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12/22/22: Epic Games reaches $520M settlement with FTC; LCS schedule changes draw mixed reactions; FaZe Clan partners with Drake’s OVO


Medias First Morning Read
Thursday December 22, 2022

Good morning! It’s Thursday and this is your early morning Esports brief.
Fortnite developer Epic Games will pay $520 million to the Federal Trade Commission as part of a resolution of two complaints from the FTC. The FTC alleged Epic violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act through its collection of data from people under the age of 13 without parental supervision or consent, according to a report from the organization detailing the settlement. The civil complaint, which makes up $275 million of the resolution, also said the game’s default setting enabling voice and text chat violated COPPA, as it put children at risk through those communications.

The $245 million that makes up the rest of the resolution covers an allegation of the use of “dark patterns,” or a user experience design that does not make it clear a person is purchasing something, by Epic Games. The FTC claimed areas with purchasing options in Fortnite violated FTC consumer protection guidelines.The resolutions were both the largest-ever settlements for penalties in their respective courts by the FTC, according to the agency.

“Epic ignored more than one million user complaints and repeated employee concerns that ‘huge’ numbers of users were being wrongfully charged,” the FTC said in its report. “In fact, Epic’s changes only made the problem worse, the FTC alleged. Using internal testing, Epic purposefully obscured cancel and refund features to make them more difficult to find.” Epic Games did not admit guilt in its statement on the settlement.

“Statutes written decades ago don’t specify how gaming ecosystems should operate,” Epic said. “We accepted this agreement because we want Epic to be at the forefront of consumer protection and provide the best experience for our players.”

COMPETITION

League of Legends developer Riot Games announced schedule changes for North America’s League Championship Series that will prevent overlap between the LCS and other regional leagues. The decision has seen mixed reactions due to competition taking place during standard workdays, with matches at 3 p.m. ET on Thursdays and Fridays when the season begins Jan. 26. However, Riot head of esports for the Americas Raul Fernandez said viewership trends informed the decision. “A recent deep dive we commissioned confirmed our suspicion: viewership habits and fan expectations had changed,” Fernandez said in a statement. “The modeling clearly shows that by shifting the LCS to Thursday and Friday and removing overlapping broadcasts, the league gains access to more available fans and viewers than if we had stayed on the weekend broadcast schedule.”

The New York Subliners won the Call of Duty League Major 1 title on Sunday in Raleigh, North Carolina, with a 4-1 win over Seattle Surge. It was a victory on multiple fronts, as NYSL brought home the first Major of the year after a tumultuous offseason and the CDL drew strong viewership in its first playoff event since returning to Twitch. This tournament became the fifth-most-watched event of the CDL era, according to Esports Charts; meanwhile, NYSL star and Call of Duty veteran Preston “Priestahh” Greiner became the 11th player to win a Call of Duty major on five or different games in the franchise. Despite that, the Subliners faced a setback Tuesday. The team announced it will no longer be hosting CDL Major IV “due to a variety of circumstances.” According to Esports.gg, the slight 3,000-person capacity of Kings Theatre in Brooklyn, the original venue for the event, played a role in the decision.

The Overwatch World Cup will make its return in 2023, developer Blizzard announced. The international event, which features national teams from around the world, will take place for the first time since 2019, when the U.S. won its first World Cup over South Korea, the perennial champion to that point. Thirty-six teams will compete, according to Blizzard, with team trials, tryouts and qualifiers taking place from February to June. The World Cup is scheduled to take place in Fall 2023; it has traditionally been held during BlizzCon, which Blizzard is “committed to bringing back” in 2023, Blizzard president Mike Ybarra told the Los Angeles Times in July.

The Pokémon Company detailed plans for its 2023 Pokémon UNITE Championship Series earlier this week, with play expected to begin in February. The circuit, which centers on Nintendo and the Pokémon Company’s first multiplayer online battle arena title, will include a $500,000 prize pool for play from February up until the World Championship and a $500,000 pot for the championship itself. The championship competitors each of which will qualify through either winning their regional finals or by earning enough points on their region’s circuit. No date has been provided for the world championship, though six regions – Brazil, Europe, North America, Oceania, Latin America-North and Latin America-South – have been revealed. The Pokémon Company plans to share information about its Asian regions in a future update.

REX/VP PRESENTS

In the last episode of REV/XP Presents of 2022, the REV/XP team connects to talk about their favorite industry moments and best activations. Click photo to watch.

STREAMHATCHET
Tesla was the most mentioned car brand on Twitch in November. Tesla was able to generate 207K Twitch chat mentions last month which was a 150% increase compared to October’s 83K chat mentions. This rise in Tesla mentions could have something to do with Tesla’s recall that was announced on November 21st which caused a spike of 14K messages. Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter also had a major impact. With Twitter and live streaming intertwined, the major changes coming to the platform has had a trickle effect into Tesla’s brand awareness on Twitch.

Read more on Stream Hatchet’s blog.

SPONSORSHIP & ACTIVATION

FaZe Clan and rapper Drake’s lifestyle and streetwear brand, October’s Very Own, are partnering for a new clothing and accessory line known as “The New Athletes.” The collection, which dropped Wednesday, includes traditional clothing merchandise as well as controllers and other gaming accessories. The companies will continue to work together in 2023, according to the announcement. “This collection remains true to our roots, and holds a special connection to the come-ups of both FaZe and OVO, celebrating our brands’ evolutions over the past decade-plus,” FaZe Clan creative director Jay Richardson said in a statement. “Both teams worked closely in approaching the designs to showcase the connection between FaZe and OVO.”

T-Wolves Gaming, the NBA 2K League affiliate of the Minnesota Timberwolves, has partnered with Wisdom Gaming Studios to create a hub for T-Wolves Gaming at the Mall of America ahead of the 2023 NBA 2K League season. Wisdom Gaming Studios, an esports competition venue that opened in Spring 2022, is listed as an 18,000 square foot space that includes audience seating, a retail area and homes for Wisdom’s esports team, Torrent, and the Minnesota Varsity League, which oversees high school esports competitions in the state. T-Wolves Gaming will take advantage of that retail section, according to a statement, and provide merchandise at the location.

Esports organization Gen.G and the University of Kentucky are joining forces again to produce a two-day esports and gaming conference. The event, known as CatCon, will take place Feb. 18-19 and builds on the ongoing partnership between Gen.G and the home of the Wildcats. The organizations first partnered in 2019 and have since worked together on diversity and inclusion initiatives, fundraising, event activations and more, with this regional conference as the latest example. “Gen.G could not be more excited to work with our longtime partner,” Gen.G Chief Revenue Officer Martin Kim said in a statement.

Astralis is entering the content business via Blackbox Media, a new venture put on by the Danish esports organization and advertising and media executives Henrik Juul and Keld Reinicke. Blackbox Media will feature Juul and Reinicke as co-founders and board members, with Astralis founder Jakob Lund Kristensen as a co-founder and CEO of Blackbox. The media company “will help brands develop unique brand strategies, digital marketing, media understanding, creator activation, content production, and execution,” Kristensen said in a statement. Anders Hørsholt and Jakob Hansen of Astralis will also be on the board.

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YOUGOV LIVING DATA INSIGHTS
Global popularity of the world’s “best esports event”

The League of Legends World Championship was crowned the “best esports event” in this year’s edition of The Game Awards. YouGov Global Fan Profiles reveals that it is the most popular esports event in the world among those who follow esports regularly. While 18% of global esports followers watch or follow LoL Worlds, that share is only 7% among U.S. esports buffs.

TEAMS

XSET announced it will re-enter Apex Legends esports after signing the former Team Liquid roster of Brandon “Nocturnal” Singer, Brandon “FunFPS” Goombridge and Nicholas “Sikezz” Odom. Liquid announced its departure from Apex on Thursday of last week, with XSET picking up the roster the next day to immediately become one of the best Apex teams in North America with an average placement of 7.17 in the battle royale title, according to Liquipedia. XSET will compete in the Apex Legends Global Series and is the favorite to win the ALGS Split 1 Playoffs.

Team Dignitas announced their League of Legends roster for 2023 with the addition of several longtime powerhouses in the North American scene. Dignitas will field one of the best mid laners in the LCS Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen, who was previously with Cloud9; former Team Liquid jungler Lucas “Santorin” Larsen; former League European Championship standout and top laner Irfan “Armut” Tükek; and support Lee “IgNar” Dong-geun, who’s spent his career in the LEC, South Korea and, since 2019, in North America. Bot laner Trevor “Spawn” Kerr-Taylor, formerly of the Dignitas Academy team, will start his LCS career surrounded by some of the best players at their positions as Dignitas hopes to compete for an LCS title this spring and summer.

Cloud9 White, one of the most notable women’s VALORANT teams, is disbanding, the team announced Tuesday. C9 White, captained by one of the best players in Game Changers in Melanie “meL” Capone, won six event North American VALORANT Game Changers titles during its run and was a top performer in the women’s VALORANT initiative by Riot Games. “Thanks for your support and encouragement through it all – especially to the OGs,” meL said in a statement while also clarifying C9 gave the roster the opportunity to re-sign with the org. “Your support has made the lowest times bearable, and the highest highs feel like heaven.” The in-game leader and C9 White teammate Alexis “Alexis” Guarrasi are expected to join VersionX, the women’s VALORANT team for Version1, according to a report from Dot Esports. Former C9 White players Bob “Bob” Tran and Katja “katsumi” Pfahnl are reportedly joining XSET’s Game Changers roster, XSET Purple, while the final C9 White player, Jasmine “Jazzyk1ns” Manankil, has yet to find a roster for 2023, according to Dot.

Dota 2 developer Valve has permanently banned several pros from competition, including a starter for Virtus.pro, after confirming allegations of account-sharing. Ten players were banned, according to an announcement from tournament organizer PGL, with Kamil “Koma`” Biktimirov of Virtus.pro among the group. Others include Felt player Aslan “Paradise’” Vadilov; Ancient Tribe’s Danil “illusion” Grzhevka; Luna Gaming’s Vladislav “Imba4” Khoroltsev and Sergey “[T]SA” Timchenko; Alliance’s Yaroslav “Limitless” Parshin; and Kirill “deihra” Haritonov and Bisembaev “Lilskrip” Bauyrzhan, both of whom are not currently with organizations. Two other unnamed players, Keintseru and SuperNova, were also banned.

INDUSTRY

Esports betting platform Rivalry released an end-of-year report detailing the most-bet-on games of 2022 and other insights entering 2023. League of Legends topped the list of wagered-on esports, with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Dota 2, VALORANT and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang rounding out the list. League, CS:GO and Dota 2 accounted for 90% of esports betting on Rivalry, but VALORANT and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang both set new milestones this year. VALORANT has grown quickly year-over-year, according to Rivalry, with Riot’s first-person shooter seeing 26% more action than in 2021. Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, meanwhile, became the first mobile game to enter Rivalry’s top five.

The League of Legends European Championship generated more than $4.8 million in revenue for Swedish host city Malmö, according to a report by Geelmuyden Kiese on behalf of the city. The report indicates tourism spiked around the Sept. 11 summer split final for the LEC. The event brought in people from 30 different countries, according to data from Malmö, and more than half of the attendees at the 19,600-seat Malmö Arena were international fans. The typical seating area had to be expanded, according to the city, in order to accommodate the number of fans at the arena.

Mobile esports are getting a companion to The Esports Awards in the form of The Mobies, an event put on by The Mobile Awards in conjunction with The Esports Awards. The first Mobies will take place in 2022 and focus on both mobile esports and gaming, though there have been few details revealed thus far outside of former Complexity Gaming Director of Mobile Gaming Matt “MobileMatt” Rutledge being at the helm of the operation. The Esports Awards included two mobile gaming categories this year: Mobile Game of the Year, which PUBG Mobile won, and Mobile Player of the Year, which was awarded to PUBG Mobile player Ceng “Order” Zehai.

Brawl Stars developer Supercell announced it is removing lootboxes from the game, joining mobile newcomer Marvel Snap in building a new model for how players spend on loot-heavy mobile titles. The replacement of random rewards with “deterministic rewards” removes the guessing game for fans and lets them know ahead of time what they’ll receive from a new reward tier on a battle pass or from an event such as daily logins. With ongoing scrutiny of the lootbox model, particularly in the European Union, and the seemingly inevitable approach of legislation restricting such practices in gaming, this new model might see some additional mileage for similar titles going forward. It’s a trend to keep an eye on in 2023, especially as mobile gaming continues to build its footprint in Western games culture.

2023 Sports Media Awards

11th Annual Sports Media Awards Announced!

We are thrilled to announce our site launch for the 11th annual Cynopsis Sports Media Awards! In case you missed last year’s event, senior executives were honored from NBC Sports, NFL, Twitter, Bleacher Report, NBA, MLB, ESPN and other industry leading companies. To learn more about how you can enter and attend next year’s event on April 18th, visit the link below.

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TRIVIA
This is our last trivia question of 2022, so make it count! Based on its time zone, which island in the Pacific Ocean will be the first populated area to celebrate the new year? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city).

Answer to Our Last Trivia Question
Which World Cup player scored the most goals during the two semifinal matchups this week? Answer: Julián Álvarez, Argentina. Kudos: Oops, no one.

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