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03/25/21: Rick Fox goes HiDef; NHL gaming goes clubbing; Opening the books on collegiate esports



Medias First Morning Read

Thursday March 25, 2021

Good morning! This is your weekly Esports Brief. And a big thank you to everyone who participated at EBSU. It was a great event!
Former Echo Fox owner and NBA Champion Rick Fox is doubling down on the game industry, announcing his new video game company HiDef Inc. with co-founders Jace Hall and social impact expert Dr. David Washington. The group secured $7.5 million in a Series A round led by Wick Capital Partners and has now raised more than $9 million with the new funds allows HiDef to ramp up development of its flagship video game, described as “a genre-defining metaverse that places users of all ages at the creative center of its daily programming.” George Toulson from Wick Capital Partners will join HiDef’s Board of Directors.

“Our mission at HiDef is to make games that have a meaningful impact on people’s lives,” said CEO Anthony Castoro. “We know that for many, games are part of their lifestyle and culture. We create games as-a-service that are designed to allow people to creatively express themselves and connect with one another in ways no other form of entertainment can. We feel that we have a responsibility to make sure that what we build is not only fun and engaging, but also has a positive impact on communities across the globe.”

COMPETITION
The NHL iced in its plans for this year’s 2021 NHL Gaming World Championship, with registration opening tomorrow and $100,000 on the line. New this year will be a new Club Championship format played through Hockey Ultimate Team as contenders compete to become one of 32 finalists, who will play for the Club Championship from June 26-July 24.

The 2021 Southeast Asian Games revealed that esports will return to the event with a lineup that includes newcomers League of Legends and League of Legends: Wild Rift alongside Mobile Legends: Bang Bang from Nov. 21 to Dec. 2 in Hanoi, Vietnam. Additional titles will include PUBG Mobile and PUBG, Free Fire, FIFA Online 4, and Cross Fire.

Massive news for esports heavyweight EVO, which announced that Sony Interactive Entertainment LLC and RTS, a new venture born out of Endeavor’s esports business, acquired the assets and properties of the Evolution Championship Series, the world’s largest fighting game event. Through this new partnership, Evo is returning this year as Evo Online, a fully online competition running August 6-8 and 13 -15. Entry will be free, and players in North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America will be able to compete in BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment’s Tekken 7, Capcom’s Street Fighter V: Champion Edition, Warner Bros. Games’ Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate, and Arc System Works’ Guilty Gear -Strive- in an open format. As a result of the acquisition, Evo will be operated by the recently formed joint venture between SIE and RTS.

The Collegiate Sports Management Group detailed plans for the Collegiate Esports National Championship, an online event running April 29-May 2. In addition, The National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association Esports, the governing body for all 2-year esports institutions, will host their national championships during the CENC, and will bring an additional 24 teams to the 4-day event, while competition will narrow over 250 programs nationwide down to the top 48 schools who will take part. “CSMG has secured strategic partnerships with endemic and non-endemic brands as well as industry leaders in media and marketing, combined with the tremendous array of talented games competing against each other, CENC will be a festival-like atmosphere, which will redefine college esports for years to come,” stated Neil Malvone, EVP of Business Affairs and Strategic Partnerships at CSMG.

Geoff Keighley will host this year’s Esports Newfronts, as companies such as ESL, The Game Awards, Twitch, 100 Thieves, Super League Gaming, RekTGlobal, Belong/Vindex, Subnation, and GCN showcase the newest opportunities for partnerships. Brands are invited to attend this is a can’t miss event to reach the elusive demo! Request an exclusive invite to the Cynopsis Sports & Esports Newfront now.

Allied Esports teamed up with Xsens to bring live animated casters to a professional esports tournament production for the first time. Via the use of Xsen’s MVN motion capture systems, Allied Esports will transform tournament casters into animated characters. The exclusively designed live motion avatars will provide fans with an engaging viewing experience and create unique opportunities for brand and product integration. “As gaming and esports viewership continues to grow, we need to push the boundaries of competitive content to provide new and engaging viewing experiences or our audiences and partners,” said Jud Hannigan, CEO of Allied Esports. “We’re thrilled to make history again with the Legend Series and use Xsens’ innovative motion capture animation technology to create a first-of-its-kind broadcast experience in esports.” The three-day CS:GO Legend Series tournament will be produced out of Allied Esports’ AE Studios in Hamburg, Germany from April 10-12 and be live-streamed on Allied Exports’ North American and European Twitch channels.

Garena unveiled the Free Fire World Series 2021 Singapore, dangling a $2,000,000 prize pool and taking place in Singapore in May 2021. The inaugural Free Fire World Series 2019 Rio was watched by more than 2 million concurrent online viewers at its peak. This year’s event will see Play-ins begin on May 22 and the Finals on May 29 with 22 teams from across 14 regions competing for the title.

Electronic Arts revealed details for the premiere of EA SPORTS “FIFA Face-Off,” a new two-part live competition game show that pits celebrities, top EA SPORTS FIFA professionals and influencers, as well as four contestants from the EA SPORTS FIFA community. The series continues on March 26 at 12:30p on EA SPORTS’ FIFA Twitch and EA SPORTS YouTube channel. Competitors include Jason Sudeikis, Brendan Hunt, Trevor Noah, Becky G, and Nicky Jam. “Castro 1021” hosts the competitive gaming entertainment event.

Game Gym and Events DC are launching the Mid-Atlantic Esports Conference, hosting competitions and other esports programs for colleges and universities in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC. Twelve schools are planning to participate in the inaugural spring 2021 season, and competitions will begin this month for three different games: League of Legends, Rocket League, and Overwatch and will include: Catholic University of America, George Mason University, Hood College, Howard Community College, Marymount University, Mount Saint Mary’s University, Northern Virginia Community College, Old Dominion University, Randolph College, Randolph-Macon College, Shenandoah University and Virginia Commonwealth University.

Ferrari announced that the 2021 Ferrari Esports Series will launch in April. The 2021 tournament will use Kunos Simulazioni’s Assetto Corsa nd will feature four of Ferrari’s real-world vehicles. The Grand Finals winner gets the opportunity to become an official esport racing driver and join the Ferrari Driver Academy Esports Team at Ferrari HQ in Maranello.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was among the drivers competing in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series opener at the virtual Bristol Motor Speedway dirt track this week on FS1. The Bristol race marked the first of 10 Pro Invitational Series races in 2021. The first five — Bristol Motor Speedway on dirt, Talladega Superspeedway, Darlington Raceway, Circuit of the Americas and a track to be determined — will be televised on FS1. The second five will be broadcast by NBC Sports.

STREAM HATCHET TRENDS
This week, Stream Hatchet took a deep dive into collegiate esports. This sector of the industry is extremely fragmented but has ample opportunity to grow. The mass adoption within pop culture has made awareness easier for collegiate esports but there still exists some obstacles. Regarding viewership, the collegiate space saw incredible growth from 2018 to 2019. However, the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 caused major issues. Students weren’t on campuses, events were cancelled, and transitioning to online formats became challenging for leagues and tournament operators. All of this caused a 44% decline in hours watched last year. But how did viewership decline so much when total collegiate event streams increased 95%? The muffled word-of-mouth marketing on campuses in combination with an influx of streams across all platforms caused by the pandemic meant less awareness and more competition.

Moving forward, collegiate esports will likely return to its promising trend. Programs continue to create new paths for students looking to get involved, universities are trying to foster a community within the industry, brands are allocating more budget to esports; the list goes on.

For more information about collegiate esports data, download our State of Collegiate Esports report or visit www.streamhatchet.com/insights.

ACTIVATION
Video clip editing platform Fuze.tv inked a deal with Ubisoft to become an official sponsor of the Rainbow Six Siege North American League this year, beginning with this week’s Stage 1. The pair will launch a ‘Clips of the Week’ competition, allowing fans to submit clips to be featured in the league’s weekly live broadcast with each week’s top three featured clips awarded with prizes, including jerseys and in-game currency.

WePlay Esports forged a partnership with bookmaker 1xBet, which will now support all tournaments hosted by WePlay Esports throughout the year. The deal kicks in with the inaugural season of the WePlay Ultimate Fighting League, which will feature competitions in Mortal Kombat 11, SOULCALIBUR VI, and Tekken 7.

Meanwhile, Verizon is partnering with Twitch to serve as the founding sponsor for the HBCU Esports League. The HBCU Esports League was founded by Cxmmunity Gaming Co., an Atlanta-based nonprofit organization committed to increasing participation in minority esports and gaming and advocating for HBCU students in STEM careers. The partnership with Verizon aims to promote STEM careers for HBCU students and highlight future leaders in the HBCU community.

NBA 2K League team Magic Gaming added Zipchair Gaming as a new partner. As per the deal’s terms, the brand will help furnish Magic Gaming’s newly renovated studio in Orlando, FL. Zipchair Gaming chairs will also be into all of the team’s other facilities, including its gaming studio, content hub, offices and player housing.

Hot Pockets signed on as a partner for NRG, noting that “the cultural tie between Hot Pockets and gaming is undeniable, so partnering with a premier esports organization was a natural fit for us.”

CLG and Bud Light are launching a marketing alliance that names Bud Light an Official Partner of CLG. The partnership includes the new “Bud Light Streaming Studio” at the CLG Performance Center in Los Angeles. This permanent installation will serve as the backdrop for livestream content from members of CLG and other influencers. Bud Light will become the presenting partner for all CLG League of Legends LCS virtual viewing parties within the CLG dedicated fan Discord, where fans banter and discuss the day’s matches. Along with brand integration across all marketing assets, Bud Light will have the opportunity to promote their ecommerce and at-home delivery service.

Canadian esports organization Mirage Esport is donning a new deal with Under Armour ahead of the Rainbow Six Siege NAL season, with the long-term deal spanning all of the team’s players in all esports. The deal also features UA/Mirage branded items that will be for sale in Mirage’s online store.

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PLATFORMS
Bloomberg reports that Microsoft is in talks to acquire Discord for more than $10 billion, according to people familiar with the matter. The article states that Discord has been talking to potential buyers with Microsoft in the running, although no deal is imminent. Discord currently boasts more than 100 million monthly active users

DAZN is picking up WePlay’s new Ultimate Fighting League and will now carry the league across more than 200 countries and territories on its platform. Season 1 of the slate begins on March 25, held and broadcast from the WePlay Esports Arena Kyiv and showcasing competitions in Mortal Kombat 11, SOULCALIBUR VI, and Tekken 7. The deal with DAZN will span three Esports seasons, each of which will take place this year. “We’re excited about our partnership with WePlay, bringing a top tier gaming tournament to DAZN subscribers around the world. As Esports continues to see exponential growth globally, DAZN is well-placed to host this exciting form of entertainment with a footprint in 200+ countries and territories around the world,” said Joe Markowski, EVP at DAZN.

Enthusiast Gaming revealed a partnership with TikTok in a move that will see the platform leverage Enthusiast Gaming’s roster of esports communities. A slate of activations will take place across Enthusiast Gaming’s platform, including product and logo placement, promotional activity with influencers and social media, as well as content.

Elo Entertainment launched TrackLoL, a new website that provides analytics for League of Legends. It provides a range of data around the game, like live-match experience and prediction leaderboards. The website also features a proprietary rating system for ranking teams in each competitive region, live win probabilities that adjust with match progress, and a predictions leaderboard that lets fans compete against one another.

Kinguin has partnered with Plearn, a new community gaming platform where players can join events and compete in a variety of challenges to win prizes. The collaboration stems from Kinguin’s long-standing friendship with CS:GO pro Maikelele, who founded Plearn, and the desire to give back to the CS:GO community. Plearn will host weekly Kinguin-branded challenges, where top winners will be granted Kinguin gift card and a number of participants will receive Kinguin discount codes. The first event takes place Thursday, March 25 with Maikelele on hand to live stream challenges.

TEAMS
After laying claim to the crown at the first-ever VALORANT Masters event, the Sentinels announced plans to release limited edition NFTs. This marks the seventh championship that the organization has won in competitive VALORANT since the beginning of competition in April 2020.

Team Liquid is serving up a healthy helping of esports and poker with the launch of the Women in Esports Charity Poker Tournament on today and tomorrow, in partnership with Poker Powher. The tournaments are each winner-take-all, Texas Hold ‘Em style, with the prize pots going toward each winner’s charity of choice, beginning today at 6p with the advanced table. Participants include Nemo and missharvey from CLG, Kristen Salvatore and Izzy Mueller from Cloud9: Krista Hiner from ESG Law; Nicole LaPointe Jameson and Karen Busenlehner from Evil Geniuses, Tricia Sugita from FlyQuest: broadcast talent Jessica “ZombieGrub” Chernega; Brittani Johnson from G2 Esports;; Karen Hennessy-Coles from Immortals: Team Liquid’s Aerial Powers, Fasffy and Kelly Richard; as XSET’s Erin Ashley Simon.

Guild Esports, the global esports organization co-owned by David Beckham, unveiled plans for its first Super Stream Sunday – taking place on the March 28 on Twitch & YouTube. Super Stream Sunday marks Guild’s first online gaming festival and include singers Tom Grennan & Conor Maynard. They’re joined by the multi-talented Talia Mar, who will take part in the variety gaming segment of the show. An established singer, YouTuber & content creator, among other personalities and performers.

READYUP GAMES OF THE WEEK
INDUSTRY

The Electronic Sports League revealed the Player Council for the ESL Pro League, allowing ESL to acknowledge the opinions and evaluate decisions from the perspective of players and coaches, regarding the present and the future of ESL Pro League. The Player Council will consist of 12 members, who will represent each of the 12 participating teams in the competition. The group will meet four times a year.

Veloce, which operates multiple pro-esports teams, the largest racing media network in competitive gaming, and an electric off-road racing team in the Extreme E series, is slating a pre-IPO round of funding with an eye to invest further into its platform and leagues, according to reports, as well as its joint-venture esports teams, which include partnerships with McLaren, Alfa Romeo, and Mercedes.

Chicago’s Bronzeville community is poised for a high-profile esports venue as the City Council’s Zoning Committee gave final zoning approval to Surge, a $30 million esports and virtual reality arena, according to local reports. Developer Scott Greenberg will look to build “an immersive experience for up to 1,040 people, including game participants and spectators” for the 108,000 square foot arena.

ROSTER MOVES

Ryan Fitzpatrick has been named Senior Vice President of Strategy at Esports technology company Vindex. He joins from media company NCompass International, where served as Senior Vice President and Head of Gaming and Esports.

Frost Giant Studios welcomed James Anhalt, former StarCraft II Lead Engineer, as the studio’s Chief Architect. The new comes as the company raised an additional $5M investment that will be used to scale the development team to continue building a new RTS.

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SALES PLANNER
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