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12/03/20: VALORANT locks in on Verizon; T1 & Red Bull dance; Microsoft picks up Smash.gg


Medias First Morning Read Thursday December 3, 2020 Good morning! This is your weekly Esports Brief. Riot Games’ First Strike, the first VALORANT tournament produced by the publisher, will see Verizon take part in the event as the Official 5G Wireless and Network Service Partner. The event runs through Dec. 6 with broadcasts available for viewing on Twitch.tv and other digital platforms. Meanwhile, Twitch personalities Tyler “Ninja” Bevins and Ali “Myth” Kabbani were named as co-streamer, according to reports, for the Valorant: First Strike NA Tournament.

Last week saw Riot Games open the doors to the VALORANT Champions Tour, a season-long competition tour set to take place throughout 2021 with competitions in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. The series will then crown a single global Champion at the end of the year. It will feature three levels of competition: Challengers, Masters, and Champions with the final stage set to feature the top sixteen teams in the world before crowning a single global champion.

“The Champions Tour is our next step to grow VALORANT into a global esport worthy of the passion of our fans,” said Whalen Rozelle, Senior Director of Esports at Riot Games. “We’ve spent a couple of years now talking to players, teams, fans, prospective partners, and other stakeholders, and we’re extremely excited to launch our first official season. Our focus will be on elevating and showcasing the creative and talented players who are shaping this game across the globe. Fans and players both wanted high stakes competition, and that’s what the VALORANT Champions Tour is designed to do.” COMPETITION The Wuhan government has reportedly announced that that city will host the League of Legends World Championship Grand Finals, according to GinxTV. The government also announced a $1 billion investment plan to cultivate and expand esports infrastructure in the region.

Ubisoft revealed plans for Rainbow Six Siege esports, impacted by the pandemic, including shifting the 2020 Regional Finals to January 2021 in some regions. In Europe, the Regional Finals will now run Jan. 15-17. Asia’s Regional Finals will be split between three regions (North Division, Oceania, and South Asia), with the tournaments set for January 8-10. Details also reveal that the Six Invitational 2021 will still take place with plans to feature 20 teams to compete offline, following strict sanitary procedures. The Rainbow Six World Cup will no longer take place in 2021, and is being postponed until at least 2022.

The Premier League and Electronic Arts are launching the third season of ePremier League with representatives for all 20 clubs will competing. Over the last two seasons, the finals reached more than 22 million fans. Premier League Commercial Director Will Brass said: “The EA SPORTS FIFA video game series is one of the key channels through which fans all over the world can engage with Premier League clubs and players. We are looking forward to another edition of ePremier League after the first two seasons delivered some thrilling entertainment while giving UK-based fans the chance to represent their teams in high-profile competition,” according to reports.

The NBA 2K League unveiled the league’s first-ever “NBA 2K League Winter Cla$h,” a three-part online tournament beginning Friday, and featuring NBA G League Ignite players, social media influencers and fan-organized teams, competing alongside and against NBA 2K The NBA 2K League Winter Cla$h will be livestreamed on the NBA 2K League’s Twitch and YouTube channels. “Coming off our most-watched season to date, we’re excited to continue our positive momentum by engaging with NBA G League Ignite players, fans and influencers through offseason events like the NBA 2K League Winter Cla$h,” said NBA 2K League Managing Director Brendan Donohue. “This unique event will bring together some of the most recognizable personalities from the NBA 2K League, the 2K community and beyond to showcase their skills in a variety of game modes on NBA 2K21.”

The Overwatch League tipped its hand on new plans for the 2021 season, with OWL VP Jon Spector releasing a video to update fans. Competition will now be in Spring instead of January or February to give OWL officials and teams “a little bit more of an opportunity to deal with all of the logistics and be ready to hit 2021 running when the season begins.” In addition, the 2021 OWL season will be built around a tournament format, likely in a dual-region format.

PUBG Corporation laid out its 2021 PUBG MOBILE esports slate, with a total prize pool of $14 million. Competition will see seven new PUBG MOBILE Pro League regions in CIS, Turkey, Western Europe, Arabia, North America, Latin America, and Brazil with the year split into two seasons that will conclude with the PUBG MOBILE Global Championship at the end of 2021.

Meanwhile, lotsa college news this week. The AVGL and Barnes & Noble College report that their collegiate esports event, titled Autumn Anarchy, notched 1,403 registered players, 160 partner schools, and over 11.9MM aggregate Twitch followers of our participating influencers for the event. Competition tarted with collegiate Fortnite qualifiers and championship Oct 24-25.

Students from 20 Historically Black Colleges and Universities will compete in NBA2K21 and NFL Madden esports tournaments as part of the inaugural ‘HBCU Esports Homecoming Classic on Saturday at 4p at twitch.tv/hbcuesportsyard. This event, the first initiative from The Yard: HBCU Esports Alliance/HEA and CSL Esports partnership supporting HBCU schools and students, also features a halftime show that will highlight HBCU culture and lifestyle, including live performances by hip-hop and gaming legend Soulja Boy and hosted by radio/tv personality “Fly Guy” DC. Twitch and Zaxby’s are the presenting partners for the Classic with Twitch serving as the Exclusive Live Streaming Music Partner.

Learfield IMG College cemented partnerships with Esports Engine, Mainline, and Endeavor for the company’s Level Next collegiate esports league. In cooperation with EA and Endeavor, Esports Engine will serve as the org’s broadcast and production partner while Mainline will become the competition’s official esports tournament operator.

Esports programs at the University of California, Irvine, UCLA and UC Berkeley are partnering to pilot a UC Esports Initiative that will kick off with a holiday tournament for all nine UC undergraduate campuses. Organizers planned the inaugural competition as a way to elevate esports across the UC system and boost student engagement at a time when instruction is mostly remote, running Dec. 19-22 and encompass League of Legends, Overwatch, Valorant and community events. Xfinity will serve as the title sponsor of the initiative, while CORSAIR will be the official peripheral partner, and MSI will be the official PC.

The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association is teaming with CSL Esports and The Yard: HBCU Esports Alliance to offer competitive gaming and educational opportunities for its member institutions. Through HEA, CSL Esports will serve as the conference’s esports provider for Madden, NBA 2K, and other select gaming titles and will begin offering exclusive competitive gaming opportunities to CIAA students in spring 2021.

The Electronic Gaming Federation announced that three of their partner schools, St. John’s University, DePaul University, and Niagara University will expand their esports engagement with The “Vincentian Cup,” an annual esports event for the three Vincentian Universities in the United States that play Division I athletics. The inaugural tournament will be held Dec. 9-12 featuring competition in multiple esports, including SSBU, Rocket League, and Overwatch. ACTIVATION T1 and Red Bull unveiled a long-term partnership that will span all of T1’s rosters, competing in League of Legends, VALORANT, Fortnite, Super Smash Bros., PUBG MOBILE and more. The partnership will give T1 access to Red Bull’s performance infrastructure, such as its Athlete Performance Centers in Austria and Santa Monica, where Red Bull sports athletes such as Max Verstappen, Leticia Bufoni, and Fabio Wibmer train, facilitating development in and out of the game. “As a pro gamer, I drink energy drinks during practice and before games,” said T1’s League of Legends mid-laner Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. “All of us at T1 are excited to enjoy our new partnership with Red Bull.”

GENYOUth and Campbell’s Chunky are launching an esports initiative to help tackle hunger in schools. The Chunky Million Meals Challenge Madden NFL 21 presented by Target tournament will be played in EA SPORTS Madden NFL 21 and deliver 100 million meals to alleviate food insecurity among school-aged children during the COVID-19 pandemic, with Campbell’s Chunky and Target leading the charge to get the Challenge off to a strong start. STREAM HATCHET TRENDS This week, Stream Hatchet evaluated the growth of one of the most popular mobile games this year: Garena Free Fire. Although plenty of eyes have been on other trending games like Fall Guys and Among Us, mobile games have slowly been securing more market share on North American streaming platforms in 2020. Garena Free Fire is also extremely popular in Latin America and India where mobile games dominate the gaming market. With Twitch, YouTube Gaming, and Facebook Gaming audiences becoming more accommodating to mobile viewership, expect games like Garena Free Fire to excel in 2021.

• Garena Free Fire climbed 162% in total hours watched in 2020. However, the title peaked in viewership during September when they held multiple leagues/events.
• In November, Garena Free Fire ranked 5th among all games streamed across Twitch, YouTube Gaming, and Facebook Gaming in hours watched. It also placed first in peak viewership with almost 1.8M concurrent viewers.
• Comparatively, Garena Free Fire generated below 313M hours watched in all of 2019; about 80M less hours watched than in Q3 2020 alone.
For more insights about live streaming, gaming trends, and market share, visit www.streamhatchet.com/insights.

PLATFORMS

Big news in the FGC and beyond as Microsoft announced its acquisition of Smash.gg. The platform offers a suite of tools designed to help amateur, semi-pro and pro esports tournament organizers, assisting in management, payments, and analytics. “Since we started in 2015, our goal has been to build active esports scenes around the games people love to play,” Smash.gg said in a statement. “Today we’re excited to take the next step in that journey by joining Microsoft to help strengthen our existing relationships and explore new opportunities. Smash.gg will continue as a self-service esports platform available to tournament organizers from all game communities. If you have any questions about existing tournaments please reach out to hello@smash.gg.” TEAMS TikTok stars Josh Richards and Griffin Johnson are becoming investors in ReKTGlobal, parent company of the London Royal Ravens and Rogue. “Griffin and Josh have uniquely captured the attention of Generation Z and beyond, and their influence is undeniable. They are both incredible additions to the ReKTGlobal ownership team,” said Dave Bialek, CEO of ReKTGlobal. “They have strong business instincts, a unique talent for developing viral content, and an understanding of how to connect with younger audiences and casual gamers.”

Excel Esports will be the focus of a new docu-series, a five-part slate titled Fight for First: EXCEL ESPORTS. The series will be available on the BBC iPlayer in early 2021, with a focus on the daily training and social life of the team’s players during the 2020 LEC Spring Split. The series will be narrated by actor Cillian Murphy. Final Deadline! Final Call for Best of the Best Entries

Today is the day. Get your entries in for the Best of the Best Awards. What have you put out this year that deserves industry accolades? What creative initiatives or out-of the-box partnerships have you taken on to maneuver through 2020? We want to know! Cynopsis’ Best of the Best is looking to honor the best of our industry.

Nominate your best here by 11:59 PM PST tonight! LIFESTYLE Stephanie “missharvey” Harvey is launching a unisex apparel collection titled ‘Rose Water’ in partnership with merch agency Represent. The first collection under the brand will offer a line of tops, masks, hoodies, and jackets with the line blending “esports culture, pop fashion and art,” according to the former CS:GO champ. READYUP SPOTLIGHT   INDUSTRY KRAFTON, Inc. states that its subsidiary PUBG Corporation has fully merged into KRAFTON under its independent studio system. The company will now focus strictly on development under its new name PUBG Studio. KRAFTON also announced that its two other subsidiary studios, PNIX, Inc. and Delusion Studio, Inc., have consolidated into a new mobile games studio called RisingWings, Inc..

TGS Esports formed Discover Management, a full-service management company designed to support and represent esports talent in partnership with Riley Trimble and Marius Adomnica. The management company will “tap into TGS’ network of partners to help talent curate and navigate partnerships, grow their personal brands, assist with finance management and legal advice, and more.”

ROSTER MOVES

aXiomatic promoted Mark Vela to chief strategy officer. In this role, Vela will report to aXiomatic CEO Bruce Stein and oversee all investment activity and strategic initiatives, with a particular focus on Team Liquid. ON THIS DAY
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