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02/11/21: Call of Duty League’s new partner; TFT’s strategic move; 100 Thieves cuts a deal



Medias First Morning Read

Thursday February 11, 2021

Good morning! This is your weekly Esports Brief.
The new season of Call of Duty League gets underway with a shiny new sponsor, with USAA unlocking a multi-year deal that will designate USAA as the League’s Official Insurance Sponsor, the presenting partner of the League’s match day pre-show program and its first-ever Military Appreciation Week. Season two of Call of Duty League kicks in today. As part of the sponsorship, USAA will be the exclusive presenting partner of the Call of Duty League’s match day pre-show segment – titled the “USAA Pre-Show” – streaming live at the beginning of each League match broadcast throughout the season. USAA will also be the exclusive presenting partner of the League’s inaugural “Military Appreciation Week.”

“We understand how gaming can strengthen bonds and connect friends and families across the world. We are excited to join the Call of Duty League as an ally in the trenches for our military community gamers, and young currently serving and veterans in particular,” said Eric Engquist, USAA vice president of enterprise brand management and U.S. Army veteran. “This partnership will allow us to meet military members where they are and provide them with unique experiences and benefits through the Call of Duty League.”

COMPETITION
Riot Games unveiled the Teamfight Tactics: Fates Championship, the next global tournament for the League of Legends auto-battler. The TFT Fates Championship will expand the competition at both the regional and international level adding additional prizing, regional qualifiers, with a larger global final. Competition runs April 7-9 and will feature twenty-four of the best players in the world competing for $250,000. “Teamfight Tactics continues to be one of our fastest-growing titles due to its accessibility and depth,” said Whalen Rozelle, Sr. Director of Esports at Riot Games. “To meet the massive demand for organized competition, for the Fates Championship we increased both the prize pool and the number of players who can qualify for the event. We also will explore new ways to further celebrate the esport globally.”

The LCS has published viewership stats from the first-ever three-week LCS Lock In tournament. According to Riot, across all three weeks of the tournament, the event notched an Average Minute Audience of 196,000 with fans watching more than 9.4 million hours. That is an uptick of 43% from the first three weeks of Spring 2020. The Jan. 31 finishing match between Team Liquid and Cloud9 had an AMA of 246,000 and peaked at 372,000 viewers on English-language broadcasts.

ESL Gaming revealed details of one of the two ESL Pro Tour Masters Championships and IEM Katowice 2021. Running entirely online from Feb. 16-28, IEM Katowice will feature a $1,000,000 prize pool, as well as serve as the culmination of the CS:GO and StarCraft II EPT Championships, while the Warcraft III EPT Championship will follow as a separate tournament March 4-7. In preparation for the ESL Pro Tour Championship, ESL Gaming worked each of the 24 participating teams to provide equipment that will enhance the broadcast quality. Continued adaptations are also being made to the new virtual studio environment, such as fan cam rooms where fans will be able to cheer on their favorite teams during the action.

The International Esports Federation laid out its schedule of events for 2021, which will include the inaugural World Super League. Game titles for the 2021 Esports World Championship are set to be announced next month with regional matches scheduled to held from September to October, with the global finals slated for November in Eilat, Israel.

What do you get when you cross gaming’s top publishers, the nation’s stalwart collegiate conferences, a bevy of schools, and a healthy serving of tournament operators and brands? Why you get EBS University, the major new event from Esports Business Summit that is fully dedicated to the community and business of collegiate esports. We are locking in some incredible names that will be announced in the coming weeks but be sure to get your tickets as soon as you can for this virtual feast. Click here for more information.

The Hearthstone Grandmasters make a grand return in April and will sport several format changes to the eight-week tournament. Play opens on April 9, with players competing in Weekly Dual Tournaments from Thursday to Sunday. Players will receive points each week based on their finishes to lock in standings before the playoffs.

The Pokémon Company is canceling the 2021 Pokémon World Championships. The next World Championships will now take place in 2022 in London. “The safety and well-being of our competitors, organizers, employees, local communities, and partners continues to be our top priority and is the primary consideration with every decision we make,” the company stated in a post to fans.

The MotoGP eSport Championship takes another lap in 2021, offering an expanded format and new challenges with the season set to begin on March 18 with the Pro Draft. The Global Series will then shift from online to on-site in May, with players competing for the Championship crown across eight races across four rounds from May-November.

KRAFTON laid out its PUBG esports plan for 2021 and will hold a total of four global esports events this year including the PUBG Continental Series with PCS4 being held in June and PCS5 held in September. The action will culminate with the PUBG Global Championship in November

Super League Gaming dishes out the third annual Galentine’s Games this month, as four female, female-identifying, and/or non-binary teams compete in a League of Legends invitational tournament with each team’s winnings set to support a women’s-focused charity they selected – Black Girls Code, Girls Who Code, Live Your Dream, California Breast Cancer Research Program. “Galentine’s Games started as a labor of love by treasured Super Leaguers and has now become an important component of our esports footprint,” said Ann Hand, Chief Executive Officer for Super League. “We are thrilled to be broadcasting the third annual tournament that is certain to provide quality, compelling gameplay for League of Legends fans everywhere, while also helping to shine a light on top female, female-identifying, and/or non-binary amateur players whose gameplay and personal stories deserve to be celebrated.”

Riot Games unveiled a partnership with META to serve as the exclusive provider for high school and university esports tournaments in Australia and New Zealand across Riot’s major PC titles League of Legends, VALORANT, Teamfight Tactics, and Legends of Runeterra. In partnership with Riot, META will operate and broadcast a tournament series for students within their school environments, and provide opportunities for students to challenge themselves and develop in local and national leagues. META leagues for each Riot title will culminate in a Grand Final to determine the best school teams in the Oceanic region.

ACTIVATION
100 Thieves cut a deal with Dollar Shave Club to serve as Founding Partner of the Los Angeles Thieves Call of Duty League team. As the founding sponsor, DSC will create the Dollar Shave Club LA Thieves Practice Facility at the 100 Thieves Cash App Compound and will also be featured on the LA Thieves Player kits for the 2021 Call of Duty League season. Additionally, DSC will be the presenting sponsor of two series focusing on the Call of Duty League – [02100], a docu-series featuring the LA Thieves team during their 2021 season and ‘Run it Up’, a commentary series hosted by former Call of Duty pro ‘Enable’. The brand will also show up throughout the year in other 100 Thieves’ original content, live streamed events, limited-edition items, and more.

Across the country, Andbox struck a deal with ASTRO Gaming, which will become the official audio partner of Andbox’s CDL franchise New York Subliners, Overwatch League franchise New York Excelsior as well as the organization’s VALORANT squad. The trio of teams will use ASTRO Gaming headsets during competitions, practice, and live streams along with its logo placed on the jerseys of New York Excelsior and Andbox teams.

XSET named HyperX as its official peripheral and memory partner in a partnership that will see HyperX exclusively outfit XSET’s esports roster and content creators with a lineup of products that include headsets, keyboards and mice, microphones and memory.

STREAM HATCHET TRENDS
This week, Stream Hatchet analyzed the growth of simulated racing viewership over the past six months. The genre has grown in popularity especially as a form of “sports” during the pandemic which halted most traditional events. From the comfort of their home, professional sim racers have been competing in large events as millions tuned in to watch. Games like iRacing and Assetto Corsa Competizione generated massive viewership north of 20M hours watched in 2020.

Simulated racing is in a position to further increase its live streaming market share while it’s trending. More events, sponsorships, drivers, and fans could lead the genre to even higher records in 2021. External factors like safety compared to actual racing, lower barriers to entry, and even sports betting could aid the genres growth.
· Since August, simulated racing total hours watched increased 94% month-over-month. January 2021 has been the most successful month with over 4.4M hours watched from all sim racing titles.
· Even as traditional sports have slowly been reintroduced during the pandemic, sim racing continues to climb higher. The interest generated from live streams appears to be sticky creating a prosperous community.
· Sim racing events have also helped the genre grow in popularity. The F1 Virtual Grand Prix #2 peaked at over 308K concurrent viewers in April of 2020.

For more live streaming data and insights, please visit www.streamhatchet.com/insights.

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PLATFORMS
Gaming and esports media network VENN laid out new programming on the docket. Content will include League of Legends esports talk show Facecheck with Christian ‘IWDominate’ Rivera and Nick ‘LS’ De Cesare tapped as talent, along with ‘Origin Stories’, an interview show hosted by OpTic Gaming Founder and CEO Hector ‘H3CZ’ Rodriguez. According to the network, more programming, content, and distribution deals are expected to be unveiled ‘over the coming months’.

The National Football League is teaming with Skillz to crowdsource a future mobile esport. As part of the agreement, the two organizations will host a global game developer challenge that will see competing developers have the opportunity to develop an NFL-themed mobile game. The game will be powered by the Skillz esports platform and will have joint marketing support from both the NFL and Skillz. The developer challenge will launch in the second quarter of 2021 and will be open to all genres except for 11 v 11 simulated games.

The*gameHERs, a media platform that connects, supports and empowers women in gaming, is partnering with Logitech to present the Dream Stream event series, which will highlight nominees and finalists from various award categories including Top Esports Player of the Year, Twitch Streamer of the Year, Cosplayer of the Year, and more, by inviting them to participate in the five-week streaming event that runs through Feb. 26. The stream will run each week from Monday to Friday featuring engaging content, giveaways, open conversations and more on the company’s Twitch channel.

TEAMS
Minnesota Røkkr parent company WISE Ventures Esports will now be known as Version1, while adding a VALORANT squad under its umbrella. “The timing is right to align our organizational initiatives under the Version1 brand,” said Brett Diamond, Chief Operating Officer at Version1. “With three competitive esports teams and plans ahead for continued growth and diversification of our content, we’ve reached an important milestone.”

Team Liquid inked a collaboration/original collection with Naruto Shippuden. The upcoming lifestyle apparel collection will showcase members of the Hidden Leaf village alongside Team Liquid iconography. Naruto, Sasuke, Sakura, Kakashi and more will be prominently featured across over a dozen select pieces, including a denim jacket, Jonin-inspired parka, cargo joggers, stylized hoodies and several short sleeve tees.

Danish esports outfit North is closing its doors, as Lars Bo Jeppesen, Chairman of North and Director of Parken Sport & Entertainment, made the announcement that investors were pulling out as a result of the pandemic.

READYUP GAMES OF THE WEEK
INDUSTRY

Multiple reports state that Riot Games is investigating allegations of gender discrimination and sexual harassment by company CEO, Nicolo Laurent, following a legal complaint. “Core to giving Rioters confidence in our commitment to culture transformation is taking all allegations of harassment or discrimination very seriously, thoroughly investigating claims and taking action against anyone who is found to have violated our policies,” the company said in a statement to media. “In this case, because some of the claims relate to an executive leader, a special committee of our Board of Directors is overseeing the investigation, which is being conducted by an outside law firm. Our CEO has pledged his full cooperation and support during this process, and we’re committed to ensuring that all claims are thoroughly explored and appropriately resolved.”

CSL Esports announced a collaboration with SeventySix Capital Sports Advisory to create and identify new business partnerships and sponsorship opportunities for the college esports league and its upcoming expansion into new educational-based programming. “We are excited to be collaborating with SeventySix Capital Sports Advisory to identify new partners that, like us, want to inspire and impact the lives of students through esports,” said Rob Johnson, CEO, CSL Esports. “SeventySix Capital Sports Advisory is the perfect partner as they are change-makers in the ever-evolving sports landscape, including esports.”

Creative company Gravity Road has launched a gaming, sponsorship and esports marketing practice that will primarily run out of its New York HQ. In addition, the company has, through holding company, brandtech group You & Mr Jones, made a strategic investment in gaming venture fund Griffin Gaming Partners (GGP), which provides Gravity Road with early strategic access at C-suite level to key partners across the global gaming ecosystem.

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