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06/25/20: Microsoft pulls plug on Mixer; DreamHack uploads programs; Gaming gets week of reckoning



Medias First Morning Read

Thursday June 25, 2020

Good morning! This is your weekly Esports Brief. Please note that we will be dark next week for the holiday period.
It is the end of the line for Mixer, with Microsoft closing the door on its streaming platform next month, which hosted personalities such as Ninja and Shroud. Instead, Mixer executives announced Monday that Microsoft will now partner with Facebook Gaming. “The success of Partners and streamers on Mixer is dependent on our ability to scale the platform for them as quickly and broadly as possible,” Mixer said in a blog post. “It became clear that the time needed to grow our own livestreaming community to scale was out of measure with the vision and experiences that Microsoft and Xbox want to deliver for gamers now, so we’ve decided to close the operations side of Mixer and help the community transition to a new platform.” Facebook Gaming will assume the rights to the Mixer trademarks and associated domain names, but Microsoft will retain the intellectual property rights to the Mixer technology.

COMPETITION
DreamHack is launching six new, original programs online that will all debut this month: DreamHack Tonight (June 28), DreamHack Plays (June 25), DreamHack Download (June 24), Bonus Round (June 30), Community Clash (June 26), and DreamHack Quiz (June 24). New programs will offer fans up to six days of DreamHack content each week throughout the summer. Among talent announcements, co-hosts Alex Jebailey and Justin Burnham serve as the faces of Dreamhack Tonight in six hour-long episodes. DreamHack team members Reinessa, Kyle Konsmo, Blaine Biehle, Justin Varghese, and surprise guests host DreamHack Download. DreamHack staff members, including Aaron Linde and Steve Sampson, will oversee DreamHack Plays.

Electronic Arts and LaLiga locked in a long-term partnership for EA SPORTS FIFA players for the next 10 years. Under the partnership renewal, EA SPORTS will remain the exclusive Official Video Games Partner of LaLiga while the two organizations will expand their efforts to grow fandom and esports participation through LaLiga’s official esports competition, eLaLiga Santander. “Our vision is to grow the love of sport through our games and services, and with strategic partnerships with iconic organizations like LaLiga, we’re uniquely positioned to deliver unrivaled authenticity and innovation in the years to come,” said Cam Weber, Executive Vice President & Group GM, EA SPORTS. “Our joint commitment will enable both immediate impacts for the next EA SPORTS FIFA experience, and long-term opportunities to continue to strengthen LaLiga fan engagement over the next decade.”

On the college scene, FACEIT is jumping into competitive collegiate contests for its North American operations that will be run by Duran Parsi, founder of Collegiate Starleague, “The new division at FACEIT will aim to further develop the collegiate gaming ecosystem by designing and executing on open, fair and rewarding programs that can engage with many collegiate players,” Parsi said in a release.

The Big 12 Conference and Learfield IMG College are launching of an esports tournament for all 10 member schools. The online-only event marks a first-of-its-kind for the Conference and “provides advertisers elevated sponsorship opportunities within a university-branded esports platform by Mainline.” Running July 13-16, each Big 12 member school will play host to a single-elimination qualifying tournament featuring Madden NFL 20. One winner representing each member institution will advance to the Big 12 Conference Championship tournament July 18-19. Big 12 Now on ESPN+ will carry the finals of each school tournament, as well as games from the Big 12 Championship rounds. Bill Pollock, the host of Big 12 This Week, the Conference’s syndicated weekly radio show, will call the action.

DreamHack is launching a new tournament series featuring Fortnite. The series — entitled DreamHack Open Featuring Fortnite will begin in July and consist of monthly online tournaments for the EU, NA East, and NA West Fortnite servers through all of 2020, and will be broadcast live on Twitch. A total of $1.75 million USD will be awarded in 2020, with a prize pool of $250,000 will be up for grabs every month.

T1 Entertainment & Sports and Nerd Street Gamers announced the T1 x Nerd Street Gamers Valorant Showdown, the first North American event in Riot’s VALORANT Ignition Series that runs June 26-28. Nerd Street Gamers is powering the event and partnering with T1 on the production, which will feature world-renowned players, streamers, and influencers, as well as special programming elements such as exclusive interviews with Riot and T1 personnel. “It is incredibly exciting to see publishers like Riot Games embrace the amateur community by empowering Nerd Street Gamers and T1 to host tangible path to pro events like our upcoming qualifiers,” said John Fazio, founder and CEO of Nerd Street Gamers. “Riot has acted on their commitment to support the competitive gaming scene, and we are looking forward to supporting both pros and amateurs for the Ignition Series in North America.”

The Summoners War World Arena Championship 2020 is locked in to take place online this year, with play spanning a three month period from August to the World Finals in November 2020 across three regions: Americas, Europe, and Asia-Pacific. The top eight players from each region in the preliminaries will move to the regional finals.

The ESL Mobile Open season five finals will run July 11-13, played online due to the pandemic. This year’s Mobile Open showcases Asphalt 9: Legends, Clash of Clans, PUBG Mobile, and Auto Chess. Teams and players from across North America competed in several rounds of qualifiers and a playoff to reach the finals.

eMLS announced that its 2020 champion will finally be crowned via the eMLS Cup event taking place on June 28, with Coca-Cola and PlayStation on-board as the presenting sponsors. The eMLS Cup was initially set to take place at the South by Southwest festival in Austin in March.

Formula 1 revealed that the F1 Esports – Virtual Grand Prix series, notched 30 million views across TV and digital platforms during the lockdown period, which spanned eight Virtual Grands Prix, Pro Exhibition races and #Challenge events. The Virtual Grand Prix races alone reached 21.8 million views on digital platforms alone, including the official Formula 1 YouTube, Twitch and Facebook channels as well as Weibo and Huya channels in China.

ASA Entertainment announced today that the Super Girl Gamer Pro will return for its fourth year as a celebration of women in gaming. The series will run for 10 weeks beginning with weekly online qualifier tournaments from July 10 – September 6 as a lead-up to the Super Girl Gamer Pro Championships, which will be held October 3-4 in conjunction with the Super Girl Pro Festival in Oceanside, CA. The Super Girl Gamer Pro will host open tournaments in: League of Legends, Hearthstone, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

ACTIVATION
Activision Blizzard Esports tapped Excel Sports Management to bolster its sponsorship sales efforts for the Overwatch League and Call of Duty League. Excel will work with the partnerships group at Activision Blizzard Esports, pairing the sports agency with the developer and publisher. Excel will leverage extensive sales experience across the traditional sports space to forge commercial partnerships that introduce new categories to the leagues, both endemic and non-endemic, and pinpoint partners eager to embrace the crossover between major sports leagues and esports.

Twitch announced a deal with Anheuser Busch that makes Bud Light the newest official partner of Twitch Rivals. Activation included the debut of Game Over with Bud Light, the Twitch Rivals Afterparty.

The Gaming Stadium tapped five-time NHL All-Star and Dallas Stars Center Tyler Seguin to represent the company at upcoming gaming events and take part in strategic growth planning as a new Global Brand Ambassador. The deal marks the second time in recent weeks that The Gaming Stadium has announced relationships with major hockey stars. Last week, NHLPA-certified agent John Walters joined the company’s strategic advisory board.

DreamHack is partnering with Currys PC World, the UK’s largest electrical retailer, for a partnership for the 2020 UK League of Legends Championship (UKLC). “We are grateful for the support of Currys PC World,” said DreamHack Co-CEO Roger Lodewick. “The UKLC season has been off to a great start this week, and we know this sponsorship will help DreamHack continue to offer an exceptional experience for our fans, teams, organizers and partners.”

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STREAM HATCHET TRENDS
On Monday, Microsoft’s Mixer announced that it would be discontinuing support for the platform acquired in 2016. While Mixer has invested heavily in acquiring leading influencers like Ninja and Shroud, the platform’s audience growth has remained largely static year over year. This week, Stream Hatchet analyzes the growth of Mixer compared to the big three (Twitch, YouTube, Facebook):
· Mixer has only moved 2%: From May ’19 to May ’20, Mixer’s total hours watched has only increased by 800k. Comparatively, Facebook has grown by 228M hours, a 345% increase year over year.
· Compared to industry leaders: While Mixer has only represented a percentage point of the May 2020 game streaming market share (1.6%), Facebook Gaming (11%) and YouTube Live (21%) have gained significant chunks in comparison to Twitch (66%).
For more data to enhance decision making around sponsorship, influencer marketing, and esports measurement, visit us at StreamHatchet.com.

PLATFORMS


A profound week in the gaming community saw more than 100 individuals reveal allegations of sexism, harassment, assault and more while working in the industry, and prompted multiple organizations to drop relationships with streamers, casters, personalities and executives as details were revealed. In addition, a bevy of names called for a Twitch blackout to take place yesterday, asking streamers to stay off Twitch, which some of the names leveraged in the allegations, for 24 hours, stating that the platform had been complicit in the predatory practices. Meanwhile, Twitch CEO Emmett Shear shared an email he sent internally to the company on the topic, writing that Twitch was “looking into all the incidents and will be cooperating with law enforcement” and going on to say that “We support people coming forward, commend their bravery in doing so, and know there are many others who have not…The gaming industry is not unlike others that have had to reckon with systemic sexism, racism, and abuse that rewards certain people and disadvantages — even harms — others. The status quo needs to change.”

Separately, Twitch announced that it would be pulling the plug on TwitchCon San Diego this September due to restrictions and safety concerns from the COVID-19 pandemic. The company suggested that if would be “exploring wats that it could join forces in an alternate dimension later this year.”

Dash Radio and the Nothin’ But Net channel entered into a multiyear collaborative relationship with the NBA 2K League to launch the first digital radio livestream of NBA 2K League games stating June 30. The 24/7 basketball?focused NBN channel will provide live coverage of NBA 2K League games, tournaments and playoffs, a one-hour show every Wednesday and Thursday hosted by Aaron Groshong entitled, The NBA 2K League Show, as well as live postgame shows hosted by Groshong and Kevin Draves entitled, NBA 2K League Show GGs. Both shows will feature interviews with players, league personnel and other league personalities.

MAVTV Motorsports Network is teaming with Motorsport Games to bring the highly popular eNASCAR Heat Pro League. All of the 12 eNHPL rounds will enjoy 90-minute race highlight shows on MAVTV throughout June, July, and August, eNHPL specials on MAVTV will feature additional commentary and competitor interviews highlighting the best in-race moments. Live coverage of eNHPL events will continue on eNASCAR.com and Motorsport.tv.

DreamHack and ESL announced a three-year media deal with Hungarian esports outlet, Esport1, extending tied for another three years, lasting until March 2023. Within the framework of the mutual agreement, Esport1 has acquired the rights to distribute, promote and broadcast the licensed content of all ESL Pro Tour stops for Counter Strike: Global Offensive via their channels.

TEAMS
Meal replacement startup brand CTRL announced that FaZe Clan has taken an ownership stake in the company. The deal marks the first time that FaZe Clan is taking a co-owner position with another brand. “This deal represents the next step in the evolution of esports,” said Sundance DiGiovanni, co-founder of CTRL and Major League Gaming. “A few years ago, nobody believed that esports was ready for prime time. Now, it’s a major force in both culture and business.” As part of its ownership, FaZe Clan will leverage its marketing skills to grow the brand globally. In the future, CTRL will collaborate with FaZe Clan on new flavors for its meal replacement shakes.

LIFESTYLE & LICENSING
Esports org Fnatic and Gucci are teaming up for an apparel drop taking place on June 25. A teaser for the Gucci X Fnatic collaboration was posted on Twitter. Meanwhile, Champion will also be revealing a collaboration on July 27.

Complexity Gaming announced a partnership with sportswear brand We Are Nations to launch The Lab. The duo will help to “enhance the pre-game, in-game, and post-game performance of professional esports athletes and casual gamers across the entire gaming industry.” Through direct access to Complexity players and controlled testing environments within Complexity’s headquarters, the GameStop Performance Center (GSPC), the two organizations will measure the impact that new training materials, like haptic technology, have on cognitive and physical performance. The Lab will leverage learnings to develop new products, equipment, and materials. In addition to The Lab, We Are Nations will also launch an esportswear line for Complexity players, streamers, and fans. The new product line will include jerseys, hoodies, shirts, joggers, hats, and more, and will feature various drops throughout the year, including Complexity Gaming, Complexity-Limit, individual influencer lines, and a branded capsule collection.

Manchester City unveiled a new limited-edition product collaboration with FaZe Clan in addition to extending their partnership into a second year. Nuria Tarre, chief marketing officer at City Football Group, said: “Manchester City’s partnership with FaZe Clan has strengthened our extensive esports offering and allowed us to further explore how fans are experiencing football beyond the pitch. Fans have embraced this partnership as it has allowed them to combine their passions for football and gaming in ways that have never been seen before in football.”

ROSTER MOVES

ESL named former ProSiebenSat.1 executive Stefan Beitz as its new chief financial officer. Beitz replaces Arne Anders in the role at the league.

OG Esports tapped JMR Luna as CEO of the organization. The former Immortals and Evil Geniuses executive will now work with OG founder and Dota 2 team captain Johan “N0tail” Sundstein, co-owner Xavier Oswald and COO Charlie Debs.

Former Abrams Artists Agency talent agent Amber Howard was named Head of Talent at TalentX Gaming, a talent management company for gaming and esports athletes and streamers. As leader of TalentX Gaming’s Talent division, Howard will serve as a driving force in attracting and growing a diverse, A-list roster of esports athletes and gaming influencers, creators and streamers, helping to develop talent and take their careers to new heights.

POWER PLAYERS – Beasley Esports COO Lori Burgess

It was just seven months ago when Beasley Media Group announced its acquisition of the Houston Outlaws to broaden the company’s reach and deepen roots within the esports community. The move marked Beasley’s third move within the industry that included investments in the Renegades, as well as its content plays in CheckpointXP. Cynopsis asked Beasley Esports COO Lori Burgess and Beasley’s vision for esports and the opportunities it opens for partnerships and brands.

Burgess on Beasley increasing its role in esports: Simply put—it was time to diversify our business. At the core of it all, Beasley Media Group has been a content and advertising company for the past 60 years—and that mission continues to drive us. And given our position as the 4th largest radio operator in the US, we are very comfortable in the sports and entertainment space—with our sports and music stations. But as is the case with Traditional Media, Radio (as a terrestrial, streaming and digital entity) has its strongest audience base with the 35+ demo. As we look to the future and consider how to fuel our company relevancy and ability to advance our brands forward, we must also have our eyes on next-gen consumers—Gen Y & Z, that are wired differently. Their wants, desires, priorities, attitudes, goals and what matters most to them is all different—and their entertainment and media preferences symbolize this best. They were born into a digital world, and have not become the heavy TV viewers, Radio listeners and traditional sports enthusiasts as have previous generations. Instead, they choose to be incredibly mobile, tend to think global and prioritize video games and Esports as their top form of entertainment (and socialization).

On lessons learned:
· Esports still requires an Education: While esports is booming, marketers still require a tremendous amount of education about the industry. Many of them do not possess deep knowledge of the industry nor have the ability/confidence to sell-in the idea of an esports sponsorships to their CMO’s/CEO’s. As the industry matures, embraces more verification metrics and proof-of- concepts and recognizes the value in targeting Gen Y & Z consumers, this will change.
· Focus on a Game: Gamers like specific games and they are less interested in following the entire world of esports. Someone may love football and follow the Eagles or Patriots. But that love of the game doesn’t necessarily translate to other sports—like swimming, golf, baseball. And the same is true in esports—it’s a word that encompasses many games, leagues, players and competitions. Having a “love for the game” really applies here. If you love Overwatch and their teams, it doesn’t mean you will play or follow NBA2K teams. Each game attracts a different audience and marketers have the opportunity to align with the games, leagues and/or teams that are right for their brands—just like they have done with traditional sports sponsorships.
· This is a Marathon—not a Sprint: Esports represents the future and presents all of us with an opportunity to connect with younger consumers. There is most definitely a media shift in play here as we see evidence of more companies getting into the space; from traditional sports team owners and pro players, to media companies like Beasley Media Group and Comcast, to companies building the platforms (like Twitch, YouTube, Discord), league and tournament hosts like World Gaming Network and Collegiate Star League, and software partners like Reely.Ai or Maestro— all trying to improve the gamer experience and contribute to the growth of many games’ massive fanbases. It feels like an evolution in the media space—where a new form of entertainment has emerged and is taking over the world. But…we can’t forget “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

On the pandemic’s affect on the industry: Without question, the pandemic has brought global attention to esports. Let’s face it, since social distancing began, esports has become the dominating LIVE competitive sport being played. Gamers have still been able to stream. Amateur, Semi-Pro and Elite-level pro team athletes (like the Outlaws) have still been able to compete, virtually, as in the case of the Overwatch League and Call of Duty League, where city vs city match play is still continuing online while viewers around the world continue to tune-in LIVE on YouTube.

And while traditional media has been hit hard by advertising cuts during COVID-19, we have seen a large number of new brands jump into the Esports space, aligning with teams, leagues, and tournament play. Some of the big ones that come to mind are Samsung (who recently sponsored the Houston Outlaws and Dallas Fuel), Xfinity, Verizon, State Farm, BMW, Subaru, Zenni Optical, Zaxby’s, NRG and Steel Series. The list is building as more brands begin to prioritize esports audiences and demonstrate the viability of this increasingly popular segment of the sports entertainment industry.

On courting non-endemics: Esports is on a fantastic growth trajectory. I’m excited to see other traditional business executives like me joining the industry—especially those from traditional sports and media. They bring business expertise, a fluency in working with data, a respect for ROI and a marketing savvy that will help all of us transform esports into a highly successful business poised to thrive for many decades to come. Many of us are used to creating compelling marketing solutions and integrations for our clients. But we’ve also been held accountable to deliver results, ROI, KPI’s—demonstrating that an investment in our media works. At the end of the day, marketers are looking to us to help them sell their brands, their products and services. And we need to embrace that in esports—leveraging the expertise we have about the industry, our content creators and influence of our players and teams— by introducing new, exciting and compelling brands to our audiences and fans.

The esports industry has gone from being a niche segment of the sports entertainment industry to its main attraction. Now we have the opportunity to demonstrate to brands that we can bring far greater attention to their products and help drive purchase intent.

On Beasley’s pitch to potential partners: Targeting the right potential partners is the key to driving sponsorships. We continue to refine our prospecting process so that we can focus on accounts that we believe hold the greatest potential for us. Our eye is largely on the traditional sports teams sponsors. These teams historically built their fanbases with the 18-54 demo but are now losing that foothold on this younger segment for TV viewership and potential tickets sales. There’s no denying that the 18-34 demo represents a hotbed of opportunity for marketers—and the importance of this demo (given it’s sheer size slated to be larger than that of the Baby Boomer generation) will be increasingly important in the years ahead as this group gains its financial footing. It’s this specific audience (and those even younger) that Esports is attracting and will continue to do so as more kids grow up with video games as their favorite form of entertainment.

INDUSTRY

The Pokémon Company is teaming with Tencent for a new take on the long-running game in Pokémon Unite. Presented MOBA-style with five-on-five team battles, the game will see players cooperate with teammates to catch wild Pokémon, level up and evolve their own Pokémon. They will need to defeat their opponents’ Pokémon while trying to earn more points than the opposing team within the allotted time. Pokémon UNITE will be free-to-start.

Speaking of MOBAs, SMITE announced a new partnership with Nickelodeon to bring characters from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra to its upcoming Battle Pass, which will debut in July.

Rivals HQ, an incubator and accelerator studio purpose-built for new gaming and esports ventures, launched a new virtual accelerator program: Rivals HQ Anywhere. The initiative will look to provide new ventures in gaming and esports with business growth and maturity services, regardless of geography, offering “a studio-style approach” with services uncommon in other programs, such as content creation and brand/marketing development. “We’re eager to welcome new members at our facility in Huntington Beach. We also know that there are some killer early stage companies far away from Southern California, great matches for our virtual solution,” said Jon “JB” Bukosky. Bukosky, one of Rivals HQ’s founders and senior advisors.

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