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Esports Offer An Alternative

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No NFL, NBA, MLB or NHL to bet on? These esports offer an alternative

With major sports on hiatus, many bettors are turning to what competitions are still taking place. Among them is esports. Though competitive gaming has boomed with live events in the past several years, its roots are online, with tournaments being organized remotely. In our current reality of social distancing and self-quarantine, many esports leagues and tournaments have rediscovered these roots.

Here is a primer on a few games that may eventually have widespread betting odds.

 

NHL 20

What is NHL 20?

NHL 20 is a hockey simulation video game put out annually by EA Sports. This isn’t NBA Jam or NFL Blitz; this is a true-to-life (as much as possible) version of what you see on the ice.

That means teams are weighted according to how good they are in the NHL: The Bruins, Capitals, Lightning and Penguins, for example, are all strong teams in the game.

What’s happening with NHL teams now that there is no season?

There are different content paths being taken by different teams in the NHL right now on how they are presenting regular-season games in NHL 20. Some are doing CPU vs. CPU simulations, while others are having the mascots join in. For this article I’m going to focus on what the Capitals are doing, involving their professional esports competitor.

Wait, the Capitals have a professional esports competitor?

Yep. His name is John “John Wayne” (yes, like the movie star) Casagranda, from Anchorage, Alaska. He grew up a die-hard Arizona Coyotes fan, but at the start of this season he was signed by the Washington Capitals’ “Caps Gaming” arm as the first NHL video game esports pro signed to a NHL organization. John Wayne is very good at the game; in both the 2018 and 2019 seasons of the NHL Gaming World Championship (the NHL’s official esports tournament for which 2020 qualifications are currently underway online), he placed third and second, respectively. He’s one of the highest earning “chel” (what the NHL video game is affectionately called by many) players out there.

So what kind of video game events are the Capitals putting on right now?

There are two things happening with the Capitals, the first of which you might have seen news for already. One is regular-season game simulations (CPU vs. CPU) for the Capitals and Washington Wizards in the NBA on the NBC Sports Washington television station.

What involves John Wayne, however, is what you would be more interested in as a sports bettor and what you will see lines for in American sportsbooks. John Wayne has been playing select regular-season games as the Capitals against other top chel competitors. The games are broadcast on Twitch (a platform on which people primarily stream video games live). When I say “games,” I mean a best-of-three series, which makes it longer and more entertaining for the viewers.

What can you tell me about the the upcoming series?

John Wayne has played four series so far. He opened with a tight 2-1 series loss against “Top Shelf Cookie,” who happens to be the 2019 NHL Gaming World Champion and beat John Wayne in the final. John Wayne bounced back with back-to-back 2-0 series wins against Dangs92 (Ottawa Senators) and 2019 NHL GWC runner-up Jr Pens (Pittsburgh Penguins). In his latest series, he fell in three games to St. Louis Blues emergency goaltender Tyler “Daddy Padre” Stewart.

There are two series coming up:

• Saturday vs. TactixHD (Detroit Red Wings)

I’m going John Wayne with confidence. JW is a more proven and accomplished competitor, and then you add in the struggling Detroit Red Wings, which will severely hinder TacTix, who is primarily a content creator. Luckily, he will make it entertaining while Alexander Ovechkin and the Caps hunt for goals.

• Monday vs. CoreyPerry1 (Buffalo Sabres)

The Sabres aren’t a very strong team in the game, and CoreyPerry1 (not the NHL player Corey Perry) has competed in a few qualifiers and ranked in the top 8 four times but has yet to earn money at an NHL esports event. This is another one where I would be looking at John Wayne as a prohibitive favorite and might add this as part of a parlay.

These are the announced games so far, but sources at Caps Gaming have told ESPN there might be more games added — so if you’re enjoying making picks here, there might be more coming.

On top of this and aside from official NHL teams, there are tournaments that are starting to pop up involving top competitors. When looking into these games, if lines appear, the two keys are: how good are the competitors, and how good are the teams they are controlling? 

 

NBA 2K

What is NBA 2K?

NBA 2K is a basketball simulation video game developed by Visual Concepts and currently published by 2K Sports. The series has been released annually since 1999.

Wait, this isn’t EA Sports?

No. EA also has an NBA series, NBA Live, that has been around since 1994. However, some editions have been canceled, including the 2020 edition.

How realistic is the game?

It’s meant to be as realistic as possible. So, good teams should be good, bad teams should be bad, etc. It’s meant to be a true-to-form representation of the NBA.

What about the NBA 2K League? What’s that?

That is the official esports league for the NBA 2K video game franchise. Instead of NBA players in the game, esports competitors, in full teams, compete using their in-game avatars, representing NBA teams. Knicks Gaming, for example, is the NBA 2K League team of the New York Knicks; there’s Lakers Gaming, Celtics Crossover Gaming, and so on.

Season 3 was set to start in New York in late March but has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But I still see NBA 2K games online, such as the Phoenix Suns’ simulations. What gives?

The NBA season is suspended, but some teams, including the Suns, are simulating regular-season games. The Suns, in particular, are enlisting NBA 2K League players, actual NBA players and other athletes (they brought in NFL players Keenan Allen and Tony Jefferson for one game, for example) to play. You may not see too many lines here, however, because the announcements are usually made the day of the games.

 

League of Legends

What is League of Legends?

League of Legends is best described as a 5-on-5 game in which both teams start at their respective bases and the object of the game is to get to the other team’s base and destroy it (more specifically, destroy its “Nexus,” which is deep within the base and looks like a diamond shard lodged in a fountain).

This is the most popular esport in the world, a game that has been around since 2009 and continues to grow.

How many characters can players choose from?

There are almost 150 champions (as they are called in the game) players can use.

That’s a lot. How do I know who to pick?

The playing field, or map, is always the same every game. There are three major distinct pathways: the top, mid and bottom lanes. The triangular areas in between the paths are called the “jungle.” Based off this, there are five main positions in the game: Top Laner, Jungler, Mid Laner, Bot Laner (or AD Carry) and Support (a role that supports the bottom lane, so that lane usually has two champions in it). The champions in the game are mainly categorized by these roles, all with unique abilities. Some are bruisers that deal a lot of damage with their fists or weapons, some have a lot of armor and health to protect them, some use magic and special powers — there are tons of possibilities. The complexity of the game is matching these powers and combining them with other champions’ powers to create incredible teamfight scenarios (like plays in traditional sports).

What does a typical game look like?

It starts with a “draft.” Teams ban certain champions (maybe the team doesn’t like to play against that champion, or an opposing player is really good with a particular champion — it helps level the playing field a bit), then they take turns picking from what’s available and best for a strategy or team composition.

Once every player has made a pick, they begin the game. Players head to their lanes and begin gaining gold by eliminating “minions,” which are computer-controlled characters in the game. Players level up their champions until they feel they have an advantage over their opponent in their lane, then they attack. You can attack at any time, it just might not be advantageous to do so (some champions are stronger than others at different points in the game). Around the map there are computer-controlled characters that offer strong increases in power and gold that spawn throughout the game; teams might come together to try and vanquish them.

One interesting part of the game is the “last-hit” rule. It’s not the team that deals the most damage to these characters that will get the spoils, it’s the team that gets the “last hit.” That means one team can literally deal 999 or 1,000 of the damage necessary to eliminate a dragon, let’s say, but if the opponent swoops in and times that last hit perfectly, their team “steals” the kill and therefore the spoils. So the as game goes on, champions will battle champions. Sometimes there will be 2-on-1 plays with players moving over to another lane, and other times there are 5-on-5 teamfights. … Slowly but surely, both teams try to get to the other team’s base to claim the nexus and win the game.

Why is this game so popular?

Once you watch a few games, you understand the basic fundamentals of what’s happening, but the game is very complex, with infinite possibilities and scenarios. It keeps the game fresh and fun. There are items to buy, champion matchups that are fresh, strategies that emerge… not to mention every once in a while the game gets updated, which means some champions get statistics lowered or increased, making them stronger or weaker, new champions get introduced (like the latest champion, “Sett,” best described as a pretty boy backyard brawler and seen a lot in top-level gameplay lately). This all factors in.

 

Rocket League

What is Rocket League?

This might be the easiest esport to understand. It’s 3-on-3, cars hitting a ball. Literally, car soccer. You see it once, and you immediately understand what is happening.

So what makes it so interesting?

It’s easy to learn, difficult to master — the trick shots, the angles the pros are able to utilize during the game are incredible. You’ll see cars flying up walls, stop midair and change their trajectory just to be able to hit the ball at a certain angle such that the opponent is unable to make a save and the ball will sail into the goal. Lots of these goals are very impressive to watch.

High level Rocket League play can be mind-blowing. It’s no surprise that before the coronavirus pandemic, there was an esports event organized by Intel scheduled for a month before the Olympics in Tokyo, and one of the -two marquee esports titles selected was Rocket League. Its mass global appeal, simple-yet-complex gameplay and established, rabid fan base, position it well to become a top esport, especially with people who don’t follow esports.

 

vCounter-Strike: Global Offensive

What is CS:GO?

Imagine two teams of five people. One team, the offense, has a bomb it needs to plant at one of the designated bomb sites. The other team, the defense, is trying to stop them. If the offense can plant the bomb without its entire team dying or before the defense diffuses the bomb, the offense win the round. If not, the defense wins the round. Multiply this by 30 rounds (first to 16), and that’s CS:GO. No magic, no special abilities, just the chance to buy better weapons/loadouts along the way.

Keep in mind, that’s just scratching the surface. CS:GO might be the purest competition that exists in esports in many ways. It’s an intricate game and offers the right level of complexity that has made the game (and scene) stand the test of time.

Who are the best teams?

According to the HLTV rankings, the best teams are NAVI, Astralis, G2, mouseesports and fnatic. Astralis is a dynasty-type team and has won multiple world championships, despite showing some cracks recently.

 

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: 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.

 

 

Esports Fill The Void As Coronavirus

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Esports Fill The Void As Coronavirus Wreaks Havoc On Sports Calendar

As governments around the world grapple with societal and economic ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic, the sporting world is coming to terms with the postponement or cancellation of virtually every single major competition and event.

While sports might seem trivial amid such fear and uncertainty, the absence of live-action in stadiums and on television is evidence of the seriousness of the situation. And for many people, sports are a distraction, a major form of entertainment, and part of everyday routines.

When live sport returns, it will be a signifier that a sense of normality has been restored to the world. 

No live sports

Until then, fans have looked to fill the void with sports documentaries and archive content, while sports teams have engaged in ‘tic-tac-toe’ and ‘connect four’ contests via social media. On BBC Radio 1 in the U.K., supporters have played ‘rock, paper, scissors’ to decide fixtures between their clubs.

However, it is eSports and video games that made the biggest steps in filling this content vacuum. In England, the Football Association (FA) has simulated the FA Cup quarter-finals in FIFA 20 and broadcast them over social media.

Meanwhile, a 128-team FIFA tournament organized by Leyton Orient’s social media manager hopes to raise funds for English Football League (EFL) clubs affected by the pandemic, as well as other charities. It also gives clubs a chance to field the professional eSports players they have on their books.

Rugby union and rugby league teams have also created eSports content for their social channels, while U.S. sports organizations are also in on the act. But perhaps the most sophisticated operation has been Formula 1.

F1 Virtual Grand Prix

Since the takeover by Liberty Media in 2016, F1 has placed significant emphasis on digital technologies as a way of reaching new audiences. It has launched its own streaming service in the form of F1 TV and has partnered with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to provide data-driven insights to television viewers.

eSports has been another area of expansion because of the potential to attract youthful demographics and recent versions of the officially licensed video game have emphasized online competition. 

And now with several F1 races postponed because of the ongoing COVID-19 situation, Formula 1 will stage a ‘Virtual Grand Prix’ series powered by the PC version of F1 2019. The series will see real-world drivers, including Max Verstappen and Lando Norris, celebrities and professional gamers compete.

The Bahrain Virtual Grand Prix was won by Formula 2 racer Guanyu Zhou, who started from third on the grid, and the race was streamed on YouTube, Twitch and Facebook. But in a sign of eSports’ growing maturity – and the desperation of traditional broadcasters for live content – the race was also shown live on Sky Sports F1, exposing an entirely new audience to the world of competitive gaming.

While the Virtual Grand Prix series will have no bearing on the current season and is more of a fun distraction that a serious competitive endeavor, it highlights the potential for eSports to come of age at a time when traditional sports are suspended.