BT Announces Partnership With Major eSports

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BT announces partnership with major esports team Excel to become their exclusive lead partner

  • BT signs a multi-year sponsorship agreement with UK-based Excel Esports to become their exclusive lead partner.

  • The new BT logo will appear on all kit worn by Excel, including the League of Legends European Championship (LEC) team, and the Excel UK League Championship (UKLC) team has been officially renamed BT Excel

  • BT will provide connectivity and infrastructure for Excel’s HQ to help the team train and become a successful global team

BT has signed a new multi-year contract with Excel Esports to become their exclusive lead partner and will see BT branding prominent on all kit worn by Excel’s League of Legends European Championship (LEC) and UK League Championship (UKLC) teams. BT will also provide world class connectivity to Excel to help them train and perform at the highest levels.

The LEC is the biggest European league within League of Legends where only the top ten teams in Europe get to compete and the UKLC is the official regional league. League of Legends is the world’s most popular esport with last year’s World Championship breaking records with more than 44 million viewers. The full Excel team will wear the BT kit for the very first time this weekend at the Neosurf Cup at Twickenham Stadium, which is also home to Excel’s HQ and training facility. As part of the agreement Excel’s UKLC team will now be officially renamed BT Excel.

Pete Jeavons, Marketing Communications Director at BT, said:

The UK is increasingly a nation of gamers, and esports is hugely popular and growing across the world. Excel Esports shows incredible promise as a leading UK-based team and working closely with them is a natural extension of our commitment to provide the connectivity and skills to help people across the UK realise their potential.” 

Robin McCammon, Chief Commercial Officer, Excel Esports, said:

BT is an absolutely iconic British brand that resonates globally and we can’t think of a better fit as a lead Partner to help elevate Excel to the next level. This is a sponsorship that will reach beyond the conventional sponsorship formula. BT is about connectivity and community and that is exactly what Excel and esports in general is all about. Having such a recognisable brand commit to a long term partnership really shows the strength of the UK esports industry and the growth of Excel.”

Kieran Holmes-Darby, Co-founder & Chief Gaming Officer, Excel Esports, said:

We couldn’t be more proud to be playing a part in BT’s first steps into the world of esports. It’s great to work with a partner that understands the importance of developing the grassroots ecosystem in professional gaming. Excel is known for nurturing UK talent, which is why we invested in training facilities at Twickenham Stadium and is also why BT is fantastic partner because they can help provide us with the infrastructure we need to improve our players’ performance. This is an incredible start to what will be a defining year for us and our teams, and we can’t wait to work together to continue establishing Excel as a global esports leader over the coming years.”

This deal follows announcements last year that BT will be the exclusive long-term lead partner for all of the Home Nations football teams across the UK, and at all levels. Excel’s 2020 jersey will feature in an upcoming BT campaign and be made available for the public to purchase from the Excel Esports merchandise shop at from today.




Esports Fueling Data Economy

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How Esports Are Fueling The Data Economy

The Barclays Center in Brooklyn hosts professional basketball and hockey games, WWE Friday Night Smackdowns and concerts by headliners like Cardi B. But when 65,000 fans piled into the arena a few months ago to see the world’s greatest esports stars face off, they found Barclays transformed into a palace of cutting-edge technology. Electronic sports, or esports, have become much bigger than the professionals who play video games for a living. Esports are a global phenomenon. Worldwide, some 380 million people attended eSports events in the past year, rooting for champions in games like Fortnight, Dota 2 and League of Legions.

Television networks broadcast the competitions. In the United States, CBS and NBC are even developing sitcoms based on the sport. The combined online audience for esports, according to Goldman Sachs, is larger than HBO, Netflix and ESPN combined. All of which is why the $10 billion industry is estimated to reach $24 billion by 2024. Beyond their entertainment value, these competitions are exemplars of the 21st-century data economy. While many other sports are seeded with sensors and informed by analytics, esports exist entirely in the digital realm. Esports events require massive real-time networking, cloud computing and state-of-the-art data security.

And the technology is not just for the players. The thousands of fans at an event are also active participants, consuming and creating their own streams of content, non-stop, as they track the players, post social-media comments and monitor competitions in other venues around the world.

A Boon for Local Economies

All this means that the cities investing in esports competitions are also building cutting-edge networks. Considerable engineering expertise goes into orchestrating these tech extravaganzas and all the jobs that feed into them. The work extends from the labs developing Virtual Reality and next-generation networking gear to the crews wiring the arenas. What’s more, as a competitive-sports showcase for leading-edge technology—in the same way that Formula 1 car racing is a living laboratory for advanced automotive engineering—esports can inspire young people to pursue technical education and careers.

Around the U.S., Boise State, Shenandoah University and Harrisburg University of Science and Technology are among those building college curricula around esports. Ohio State now offers esports as an undergraduate major. City and regional governments, including Atlanta, Kansas City and Arlington, Texas, are also investing in esports, including the construction of high-tech arenas. Consider the explosion of esports in Georgia. When he opened DreamHack 2019 in November—an eSports mega-event attended by 35,000—Georgia Gov. Brian P. Kemp called Atlanta the “esports capital of the nation.”

He hailed the Atlanta Reign, the local professional team in the Overwatch League, for investing $100 million in Georgia. Governor Kemp said esports now employs 12,000 Georgians, with an economic impact of $500 million. Georgia also sanctions eSport high school competitions. And so far, technical colleges in the state have graduated more than 5,000 students with cyber or gaming majors. As Georgia’s experience demonstrates—Kansas City has a similar story to tell—esports are spurring technology education and development far from the traditional tech hubs of San Francisco, Boston, and New York. Esports can benefit economies in heartland states that have lost jobs in farming, mining and manufacturing.

Driving Diversity and Careers in Tech

Esports, moreover, can provide a pathway for more women into the technology industry, helping close tech’s gender gap. According to a recent study, women globally now represent more than half the gamers playing Fortnite on mobile devices. Esports promises to continue demanding the best of each generation of technology. Engineers must be able to configure powerful, nimble and complex networks, with real-time connections to dozens, or even hundreds of players, some of them on remote feeds. Even a fraction of a second of latency—a data time lag—could ruin the experience for millions.

These massive streams of data flow in and out of cloud computers, many of them on diverse cloud platforms—so-called hybrid clouds. Mastering this technology opens vast opportunities for software developers and electrical engineers, even beyond esports. The coming wave of autonomous vehicles, for instance, will require managing thick streams of real-time data issuing from computing clouds. Network engineers who can pull off glitch-free Dota 2 events with minimal latency could be attractive job candidates for companies like Ford, Tesla and BMW.

Esports also provide a vibrant test lab for cognitive computing, including AI. In contrast to  traditional sports, fans arrive at eSports events with massive data requirements of their own. Many of them want to play games while they’re watching, or tune into feeds from different continents. This ravenous data market is shaping up to be a laboratory for next-generation edge computing technology, including 5G. 

Increasingly sophisticated esports networks will monitor this activity in real time, interpreting the fans’ needs and preferences, even their moods, and perhaps tracing their social networks. For this, AI is crucial. Ever smarter systems will enable the networks to deliver customized clips, streams, and promotions, enhancing the experience and developing new sources of revenue. And with machine learning, the customization will grow ever more sophisticated. Expertise in this field should equip scientists and engineers for countless jobs in retail, advertising, events management, even politics. The list goes on. 

A Pathway to the Future

And of course, for the very best esports players, the game itself can lead to a career. More than 80 U.S. colleges and universities field varsity teams. Some, like Park University located in Parkville, MO., offer athletic scholarships to esports stars. Critics contend that the incoming e-athletes develop muscles only in their thumbs. But those critics miss the point. The most important development is in the brain. On average, esports players score higher than other athletes on the math section of college admissions tests, and they tend to pursue degrees in science, technology, engineering and math, the so-called STEM tracks.

So, if anyone still needs esports enlightenment, you can clue them in. Video games are not an escapist distraction. They’re the world’s most participatory spectator sport. Esports are helping communities adopt the most advanced technologies, and they’re providing a pathway to STEM education and the best jobs of tomorrow.




Why Esports Are Emerging As Fashion

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Why esports are emerging as fashion’s go-to cultural reference

In 2019, Tyler Blevins, better known as the gaming superstar Ninja, became the first professional video game player to design his own signature shoe with Adidas.

It was one of the biggest moments to date in the ongoing cross-pollination between the worlds of gaming and fashion, a merging that has grown in urgency and scale over the last year as fashion companies begin to grasp the enormous amount of money and intense user devotion in the esports world. In 2018, the entire esports market size was valued at close to $1 billion, and that valuation is only expected to grow, according to Statista. While a year or two ago there were relatively few partnerships between mainstream fashion brands and esports, the last year alone has seen dozens of major new initiatives, signaling esports’ arrival as a cultural force.

There are a few tactics that big brands have taken to get in on the esports craze: sponsorships of teams, sponsorships of events and making general purpose gaming-related products. On the team sponsorship side, much of fashion’s approach has been similar to the way brands work with NBA players and teams, either by designing signature shoes for a single player or becoming an official supplier of merch. Aside from Adidas, which has created team jerseys and uniforms for esports teams like the Team Vitality from France, as well as its signature shoe with Ninja, Nike has also made moves into esports. Last year, Nike began sponsoring 16 professional teams in China that are part of the League of Legends Pro League (LOLPL), making uniforms and providing custom sneakers for the teams.

Champion and Foot Locker have been working together to bring apparel branded with popular esports teams to retail since May of last year. We spent some time over the last year engaging in this area at different levels — amateur and pro levels, the college level — trying to understand and learn about the consumer in this space,” said Tyler Lewison, general manager of Champion’s teamwear division.”The more time we spent looking, the more we became impressed with the athletes and the fans. These guys really deserve to be showcased at retail right alongside any traditional sports team.

Surprisingly, Louis Vuittion has also gotten in on the hype. The French fashion house has taken a different approach; rather than sponsoring individual teams or players, the company struck a deal in September with Riot Games, the creator of League of Legends, to develop a collection of apparel, a collection of virtual apparel to be worn in-game and a Louis-Vuitton-branded carrying case that houses the trophy for the League of Legends world champion. Louis Vuitton also makes the carrying case for the FIFA World Cup. Last month, Puma unveiled a sock designed specifically for gamers costing $100 and purporting to help gamers “adapt to different active gaming modes,” according to a statement from Puma. In July, K-Swiss debuted a shoe targeted at gamers, made to let wearers kick them off without using their hands.



Amd Joins Alliance

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AMD Joins Alliance to Support Blockchain in Gaming

Does blockchain have a place in gaming? AMD thinks so.

Last Friday, the chipmaker joined the Blockchain Game Alliance, an industry group devoted to promoting and standardizing the technologies for online gaming. As the first major hardware provider to join the alliance, AMD’s goal is to supply the CPU and GPU chips needed to help gaming-related developers efficiently run blockchain-based features over their platforms.

Its true blockchain is best known for powering today’s virtual currencies by acting as a digital ledger to record every transaction. However, the same concept can be applied to the gaming world. Imagine a blockchain keeping a record of all the virtual items purchased in a game. Or perhaps, the blockchain acting as a way to distribute PC games themselves.

The real selling point with blockchain is how it works by operating as a distributed platform. As a result, no one company or server is running the digital ledger. Instead, a blockchain runs as a decentralized network across the internet, giving stakeholders, or in this case gamers, more control of their digital assets.

It’s why AMD is bullish on the technology. “Next-generation blockchain game platforms will give gamers access to exclusive online content, and provide new ways for them to truly own it. They will also provide game publishers with new channels to distribute digital game content,” said the chip maker’s head of blockchain technology Joerg Roskowetz in a statement.

Last Friday, AMD also announced partnerships with RobotCache and Ultra, two companies that have been creating blockchain-based PC game stores to rival Steam. Both platforms promise to take less revenue from game developers (at 5 and 15 percent, respectively, compared to Steam’s 30 percent). Players, on the other hand, will have the option to resell their previously purchased games and also mine/earn virtual currencies from Robot Cache and Ultra.

As part of the partnerships, AMD is going to distribute games to customers that will be redeemable on Ultra’s game store. “Additionally, AMD and Ultra will work together to optimize cryptographic computing performance on the platform for gamers using AMD processors and graphics cards, and will continue to explore additional collaborative activities in the future,” the companies said in a blog post.

You can sign up for early access to both RobotCache and Ultra. Ultra plans on officially launching in the coming months.

Singtel and Singapore Esports

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Singtel and Singapore Esports Association launch award

Singapore Esports Association (SGEA) has joined forces with telecomms company Singtel to launch an award that recognises talent and excellence in esports.

The nominees for the newly-devised PVP Esports Award were selected by representatives from both parties after the closing of the Southeast Asian Games on December 11th.

For the first time in its 30 year history, this year’s edition of the SEA Games featured esports as an official medal event. Rather than prize money, players will compete for gold, silver, and bronze medals.

Ng Chong Gen, President of Singapore Esports Association discussed the partnership in a release: “SGEA is proud to partner up with Singtel in supporting local esports athletes as well as the gaming ecosystem. We believe that Singtel’s infrastructure and our industry veterans will enable us to further develop the esports scene in Singapore.”

Players will be selected using criteria that includes excellence in performance, sportsmanship, and commitment to the craft. The creation of the award is a continuation of the partnership between Singtel and the SGEA, in which they’re aiming to cultivate Singapore’s first official esports players.

Arthur Lang, CEO of Singel’s International Group added: “We are pleased that our sponsorship of the Singapore team has enabled the athletes to focus on what they do best and having a shot at winning medals for Singapore. This award recognises their skills and contributions, and represents our commitment to support and celebrate their efforts. We believe they will be excellent ambassadors for the sport, and an inspiration to others.

“With the growing popularity of competitive gaming in the region, we are passionate about developing the gaming ecosystem for professionals and amateurs alike through our PVP Esports platform.”

Each worth $10,000 (£7,690.58), the awards offer cash alongside additional funds to aid professional development, education, and athletic training.

Esports Insider says: The introduction of the PVP award is nice in that it rewards players for doing well, but it’s not the be-all and end-all. The inclusion of esports at the Southeast Asian Games is a much bigger deal but this award is a nice accessory.

eSports Boom

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How can brands capitalise on esports boom?

It’s not tricky to understand why Chris Beer, a senior trends analyst at GlobalWebIndex, posits that 2019 is the year esports has come of age.

In late-1997, Tom “Gollum” Dawson triumphed in FRAG (Foremost Roundup of Advanced Gamers), reckoned to be the world’s first official gaming tournament, and won $1,000 (£770) in gaming merchandise.

Twenty-two years later, in August, Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf, 16, succeeded in the first Fortnite World Cup and took home $3 million (£2.4 million). The teenager was catapulted to fame overnight and even invited on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

Signs that esports is on an upwards trajectory

There are plenty of other signs besides that esports is now swimming in the mainstream. Indeed, The Washington Post is hiring specialist reporters, Danish prime minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen has established an esports strategy and, the surest indication, esports has featured on The Simpsons. Twelve months ago, GlobalWebIndex included esports as one of the big trends to watch in 2019.

“It has grown impressively throughout the year,” says Mr Beer. “Our research shows that this time last year 16 per cent of the global population watched esports online; now that figure is 24 per cent. We’ve seen an uptick in most regions around the world, but it’s Asia-Pacific that continues to be the core market; over a third of people (34 per cent) watch esports there, compared to 21 per cent last year.”

Little surprise that advertisers have sought to generate value from esports’ growing popularity. Anheuser-Busch has filed a trademark request to become “official beer of esports”. Similarly bookmakers are eyeing the opportunity to offer a new market.

How brands can capitalise on esports success

Advent of 5G will only drive further growth, says Lior Friedman, vice president of global partnerships and strategy at Amdocs Media, a provider of software and services to communications companies.

“Viewing metrics, prize money and sponsorship are all increasing substantially year on year,” he says, “and esports is being considered for entry into the Olympics as a new discipline for Paris 2024. Our recent research found that nearly all operators (97 per cent) plan to support esports in the 5G era.”

How can advertisers capitalise? “While there is huge potential for advertising in esports, brands need to understand how to engage with the sector,” says Gavin Poole, chief executive of Here East, a media complex located in the Olympic Park in East London.

“Esports fans value an authentic experience and will not react well if large companies simply bombard the community with logos and placement.

“Instead, brands need to consider how they can enhance the esports experience, not detract from it. The most successful brands, such as Redbull, Gillette and Mercedes-Benz, have taken a targeted approach, focusing on specific games and their particular audiences, as opposed to an umbrella marketing campaign that would alienate players and viewers alike.”

Esports Experts Plan and Execute

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Esports Production Summit: How Experts Plan and Execute During Current Venue Boom

Esports – focused venues are popping up across North America, and, with the Overwatch League and Call of Duty League set to start home and away games next year, the esports industry appears on the verge of a massive building boom. Esports venues must be extremely flexible since competitions run the gamut in terms of size and style. In addition, esports attendees expect a fully immersive experience beyond just on-stage competition.

At last month’s SVG Esports Production Summit, esports-venue experts addressed best practices in designing and operating a venue, as well as what they expect in this rapidly growing sector.

Moderated by SVG Associate Editor Kristian Hernandez, the panel included:

  • Kristin Connelly, senior director, marketing, Overwatch League
  • Corey Dunn, VP of broadcast, Esports Stadium Arlington/president, Esports Locker
  • Jud Hannigan, co-founder and CEO, Allied Esports International
  • Bob Jordan CVE, CEO, 1337 Facilities/founder, Venue Road
  • Brian Mirakian, senior principal and director, brand activation, Populous

Top 5 Esports Moments

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Top 5 Esports moments of the last decade 

Over the last decade, Esports has grown in unimaginable ways. Teams and players now routinely compete for large sums of prize money in some of the biggest arenas in the world. And over those 10 years, there have been dozens of incredible moments, miracle runs through tournaments, unprecedented win streaks, victories that we thought might never come. And so, as the decade comes to an end, we look back on those teams and players who caused the biggest moments in history.


Astralis has been the undisputed best team in the world for the last two years. With 15 tournament wins, over $5 million in prize money and three major victories in a row, a new record, it’s no surprise that Astralis gave us some of the greatest moments of the decade. But the one moment that stands out happened back in December of 2018. The Intel Grand Slam is a system organized by ESL and Dreamhack, where if you win four top-tier tournaments in a row out of 10, you won $1 million. Astralis’s victories in Marseille, Dallas and Chicago put them in position to claim their reward with one more win and the next tournament was in their home country of Denmark.

In front of a hometown crowd, Astralis dominated, dropping only two maps all tournament en route to a 3-1 map victory over Team Liquid and a million-dollar prize. As Astralis walked out to claim yet another trophy, they eliminated any remaining doubt of their position as the best team in the world.

In 2012, League of Legends was only in its second year of true professional play. The year before, Worlds had only really had North American and European talent due to servers not yet being established for the East. But as soon as Korea gained servers, they took over as one of the best teams in the world, dethroning Europe with apparent ease. Headed into what most fans view as the first actual Worlds, Korea’s Azubu Frost and Russian’s Moscow Five were the favorites. 

But the Taipei Assassins didn’t care. They got a free pass to playoffs for topping their region and dominated Korean representative Najin Sword, charging forward to defeat Russian favorites Moscow Five 2-1, and finishing off their tournament run with a 3-1 victory over Azubu Frost. This upset is still one of the most legendary runs in League of Legends history: Not only did the Assassins win, they beat probably the three best teams at the tournament. And they didn’t just cheese it; they played well, using brilliant team fighting and unique picks to throw their opponents off on their way to the title. As the Taipei Assasins stood on that stage hugging each other in emphatic delight, you could for a moment genuinely believe that any team could win. 


Until 2018, every single Starcraft World Championship had been won by a Korean player. Koreans dominated the scene, winning tournament after tournament, title after title. While non-Koreans had won smaller championships before, none had ever won on Starcraft’s most prestigious stage: Blizzcon. None had taken home a world championship.  

Until one of them did. Joona “Serral” Sotala, a Finnish player from a tiny village who’d been playing professionally since 2012, shot up in the standings after an incredibly dominant year where he claimed every World Championship Circuit event that year. But even with his record, a Blizzcon win still felt like a stretch. But Serral walked into Blizzcon ready to win. 

And win he did. Serral dominated. He was undefeated in groups, swept his first opponent, and eliminated 2017’s winner Rogue 3-1 with apparent ease. In the Grand Finals, he faced off against Stats, a player who he’d beaten earlier in the year. That series was probably his closest yet, but Serral played confidently the entire time, claiming a 4-2 victory and breaking the biggest streak of regional dominance in the history of Esports.  


At one time, OG was considered the best team in the world. They won four major titles. For two years, they were favorites headed into TI. The brainchild of Johan “N0tail” Sunstein and Tal “Fly” Aizik, the lineup consisted of incredible players, fantastic teamwork, and an ability to win that seemed unstoppable. It felt like they were destined to win TI.

They didn’t. 

After devastating losses in 2016 and 2017, in 2018, Fly left. The team he helped create and N0tail, his eight-year teammate and best friend, to go to a team he thought had a higher chance of winning. This move came only months before 2018s TI, leaving OG in pieces without any clear path forward. They didn’t get invited to TI. They didn’t even have a roster. 

But somehow, OG persevered. N0tail and the only other remaining player, JerAx, brought back their old teammate Ana, who had been taking a break from pro play, moved coach Ceb into a player role, and sighed complete rookie Topson, who had never played on a top team, to try and make it to TI. 

After winning the European qualifiers and fighting their way to TI, OG came back from a poor first two days of groups to somehow make it to the upper bracket. It was there the magic would begin. Playing the best Dota they’d ever played, N0tail and his band of brothers beat Fly’s new Evil Geniuses lineup 2-1, managing a last-second miracle of a comeback against Chinese favorites PSG LGD on the back of LGD’s overextension and incredible, earthshaking play from JerAx. 

In the Finals, they cemented their Cinderella run with a win, this time on the back of Ceb. Ceb, who had only been a player again for a few months after previously failing to succeed as a pro on other teams, prompting his change to a coaching role, pulled off some of the most clutch plays in TI history to force a comeback in both Game 4 and Game 5. Bolstered by incredible individual play from Ana and Topson, as well as N0tail’s steady presence as team captain and support, OG won. 

OG’s run in 2019 was far different from their 2018 success. In 2018, at no point did OG look like the best team at TI until the moment they won. They were the underdogs in every game and every series. In 2019, despite floundering before TI, OG came into groups and absolutely dominated every team they faced. This time they won their group, finishing with six wins and two ties and the top spot. They once again beat Evil Geniuses, with unique strategies and picks that no one had seen coming. And in the semifinals, they once again beat LGD, this time without needing a miracle. 

And this time, in the Grand Final, it wasn’t even close. Despite faltering and losing Game 1, OG came back and absolutely dominated Games 2, 3, and 4, on the back of now-star-player Topson’s incredible performances and creative strategies. OG didn’t just win TI twice, and claim around $25 million in prize money as a team, they became the first team ever to win twice. And even better than that, they proved that in no way was what they did a fluke.  


There has been no region more dominant in League of Legends history than Korea. Korea won the third Worlds, and fourth, and the fifth, sixth and seventh. SK Telecom T1 claimed three of those wins, along with Samsung Galaxy white and Samsung Galaxy, who won four and seven respectfully. For that long five-year stretch, from 2013 to 2017, Korea was without any question the best region in the world. 

But in 2018, something changed. Korea got second at MSI to China’s representative, Royal Never Give up. Going into worlds, SKT, the undisputed best team of all time, was nowhere to be seen. Instead, Korea sent three teams who didn’t really fit the worlds meta as well as they had in the past and, finally, instead of trying to copy Korea, the rest of the world played their own games. 

The first sign was Gen.G. The Korean roster won only one game in the group stage, and didn’t even make playoffs. Invictus Gaming defeated Korean first seed K.T. Rolster. And finally, for the first time since 2012 when Worlds truly became Worldwide, a North American Team made it. Cloud9 defeated the final Korean team, Afreeca Freecs, completely eliminating the Korean teams from the tournament. For the first time since they first went to Worlds, Korea did not make the Grand Finals. 

However, many people thought this was simply a fluke; Korea, like any other region, was of course allowed to have a bad year. SKT rebuilt, young teams flourished, and 2019 began to look like Korea’s year once more. 

And then came Worlds. It went fairly well for Korea, their three teams topped their groups and looked strong going into the quarterfinals. But once again, Korea was beaten: Griffin and Damwon both lost badly in quarters and while SKT survived quarters, they were defeated in the semifinals. Once again, Korea fell, this time to China and Europe.  

Two years ago, the idea that Korea would no longer be the best region in the world would be laughable. But now as we wait for spring to come and the next season to begin, there can no longer be any question. After five years of unchallenged dominance, Korea is not alone at the top of the world anymore. 

Fanduel Accepts Sports Betting On eSports

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FanDuel Accepts First U.S. Wagers on Esports for League of Legends World Championship

FanDuel has become the first U.S. online sportsbook to offer betting on esports competitions. 

Esports betting is now available in every state where FanDuel operates its mobile sports betting app. That currently includes New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Indiana. 

The first esports event FanDuel accepted bets on was the League of Legends World Championship final in Paris on Sunday. Users were able to wager on who they thought would win the match. Funplus Phoenix defeated G2 Esports 3-0 in the contest. 

FanDuel’s inclusion of esports came almost immediately after the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement approved retail casinos to begin offering esports wagering in the Garden State. Gambling research firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming projected in a 2016 report that $12.9 billion is expected to be wagered globally on esports by 2020.

In February, SportTechie interviewed Jeff Liboon, president of esports production company Estars Studios. He explained the integrity issues that betting has brought to the esports industry in the past, such as instances of match fixing and underage gambling.

“If you look at esports’ past in betting, there’s a checkered past,” Liboon said. “For us to really embrace a fully regulated betting market, the integrity of these operators and players has to be held at such a high level.”

Esports ETF creator

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Esports ETF creator breaks down the current state of the industry

It’s been a big year for esports.

Between record multimillion-dollar prize pools in Fortnite and Defense of the Ancients 2 (Dota 2) as well as research firm Newzoo’s prediction that the industry will exceed $1 billion in revenue this year, the esports hype is well and alive.

And the creator of one esports ETF says the industries about to get even bigger and better.

Will Hershey, co-founder and CEO of Roundhill Investments, launched the Roundhill BITKRAFT Esports & Digital Entertainment ETF (NERD) in June to give investors a way to play the esports space, especially as it continues its global expansion. Esports has historically thrived in Asia, with China and South Korea as two big regions for the industry, but the North American market has exploded in recent years.

Now NERD may not have been the first esports ETF on the market – that honor goes to VanEck’s Video Gaming and Esports ETF (ESPO) — but Hershey emphasizes that NERD seeks to give investors a more pure exposure to the esports market.

“What we’re trying to do [is] provide people that core exposure, and maybe not go outside the risk curve and look at things like Microsoft and Amazon that really aren’t getting you what we’re talking about,” he said on CNBC’s “ETF Edge.”

So while an ETF like ESPO offers exposure to a plethora of game publishers, NERD’s holdings feature the likes of media-related companies like Chinese streaming platform Douyu and hardware companies like Turtle Beach in addition to a handful of major game publishers. Over half of the 25 companies held in the ETF are from Asia including Tencent, whose ownership of major esports-related companies like Riot Games leads Hershey to describe it as “a mini gaming ETF” in and of itself.

And on the subject of Tencent, Hershey also points out that there could be one risk factor coming out of China.

“I think if you’re going to point out risk factors [for esports], I’d more look towards the regulatory environment we’ve seen in China,” he said. “We saw [regulation in 2017 and in 2018] where we actually had a ban on new games coming to market. That’s kind of one of those ancillary risks that we would point to.”

But Hershey also stresses the global nature of the NERD portfolio in mitigating possible headwinds. And despite past regulations in China, which is a major market for gaming, Hershey points out that the gaming industry is still growing at a rapid pace.

“For us, it always comes back to the data,” said Hershey. “You’re talking about a gaming industry that’s $150 billion this year, growing at about 10% per year. That’s larger than the music and movie industries combined.”

“I think it’s only a matter of time before those larger investors start catching wind of how big this industry is,” he added.

Since it launched on June 4, the NERD ETF is up over 1%.