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11/10/22: Worlds 2022 shatters viewership record; FTX freefall might affect esports brands; Minecraft YouTuber joins NRG ownership group; Esports org LOUD launches Web3 platform


Medias First Morning Read
Thursday November 10, 2022

Good morning! It’s Thursday and this is your early morning Esports brief.

The 2022 League of Legends World Championship set a new record with 5.1 million concurrent viewers across all platforms, according to Esports Charts. The event became the second-highest in esports history in concurrent audience; the Free Fire World Series in 2021 holds the title with 5.4 million peak viewers.

That 5.1 million number might be dwarfed soon, however. Esports Charts does not include Chinese platforms, and the data from China revealed by League developer Riot Games, in partnership with Stream Hatchet, is often shocking. For example, in 2021, Esports Charts showed a max of 4 million concurrent viewers as Chinese squad EDward Gaming and South Korean team DWG KIA faced off in the championship, but Riot’s numbers including Chinese platforms put that total at more than 73.8 million.

The draw of another five-game final similar to 2021’s as well as Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, regarded as the best League player of all time, in the final might help Worlds 2022 reach similarly stunning totals. In a battle of South Korean powerhouses, DRX edged out Faker’s T1 squad 3-2 to win the Summoner’s Cup on Nov. 5 in San Francisco, California.

COMPETITION

Dota 2’s The International will return to Seattle after five years away from the U.S., according to a report from The Eports Observer. The tournament, which boasts the largest prize pool in all of esports, took place in Seattle from 2012-17; the most recent edition of the tournament took place in Singapore last month, with U.K. esports organization Tundra Esports winning the event. Fans and teams making the trip in 2023 will hope to see a bit more of a boon for their efforts: The International 11’s prize pool dipped to $18.9 million, the lowest it’s been since 2015, because of a change to the in-game crowdfunding developer Valve used to complement the event’s pot.

The Dallas Fuel took home the Overwatch League Grand Finals title after what’s been widely considered the best Overwatch playoff match in history. The Fuel took down the San Francisco Shock 4-3 on Nov. 4 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California. Dallas earned the $1 million that came with the title, and Fuel player Lee “Fearless” Eui-Seok earned MVP honors. The match drew nearly 400,000 peak viewers, according to Esports Charts, making it the most-watched Overwatch League final ever without Chinese viewership numbers. It is also the third-most-watched OWL match ever, with both of the others coming in the inaugural season of the league in 2018.

Esports platform Realm has partnered with EA to bring a $150,000 competition to Apex Legends. The Europe, Middle East and Africa region will be the first to get their shot at the Realm event, which launches Nov. 15, and North America is scheduled to receive Realm access in February 2023. Realm hopes to provide semi-pro players and other high-level competitors who aren’t part of the highest echelon of Apex Legends to benefit from the battle royale’s competitive experience. The platform will provide player ratings that are then used to seed ranked divisions that will each have their own tournaments and prize pools, Realm said in a statement.

REX/VP PRESENTS

REV/XP Senior Vice President Chris Mann is joined by Julia Seaton, Director of Client Services at rEvolution, to discuss working with game publishers and top brands in activating premier gaming partnerships in North America.

STREAMHATCHET
Stream Hatchet has released their Video Game Live Streaming Trends Q3 2022 Report, which contains actionable insights for the video game and esports streaming industry.

Live streaming as a whole is down about 13% from Q3 last year, to just under 8 billion hours watched. However, this number is still higher than Q3 2020 and is almost double pre-pandemic levels, indicating the lasting impact of live streaming. While fewer creators are streaming (about 1.8M fewer than Q3 2021), they are streaming for longer; the total hours broadcast increased 7.5% from Q3 ’21 to Q3 ’22.

While growth in the broader streaming market has slowed, esports continues to expand audiences at a significant rate; Q3 2022 clocked a 40% increase in hours watched compared to Q3 of last year. Twitch is still the premiere place to watch esports, capturing 66% of the market (on par from last year). Disruptor platforms like Afreeca and Steam continue to gain traction in the esports category and amassed a total of 3% of the market, up from less than 1% this time last year.

It remains challenging for new video game titles to crack into the top of the live streaming charts. GTA V and League of Legends have maintained their No. 1 and No. 2 spots since Q1 of 2021. Many of the top games also rely on esports viewership to keep their top streaming presence; only 2 of the top 10 games don’t have a competitive esports scene (GTA V and Minecraft).

For more insights, download Stream Hatchet’s Q3 Streaming Trends Report for free here.

SPONSORSHIP & ACTIVATION

Former TSM variety streamer and creator of the Streamer Awards QTCinderella signed with Misfits to make use of the org’s $20 million Creator Fund for planning and executing more streamer-centric events. The content creator, who boasts more than 800,000 followers on Twitch and more than 438K on Twitter, has put together streaming activations such as Girls Trip, an all-women’s real-life stream event scheduled to take place over two days with some of the most popular women in streaming attending.

Esports organization Fnatic and BMW are partnering to create the Vision Mouse, a competitive gaming-focused peripheral custom-made via 3D printing for Fnatic’s League of Legends team. Each Vision Mouse, tailor-made for each player on Fnatic, takes around 36 hours to produce, according to the team. The shell of each mouse is unique to the player, Fnatic said, with player input in the initial stages and the assistance of BMW Designworks in the SLS 3D printing process. “On average, a pro-gamer will spend up to 70 hours a week practicing or taking part in competitive matches,” Fnatic said on the partnership website. “Highly bespoke accessories will allow players to compete better, for longer, with a reduced risk of hand injury.”

Fnatic also announced the launch of a music label and released the label’s first album Wednesday. The album, titled “Lofi Beats To Chill And Game To,” features 40 artists and runs 77 minutes. The organization spent less than $3,000 on creation of the mix because the artists involved will get 60% of the revenue from the release, according to a report from Dexerto. “I didn’t really care about the revenue at all,” Fnatic head of marketing Joshua Brill told the publication. “This was much more of a brand play, so I didn’t mind giving them what is the best deal that most of these artists get.”

League of Legends world champion DRX will partner with Wemade to “navigate new markets and business opportunities,” the organizations announced Wednesday. Wemade, a South Korean video game and blockchain developer, and DRX will leverage the partnership to “create a new digital economy in the sports field,” Wemade CEO Henry Chang said in a statement.

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IT’S ALIVE!: YouGov Living Data Insights
What interests the American esports fan?

American esports followers are twice as likely as the national population to express an interest in computers and technology. They’re also significantly likelier to indicate an interest in sports and personal finance. Taking note of these areas of interest could help marketers profile esports fans more meaningfully.

TEAMS

Christopher “PapaSmithy” Smith is reportedly set to leave 100 Thieves and join FlyQuest as the organization’s president and Chief Gaming Officer. PapaSmithy, a former caster for League Champions Korea who transitioned into a general manager role for 100 Thieves in late 2019, will head to the front office of an organization that has been in the middle of the pack in North America since its 2020 appearance at the League of Legends World Championship. It’s unclear as of now whether PapaSmithy’s duties will extend beyond League of Legends management.

XSET co-founder Marco Mereu announced Nov. 4 that he had left the organization in August. The announcement confirmed a change in the guard at XSET hinted at by promotions at the XSET executive level that filled Mereu’s position but didn’t address his employment with the org. “A little over two years after co-founding one of the fastest growing organizations in esports I am proud of the work we did and the success of our many talented esports teams and creators who make the brand so special,” Mereu said in a statement. “XSET was a labor of love and I wish them the best in the future.”

NRG Esports has added Minecraft YouTuber Nicholas “Sapnap” Armstrong to its ownership group. Sapnap boasts 4.67 million subscribers on YouTube and has 115.8 million lifetime views on the platform since launching his channel in 2019. Sapnap is also a VALORANT fan, which is an added benefit for NRG as the org aims to boost its footprint in the VALORANT Champions Tour in 2023. “Sap is obviously a giant creator, but [he’s] also legitimately obsessed with VALORANT,” NRG CEO Andy Miller told The Esports Observer. “He will help drive our VALORANT content as well as be NRG’s VCT team’s biggest fan.”

One of the best American League of Legends players of all time might return to pro play after a hiatus from competitive League. Former star AD carry Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng reportedly plans to return to the League Championship Series in the hopes of forming another super team that can give the LCS a shot at success internationally. League content creator Travis Gafford, who is personally close to Doublelift, said the former pro is considering joining 100 Thieves if the organization can help him build the roster he wants around him for another run at the League of Legends World Championship.

PLATFORMS & WEB3

Brazilian esports organization LOUD has released a beta version of a Web3 platform dedicated to its fans. The platform, known as LOUD Club, gamifies fandom by providing giveaways and fan benefits such as VIP access to events for interaction with content by LOUD’s creators and its sponsors. “Our primary focus right now is not to monetize, but rather to create the best platform for us to engage with our audience,” LOUD co-founder Jean Ortega told Esports Insider. “The rewards are only an incentive and so long as there is value for fans. There will be plenty of opportunities for digital offerings or monetisation later on.”

Developer Theia Studios announced it’s received $2.4 million in funding to make a Web3 platform for modding turn-based strategy games. The initiative will first focus on the studio’s flagship title, Icons of Theia, and aim to produce decentralized access to map editors, assets, scripts and ways to create competitive environments in-game, according to a statement from the company. This sandbox will then be shared between creators to encourage expansion of the game’s offerings and provide financial incentive to designers. “The most popular game genres in the world – MOBAs, Battle Royales, Auto Chess – started out as mods,” Dylan Sena, Theia Studios’ CEO, said in a statement. “But all these amazing mod creators received zero financial attribution for their work. Our creator tools will enable freedom and creativity in the strategy genre, leveraging the blockchain to finally give creators the financial credit they deserve.”

Cryptocurrency exchange Binance backing out of its acquisition of competitor FTX might have some esports ramifications for the League Championship Series and TSM, both of which have sponsorship agreements with FTX. Binance’s deal would have bailed out FTX amid an ongoing crypto crunch that saw the currency exchange giant spiral due to nearly $6 million in withdrawal requests from Sunday to Tuesday alone. TSM signed a 10-year, $210 million naming rights deal with FTX in June 2021 that led to the org’s shift to TSM FTX in its most popular titles, while the LCS later signed a seven-year sponsorship deal with FTX that made it the “official cryptocurrency exchange of the LCS.” That deal also added the FTX brand to in-match activations and let FTX sponsor the league’s Most-Improved Player honor.

READYUP WHAT TO WATCH

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