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Esports Tournaments Facing Cyber Attack

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Esports tournaments facing huge cyberattack threats

Security experts have warned that the global esports industry is facing a growing threat from hackers as its popularity booms around the world.

New research from Trend Micro has warned that as the sport becomes more lucrative, cyber criminals are attempting to target both professional and amateur players as well as affect the games themselves. Esports has grown rapidly over the past few years to become a billion-dollar industry, with tournaments attracting thousands of fans to sold-out arenas across the globe.

Gaming threats

Criminals have targeted esports for many years, but as the popularity increases, so have the number of attacks, Trend Micro found. The firm found that the servers used by companies to host valuable gaming assets are a prime target for exploitation by hackers. Trend Micro found that as of July 25, 2019 there were 219,981 exposed gaming assets easily discoverable via a Shodan search.

The players themselves are also at risk, with criminals launching ransomware attacks to lock out top gamers from their accounts unless a ransom is paid (including some players shelling out up to $1000 in Bitcoin) and phishing malware deployed to steal account details along with financial record.

Trend Micro also warned that tournaments can be targeted with DDoS attacks, or servers targeted for maximum disruption to slow down game-play and affect the reputation of certain companies or organisations.

All of this can also be tied in to the increasing popularity of illegal gambling on esports, with hackers able to affect the outcomes of tournaments to win big for criminal enterprises. “If there’s one thing we know about malicious actors, it’s that they follow the money. Trend Micro has already observed nation state groups taking advantage of security gaps to target the gaming industry for financial gain, and we expect the same in esports,” said Jon Clay, director of global threat communications for Trend Micro.

“As esports becomes a billion-dollar industry, it’s inevitable that attackers will look to capitalise over the coming years. We predict the sector will experience the same kind of attacks as the gaming industry, but on a much larger scale, with financially motivated actors getting involved for monetary and geopolitical reasons.”

Wisconsin Newsroom Wants To Cover eSports

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This Wisconsin newsroom wants to cover esports like high school football

Click the purple “culture” button on the homepage of the Racine (Wisconsin) County Eye, scroll down to “sports and recreation,” and you’ll see just one topic: esports. “The Racine Unified School District Esports season started off with teams playing Overwatch, a team-based game where two opposing teams battle one another to capture objectives, in week one,” reads a story by staffer Mark Sanders. “This game features every sort of character, from the Ronin Samurai Archer, Hanzo Shimata, to a genetically enhanced hamster in a mechanized and weaponized hamster ball known as Hammond, the Wrecking Ball.”

Hold on now — this isn’t just teenagers playing video games.

In March, The Washington Post reported that the esports industry brought in $906 million last year. The Post covers esports. So does ESPN. And now, the tiny Racine County Eye is getting in the game, too.

Good game, well played

The Racine County Eye launched in 2014 as a for-profit, online only site. It has three full-time reporters. Racine’s about 40 minutes south of Milwaukee, and according to the U. S. Census Bureau, has fewer than 80,000 people with 20% of the population living in poverty and a median household income of $42,590.

Publisher Denise Lockwood is using a solutions journalism approach to cover the city, its challenges and opportunities, including an influx of jobs that will come with a new 22 millionsquare-foot factory from Foxconn Technology Group. That approach includes a podcast about employment called “Help Wanted.”

Lockwood and the Eye want to help close a skills gap in a place where the poverty rate is high and 83% of the population has a high school diploma. Elsewhere in town, James O’Hagan has spent the last few years building the esports program at Racine Unified School District. The program rents out space in the same building where the Eye is located.

When Sanders, an Eye staffer and serious gamer, learned of that program and that it went to the state competition, he wondered why it wasn’t getting more regular coverage. Sanders took the idea to Lockwood.

She didn’t get it. At least at first.

“Denise,” she remembers he said. “Do you understand how important this is? These kids get scholarships, too.”

Lockwood started to see an opportunity.

“One of the things that we want to do is really facilitate this conversation around what work is,” she said. “This is one of the sectors that is going to be in high-need based on a county-wide report.”

Here’s how coverage will work:

Sanders will write weekly dispatches from the games that include featured players and plays of the week, which the Eye got sponsorship for.

For bigger trend stories about esports, O’Hagan said members of the school district’s esports program agreed to work with the Eye as “press secretaries,” pointing Sanders to stories that deserve coverage.

Lockwood also hopes to partner with area tech schools to introduce the esports team members to those programs and help them see how their skills can translate into careers.

“This is a really big deal because a lot of the kids that are playing these games are kids who don’t have technology in their homes,” Lockwood said.

It’s also a great way for the Eye to help a new generation understand how news is made and why it matters, she said.

“Nobody else is talking to these kids about why news is important.”

WeWork eSports Softbank Takeover

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WeWork Is Getting Into Esports Amid SoftBank Takeover

SoftBank’s takeover doesn’t appear to be hindering the We Company’s continuous strive for world domination. A new report by Bloomberg found that We Work's parent company is getting into the business of esports, applying to trademark “Play by We” as late as last week. Having filed the application with Britain’s Intellectual Property Office, it’s unclear whether the service will be launching stateside anytime soon.

The move is questionable, considering WeWork has been forced to shut down its other “We” subsidiaries, including co-founder Rebekah Neumann’s “conscious entrepreneurial” private school, WeGrow.

According to the trademark application, the esports venture is aimed at “providing online competitive, professional video games,” presumably while utilizing the thousands of WeWork co-working spaces currently trying to stay in operation. While competitive online gaming has grown exponentially to become a major lucrative industry in recent years, WeWork’s timing for getting in on the trend is curious, to say the least.

Play by We is said to have spurred two (now expired) job listings by the struggling We Co., which is currently moving to lay off thousands of its existing workforce as SoftBank attempts to salvage it. One of the listed roles on LinkedIn was for “content and experience manager for Play by We.”

The news comes just days after WeWork employees met with SoftBank’s chief operating officer Marcelo Claure at an all-hands meeting, where he addressed the inevitable firings in order to trim WeWork’s expensive fat.

“It’s not going to be be easy, it’s going to be bumpy roads,” said Claure during the meeting. “This was a race that we were winning and then suddenly, it’s like we’ve lost momentum, and it’s hard to regain that momentum. We gotta regain the trust of those corporate customers who are going to think twice: ‘Do you really have the financial means?’ We gotta make sure that our employees understand that we are never going to go through the existential crisis we just got through.”

Meanwhile, as a majority stakeholder, SoftBank continues to float the tech unicorn billions in funding in order to keep cash flowing in. The Japanese conglomerate’s Vision Fund has spent approximately $18.5 billion backing the We Company in the past two years.

Warner Bros eSports Series

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Warner Bros. developing two scripted esports shows

Studio Warner Bros. Television is developing two scripted television series based on esports, ordered by CBS and NBC. CBS has put out a pilot order for a comedy seemingly based on Echo Fox founder Rick Fox‘s life, NBC is developing esports comedy ‘The Squad’ with Big Bang Theory actor Johnny Galecki.

The Big Bang Theory-inspired series will be executive produced under Alcide Bava, Galecki’s production company. Anthony Del Broccolo, co-executive producer and writer of Big Bang Theory, will join Galecki along with Holly Brown and Cory Wood of Alcide Bava.

Rick Fox’s autobiographical series “follows a recently retired pro basketball star who attempts to reconnect with his estranged son by buying an eSports franchise,” according to Variety. Fox will executive produce the series and will be joined by Dan Kopelman and Kapital Entertainment’s Aaron Kaplan and Dana Honor.

These series will be the first of their kind as esports-dedicated scripted comedies on major television networks, though it’s not the first time esports has featured on the small screen. HBO’s Ballers recently featured a LCS-inspired arc where Fox himself made a cameo appearance.

Release dates for the pilot episodes are yet to be announced.

Esports Insider says: It’s good to see that Fox is looking to bring even more attention to esports with his own show, especially after recent events. We believe ‘The Squad’ will have a harder time in achieving acceptance from the esports audience but the proof is in the pudding. We’ll have to wait and see if the pilots are picked up by the networks before getting ahead of ourselves.

WeWork Is Reportedly Expanding Into Esports

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WeWork Is Reportedly Expanding Into Esports With New ‘Play By We’ Venture

Topline: WeWork, which last week accepted a $9.5 billion bailout offer from Japanese conglomerate SoftBank Group, recently trademarked a new professional gaming arm called Play By We, according to an application published by the U.K.’s Intellectual Property Office last week that was first reported on by Bloomberg.

  • WeWork parent We Co. is in the early stages of quietly building a new electronic-gaming business, Bloomberg first reported on Tuesday.
  • Bloomberg also found that WeWork has already hired several new employees for the venture and additionally found two now-expired job listings for Play By We—one for a content and experience manager and another for a delivery project manager based in New York.
  • Play By We will reportedly be an entertainment services brand focused on professional gaming and esports, as well as hosting various tournaments and contests. The application implies that given its huge real estate footprint, WeWork could rent out office space and provide facilities for video-gaming competitions and events, according to Bloomberg.
  • The besieged startup has already branched into other businesses, like education with WeGrow, fitness with Rise By We and co-living with WeLive, although it has been divesting assets from some of them.
  • WeWork declined Forbes’ request for comment.

Big number : Competitive gaming, or esports, is rapidly gaining popularity and growing into a lucrative industry. The global esports market will be worth over $1 billion in 2019—and almost $2 billion by 2022, according to Newzoo, the leading analytics provider for the industry.

Key background : WeWork has imploded in recent months, following a disastrous IPO attempt and the ouster of CEO and founder Adam Neumann. The startup, which has been bleeding money, was forced to choose between two bailout packages in order to save its business and avoid running out of money. WeWork eventually accepted a $9.5 billion bid from its biggest shareholder, SoftBank Group—a severe discount from WeWork’s $47 billion valuation at the start of the year. Most recently, following the takeover, WeWork was reportedly planning to slash 4,000 jobs—or 30% of its workforce—in an effort to further cut costs.

Space eSports Venue

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Space announces launch of esports and gaming venue

Swedish entertainment and media company Space recently announced the launch of its first contemporary digital culture centre in Stockholm’s central square, Sergels Torg. The venue is due to open in 2021 and claims to be Europe’s largest permanent esports and gaming venue, and will also feature content creation suites for guests.

Space was founded by Gustav Käll, Lars Blomberg, and Per Sundin. The organisation’s main investor is Pop House Sweden, where Conni Jonsson and ABBA star Björn Ulvaeus are majority owners. Labelled ‘Space Stockholm’, the site will offer patrons a place to play their favourite games, experience music in the live arena, meet friends, attend events, and content creation.

The core components of the venue include a gaming centre with over 500 PCs and consoles, a multi-purpose arena for live events, content creation and music studios, restaurants, cafes, and a gym.

The venue’s live events space will look to blend gaming and music interests with live performances in the arena, pop-up gigs and studio sessions, production workshops, and audio engineering classes. Space Stockholm will also look to become an influencer content creation hub offering fully equipped studio spaces for music, audio, and video production.

Käll discussed the venture in a release: “At Space we strive to inspire and uplift communities, motivating the next generation. We aim to create a place for digital culture that connects human beings, a world where everyone can thrive in their creativity and have a stronger sense of belonging.”

Esports Insider says: This new venture holds some promise. Being bang in the centre of Stockholm puts Space in a great spot for both exposure and footfall. It seems that the company has made a point of not putting all their eggs in one basket either. It will be interesting to track the success offering studios and equipment for content creation at a venue like this.

All Star eSports League

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Esports has exploded in recent years, as big brand names continue to invest in the competitive gaming field.

All-Star eSports League is trying to capitalize on the expansion by catering to students, particularly high schoolers.

“A lot of high schools find that link between STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] interest and eSports. So that's why they're getting interest, at least in the high school scene,” 17-year-old CEO of All-Star eSports League Jordan Zietz tells YFi AM.

Zietz says that exposing kids at this age to eSports can help prepare them for the future.

“Particularly, in STEM, I think what's super interesting about the advance there is that not only are people kind of preparing for jobs, but STEM jobs are more entrepreneurial in nature,” he says.

Zietz says his company has adapted to fit the high school mold, and further differentiates itself from competitors by being the only free high school eSports league. The company also offers “several million dollars in scholarship prizing, peripheral upgrades, grants, and more for our students,” says Zietz.

With technology taking on a larger role in future jobs, Zietz says the importance of eSports is growing, and can be linked to future interest in STEM jobs.

“It's less trying to fit into a role, when you're pursuing a STEM job, and more you're trying to change the world,” he says.

“That's why I think the link between eSports and STEM is incredibly relevant because eSports teams and players are very resourceful, innovative, and they constantly have to think on their feet,” he adds.

Earlier this year, a report by gaming analytics firm Newzoo projected that global esports revenue will hit $1.1 billion this year — a 27% spike since 2018, as Reuters reported.

SKT vs Splyce eSports Event

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SKT vs. Splyce had the highest peak viewership of any esports event

Roughly 2.5 million viewers tuned in to watch the League of Legends World Championship quarterfinals series between SK Telecom T1 and Splyce earlier today, according to ESCharts.

The series toppled the previous League viewership record of the 2017 World finals match between SKT and Samsung Galaxy by about 400,000 viewers. Additionally, it became the most viewed esports event surpassing the Fortnite World Cup 2019 Finals record of 2.3 million in July.

SKT are no stranger to high viewership. This Worlds alone, SKT have already surpassed the 2 million mark twice. Once during their group stage match against Fnatic followed by Royal Never Give Up the next day. Today, the LEC representatives brought SKT to four games, a feat which many fans thought to be a pipe dream. Viewership raised as viewers eagerly watched the underdogs of Splyce attempt to reverse sweep the three-time world champions.

Immediately after Splyce vs. SKT, G2 Esports faced DAMWON Gaming in the last quarter final series this Worlds. This series reached a peak viewership of over 2.1 million and also topped the 2017 Worlds finals by about 16,000 viewers.

Next week, the viewership kings, G2 and SKT, will face each other in the semifinals. SKT alone would bring in millions of League fans, but with G2 beside them we’ll surely see another record smashing series. The series between SKT and G2 will begin Sunday Nov. 3 at 5am CT.

Booming eSports and Video Gaming

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Booming eSports and Video Gaming Already Bigger Than Music and Movie Industries Combined

FN Media Group Presents USA News Group News Commentary

The eSports and video gaming market have already outpaced their contemporaries in the film and music businesses with what is expected to be a $300 billion annual industry by 2025. So, it seems ironic that investors are slow to catch on.

That’s according to portfolio managers who think the industry has plenty of room to run. Especially since it continues to grow in the double digits. Or more simply put, market watchers believe that the growth and success of video gaming and eSports is not just another bubble.

The eSports industry is being dominated by big companies looking to develop the industry’s reach and player interaction such as Allied Esports Entertainment, NetEase and Electronic Arts Inc., alongside other companies that are aggressively building platforms and infrastructure.

Innovative new companies in the industry, like Versus Systems Inc., are adopting changes that are helping to transform the business. Versus Systems has set its mission to offer real-world product prizing for players in-game. The company operates a business-to-business software platform that game developers and publishers use to create prize-based matches to players. The Vancouver-based company is establishing a niche unlike anything in the marketplace.

Just How Big is Big?

It’s hard to get a grip on just how big the eSports and gaming market has become. As an example, the world championship finals for the online battle arena video game League of Legends attracted twice as many viewers as Super Bowl 52 in 2018. Likewise, the fan base is enormous, with the massive gamer audience for the Amazon-owned video streaming service Twitch second only to Netflix, based on minutes per user watched.

It makes sense then that the industry would be attracting all kinds of investors. The thing is, it’s really not – at least it hasn’t been so far. Portfolio managers and analysts have pointed out that investors, like most of us, are “newbs” in this space, and so we have little or none of the experience that would allow us to invest in the growth companies.

“To me, it’s one of the most asymmetrically priced risk profiles in a lot of equities right now. Just because there’s not a lot of attention being paid to it,” states Nick Mersch, a manager of a global investment portfolio heavy into the eSports and gaming space.

“There are so many future monetization possibilities that it just has nowhere to go but up.”, he says.

The pros have pointed to three main areas where investors can position themselves in this dynamic and fluid market; through publishers, through teams and via the technology.

“If you can gauge community interest around the titles and look at the release schedule, you can tie in some of their earnings,” Mersch said.

For most, that would mean backing giants like Chinese juggernaut Tencent. They are the owner of such monster franchises as League of Legends and Fortnite, as well as the mass Chinese messaging, social media and payment app WeChat. Of course, Tencent is already capitalized at over $400 billion, so you are hardly looking at early stage.

On the other hand, investors could seek eSports team play. These are like traditional sports franchises, complete with sponsorship deals, advertising and player contracts, as well as media agreements. Getting a piece of these players is much more complex for the average investor thanks to the significant private ownership that dominates the group.

Technology a Simple Play in Gaming

The technology that drives eSports and gaming may be one of the easy entry points for early investors. Companies like Versus Systems are using new approaches, such as the company’s WINFINITE platform to kick up revenue. Game developers and publishers can now use the Unity engine to offer players in-game contests, as well as sweepstakes. Versus System stands to generate returns on signing licensing deals as the platform continues to elicit strong demand with game publishers and developers.

One of the early adopters is HP, Inc., who just announced they will integrate WINFINITE technology into their products. Versus is powering OMEN Rewards, a real-world prizing platform built into OMEN Command Center and available for download by any Win10 PC via the Windows Store.

Versus Systems has also inked a strategic partnership with Ludare Games Group. In its agreement, Ludare plans to integrate WINFINITE platform on its upcoming games, including popular augmented reality games.

Versus expects to expose WINFINITE to as many developers and publishers as possible. That’s why they entered into a marketing agreement with Los Angeles based Radley Studios. The high-profile marketing partner is responsible for introducing the WINFINITE technology to major entertainment, media and advertising adopters.

Finding Niches May Also Mean Thinking Outside the Box

Portfolio manager Mersch also suggests that investors may have a larger range of options as an influx of gaming properties from the United States follow in the footsteps of U.S. cannabis producers. That group had successfully used reverse takeovers to list on Canada’s junior exchanges with the strategy to up-list to a larger board.

There are also a number of existing companies, like Versus Systems, that originate in Canada and then co-list over the counter in the U.S. This is a great place to seek out competitive new brands and technology companies that have captured the interest of the larger gaming industry.

If eSports and eGaming reach the kind of massive revenue numbers the current data suggests, some of these newcomers may become the future giants of the industry that come to define the future of gaming, game play and monetization models. Companies already seeking to take the active lead in this sector include:

Allied Esports Entertainment, the creator of esports venues and live events for both video games and poker, has gone public in a transaction with Black Ridge Acquisition Corp. Allied Esports International and WPT Enterprises, will become Allied Esports Entertainment. Allied Esports Entertainment is known for creating the Esports Arena at the Luxor Hotel with MGM Resorts International in Las Vegas, and for its World Poker Tour events.

NetEase plans to invest over $ 725 million in building an e-sports park in Shanghai, according to an announcement at the 2019 China Digital Entertainment Congress (CDEC) on Saturday, effectively doubling down on efforts to develop a complete e-sports ecosystem to rival Tencent.

Electronic Arts Inc.’s game portfolio strength has been its major growth driver in recent times. The company has a strong slate of game releases lined up for the fall game rush including the recently unveiled Need for Speed Heat. The latest title in the popular racing franchise is scheduled to be available from November on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Five Below Video Gaming Space

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A new era of retailing? Here's how Five Below is trying to fend off Amazon

It's sounds pretty unusual, though not outright outlandish. Value-oriented "fun" retailer Five Below is introducing esports game-play at a handful of stores beginning next year. If all goes well, more of the company's 850-plus locations will be adding 3,000-square-feet localhost spaces connected to their stores.

Details of the initiative are still scant, like how Five Below's gaming infrastructure partner, Nerd Street Gamers, will staff, manage, and promote these spaces – particularly if the plan is to schedule regularly occurring esports events. It's also unclear where the densely stocked stores will find space for an esports venue without accessing added retail space.

Still, the company deserves kudos for thinking outside the box. Other retailers would be wise to embrace the same idea and offer their own spin on entertainment, even if just to underscore the point that e-commerce giant Amazon.com can't do the same via the internet.

Welcome to the new era of retailing

"The partnership with (esports gaming network) Nerd Street Gamers is a unique opportunity to engage with an important and growing community of gamers in many of our locations across the country," explained Five Below CEO Joel Anderson when the announcement was made earlier this month. He added, "Gaming is a trend our younger customers are actively enjoying, and working with Nerd Street Gamers will help us to provide an exciting gaming experience that appeals to our core customers and beyond."

Five Below sells a variety of smartly curated goods ranging from toys to electronics to books to home furnishings, and more. Most items cost less than $5, making it easy for its customers to "let go & have fun," in turn making it easier for the retailer to deliver its intended "WOW" that rivals like Dollar Tree and Dollar General somehow can't.

Now its customers will have another reason to step foot in a store where they might make a purchase once they do.

It's not a completely unheard-of idea. GameStopis the sponsor of Complexity Gaming's 11,000-square-foot esports facility. Simon Property Group invested $5 million in Allied Esports in the middle of this year as a precursor to the establishment of competitive video gaming venues at some of its properties. And, if you look closely, several malls that are slowly being vacated by retailers are being repopulated by entertainment offerings like virtual reality experiences.

Other initiatives have been more direct and store-specific. The U.K.'s top-tier department store chain Selfridges operates an indoor skate park at one of its locales. The recently revived Toys R Us brand, which still hasn't reopened any stores of its own, is teaming up with Candytopia to create branded, interactive, candy-themed exhibits. The brand's present owners promise its new stores will be more immersive than its predecessors.

The underlying theme is clear – shoppers are increasingly expecting to be entertained.

Easier said than done

While the broad premise makes sense, creating an engaging experience in a retail space is much easier said than done.

"I think the majority of the stores are really still not that great, honestly," said Foot Locker VP of Global Retail Design Kambiz Hemati, speaking earlier this year about the future of retail in general. He went on to tell Retail Dive, "They've fallen behind and they've become complacent. I think a lot of it has to do because they just don't know what to do."

He's right. Many retailers are on the defensive, yet hesitant to steer away from the formula that worked so well through the 1990s.

The advent of the internet (and mobile internet, in particular) is largely responsible for that shift. Hemati goes on to say, "Before, people would come to the store and that was the first time they experienced whatever products and services that you sold. And now, I think one of the very big differences is, even before they come to the store, they already have done their research."

That leaves retailers in a position where they need to build a relationship with the consumers stepping foot in their stores. It hasn't been stores' strong suit, however, and the older the retailer, seemingly the weaker its ability to do so.

The irony: The younger the consumer, the more open they are to such relationships. A CrowdTwist survey from 2017 found that 57% of the generation Z crowd still prefer to shop in a store as opposed to online. Even more, most of those surveyed are members of at least one retail loyalty program.

A strategy worth mimicking

Five Below isn't breaking brand-new ground here, but it's one of the better efforts thus far to meld entertainment and retail aimed at the same basic crowd. Although in this case, it's as much about combating Family Dollar and Dollar Tree as it is about competing with Amazon and its budding online video gaming platform. For other store chains, the idea could be the last means available of standing up to the e-commerce giant.

If that's going to be the case, however, sooner is better than later. While Amazon's 500 Whole Foods grocery stores and planned conventional grocery store chain pose a threat to the grocery segment, it's hands-on bookstores that promote its own electronics and Amazon Go convenience stores are still nascent efforts. There's time for non-grocer retailers to build a moat against an Amazon incursion, but not a ton of it.

Bottom line? A whole slew of store chains have been on the defensive, but only because they weren't thinking creatively enough about how to use their selling space. Five Below's initiative in rethinking what draws foot traffic into a store may be a lesson some struggling retailers embrace as a means to sidestep the Amazon juggernaut or even a bigger brick-and-mortar rival.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. James Brumley has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon, Five Below, and GameStop. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

The Motley Fool is a USA TODAY content partner offering financial news, analysis and commentary designed to help people take control of their financial lives. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.

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