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esports Industry

New ‘gym’ Looks To Attract Esports Athletes

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New ‘gym’ Looks To Attract Esports Athletes

“ Most people have heard stories about how pro athletes became stars.  The early mornings and very late nights spent honing their craft has always been an essential part of creating a legend.  But what do you do if your talent isn’t ice skating, baseball, or tennis?  What if your special skills are lightning-quick reflexes, hand-eye coordination, and clicking a controller?

Professional video gaming – or esports – has become a multi-billion dollar industry.  But if you want to join the ranks of the great professional gamers, you’re going to need to hit a very special type of gym.  And John Fazio thinks he’s got the solution.  He’s the CEO of Nerd Street Gamers, a new nationwide esports training facility with a mission, in Fazio’s words, “to increase accessibility to esports.”

And the brand is looking to expand as the professional competitive gaming scene continues to grow, opening new facilities where esports athletes train for gameplay.  And Fazio says it isn’t just about strategy and practice.  It’s also about what happens when they become famous in their world, with Nerd Street exploring “the production that goes into getting one of these tournaments broadcast online, the cameras, the casting talent, the coordination.”

And as the esports industry continues to grow, Fazio and others say side businesses that revolve around them will grow as well.  And that creates new opportunities for student-athletes, with Fazio pointing out you play games every single day, but, there’s also this whole world of the life of, life and career and educational opportunities that can come from competing in this sport.

Esports Engine Halo Infinite

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Esports Engine to manage Halo Infinite global esports

“ Esports Engine, the recently-established operations company from the co-founders of Major League Gaming (MLG), will manage global esports efforts for Microsoft’s Halo Infinite.

The Halo Championship Series will return with the release of the upcoming first-person shooter, with Esports Engine and developer 343 Industries planning to “build the greatest esports program Halo has ever seen,” according to a blog post.

Halo Infinite is set to release during the 2020 holiday season alongside the new Xbox Series X console. It will also be available for Xbox One and Windows PC. In November, 343 Industries announced plans to revive the Halo Championship Series for Halo Infinite, noting that it would reveal a 12-month plan for the program before the competition debuts. The company also plans to help grow the global presence of the esport and work closely with team organisations to make participation more appealing for them.

Adam Apicella, CEO of Esports Engine, commented in a release: “We are extremely excited to work with 343 Industries as their Global Management Partner and leverage our rich Halo history and 20 years of esports operations experience to help build the best program for players, fans, teams, and tournament operators around the world.

“From our experience running Halo for so many years and also being a third-party operator trying to make ends meet – now being able to help design a program that’s something the fans want, something the players want, that’s great for the teams, great for the other operators – it’s super exciting to be involved in such a monumental project.”

Esports Engine was unveiled in October as part of the launch of Vindex, an esports infrastructure platform headed by MLG co-founders Mike Sepso and Sundance DiGiovanni. The company launched with $60 million (£46.6 million) in Series A funding. Apicella, who originally joined MLG as its first employee after being founded, has extensive experience operating events for Halo and Call of Duty alike.

Esports Insider says: Enlisting a company with the experience and resources of Esports Engine shows that Microsoft and 343 Industries are serious about building Halo Infinite’s competitive scene. The time is ripe for Halo to break out in a big way in esports, with the right support.

 

Anticipated Esports Events Of 2020

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The most highly anticipated esports events of 2020

“ Esports events are growing in popularity every year. Last year brought some of the most memorable events thus far in gaming. Events around the world attract fans from all walks of life to spend a few days together, celebrating the communities they love most. With 2020 well underway, we look forward to a few highly anticipated events in esports.

Fortnite World Cup

Epic Games, developer of immensely popular battle royale title Fortnite, hosted their inaugural Fortnite World Cup last year. Open qualifiers for the 2019 tournament drew an astounding 40 million participants. After a grueling elimination process, the best players in the world faced off in New York City.

A groundbreaking 19,000 fans attended the Fortnite World Cup Finals at Arthur Ashe Stadium. The final day peaked at 2.3 million viewers across YouTube and Twitch. A fan-favorite moment was when 16-year-old Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf won $3 million during the solo competition.

The International (DOTA 2)

The International (TI) is the premier annual DOTA 2 championship event hosted by Valve Corporation. First held at Gamescon 2011 as a promotional event, TI is now a significant esports event.

DOTA 2 consistently draws large audiences, both online and in-person. Last year, TI attracted a peak viewership of 1.9 million viewers. Moreover, it has one of the largest prize pools of any esports event. In 2019, the community crowdfunded a total of $34 million, with last year’s victors taking home $15 million. Even teams that finished in last place took home more than $85,000.

The International 2020 is the event’s tenth installment and is returning to Europe for the first time in nine years. The tournament will be held in Ericsson Globe, Stockholm, Sweden, from August 18-23.

League of Legends World Championship

Hosted by game developer Riot Games, the League of Legends World Championship (Worlds) is an annual tournament at the end of each season. Teams compete for the coveted Summoner’s Cup and a $1 million championship prize. League of Legends is a world-renowned game, with a reported 80 million active monthly players. Furthermore, The Game Awards named LoL Worlds as the “Best Esports Event” in 2019.

Riot Games hasn’t released dates for Worlds 2020. However, the tournament typically takes place in the fall during October and November. The tournament will be held in China with finals in Shanghai.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Major Championships

CS:GO Major Championships, known simply as “majors”, are the most significant competitive tournaments in CS:GO. Sponsored by Valve Corporation, majors have $1 million prize pools. Valve recently included special in-game features accessible exclusively during majors. Players can enthusiastically collect limited edition stickers, participate in “Pick’em” challenges and purchase souvenir cases.

The complete list of 2020 majors are as follows:

  • ESL One: Rio
  • ESL One: Cologne
  • World Electronic Sports Games
  • IEM Katowice
  • BLAST Premier

Overwatch World Cup

The Overwatch World Cup (OWC), hosted by Blizzard Entertainment, is an annual competition at BlizzCon. Competitors from Overwatch League, Overwatch Path to Pro, and Competitive Play come together with other players from their home countries and regions. Teams battle it out in a weekend tournament to see which country is the victor.

The OWC is a beloved event because it’s an opportunity for the community to see their favorite players and streamers play live. Not to mention, OWC engages the community by holding a competition for each country’s committee, comprised of a Community Lead, Head Coach, and General Manager. Roles are filled by community votes for the candidate they want to represent their region.

The real Tokyo Olympics

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The real Tokyo Olympics: Esports and the future of Japanese soft power

 “ Since winning the international bid over seven years ago, the Tokyo Olympics has been all Japan can talk about.

The Olympics have lodged into the popular consciousness as a symbol of pride; but also of Japan’s changing role in the world. If the 1964 Tokyo Games announced Japan’s rapid modernization, these Olympics aim to reposition Japan as a cultural, if no longer economic, superpower.

But there is another Olympics taking place in Tokyo, just before the traditional one. And this event has far more importance to the future of Japanese soft power. The Intel World Open will be the first major video game tournament of the decade held in Japan. Boasting official support from the International Olympic Committee, the Intel World Open hosts national teams from around the globe, just like the traditional Olympics. These nations will compete in two of the most popular titles in esports — Street Fighter and Rocket League — before crowning the medalists in Tokyo’s central Olympic Games area.

The event marks the first formal crossover between the Olympics and competitive video games. And the Intel World Open is critically important to Japan’s global influence, arguably more so than the Olympics themselves.

In case you’ve missed it, competitive video games — or esports — have caught on like wildfire around the world. The industry has exploded overnight on the back of billion-dollar investments from the world’s most influential companies, including Microsoft, Google, and Amazon. Internationally, esports now boasts over 1 billion fans. And in America, competitive video games recently surpassed football to become the most-watched sport. The U.S. Navy even pulled its Superbowl commercials in favor of esports advertising.

But Japan has curiously lagged the world in competitive video games. The country rarely competes in — let alone wins — major esports tournaments. And the domestic scene has languished due to outdated gaming regulations that cap prizing — and hence the incentives to train and compete. In contrast, neighboring countries like China and South Korea dominate the international esports scene — exporting their country’s cultural cache around the globe with every victory.

It is doubly strange that Japan lags in esports because the country has historically led the video game industry. As late as 2002, Japan accounted for half of the global games market. But in recent years, domestic giants like Sony, Nintendo and Sega have all failed to launch successful esports properties, in part explaining a general decline in their global audience.

For Japan to position itself as a locus of soft power for 2020 and beyond, the country needs to invest in and succeed at esports. Beyond national pride, esports is a huge business — already exceeding $20 billion in revenue and growing 30 percent annually. By most measures, esports is the fastest rising media and entertainment property of all time. Japan must engage with the esports or risk losing out competitively, economically — and most critically — culturally.

This is why the Intel World Open is so important. It provides Japan an opportunity to demonstrate its esports talent to the world, at a time when all eyes are already on Tokyo. And as a first-of-its-kind event, it creates a rare opportunity for Japan to define a gaming legacy for the new millennium.

But Japanese success at the Intel World Open is about more than simply winning. Attendance, fan support and domestic media coverage of the event are all arguably more important. For the multibillion-dollar esports investments that regularly flow around the world to reach Japan, the country needs to demonstrate that its domestic esports market is both viable and primed for growth.

By 2030, esports will become both the most watched and the most played sport around the globe, reaching an estimated 3 billion fans. Given Japan’s legacy in gaming, the country deserves to occupy a marquee position in this digital phenomenon. So as you plan for the Tokyo Games, make the Intel World Open a part of your Olympic experience. Watch online, attend in person and encourage your friends to cheer.

In just a few short months there will be two Olympics in Tokyo. But only one has the potential to establish Japan as a leader in the next generation of sports. A victory at the Intel World Open could catalyze an entirely new domestic industry, and nurture a novel path for exporting the richness of Japanese culture to the rest of the world.

 

Esports league Starts Global Schedule

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Esports league Starts Strong On Ambitious Global Schedule

 “ NEW YORK (AP) — They stood, they cheered, they booed and they boozed. Turns out, esports fans in New York aren’t much different from their traditional sports counterparts. Packing a nearly 2,000-seat venue across the street from Madison Square Garden, those supporters validated the theory behind the Overwatch League’s ambitious global vision.

“This event is everything we could have hoped for,” said Jon Spector, vice president of the competitive video game circuit. The OWL opened its third season last weekend with matches hosted by franchises in New York and Dallas, and everything about the sold-out shows looked like a payoff on its wager that a world-wide, city-based structure could propel it to the top of a blossoming industry.

Those festivities were the first of 52 scheduled events on the home-and-away calendar that will bring competitions to 20 arenas spanning Europe, North America and Asia. No professional league — esports or otherwise — has taken on such an arduous regular-season schedule.

While many fans are concerned about the welfare of players — some still teenagers — the league believes it has taken appropriate actions to prevent burnout for the stars of its 6 vs. 6, first-person shooter computer game, who earn over $100,000 per season on average.

Of course, the OWL still readily admits this globe-trotting adventure is an ongoing experiment. “All 52 won’t be perfect,” Spector said.

At the Hammerstein Ballroom in Midtown Manhattan, the endeavor’s upside was apparent. Fans spent well over $100 for two-day passes and came out in force for doubleheader matches Saturday and Sunday. Four teams — New York, Boston, London and Paris — took turns squaring off, and fans had the venue nearly filled even for the undercards.

It felt like a typical, rowdy sports crowd — decked out in team gear from the on-site merchandise stand, waiting in line for pizza and beer during lulls in the action, and ruthlessly jeering the rival Boston Uprising at every opportunity. “The audience has always been here,” said Farzam Kamel, co-founder and president of Andbox, which manages the New York Excelsior.

Blizzard Entertainment hoped exactly that when it sought to give the global esports phenomenon a geographic twist. While other esports, like the decade-old League of Legends pro circuit, have thrived with rootless franchises, Blizzard-backed OWL thinks the future of the industry involves bringing live events to invested parties throughout the year.

After hosting nearly all its matches in seasons 1 and 2 at a facility near Los Angeles, Blizzard is starting its city-based experiment in earnest this year. Each franchise is set to host between two and five weekends of competition during a 26-week regular season that runs through early August.

It’s coming just in time for a league lagging behind competitors in total viewers. OWL’s Grand Finals averaged 1.12 million viewers globally in 2019, far behind the 21.8 million average audience for League of Legends World Championship, according to Nielsen. By comparison, Game 7 of last year’s World Series averaged 23.2 million viewers in the U.S., and the Super Bowl drew 112.7 million.

OWL fans have expressed concern recently about signs the league’s momentum is slowing, including an exodus by much of its popular on-air talent. Most troubling was misguided speculation that travel plans might require players to log nearly twice as many miles as traditional American sports athletes, worrying fans about the plan’s viability. The league strongly disputed those calculations and believes its been strategic enough about its schedule to keep players fresh.

Rather than forcing teams to ping-pong around the globe, OWL stacked the schedules by territory. For instance, the Paris Eternal will open with nearly two months on the U.S. East Coast, save for a weekend in Houston. They’ll split the middle of the season mostly in Europe, then close out with a four-week trip through China. Those legs will be peppered with bye weeks, especially before and after the longest trips.

“Travel is inherently a part of a global league like the one we’ve designed,” Commissioner Pete Vlastelica said. “We’ve done a lot of work to make sure the burden of that travel is kept to an absolute minimum.” The total mileage isn’t as extreme as fans feared. The league projects Paris’ team to cover 52,000 miles, compared to approximately 40,000 miles per season for an NBA franchise. But it is more time on the road.

Paris had players report to team housing in New Jersey in mid-January, and it will use that as a base for the early part of the season. They’ll get similar setups during swings through Europe and Asia. “It reduces the travel time,” Paris VP of Esports Derrick Truong said. “It allows us to be able to practice longer than other teams traveling from far away.”

The league had already lost players to burnout in previous seasons when homesickness was an issue for its largely international player pool but travel weariness wasn’t. Players expect to be tested this year. “There are things like jet leg and traveling a lot; it’s physically hard,” said TaeHoon “Fuze” Kim, a player for London, which is also starting the season in New Jersey. “But because traveling and experiencing other cities are all fun to me, I don’t really mind it.”

There has already been a major complicating wrinkle, too. Early season matches in the OWL’s four Chinese cities had to be postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak. Makeup dates and locations have not yet been announced. Blizzard is concurrently launching a similar global schedule with its first-year Call of Duty League, and it anticipates learning quite a bit between the two circuits.v

If it does work, it could have a rippling influence well beyond esports. North America’s big four professional sports leagues have all hosted games abroad in recent years, and full-time expansion to Europe or Asia would surely be appealing to many owners and international fans. If the gamers can show it’s possible, leagues like the NFL, NBA and others might borrow from their playbook as they follow suit.

For all this jet setting, OWL certainly wouldn’t mind being remembered for trendsetting. “I’ve been saying this is sort of the starting line for us,” Vlastelica said. This is the year we’re going to do the thing that we’ve designed.