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Esports In Quarantine

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Online IGEC panel: “Esports in quarantine: how to survive the new normal”

Our annual esports networking conference, IGEC (Inven Global Esports Conference), has been postponed in order to adhere to social distancing and flatten the Corona Virus curve. In place of an in-person IGEC filled with panels and talks, we are moving to a digital format to keep our readers and panelists safe amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Our first panel of many more to come is the unavoidable topic everyone must face: “Esports in quarantine: how to survive the new normal”.  This panel discussion will address the unease and worry surrounding esports, especially with regards to freelancers, esports organizations, and tournament organizers.

This panel is scheduled this Friday, March 27th at 2:00 PM PST.

The participants

Inven Global’s Director of Corporate Strategy, Nick D’Orazio will be moderating the upcoming panel. As a veteran esports journalist, event producer and panelist, Nick is leading Inven Global’s digital pivot into the new quarantine normal.

How will esports survive when all of our major events are canceled? What are the habits, tips, or methods being used by industry leaders to adapt to a new work-from-home lifestyle? Lastly, what does esports and gaming career advice look like during a global pandemic?

These topics and more will be discussed by our diverse panel:

Scott Adametz serves as the Esports Tech Lead at Riot Games. Over the past decade Scott has launched national media networks for FOX, Big Ten & Pac-12 Conferences. He joined Riot Games, developers of League of Legends and operators of 12 professional leagues, 3 years ago.

As the Esports Tech Lead at Riot Games, Scott specializes in developing new media workflows, finding unique solutions, and advancing broadcast technology. He supports a global team of engineers that support thousands of events across our Esports regions including marquee shows: All Stars, MSI and Worlds. Current projects include supporting development of a fully-remote broadcast production model, ensuring global competitive integrity and maintaining our global Esports infrastructure.

Scott is an award-winning innovator, self-starter and team builder with a passion for innovative live, scalable solutions in production environments. Over the past decade he has launched national media networks for FOX, Big Ten & Pac-12 Conferences. His specialties include developing media workflows, finding unique solutions and, through innovation, enabling the cost-effective production of over 9000 live events to date.

Ryan “Gootecks” Gutierrez is an American Street Fighter player and the man behind one of Twitch’s most popular emotes, PogChamp. He is a long-time veteran of the fighting game community (FGC) and leads his team at Cross Counter TV to make incredibly authentic content to his passionate audience.  Always planning ahead for the next opportunity withing the FGC, Gootecks has strong opinions on what aspiring esports workers need to do in order to make.

Trisha Hershberger is a popular figure in the tech, gaming, and entertainment industry as a host and content creator. Trisha has previous experience being a panelist at popular conventions such as San Diego Comic-Con and being a moderator at last year’s IGEC.

Like most, Trisha has adapted to COVID-19 and its effect on the industry and will share her techniques and experiences to those interested in a similar career.

Freya Fox is a freelancer who is affected by the cancellation of various gaming events such as E3 due to COVID-19. As an influencer across social media such as Instagram, these events are vital to creating content for her fans. Freya’s offers a unique perspective from a dedicated freelancer who has made a living working in esports and gaming and will share her thoughts on how the industry should proceed moving forward.

 

Best Esports Documentaries

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Six must-see esports documentaries you can’t afford to miss

 

Games have been competitive for much longer than the term ‘esports’ has been kicking about. From the day Asteroids introduced the first high-score table in 1979, the idea of players outperforming one another was set.

But while esports didn’t found the idea of competitive gaming, they did trigger their own revolution. Today, games are a spectator sport. They are watched as well as played, and by huge numbers. Decades after Asteroids attracted small crowds to arcade cabinets, top players can draw thousands to arenas, and hundreds of thousands online. Simply put, watching esports is part of being into esports.

There’s more to take in than just the matches and tournaments, however. With the surge in interest around esports there have, of course, been a lot of documentaries made that look into the lives of the players, teams and communities that make competitive gaming what is today.

To save you separating the good from the bad yourself, here is a selection of some of the most interesting – or most important – out there.

 

1. Free to Play (2014)

When people think of esports, towering prize pools are probably some of the first things that spring to mind. That reputation for making winning players rich in no small part comes from the Dota 2 world championship event, The International. When it debuted with the game itself in 2011, a $1.6 million prize pool was striking to say the least. In 2019, The International had a prize pool of well over $34 million.

As such it is one of the most popular, competitive and well-known esports events there is. Free to Play surely is biased; after all, like Dota 2, it is made by Valve. And yet it does a sublime job of looking at the motivations that guide the players that take on The International, as well as the sacrifices they struggle with, and the devotion they commit to. It’s inspiring stuff.

 

2. FGC: Rise of the Fighting Game Community (2016)

Many in the fighting game community (FGC) and esports scenes continue to see their worlds as somewhat distinct. And yet devotees to Street Fighter, Marvel vs Capcom and Tekken arguably laid the groundwork for what modern esports is. Simply put, the story of the FGC is part of the story of esports. And FGC: Rise of the Fighting Game Community is the most heartfelt, engaging documentary about that part of the esports story yet made.

It might not be perfect, and if you have tallied hours in arcades honing your fighting game craft you likely know the story it tells well enough already. But if you care anything about esports, fighting games or arcades, this enthralling documentary is close to essential viewing.

 

3. Team Liquid – Breaking Point

Chances are that if you are a committed esports fan, then the Team Liquid – Breaking Point documentary’s reputation precedes it. If you haven’t seen it – even if your interest in esports is passing at best – you really should give this striking bit of storytelling some time.

While it both focuses on and is produced by Team Liquid, it offers a startlingly frank, raw and seemingly open tale of a group of players seeing their dreams unravel as egos, competitiveness, leadership weaknesses, performance missteps and more cause all kinds of tension and problems. It’s a reminder that making it as a professional gamer isn’t easy, and that the challenges in esports stray far from the screen.

 

4. MTV True Life – I’m a Gamer (2003)

This one isn’t a documentary, as much as a defining moment in esports history caught on camera. Some 17 years ago, MTV’s show ‘True Life’ turned its attention to Jonathan ‘Fatal1ty’ Wendel, the original esports celebrity, and a globally recognised name back when some current esports talent was yet to have mastered walking.

This legendary episode is something of a time capsule; a reminder of how the early 2000s looked and felt, and a flashback to a time when esports was a little more simple, polite, and down to earth, and the idea of a ‘professional gamer’ was so novel it bewildered mainstream culture.

 

5. Live/Play Miniseries (2016)

What makes the official League of Legends miniseries stand out is that it doesn’t only focus on the biggest money and most polished events. This is a series about the variety of players and fans that devote themselves to LoL.

It makes for a touching, even poignant look at why people play, the ways games act as a positive force in players’ lives, and what the esports community means to the human beings that form it. Live/Play is perhaps a little sentimental, and you won’t find a cold hard look at LoL as a game. But those might be the very reasons you should add this miniseries to your watch list.

 

6. The Smash Brothers (2013)

With 13 episodes spread over four-hours, The Smash Brothers documentary is absolutely an undertaking, but it’s well worth tackling. A true document of what makes up the Super Smash Bros. Melee game and community, it is meticulous in its depth and detail, while looking at the careers of seven devotees, or ‘smashers’.

The Smash Brothers is charming because it is relatable. You don’t have to be a series fan to understand what this gem of a documentary says because it so authentically speaks to why we love games generally, and what that affection can inspire. Indeed, The Smash Brothers was so adored on release by both Smash players and non-smashers, it has been credited with triggering a significant resurgence in interest in the game.

 

eSports Readies To Shine

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eSports readies to shine as everyone else presses pause

It happened for them the same way it happened for everybody else: They first wondered whether the looming threat of the coronavirus would mean they would have to do events without an audience.

They were worried mostly about travel at first and making sure crowds were smaller than 250 people, as initial recommendations suggested.

The world of esports was just like everyone else. For weeks, the realities of what COVID-19 might reap on the United States seemed inconceivable until reality crashed down on the entire United States — particularly the sports world — all at once.

“If you had asked me two weeks ago where there was a world where we would play fully online competitive matches for the LCS, I would’ve laughed at you,” said Chris Greeley, commissioner of the League of Legends Championship Series, “but when your options become something that’s bad and something that’s worse, bad looks pretty good.”

What was thought of as bad for the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) just 10 or so days ago is now an enviable position for most sports league to look longingly at. This weekend, the LCS and the League of Legends European Championship (LEC) will resume play from a series of remote locations after just a one-week hiatus for the coronavirus.

In the next few weeks, the Overwatch League (OWL) is set to return to action after a brief hiatus of its own. The Call of Duty League (CDL), which also has a Boca Raton-based team, and the NBA 2K League also expect to resume play in upcoming weeks playing from remote sites after suspending play for COVID-19 concerns.

While the rest of the sports world sleeps for an increasingly uncertain length of time, esports has been able to adapt to our new crowd-controlled, self-isolated way of life by taking its biggest games out of the arenas and to the place most of them originated: the internet.

“This is,” said Ben Spoont, CEO of Boca Raton-based Misfits Gaming, “the beauty of esports.”

Pressing pause

It was less than two weeks ago when Greeley told the LCS management team there was “no way” the league would play games away from the Riot Games studio in Los Angeles. Even when nearly every other sport was suspending play March 12, the LCS instead announced it would play its matches without fans in attendance. All 10 teams in the LCS are situated within about a three-mile radius of Riot, the developer of “League of Legends.”

A day later, the LCS decided to suspend play, although Greeley quickly noted the league already was looking into remote play for the remainder of the spring schedule. It took just a week for the LCS to return to action.

“There’s no pandemic playbook,” Greeley said.

Although esports are unique in their ability to hold remote play like the LCS will this weekend, there were no contingency plans in place for this to ever be necessary. Once the idea of playing games in an arena with no fans started to inch toward reality, the LCS started to think about how it could potentially take the whole league online if need be.

Initially, the plan was to have teams gather at their headquarters and for Riot to send referees to monitor each team. The teams could be together in small groups to communicate without much significant contact with the outside world.

In the last day or two, those plans changed, too. Instead, players will play from their own homes and broadcasters will broadcast from theirs. Everyone will log in to Riot-authorized Discord servers to communicate and matches will broadcast on a delay to prevent cheating. At least this weekend, there won’t be any remote interviews or video of team celebrations. “It’s going to look like League of Legends circa 2012,” Greeley joked.

The OWL and CDL — including the Florida Mayhem and Florida Mutineers — will operate similarly. While concrete plans have not been put in place for the Mutineers of the CDL, the Mayhem will gather at Misfits’ Boca Raton headquarters once its schedule resumes March 28 with a game against the Washington Justice.

OWL and CDL both stream matches exclusively on league YouTube channels, while the LCS and LEC stream matches on Twitch.

Activision Blizzard had an ambitious idea when it announced the OWL in 2016: It would use a traditional sports model with franchises representing individual cities and states. With the NBA, NHL and MLB all suspended, Activision Blizzard’s grand experiment will be put to the test.

“Nothing else is happening, so when you think about professional sports and who’s representing Florida right now, it’s the Mayhem and the Mutineers,” Spoont said, “so we think it’s a great chance for folks to learn about us, to learn who we are, to learn what we stand for.”

Pros get in on the action

It had only been about an hour since the Miami Heat played its final game before an indefinite hiatus when Meyers Leonard was back to work.

“Ladies and gentlemen, how are we doing? This COVID-19 stuff is absolutely crazy,” the Heat post player said to his growing audience on Twitch as he booted up “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.”

“Somebody in my chat said you better not leave this stream for the next 10 months,” Leonard joked.

In the nine days since the NBA suspended play, Leonard streamed himself playing “Call of Duty” on Twitch for more than 50 hours.

“Now all of a sudden every basketball player is a professional gamer,” Spoont joked. “It’s definitely an interesting time for us.”

Spoont, who grew up in Boca Raton and went to the Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale, co-founded Misfits in 2016 with fellow South Floridians Mitchell Rubenstein and Laurie Silvers. Initially, the organization was based out of the United Kingdom and its “League of Legends” team still competes in the LEC. In 2016, Misfits acquired an “Overwatch” team, which became the Mayhem in 2017.

In January, it debuted the Mutineers as a team in the CDL’s inaugural season. The organization has moved its operations to Boca Raton and got the OK to build a permanent headquarters there in February, and the Mayhem even changed its jerseys and avatar skins to be “Vice” style this season — pink and blue.

eSports has always been comfortable with its massive, niche audience. Without any sports alternatives, eSports has arrived at a chance for its biggest mainstream platform yet.

“That’s kind of the void that we’re looking to fill,” Spoont said. “Obviously, this is very trying times for a lot of people and a lot of industries. We as an industry in gaming can do our part to fill a void, to provide entertainment in the safety and comfort of people’s homes. It’s pretty cool what we have the opportunity to do.

“People are going to be playing massive amounts of video games over the next months. … We’re very humble about the fact that we’re going to provide a lot of entertainment for folks to consume, and we’re excited to do that for South Florida and having the Mayhem and the Mutineers represent them.”

 

Sports Esports Content Covid 19

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Traditional sports relying upon esports during COVID-19 crisis

You could be forgiven for thinking that we’ve wandered into an alternate universe since the outbreak of the coronavirus COVID-19. It’s a pandemic that has taught us just how unprepared we were for a disease to spread with such speed and reach, and virtually everyone stands to be affected in some way. And the world of traditional sports, often a welcome distraction during times of economic turmoil or political unrest, has been hit just as hard as the rest of us.

Fortunately, despite the cancellation of leagues and tournaments across the globe, sports is finding solace in its younger brother: esports.

An unlikely alliance

Esports has been far from sports’ biggest ally during its burgeoning growth across the last few years. An ageing audience has left some major sports with stagnating viewership, especially across the US, as leagues fail to catch the attention of younger fans; which is precisely the demographic that is turning to competitive gaming for their entertainment. Yet now, esports is providing a welcome reprieve for sports teams and players that are struggling to provide content during the current crisis.

Of course, esports itself is hardly unaffected; there’s a growing list of tournaments and events (including our own ESI New York) that have been affected by the virus. But competitions and influencers alike are returning to the roots of the industry and streaming online, allowing fans stuck at home easy access to a constant flow of entertainment.

Sports bodies have been catching on. Perhaps the best example is Formula One, which recently announced intentions to launch a sim racing series. The Virtual Grand Prix Series has seen a number of current F1 drivers compete on F1 2019, alongside guests from esports and gaming. Its reveal follows confirmation of similar events from NASCAR and the Supercars Championship, with teams and drivers going head-to-head online.

Racing is almost the perfect match for such a crossover; technology has become so advanced that professional drivers can use simulation racing to accurately practice for major races in a safe (and relatively inexpensive) environment. But it’s far from the only sport to use esports as an outlet during the downtime created by the ongoing pandemic.

NBA side Pheonix Suns tweeted that it would play out the rest of its season on NBA 2K20, broadcast on Twitch. Monumental Sports Network and NBC Sports Washington announced plans to broadcast Washington Wizards’ NBA and Washington Capitals’ NHL games through NBA 2K20 and NHL 20. And a mega 128-team FIFA charity tournament is set to take place, inspired by a viral campaign from Leyton Orient’s social media manager.

So what do sports broadcasters, operators, teams and players stand to gain from gaming?

Quite a lot, as it happens.

The show must go on

First and foremost, sporting bodies are searching for a way to keep up fan engagement during an otherwise dead period, until the world can recover from the crisis caused by COVID-19. If they can fill feeds through some light-hearted competition, providing positive content amidst the stress of a pandemic, what’s not to like?

Of course, online play can also be utilised as a marketing method. Remember that ageing sports audience? Teams and players can reach more eyeballs – and perhaps even attract more fans – by appealing to younger viewers in their natural (virtual) habitat, through platforms such as Twitch and YouTube.

Additionally, streaming can provide a way for clubs and leagues to show off their sponsors; if they can’t meet planned obligations, they can potentially still maintain good relationships with partnered brands by creating additional content outside of traditional competition. Whether your jersey is real or digital, it can still have the same logos plastered over it.

The benefits of sports’ forays into esports go both ways, too; when sports entities head to streaming platforms to play games, they could well be enticing new players and viewers to different games and esports titles. For simulation games such as F1 2019, NBA 2K20, NHL 20, and FIFA 20, that extra exposure could have a real, lasting impact on esports league viewership.

Right now, as the sporting world struggles, it makes sense for these two industries to collide. By why shouldn’t this convergence continue into the future?

If this crisis has taught us anything about esports, it’s the industry’s resilience. No matter the state of affairs in the world, as long as there’s a reliable internet connection, you can bet someone will be gaming through it.

Hopefully, the companies and individuals that populate the sports industry have learned something, too: esports is a valuable tool, and it should be used as such, to supplement the content that can be created through social media and traditional broadcasting, and to reach a wider audience. And it is here to stay.

 

Esports: Are We Ready For The Next Big Wave

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Esports: Are We Ready For The Next Big Wave And How its Arriving

Keynesian theory states that whenever there are changes in aggregate demand, resulting from instability and volatility in investment demand, it entails a new economic cycle. Whether the cycle is a new revolution such as the Agricultural, Industrial, Technological, or a major bust such as the Great Depression, is a direct function of the intervention policies of the powers that were. Notably, there was one thing common throughout every revolution –each was bigger and arrived faster than its predecessor.

We are in the early cycle of another revolution – the do-it-yourself (DIY) economy. This cycle is being powered by youngsters who are fed up of waiting for free education, quota-based jobs, and subsidies, in general, an average existence. The youth today wants to be famous, loved and openly creative, while making money. This is the reason why ‘old school’ experts on economic value creation are baffled by the success of digital platforms like TikTok. Regardless of how childish and non-serious these social platforms seem to the academics, the fact is that the children have accepted it and they will define our future direction. Frankly, we need to let them, based on history and for the sake of natural order.

The economic wheel is being reinvented and one of its defining cogs is Esports. Anyone keen on noticing what the youngsters spend their time on would be aware of the mobile gaming space. The space is becoming extremely organized and starting to look much like that of conventional sports. Consider some of the recent happenings,

Last year, the US Army pulled out as a sponsor of the All-American Bowl, Army’s biggest recruitment and marketing event for past 17 years. Reason given, “It isn’t the draw it once was. We’re looking to innovate”. At the same time, the US Army sponsored an Esports team, the US Army Esports, operating under the Fort Knox-based Army Marketing and Engagement division.

Mukesh Ambani, in a recent conversation with Satya Nadella, said Esports is poised to be bigger than media, TV and movies combined. Yes, that’s huge.

Some Esports teams are beginning to receive valuations that are creating major ripples in the investment world. TSM, Cloud9, Team Liquid, FaZe Clan are worth USD 400m, 400m, 320m, and 240m respectively.

FaZe Clan has amassed 19 million followers across YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram, more than the Dallas Cowboys (7.2 million) and New York Yankees (6 million) combined.

In December 2019, Denmark’s Astralis became the first Esports team to IPO. The round was oversubscribed.

These are precursors of what will play out in the 2020’s. Those conventionally-inclined are still trying to overcome the stigma of getting attached to something that is (wrongly) perceived with time wasting, low IQ, low skill, or a fad could soon go the dinosaur path. A few with the vision to understand what our young ones will be up to, and we will have no control over how they behave, are aligning themselves.

The big question for investors is where in the entire Esports value chain does the highest/easiest alpha sit. In all likelihood the government will be the catalyst in bringing about the inflection point. Meanwhile, at Cianna Capital, we have moved to embed ourselves in the ecosystem itself. After analyzing the commercial model of owning teams we realized that a more sustainable play for us is to facilitate, promote, organize and distribute Esports. Our touch points include players, team owners, influencers, fans, sponsors, and game developers.

First phase will be organizing the game and gamers. We need to develop visibility and platforms, and create heroes (global, national, regional, and citywide). A God for many of us, #10, took the world of cricket by storm when he was 16 and carried the game itself for almost two decades. He came from Mumbai and trained at Shivaji Park. Get ready for many young Sachins coming from nooks and corners you may have not heard of.

The next phase will bring sponsorships and media deals, brand ambassadorships, cut throat scout networks, and training centers. Things will finally stabilize with where the English Premier League, the National Football League and the National Basketball Association are newsworthy mergers and acquisitions, teams with budgets larger than some gross domestic products, and lives on the line.

Skin this, whatever way you like; it’s going to be big and quite definitely so.