. With more official events on the horizon, VALORANT is primed to be the next big esport in 2021. Riot Games is hoping to hold the two most popular esports globally if VALORANT can follow the footsteps of League of Legends.
* Since September 2020, VALORANT has seen an increase of 39% in total hours watched across all major live streaming platforms. Additionally, the game’s average viewer count is also the most since September 2020 with more than 82K.
* VALORANT was the most successful game launch on live streaming platforms ever generating almost 350M hours watched in April 2020.
* In January 2021, VALORANT finished as the 14th most popular category across all live streaming platforms based on hours watched.

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PLATFORMS
FlyQuest is set to produce a year-long Spanish-language co-stream featuring broadcast talent from the LATAM region for all LCS matches beginning with the Week 1 season opener between FlyQuest and TSM tomorrow. Hannah “Cherrigan” Wotton will host.

Nerd Street Gamers raised $11.5 million in move to broaden its digital reach, with investment coming from venture capital firm Founders Fund. The company will use the money to open new Localhost venues and to launch digital products, events and content in a move to build a national network of esports facilities and events.

Misfits Gaming Group struck a partnership with social media analytics firm Zoomph and will be able to access a range of data surrounding sponsorships designed to create a variety of campaigns via Zoomph’s platform. “We are excited to partner with Misfits Gaming Group to further improve our esports environment and knowledge, as well as enhance the group’s understanding of their audience and content.” Zoomph Co-Founder Nick Cronin said. “The esports world is growing by the day and content is present on all platforms, Zoomph’s platform will enable Misfits Gaming Group to use data as a competitive advantage with fans and partners.”

Arcade franchise Big Buck Hunter locked in a deal with mobile games platform Skillz for a new competitive mobile game based on the title. The move marks Skillz’s expansion into the first-person shooter (FPS) genre. “Big Buck Hunter has been a cultural icon for 20 years,” said Andrew Paradise, CEO and founder of Skillz. “We’re proud to enable top game developers like Play Mechanix to put content into the palms of players’ hands – anyone, anywhere, anytime.”

TEAMS
Global talent and entertainment company UTA signed FaZe Clan to its roster of clients and will look to amplify FaZe’s efforts as the team expands its content into scripted, unscripted, podcasting, live streaming and brand partnerships. “Through its execution of innovative concepts such as #FaZe5, FaZe has cultivated an unprecedented fanbase and has established itself at the forefront of entertainment, technology and culture,” said Damon Lau, UTA’s Head of esports. “We look forward to partnering with the team on developing one-of-a-kind content to further grow their audience.”

Misfits Gaming Group locked in a multi-year deal with British premium headwear brand, Tokyo Time, as the official headwear provider of Misfits Gaming. Tokyo Time will produce officially licensed Misfits Gaming headwear, as well as collaborating on co-branded items. “We’re excited to partner with an exciting new brand to create new products for our fans and players” said Vas Roberts, VP, Partnerships at Misfits Gaming Group. “Tokyo Time have partnered with exciting traditional sports leagues and we’re proud to be their first partner in esports.”

READYUP GAMES OF THE WEEK

INDUSTRY
BlizzCon is shoring up for a digital echo known as BlizzConline, running Feb. 19 and 20 with free access for everyone. The all-digital community event and exhibition will span six channels of programming, with Blizzard developers sharing the latest game news with the world, and cosplayers, artists, and makeshift murlocs will be sharing their talents through events such as the Community Showcase. “We couldn’t let too much time go by without connecting with our community in the spirit of BlizzCon, and that’s what this show is all about—getting together with friends from around the world and celebrating the bonds and experiences we share through games,” said J. Allen Brack, president of Blizzard Entertainment. “We’re also excited to share some updates on what the teams have been working on—and while this won’t be the usual BlizzCon, the all-online format gives us a unique opportunity to shake things up a bit and create a show specifically for a community at home.”

A survey from Interpret found that 52% of regular esports fans are likely to place bets on major esports tournaments, according to the study, which also stated that 21% were neutral while 28% were unlikely to place wagers, according to GamesIndustry.

1,000 Dreams Fund is bringing back the BroadcastHER Academy, an esports and gaming fellowship program for women interested in pursuing careers in the industry. Partners include Allied Esports and HyperX. “Our BroadcastHER Academy has had a tremendous impact on the 20+ fellows we’ve served since its launch in 2019, helping participants gain critical work experience for their resumes and an opportunity to build networks with leaders in the industry,” says 1,000 Dreams Fund Founder and CEO Christie Garton. “While the focus is on helping our fellows identify career opportunities in an industry where women continue to be underrepresented, the BroadcastHER Academy is also intended to build a diverse talent pool for our partners and the industry.”

College football is returning to the world of Electronic Arts, which announced a partnership with CLC for the development of EA SPORTS College Football. The franchise was a consistent top-five sports title in North America during its previous run, generating tens of millions unit sales from 2005-2014. Through the CLC partnership, the franchise will include the rights to more than 100 institutions featuring the logos, stadiums, uniforms, gameday traditions and more. The college game will not include student-athlete names, images and likenesses.

Anzu, the global advertising platform dedicated to gaming, announced $9 million in new funding. The round was co-led by BITKRAFT Ventures and HBSE Ventures, with participation from WPP and Sony Innovation Fund, and more. The funding will be used to catalyze Anzu’s commercial growth and fuel sales and marketing activities to propel the company forward on a global scale. “Gaming is one activity that has exploded over the past year and increasingly an important advertising channel,” said WPP CEO Mark Read. “In partnership with Anzu, together with our agencies, we can make it simpler for them to reach the growing audience in the esports and gaming space.”

ROSTER MOVES

Ford Models, Inc. announced the signing of former All-Pro NFL Running Back and current Esports Coach for Lakeland University, Ahman Green, to its Esports and Gaming division. He currently hosts Ahman Green’s Gamers Lounge Podcast on iHeartRadio and is the Business Development Director for esports network, ESTV. “We are thrilled about adding Ahman to the division. As a former NFL legend who also genuinely loves and is passionate about gaming, he is exactly what we look for in talent that we identify to work with. The future is bright as we aim to help Ahman expand and elevate his current projects while also exploring new opportunities to grow his personal brand in the gaming and entertainment spaces,” said Justin M. Jacobson, Esq., Manager of Ford Models’ Esports and Gaming division.

Speaking of which, don’t miss Ahman Green as a keynote at the Esports Business Summit University, and get schooled on the possibilities and potential of the collegiate esports space. Event runs march 23-24 and tickets are available here.

Riot Games hired Hulu’s SVP & Head of Corporate Communications, Gaude Paez, as SVP Global Communications and Corporate Affairs for the company, per Deadline. There, Paez will lead Riot’s Communications initiatives, oversee the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility efforts and build and lead Riot’s global Government Affairs function.

CSL Esports announced the addition of Hung Tran as Director of Marketing. “Hung has an outstanding track record of creating and establishing highly-regarded and successful esports marketing campaigns,” said Rob Johnson, CEO, CSL Esports. “He will be instrumental in helping us extend our mission of creating and providing life-changing educational opportunities through esports, and growing our brand.”

Panda Global is tapping sports industry veteran Dave Riggs to lead and grow their sales team. Dave Riggs is former Vice President of Integrated Sales & Talent Marketing for WWE.

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