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Esports Stream Aggregator

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Esports stream aggregator, calendar Juked launches

 

A new way to stay up to date on esports called Juked, which aggregates esports streams across Twitch, YouTube, Mixer, and others into a streamlined schedule, provides statistics and enhances viewer experience and encourages cross-game viewing, launched into open beta Wednesday.

The company was co-founded by entrepreneur Ben "Fishstix" Goldhaber -- who was the first gaming-specific hire at Justin.tv in 2011, months before it launched Twitch -- and programmer and show producer Chris "ChanmanV" Chan. The company first announced its intention to launch on July 1 and underwent private alpha and beta testing stages throughout the late summer and early fall.

Juked will cover more than 20 esports titles, including League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Dota 2, Overwatch and more. The product is similar to TV Guide, outlining the schedule for all esports events and providing embedded live streams and video-on-demand replays to create a game-based and global directory. Juked also provides tournament standings, brackets, and statistics for each event it covers.

"When you talk to anyone in the industry or anyone that's just a hardcore fan of esports, they know that there's been a problem with discovery that you have to go to five different sources just to find what you need to understand what's happening, even just in the top couple of esports titles out there," Goldhaber told ESPN. "So as esports fans, this is a pain that we felt many, many times throughout the years. There's a lot of people like us who want to know what's happening across many different titles, but you can't do that in any meaningful way right now with the existing products that are out there."

The new project spawned from a site Goldhaber started prior to beginning at Justin.tv. Over the past few years, Goldhaber and Chan have worked on talk shows on Twitch, primarily one that centered on competitive Overwatch. After Goldhaber was laid off by Twitch in March 2018, he and Chan began brainstorming together and coined Juked.

Goldhaber and Chan did not disclose user numbers from the early and alpha and beta stages, but stated that feedback had been incredibly positive and that the company hoped to grow organically through word of mouth, search engine optimization and leveraging their personal contacts and networks. The company also hopes to roll out premium features via a subscription model in the future, Goldhaber and Chan told ESPN.

"The value proposition for the subscription will be a blend of features that make people's lives easier just to follow esports," Chan said. "Things like our newsletter, things like a summary of this past weekend, the highlights you should watch, some of the results that you should know, if you can only spend five minutes or 10 minutes getting caught up. Then content for sure.

"I think ads at some point will be something we consider as well. Maybe first, to be honest, maybe we can serve some ads, just while we're trying to get users, just have the free experience and then have this subscription."

The launch of Juked comes as competitors to Twitch have begun investing significantly in the gaming and esports spaces. In the past three months, Microsoft-backed Mixer, Google-owned YouTube and Fox-backed Caffeine have each signed exclusive contracts with influencers, with some also entering the live event esports space.

Juked Creates an Easy Way to Watch Your Favorite eSports

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Juked.gg creates an easy way to watch your favorite esports broadcasts

 

Juked.gg is launching an open beta for its platform that makes it easy for fans to watch esports broadcasts for their favorite teams or personalities.

Juked is a guide to the wide world of esports that makes it easy to stay on top of every trending match from popular games and teams, featuring support for over 20 titles. In addition to showcasing content, Juked is designed to provide answers to the most common issues esports fans face on a daily basis.

If you’ve ever missed an epic moment in esports because you didn’t know when to tune in, where to find the broadcast, or why you should care, Juked is for you, according to the pitch from founders Ben “FishStix” Goldhaber and Chris “ChanManV” Chan. I interviewed them about the business at the recent Esports BAR event in Miami.

“We want to create essentially the best way to watch esports,” said Goldhaber. “As much as esports has grown over the last decade, it’s incredibly fragmented and super difficult for any outsider to understand what’s happening. Even if you’re someone like either of us who’s embedded in the community, it’s a pain to stay on top of what’s going on.”

Juked anticipates what fans need to know and puts it in one place. This includes aggregating and indexing every esports broadcasts (live, upcoming, and VOD) and related data (brackets, standings, schedules, results, player profiles, and teams) into one viewing app, so fans can easily stay on top of their favorite games, teams, and players.

The Juked beta also features an industry-wide esports events calendar which allows users to set reminders for when individual matches or tournaments go live. It can be sorted and filtered by favorite games and teams.

The founders started San Francisco-based Juked because they were frustrated by the lack of a good way to follow the biggest leagues, tournaments, and events in esports. Casual fans and hardened insiders alike feel this problem on a daily basis—with dozens of relevant leagues, tournaments, and events happening every single week, staying in the know has become a constant chore. And this problem is only getting worse as new esports games continue to launch every year.

“When you land on our homepage, you’re going to instantly see all of the live streams, all the live events that are happening right now,” Goldhaber said. “It can be filtered by game by team or by your favorite player. So when you’re watching on Juked, you’re also getting all this context that you wouldn’t necessarily see on Twitch, YouTube, or any other platform. You’re going to get the brackets, you’re going to get the standings, you’re getting the player profiles, the team profiles, the prize pool, the schedule.”

Goldhaber was previously the director of content marketing at Twitch, where he worked from 2011 to 2018. His roots in esports began in 1999, and he played first-person shooters competitively for a decade. He then began doing commentary and streaming in 2008, and in 2010 he launched GamesCast.tv, the first aggregator of live esports content.

This project led to him getting hired at Justin.tv as the first full-time gaming employee, just four months before the launch of Twitch. His initial role at Twitch was as a partnership manager interfacing with and managing relationships with the biggest esports leagues and events on the platform, before moving up to his director position. GamesCast.tv was both a precursor to Twitch and Juked.

“The problem that we’re trying to solve is the fact that there is no central resource to stay on top of all of the biggest tournaments from across all the major titles,” Goldhaber said. “So that’s what we’re trying to build.”

Chan’s background includes 15 years of experience in software and product engineering. He was also a top-rated WarCraft 2 and NBA 2K competitive player and created several of the most popular podcasts in esports over the last seven years. This includes Value Town, Unfiltered, and The OverView, the latter of which Goldhaber was a co-host.

Most recently, he was the head of product, marketing, and strategic partnerships at Hearthsim, an esports analytics company which created HSReplay.net, and is the CEO of Visual Core, creator of popular online game show Streamer Showdown.

The company started in March and it has raised $500,000 in funding. It has begun hiring its staff.

Esports games supported on Juked

  • League of Legends
  • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
  • Dota 2
  • Overwatch
  • Rocket League
  • Smash Bros. Ultimate & Melee
  • StarCraft 2
  • Call of Duty
  • Hearthstone
  • Fortnite
  • Street Fighter V
  • Tekken 7
  • Mortal Kombat 11
  • World of WarCraft
  • Rainbow 6: Siege
  • StarCraft: Brood War
  • FIFA
  • Apex Legends
  • Teamfight Tactics
  • Magic: The Gathering
  • Quake Champions

Over time, the company will add a premium subscription model.

“First and foremost, we were focused on tackling this problem, which we think is discovery, making it easy to discover the best content in esports,” Goldhaber said. “And we’ll be creating additional features where our pro users can pay extra to access pro features on the site. So that’s primarily what we’re looking at for business model content.”

eSports Tournaments League Of Legend

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How the League of Legends World Championship became the Super Bowl of esports

LOS ANGELES — There is no faster-growing sport than esports, and there is no bigger esports tournament than the League of Legends World Championship.

The run-up to this year’s finals in Paris has already garnered all-time highs in viewership, netting just under 4 million concurrent viewers for the league’s second semifinal match, making it the most watched esports event in history, per Esports Charts. The 2019 final, featuring Europe’s G2 Esports and China’s FunPlus Phoenix, has the potential to eclipse that mark.

As is typical for Worlds, the Nov. 10 event is sold out. It will be preceded by a Friday ceremony at the Eiffel Tower featuring the work of Louis Vuitton and a pre-match performance Sunday featuring world famous musicians. It will be the culmination of a project for which planning began last November. And it is of a size and scale that was inconceivable to those who worked on the original event eight years ago, one held inside a conference hall in Sweden.

Now an international cultural touchstone for hundreds of millions of young people, the idea of hosting a tournament was a matter of debate within the Riot Games less than a decade ago, when it was a nascent company in Los Angeles founded by a couple of college buddies.

“Most people were very skeptical about esports, including a lot of people inside the company,” Riot Games Co-Founder Marc Merrill said in an interview with The Washington Post, recalling that he was met with “chuckles” when he would bring up the idea of competitive play. “That was something I remember very acutely.”

League of Legends, the multiplayer online battle arena game, had been on the market for about two years and had already built a strong community of players around its free-to-play model. However it lacked a full competitive experience until the introduction of ranked play and draft mode in mid-2010. Merrill said there were only a “handful” of people at Riot who believed in the future of competitive play, but that core group quickly expanded as data points began to suggest the company might be sitting on a viewership geyser.

The first major test for their concept came in 2011, at what is considered the first Worlds tournament. The event was hosted by Dreamhack at a convention center in Jönköping, Sweden. Gamers brought their own computers, networked them together and competed in front of thousands of fans. However, it was very much an open question as to whether people would tune in to watch outside the walls of the convention center.

“At the time, League of Legends was a big game but it [was just] another game alongside many other games at these multigame weekend conventions," Riot’s Esports Director Whalen Rozelle said.

The result? Hundreds of thousands watched online.

“We were blown away by the response, by how many people wanted to tune into the action,” said Merrill.

That same year, Justin.tv launched Twitch, a gaming-centric, live-streamed video site that sought to capitalize on the millions of people who were already watching gaming content on their site. [Editor’s note: Twitch is owned by Amazon, whose CEO, Jeff Bezos, owns The Washington Post.] This platform allowed a relatively accessible and convenient way for mass audiences to watch esports without mainstream media buy-in or support.

Finding backing from mainstream outlets proved challenging given the game’s complexities, which some first-time viewers have difficulty deciphering. In League, two teams of five players try to destroy each other’s base. The game features over 140 characters, called champions, each with different abilities. For those who can follow it, the game lends itself to exciting viewing moments. A famous one in Worlds lore was when player Enrique “xPeke” Cedeño Martinez’s champion, was one hit away from being killed but managed to evade opponents and win the day.

That was also a dynamic the league’s founders experienced early on as the tournament’s expansion produced some potentially devastating growing pains.

Panic and pain

On the strength of what they saw in Sweden, Riot decided to bring competitions in-house, developing the League Championship Series in 2012 and running the league itself. The goal, Merrill said, was to build the architecture to enable League to “be a real sport,” complete with a regular schedule, teams and salaries for players. Salaries for starters in North America now average $350,000.

“We asked ourselves, ‘How would we rethink this?’" said Rozelle, who was hired in 2012 to develop esports for the company and is related to Pete Rozelle, the NFL’s former commissioner. "The core of it was, ‘Okay, we’re fans of sports, we’re fans of video games and we’re fans of esports. What are the best things that we can pull from all three things?'”

Their ideas manifested in the Season 2 Worlds event, the initial rounds of which were held in a courtyard outside the Staples Center, home of the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers, Clippers and the NHL’s Kings. It drew passionate fans, many of whom came sporting homemade costumes of characters from the game. It was another key moment for Riot, which had created the event from scratch. By all accounts the first matches had gone well. But then, in the middle of a quarterfinals match, the game stalled due to an Internet connectivity issue.

“Your heart sinks so low," Merrill said. "You’re instantly going into the worst case assumptions.”

Merrill recalled a “moment of panic, followed by the pain and knowledge that this is really bad, followed by the motivation to move forward and do the right thing.”

Rozelle, who was in the broadcast truck when it happened, put it more bluntly, “Holy s---, I can’t believe this is happening,” he remembers thinking. “It just breaks your heart.”

Left without any other options, they decided to restart the match. Then the game stalled again. After several hours of trying to resolve it, the technical issue remained. Brandon Beck, who founded Riot alongside Merrill, went out on stage, apologized, and offered those in attendance $25 of in-game currency along with free merchandise and pizza. The crowd erupted in joy.

With their customers satiated, Riot ultimately resolved the technical problem by creating offline servers and adding satellite Internet backup options, which they deployed at the finals, held at Galen Center, home to the University of Southern California’s basketball teams.

“It was us growing up quickly, when it came to live event production and knowing that you can’t rely on your planning to always go well,” said Rozelle.

Merrill said that Season 2′s World Championship was a huge inflection point for the community, which further validated their belief that live esports events could take root and succeed in North America, and beyond.

“It felt like a borderline religious experience, being in that arena,” said Merrill of the finals at the Galen Center, owing to the excitement generated by enthusiastic crowds, orchestral music, and the overall celebration of League.

It also brought a mandate to spend more money.

‘No one is going to do this for us’

By 2013, Riot set its sights higher, taking the event inside the Staples Center, utilizing a seating configuration the building used for concerts. The event sold out in an hour, according to Forbes.

Rozelle said the Staples Center staff was initially confused about the nature of the event, thinking that thousands of people were coming to play video games. It took mutual connections to assuage concerns about Riot’s bona fides and the event they planned to hold, according to Rozelle.

Just as they scaled up their live event, they also worked to professionalize their broadcast product. At the 2013 Worlds, 32 million people watched at least part of the broadcast via Twitch. While those figures are not a one-to-one comparable to TV’s Nielsen ratings, the mass global audience did show how live-streamed esports can stack up favorably against linear programming.

From a production standpoint, Riot found that endemic companies were busy with their own programs and “not so interested” in League, according to Merrill. Traditional sports-related outlets and companies simply did not understand the concept of esports. That made it clear what their next challenge would be.

“We have to go build the expertise and do this ourselves, because no one is going to do this for us, or help solve the problems,” Merrill said.

Riot was able to hire some people with expertise, such as Ariel Horn, who had experience with the NFL and Olympics, but by and large the company relied on itself to determine what a competitive esports league should look like and then develop the know-how to execute their plans.

Traditional outlets have since come around with more than 30 television and digital platforms having aired events in 13 different languages, including ESPN and SYFY.

The move to South Korea for the 2014 final was a natural one for Riot. League’s early success was due in large part to engagement from Korean gamers, who also provided a sense of legitimacy to the esports league in its early days. South Korea is a mecca of esports, where televised tournaments have taken place for more than 15 years.

Signaling how big Worlds had become, it was hosted at the Seoul World Cup Stadium. The headline performer was Imagine Dragons.

In 2015 and 2016, the championship continued its global tour, moving to Berlin and then back to Los Angeles.

A global league with global challenges

Riot has staged these large scale events with a small core team — between six and seven people, all of whom have other responsibilities at the company — throughout the year, according to Adam Mackasek, who has worked on the company’s global events since 2014. The team can expand to around 50 people, between employees and contractors, closer to event dates. Mackasek said planning for Worlds begins the day after the current year’s event ends. Logistics present challenge enough, but those are complicated further by having a global league that features international competitions.

“Geopolitics plays a big role,” Rozelle said. “We have competitors coming from everywhere and one of the challenges is getting people from everywhere to places that they may not have great government affiliations.”

Rozelle said Riot is able to lean on Chinese conglomerate Tencent, which owns Riot Games, for matters concerning the Chinese government, and will find more informal routes to lobby officials in the U.S. “Maybe somebody knows a congressman or a senator and we have to reach out and try to get visas," Rozelle said.

Once players and fans arrive, a different set of challenges arise, as Riot has to find ways to engage with, close to literally, the entire world, informing and entertaining millions with vastly different backgrounds and interests.

“We reach a generation that’s very hard to reach in traditional channels these days,” said John Needham, global head of esports at Riot. “We are the next big sport, the next big wave in sports.”

For the last few years, Riot has tried to push the envelope for its live experience, rivaling events such as the Olympics — and arguably exceeding the World Cup and Super Bowl, with its technological innovation and production value.

In 2017, the World Championship in China saw an augmented reality dragon flying through the stadium and last year’s event in Korea featured an entire augmented reality K-Pop vocal group called K/DA perform alongside its real-world vocalists. The group’s Spotify page shows more than 101 million plays for their song “POP/STARS.”

“We did the [augmented reality] dragon in 2017, and so I was like. ‘Oh how can we push that a little further?'" said Toa Dunn, head of music at Riot. “And I said, ‘Imagine, instead of just a dragon, four members of pop band.' And even that, we had to learn how to do that."

Hundreds of millions of viewers are expected to watch at least part of this year’s World Championship in Paris, in addition to the sold-out crowd at AccorHotels Arena. The spectator experience in France will include a fan village next to the Paris City Hall, complete with player meet-and-greets, demos of pro gaming setups, customized videos, scavenger hunts and a speaker series.

Despite overseeing the most-watched esports event in the world, Merrill said he and his team are still getting used to their role in the culture.

“People have tried to make fun of me constantly,” Merrill said of his love of gaming. “We’re so focused or heads-down in our own little world that we are sort of nervous to go broader. ... Are people still going to be mean to us? And isn’t that cool when that doesn’t happen?”

The increased scope and popularity of the league has also brought new sets of concerns, particularly when current events creep into the picture. Just as the NFL struggled to find the balance between the freedom of its players to protest over the past several years, esports has had to handle a similar incident when a player in the Activision Blizzard-run Hearthstone league, spoke out in support of Hong Kong protesters and was punished. The incident sparked an awkward back and forth between Blizzard and outraged players, some of whom threatened to boycott the company.

“We’re going to try to be as agnostic as possible,” said Needham.

To a degree, the incident will serve as the backdrop to Sunday’s next installment of the World Championship, which will pit European-based G2 against China’s FunPlus Phoenix. It may also serve as a prelude to 2020, when the World Championship will return to China.

“We don’t think about geopolitical realities in any specific area of the world, as much as we just focus on delivering a great experience in game and with our sport," Needham said.

Mobile Advertising Within Esports

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Why All Brands Should Consider Mobile Advertising Within Esports

In this exclusive article for ExchangeWire and TheGamingEconomy, James Anderson (pictured below), business director at Publicis Sport and Entertainment, discusses how mobile esports has evolved from humble beginnings, and why the time is right for advertisers to invest in the medium.

The world’s most popular video game console is sitting in our pockets right now.

All brands should consider tapping into the gaming industry

Research finds mobile gamers tend to be more receptive to advertising compared to non-gamers. Some 43% of mobile gamers say they are more likely to buy or use brands with ads they like, compared to 32% of non-gamers, which creates a massive opportunity for better marketing efficiency and effectiveness for brands.

The big revelation for mobile gaming was that if you remove the barrier to the gaming field, a whole lot more people want to be gamers than you think. That is the value exchange for brands, the predominant form of video within gaming apps is a sort of user-initiated value exchange video.

Mobile gaming offers brands the opportunity to engage with consumers, at scale with data, and to provide positive moments with them. Brands and potential sponsors need to assess the different landscapes which gaming as a vertical has to offer and understand how they can authentically and relevantly enter into this space and add value to the audiences and overall experience to leverage the true value.

Gaming is the future of mobile advertising

Once solely the home of relatively simple, if captivating, games like Fruit Ninja and Paper Toss, mobile games have experienced a revolution in recent years. Growing from a past that began with Snake and Brick Breaker, phones and other mobile devices now feature games with the kind of strategic gameplay once only available on PCs and gaming consoles like PlayStation and Xbox. And it’s driving eye-popping revenue figures. In 2018, mobile game spending was projected to rise more than 25% and represent the majority of all game spending, totalling about $70bn (£54.1bn) in a $138bn (£106.7bn) market, according to research firm Newzoo.

Such numbers have bolstered hopes for a new growth front in mobile gaming, as the industry recently christened its first esports leagues. Formal esports organisations, which oversee season-long competitions between professional video gamers competing for robust pools of prize money, have usually been the province of blue-chip game titles from major publishing companies catering to consoles and personal computers. But surging audience numbers and the widespread availability and accessibility of mobile devices has made competitive gaming titles for mobile phones and tablets a fertile growth area as esports continues to push into the mainstream.

Regardless of format, esports industry leaders are lined up behind competitive mobile gaming.

“We firmly believe that mobile is the future of competitive gaming,” said Noah Whinston, 23, CEO of Immortals, a top esports organisation.

The belief stems from outsize potential audience numbers driven by the prevalence of mobile devices. Seventy-seven percent of adults in the United States own a smartphone, including 94% of people between 18-29, according to 2018 figures from The Pew Research Center. There were 4.3 billion smartphone subscriptions in 2017, expected to grow to 7.2 billion by 2023, according to last June’s Ericsson Mobility Report.

This ability to reach such a wide swath of people enables Clash Royale and other mobile title-based leagues an opportunity to develop both a massive audience and pull players. The growth in mobile gaming has been powered by the speed of innovation in smartphone tech, resulting in more advanced visuals and gameplay with broad mass market appeal.

Mobile gaming: the advantages and limitation for brands

The International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker forecasts the overall smartphone market to reach 1.646 billion units shipped in 2022, up from 1.465 billion in 2017. This is compared to 82.2 million PlayStation 4 units sold through July since its 2013 release. Microsoft does not release sales figures for Xbox One, but game publisher Electronic Arts stated that the console sold 29.4 million units as of 2017. Nielsen has reported 162 million video game console owners in the US, which equates to about 50% of the population.

Despite the enticing metrics of mobile gaming, some industry observers do not see a rosy future for mobile esports leagues.

Citing the screen size and control scheme as limiting factors, Michael Pachter, a research analyst at Wedbush Securities, is sceptical about the ability for a mobile game to establish itself as a major, organized esport on par with the Overwatch League or the League of Legends Championship Series. “I don’t think mobile ever becomes a big deal,” he said. “If you can watch a movie in Imax or on your phone, which one are you going to do? The best experience is always going to be on a large screen,” said Pachter, who added that mobile game participation will “vastly exceed” that for PC and console games. “There will be games that people want to play, I’m just not sure that we want to watch,” he said, seeing mobile-based strategy games like Clash Royale as being more like curling or chess in that way.

Owing largely to endemic interest and non-legacy media outlets, Clash Royale’s league has been able to generate buzz. A trailer teasing the season kick-off received over 13 million views on YouTube in just the first few days.

These developments, from an esports league to billions of dollars in revenue, would have been hard to imagine during the early days of mobile gaming, which started in the mid-late 1990s, notably with Snake on Nokia phones. The advent of the iPhone brought colourful and engaging games but, like bubble gum, the taste quickly faded, owing to the limited scope of gameplay. But recent titles have solved that problem, particularly as devices get more sophisticated, opening up new possibilities for game makers.

Universal eSports Principles

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Games industry international trade bodies unite on universal esports principles

Set of four principles for engagement agreed upon by representatives of the ESA, ESAC, UKIE, ISFE, and IGEA

Games industry representatives from associations including the ESA, the ESAC, IGEA, ISFE, and UKIE have united on a set of principles for esports engagement, the groups revealed today.

In a joint announcement, the organizations unveiled a set of four principles for promotion of and participation in esports. They are as follows, with explanations as shared by the coalition:

1. Safety and Well-Being

All esports community members deserve to participate in and enjoy esports in safe spaces and to be free from threats and acts of violence and from language or behavior that makes people feel threatened or harassed.

2. Integrity and Fair Play

Cheating, hacking, or otherwise engaging in disreputable, deceitful, or dishonest behavior detracts from the experience of others, unfairly advantages teams and players, and tarnishes the legitimacy of esports.

3. Respect and Diversity

Esports promotes a spirit of healthy competition. Whether in person or online, all members of the esports community should demonstrate respect and courtesy to others, including teammates, opponents, game officials, organizers, and spectators.

Esports is truly global and brings together players from different backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives. We believe the broad and diverse player base of esports contributes to its success. We support an open, inclusive, and welcoming environment for all, no matter one's gender identity, age, ability, race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation.

4. Positive and Enriching Game Play

Esports can help build self-confidence and sportsmanship and boost interpersonal communication and teamwork skills. Esports brings players and fans together to problem solve through strategic play, collaboration, and critical thinking. Participation in esports can also lead to the development of new and lasting friendships among teammates, competitors, and members of the broader esports community.

Additionally, the groups have shared a joint statement on the adoption of these principles:

"Our esports community includes the game publishers and intellectual property owners whose games are at the core of the esports ecosystem as well as the players, teams, and tournament organizers who bring this vibrant community to life," it reads. "As members of this community, we created these guiding principles to foster an esports environment that is vibrant, engaging, fair and fun for everyone. As esports continues to grow, collectively we support an ecosystem of play that can be enjoyed by all members of the community - from international competitions to local community events.

"We believe values of respect, diversity, safety, integrity, and fair play should be the foundation upon which positive and enriching esports communities are built. It is our sincere hope that others in the esports community will join us today in welcoming our universal esports principles and affirming belief in an open and inclusive esports environment."

Newzoo projects that the global esports market will exceed $1 billion in value for the first time ever in 2019.

New York’s ERA invests in eSports

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New York’s ERA invests in esports

Esports are the Wild West right now. There’s clearly a huge potential for the industry to become incredibly lucrative, but everything from the infrastructure of competition to the overall culture isn’t quite ready for prime time.

This introduces a huge opportunity for the tech world to get in on the action. We’ve seen traditional VC money start to sniff around esports in ways big and small. Bessemer Venture Partners has invested in Team SoloMid, while Sequoia has invested in 100 Thieves.

Today, Gen.G has announced that it has accepted investment from the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator,  a longstanding New York City-based accelerator program.

Gen.G started as KSV (Korea plus Silicon Valley) in mid-2017 with a debut in the Overwatch League. In 2018, after expanding to other games, including Heroes of the Storm, PUBG and League of Legends, KSV eSports rebranded to Generation Gaming (Gen.G) and launched a Clash Royale esports team.

At the end of 2018, Gen.G made yet another huge move. They lured Chris Park from his position as executive vice president in charge of product and marketing at Major League Baseball to join Gen.G as CEO.

Since then, Park has been thinking about the long-term opportunities for the esports org and the industry as a whole. He secured $46 million in funding from Los Angeles Clippers minority owner Dennis Wong, Will Smith’s Dreamers Fund, NEA, Battery Ventures, Canaan Partners, SVB Capital and Stanford University, among others.

And  he signed a partnership with dating app Bumble  to create Team Bumble, an all-female professional Fortnite squad.

Gender inclusion is one of the biggest misses in the esports world right now. Data shows that 46% of gamers are female (ESA) and that nearly one in four esports viewers are female (Nielsen). Despite no physical differentiators between men and women, women are severely underrepresented in the esports world.

Not one female competed in the Fortnite World Cup in 2019, despite the fact that qualifiers were completely open to any player. A big reason for the disparity here is that the gaming community isn’t generally a safe environment for female gamers, in big and small ways. Many female gamers experience abuse while playing games, like this streamer, and it’s gotten bad enough to push a small percentage of female gamers away from playing entirely.

But exclusion comes in many forms. Ninja announced in August 2018 that he won’t be streaming with female gamers, which you can read about here.

Beyond general principles about equality, the female gamer is a lucrative demographic that has yet to be properly tapped by any particular esports org, publisher or otherwise. Gen.G is now ahead in the race to acquire female gamers as fans, customers and future talent.

Another forward-thinking move by Gen.G is its recent partnership with the University of Kentucky to help create and manage its esports program. We’ve seen startups like PlayVS look to build out the infrastructure and connective tissue that will eventually bind education and professional sports, as has been the case with traditional sports for generations. Gen.G is now tackling that ever-important bridge from academia to professional life by looking at universities.

The funding from ERA, the amount of which has not been disclosed, not only allows Gen.G to grow its foothold on the East Coast — it also gives the esports org a strategic partnership with ERA, which invests in super early-stage tech startups. As more founders tackle the mounting challenges in esports, Gen.G is now in a prime position to watch over those deals closely and potentially tap into some of the solutions and services sure to sprout up in the next five to 10 years.

“We are focused on ways to make it easier for people in the gaming community to connect,” said Park, hinting at some of the technology in which Gen.G is interested. “My hope is that over time, platforms as well as teams treat fans and athletes as more than just users, and more like collaborators and partners.”

Wow eSports Crowdfunding

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Competitors, Influencers Express Concerns with Crowdfunding for WoW Esports Events at Blizzcon

  • Kelvin “Snutz” Nguyen said that Blizzard used deceptive language in its crowdfunding efforts for World of Warcraft esports.
  • Blizzard confirmed to competitors that it was not contributing $500K USD to the Arena World Championship and Mythic Dungeon Invitational prize pool.
  • The news came following successful sales of in-game cosmetics meant to crowdfund the prize pools.

Cloud9 World of Warcraft player Kelvin “Snutz” Nguyen spoke out about what he perceived to be deceptive language by Blizzard Entertainment regarding the crowdfunding efforts that the developer used to build prize pools for the Arena World Championship and Mythic Dungeon Invitational set for this weekend at BlizzCon.

In a blog post earlier this week, Blizzard announced that the prize pool for each event would be $330K (totaling $660K) thanks to crowdfunding efforts. Since March, Blizzard has been selling an in-game toy for World of Warcraft with the intent of using 25% of the proceeds to help fund the prize pool of the WoW’s year-end esports competitions, similar to the way that Dota 2 crowdfunds The International.

In the official Blizzard post from March, the developer stated that the two events had a “guaranteed minimum prize pool of $500,000,” or $250K for each event.

“For a limited time, every purchase of the Transmorpher Beacon or Lion’s Pride and Horde’s Might Fireworks, 25% of the proceeds will contribute toward the year’s finals LAN event prize pool,” the post stated. “Your support will help take the WoW esports prize pool to the next level.”

Because of the wording in Blizzard’s initial blog post, many competitors, including Nguyen were under the impression that the base prize pool for the event of $500K was going to be Blizzard’s contribution to prizing and that any proceeds from toy sales would be added onto that.

At a player meeting earlier this week, Nguyen said that players were informed of the prize pool, and when they inquired about it, they were told that because 25% of the proceeds from the toy sales exceeded the base prize pool of $500K that Blizzard would not contribute any money to prizing.

At the beginning of the year, Blizzard announced plans to revamp its WoW esports efforts by increasing prize pools with the use of crowdfunding, as well as supporting events throughout the year with two seasons of competition for both the Arena World Championship and Mythic Dungeon Invitational.

In a tweet earlier this week, Nguyen explained that Blizzard made approximately $2.6M in sales for the crowdfunding toy, but only increased the AWC prize pool by $50K.

Prior to the addition of crowdfunding this year, Blizzard contributed $250-280K in prizing per year for the Arena World Championship event at BlizzCon. The Mythic Dungeon Invitational, was started in 2017 with a global finals that had a $100K prize pool.

Following Nguyen’s tweet, WoW’s most-watched influencer on Twitch Zack “Asmongold” (last name unknown) brought the competitor onto his stream to discuss the situation as a number of his viewers brought the news to his attention.

“It’s not even about the amount. I don’t compete in WoW for the money,” Nguyen said. “They didn’t put it in their blog post for obvious reasons, but they gave me permission to Tweet what I want, and I’m allowed to take my stance on things. Hopefully, they come out with confirmation and stuff, but it’s a little ridiculous.”

Asmongold added to the conversation expressing an equal amount of disappointment and even went as far as to analyze Blizzard’s original post from March to explain his feelings.

“I know this is really granular, and it’s not the only definition of ‘contribute,’ but ‘contribute’ is a word that implies a shared responsibility,” Asmongold said. “I would feel that if I was using the word ‘contribute’ that I was working with Blizzard contribute to this, not necessarily funding it directly. … It’s an example of language that leads people to deceive themselves.”

Asmongold said that he believes that Blizzard should have at the very least been more transparent with their intentions for the prize pool. When crowdfunding plans were announced both Asmongold and Nguyen supported the efforts by promoting them to their followers, and Asmongold even purchased the in-game product himself.

“I defended (the 25% mark for toy proceeds),” Asmongold said. “That’s industry standard. Dota does the same (expletive) thing.”

Nguyen took Asmongold’s reference to Dota 2’s crowdfunding for The International as an opportunity to interject by expressing what he believes that tournament does correctly with its prize pool.

For The International, Dota 2’s developer Valve provides a base prize pool of $1.6M. From there crowdfunding efforts only add to the prize pool amount with this year’s contributions reaching $32.73M for a total prize pool of $34.33M.

“It’s not like Dota takes that away if (crowdfunding) does really well, which it does. They just add it on top of what they make from the crowdfunding,” Nguyen said.

The Esports Observer has reached out to Blizzard Entertainment for comment and will update this article should they respond.

 

Audio Challenges in Esports

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White Paper: Audio Challenges in Esports

Live esports events bring different challenges from traditional sports or live events. Games were designed to be played in isolation. Therefore, sound plays a vital role in the player’s ability to sense what is going on around them – something that isn’t a requirement in a sports arena with thousands of excited spectators.

These factors combine to create a challenging environment for audio engineers in esports events. This paper will examine these challenges individually and offer some real-world solutions.

The Player’s Experience

The biggest element in the design of a live esports production is the player. These players are just as demanding as traditional athletes when it comes to having a suitable playing field.

A player’s audio experience has three main elements: the sound from the computer, the communications with teammates, and the noise from their surroundings.

Computer Audio

Every player needs to hear what is going on in the game. It is worthwhile distinguishing between different types of games, because each has its idiosyncrasies.

The two main categories are Top-Down and First-Person. This relates mainly to the point of view of the player in relation to the field of play. A Top-Down game will have the game’s camera above the field of play, looking down. A player is usually controlling multiple “characters” in this type of game, such as several players on a football team or a number of units in a strategy game.

A First-Person game is more related to playing a single character, usually through their “eyes.” These games are usually in the realm of shooter or racing games.

Top-Down games have a more static view of the field of play, and thus mono sound can be acceptable. However, First-Person games require the player to be aware of what is going on beside or behind them, and thus stereo is a requirement. In games with 100 players, this is a large number of audio sources.

This audio needs to be ultra-low latency. Even a few milliseconds of delay can be unacceptable to a player, especially in First-Person games.

Team Audio/Communications

Many games are also team-based, and practically every league-based game has some degree of cooperation between players. Alternatives for private games exist, but, in a competitive environment, this needs to be highly controlled.

The communications must also be as low-latency as possible while maintaining clarity. Judges and coaches are part of the communications loop, and, as with other sports, the broadcast-audio team would like to be able to broadcast the player’s comments directly to the audience. Considering that streaming can prove to be more lucrative than competition play, protection of the stream audience’s experience is critical.

Background Noise

Background noise is a relatively new issue for players. In a private environment, the surrounding noise can be controlled, but, in an arena setting, there are multiple sources of noise. The FOH PA will usually contain a mix of the game’s audio and a shoutcaster (commentator). The onsite audience also poses a significant noise source.

Solutions such as active noise canceling aren’t appropriate in arena environments. Active cancelation is usually centered on low frequencies but allows a degree of “speech band” audio through. Thus, heavy-duty headsets (such as those designed for motorsports) are sometimes used. These can have poor audio quality, and players sometimes resort to using earbuds beneath the heavier intercom headsets for the game audio. This is undesirable because it can be uncomfortable in long events and also bypasses the event audio team.

The Broadcast/Stream Requirements

A typical stream production will have all the elements noted above (game and comms audio) as well as a shoutcaster. Games are fast-paced, and, as a result, there is usually a team of two to three commentators per stream, providing insights and analysis of the action.

But, unlike with a traditional sports game, the shoutcaster is often also in the room, and their commentary is played out over the FOH PA.

Thus, the audio crew on a live esports event usually ends up resembling a hybrid of the crew for a live event (such as a rock concert) and a stadium sports broadcaster. There can be a massive number of sources, all of which need to be mixed simultaneously for both the onsite and the streaming audience.

The Live Audience’s Experience

As with any other stadium sport, the onsite audience needs to feel a part of the action. But, since each player has their own audio from the game, it is difficult to know which the audience needs to hear.

However, there are games, such as some First-Person Shooter (FPS) games, that may deploy a “spectator”: a ghost player that acts as an in-game camera operator. Also, there can be unexpected incidents (think about a crash at an F1 race). If the audio team notices this before the video team, should they switch to it?

The audience also wants to hear the discussion between the teammates and their coach. But playing these private conversations through the PA can lead to the opposition’s hearing the tactics before they are played out. The balance between an engaging audience experience and a truly competitive environment can be a delicate one.

The League’s Requirements

As with other sports, there are differences between the casual and the professional environments. Tampering with a ball means nothing in a neighborhood park but can lead to criminal prosecution in a professional environment. Games need to be carefully regulated to prevent unfair play.

Leagues need to ensure that the games are played according to the rules. Sponsors and competitors alike require that games are played fairly. However, there are many ways audio can influence the result of a match. If an opposition player overhears team communications or if the shoutcaster broadcasts a tactic over the PA, it can swing the course of a game.

The league is responsible for maintaining the “fog of war” that hides the teams’ movements from the opposition.

Similarly, umpires and judges need to monitor the sounds of the games and the team communications. Any hint of cheating needs to be investigated, and this can be detected mainly by monitoring the team’s communications.

Some Solutions

Most leagues employ several methods to ensure a level playing field. The first is to have a larger-than-normal audio team, embedded in the judging and production team. By strictly controlling the audio, the league can limit the chances of cheating. Audio that is considered “safe” can be passed to the live or the broadcast teams, and it also offers a chance to filter out language.

These will usually involve a combination of audio-over-IP to handle the massive number of channels and the routing required. Instead of needing the audio engineer to route the audio to a judge, the judges can use a control interface to select their own audio.

Most leagues will also use a matrix intercom for the player’s audio. Matrices include features like IFB, allowing the mixing of the audio and communications. With little training, judges, shoutcasters, and other operators can learn to select and listen to any number of audio sources from their intercom panels. The judging team can also restrict the audio sources to the correctly authorized users.

Additionally, the choice of earphones for the players is critical. Typically, high-isolation headsets are used. By reducing the intelligibility of the ambient noises, interference from shoutcasters and audience members can be mitigated. In other instances, the league has created a sound-proof box on stage to mask the audio that is going to the players (negating the “live” experience).

Other measures are also available. To prevent audience reactions from impacting gameplay, some leagues inject masking sounds into player headsets to distract players from the surrounding audio.

Many esports leagues will even outsource the management and operation of the audio systems. By removing their direct control from the audio, the league can guarantee that they are not impacting the gameplay: for example, by giving one team an unfair advantage and allowing them to win.

Conclusion

Esports is a large and growing field, and it is attracting attention from many different companies. However, it is still a new genre, and many of the “kinks” are yet to be worked out of the system. Esports leagues are very concerned with the fairness and legitimacy of their nascent sports environment, and any audio company that wishes to work in this field needs to be aware of the various stakeholders, their expectations, and the challenges of meeting them all in one system.

This, however, can lead to some companies’ underestimating the audio requirements of the sport. A company that might be equipped to tackle a locally organized league may not have the technology or the experience to manage a major event, such as a regional or world-level game. However, by investing wisely and training teams to manage myriad demands, audio companies can set themselves up to join this growing industry on a world scale.

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.”