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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.

 

 

The Top 5 Rising Mobile Esports of 2020

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Editor’s Picks: The Top 5 Rising Mobile Esports of 2020

In China and Southeast Asia, mobile esports have stood right alongside their PC and console brethren for years. While the West has yet to catch up in this area, 2019 was a significant step forward as games like Clash Royale and PUBG MOBILE helped bring new organizations, viewers, and sponsors into the mobile ecosystem. 

Early in my esports career I was among the naysayers, discounting the competitive merit of mobile games and wondering aloud why anyone would choose to watch or compete in Arena of Valor over League of Legends. However, the last two years have proven that mobile esports are building up their own distinct community – a niche market that won’t be reached by traditional PC esports. Not only do these games have their own compelling competitive storylines and hype moments, but they also present a unique opportunity for brands and esports organizations alike to tap into a market they have yet to reach. 

Looking ahead, 2020 is set to be the biggest year for mobile esports yet. Between new releases, new partnerships, and a better understanding of the market as a whole, these games will help propel mobile esports forward. These are the top five rising mobile esports of 2020 – the games I predict will bring the most growth to the mobile ecosystem.

League of Legends: Wild Rift

Honor of Kings and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang have proven that mobile MOBA’s (the genre dominated by League of Legends on PC) can sustain an esports ecosystem in Eastern markets, but Arena of Valor’s attempt to replicate that success in the West has been less than successful. There is a high barrier of entry in convincing a PC-focused market to commit 20-30 minutes to playing a game on a phone.

This is where League of Legends: Wild Rift comes in. A familiar IP is a proven way to lower the barrier of entry for any game, and there are few IPs more familiar to gamers than LoLWild Rift will be the inflection point that propels mobile MOBA’s into mainstream popularity in the West, to say nothing of its likely success in China.

Historically, Riot Games has been more methodical in its esports development than some of its competitors, so it is unlikely that the game will launch with a multi-million dollar franchised league, but exhibitions featuring LoL pros are sure to be part of its marketing effort, no doubt leading to a more established esports structure heading into 2021.

Brawl Stars

Supercell has been a driving force in the development of mobile esports largely through its commitment to the Clash Royale League, which drew a number of new esports organizations into the space. While no such league has been created for the developer’s newer competitive title, Supercell has already announced a significant commitment to Brawl Stars in 2020. 

A year-long competition structure is ideal for a growing esport as it allows organizations to monitor the game early in the year, and then swoop in the buy up free agent contender rosters ahead of major championships where the bulk of the viewership and prize money will be concentrated. More structure, more prize money, new organizations entering the space – these are the defining characteristics of a growing esport, and Brawl Stars fits the mold perfectly.

Free Fire

While most of the headlines surrounding mobile battle royale titles have been focused on PUBG MOBILE, Garena’s entry into the genre quietly had a strong 2019 and doesn’t look to be slowing down. According to Esports Earnings, the game awarded nearly $400K USD in prize money in 2019 – virtually all of it coming from a single event, the Free Fire World Series. According to YouTube’s annual YouTube Rewind, Free Fire was also the fourth most-watched video game on the platform.

In addition to its game publishing work, Garena is an experienced esports tournament operator. With Free Fire challenging the likes of Call of Duty Mobile and PUBG MOBILE in total downloads, the company has an opportunity to also challenge its competitors for the mobile battle royale esports market.

Clash Royale

The last two spots on this list are somewhat of a cheat as both have proven themselves as established esports, but their growth potential (both for different reasons) means that they simply cannot be ignored.

For Clash Royale, that potential comes primarily from a recently-announced partnership with Turner Sports to oversee the Clash Royale League’s ad inventory. The CRL has largely operated without sponsors for its first two years, but bringing in the company that operates ELEAGUE (which has signed its fair share of non-endemic partners) should change that in a hurry.

While viewership and prize money may not grow dramatically for the CRL in 2020, the opportunity for brands has just grown significantly, which is critical to the long-term viability of any esport in the modern era.

PUBG MOBILE

When one of the most downloaded mobile games in the world commits $5M to an overhauled global esports structure, it is worth noting. PUBG MOBILE is already a dominant esport in growth markets like India, and esports organizations including Fnatic and Spacestation Gaming have taken note.

On PC, battle royale esports remain a complicated challenge, largely held aloft by the overwhelming prize money infused into Fortnite by Epic Games. PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS has abandoned its regional leagues after just one year, and Apex Legends saw virtually no esports interest this year after the launch hype died down (next year’s Global Series may change that, but it remains to be seen). Mobile battle royales appear to be another story entirely.

Both Free Fire and PUBG MOBILE have shown that there is an audience interested in watching these games played at a competitive level, and Tencent has the resources to develop PUBG MOBILE into not just a powerful mobile esport, but an industry leader overall.

Germany eSports Visa

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Germany introduces dedicated visa for esports

Germany has introduced a dedicated visa that accommodates esports athletes from outside of the European Union.

Though the visa has been approved by the German Federal Government and the States, it won’t be implemented until spring in 2020.

Professional players will have to meet certain conditions to be eligible for the visa, this includes being at least 16 years of age, earning over a particular amount of money as a salary, and receiving a confirmation of professional activity. The German Esports Federation has announced that it will “set up a streamlined procedure for this procedure” in cooperation with “relevant stakeholders.”

The federation welcomed a new draft regulation by the German government in October that posited this exact development. At the time, prospective requirements for successful applicants also involved them competing in a national or international league and being employed by an esports team that’s registered in Germany.

Hans Jagnow, President of the German Esports Federation commented on the development: “The German esports visa will be a big advantage for events hosted in Germany. We are the first country to establish a dedicated visa category for esports. There are more international esports events expected to take place in Germany.

“This development also may serve as a model for other nations. The visa requirements for esports professionals should be harmonized internationally in order to allow easy access to tournaments and leagues for esports athletes all over the world.”

Esports Insider says: This is a great development for both Germany and the esports industry, making it much easier to compete and live inside the country for those that would have had a much harder time staying for longer than 90 days previously. The country doesn’t recognise esports as a sport still, however, so more work is to be done on that front but this is a solid step forward regardless.

The Global Esports Federation

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The Global Esports Federation Aims to Be Voice of Worldwide Movement

A new world governing body for esports called the Global Esports Federation has launched in Singapore. Chinese technology conglomerate Tencent is backing the federation and is listed as a global founding partner. Tencent is also the owner of League of Legends publisher Riot Games.

There are already multiple rival organizations aiming to govern the world esports industry, but this is the first to have direct backing from game publishers. As well as fully owning Riot Games, Tencent also has partial ownership stakes in developers such as Epic Games, Supercell, Activision Blizzard, Glu Mobile and Ubisoft. 

The GEF plans to launch the Global Esports Games in 2020. The Games will be the group’s annual international flagship tournament. Other key objectives of the GEF include the establishment of national esports federations, creating an athlete commision to focus on athlete well-being and fair play standards, staging esports competitions and development programs, and developing a governing structure and guidelines. 

“We are excited to navigate the pathway and shape the future with the launch of the Global Esports Federation. The GEF will help develop the credibility, legitimacy, and prestige to esports in society by leveraging the history, foundations, the values of sport, and the principle of harnessing technology and innovation for sports,” said Chris Chan, the President of GEF, in an announcement from Tencent. 

Chan is also the secretary-general of the Singapore Olympic Committee and deputy chairman of the Commonwealth Asian Games. Tencent vice president Edward Cheng has been named vice president of the GEF.

The Future of eSports is Bright

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The future of esports is bright—especially for women

Gaming host Rosemary “Nekkra” Kelley and NBC News’ Simone Boyce explain how women and veterans are embracing and shaping the world of esports.

The global esports industry is rapidly growing with revenue topping $1 billion in 2019, up 27 percent from the year before. And women are increasingly seen as a driving force behind the rapid acceleration.

Esports, described as multiplayer video games played competitively for spectators (typically by professional gamers) often exudes the same energy, excitement and fandom that fills the stands of a rock concert or a traditional sporting event.

The world of esports is also opening a door to men and women who might not have felt at home in the traditional sports arena and is providing an inclusive space where they can thrive, compete and pursue careers. It’s also creating a space that’s increasingly approachable for women.

Comcast NBCUniversal’s Military & Veteran Affairs recently hosted a business forum in Philadelphia featuring a panel discussion among leaders from Comcast, the U.S. Army and Harrisburg University. Speakers explored how each entity is incorporating esports into its business model and initiatives. For example, Comcast plans to unveil a new esports initiative in 2021 and the U.S. Army is incorporating esports in recruiting, providing a stress relief and is even launching its own competitive team.

“We’ve had a big commitment to hire 21,000 veterans by 2021, and the Army has recently set up an esports team, so this was an opportunity to pull a business forum together to highlight what’s going on from a business perspective and from a military perspective,” Rebecca Gray, executive director of Comcast NBCUniversal Military & Veteran Affairs and a colonel in the U.S. Air Force. “We as a company have an opportunity to make sure it’s an inclusive and connected environment.”

“The VA has shown studies that engaging in esports lessens PSTD, improves camaraderie and is very beneficial for mental wellness,” said Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Carol Eggert, senior vice president of military and veteran affairs for Comcast. Eggert wanted to showcase to the business community what esports means to Comcast and the future it holds for not only men, but women as well. “I have high hopes for women moving into the gaming space,” she added.

Freelance esports personality Rosemary “Nekkra” Kelley, a broadcaster for The Pokemon Company International, shared her experience during the forum. While Kelley’s love for gaming took a backseat in college, she revitalized her passion for gaming after graduating. “It brought me so much happiness,” she said.

While professional gaming has attracted few females today, Kelley believes the future is bright for women in esports.

“I hope that in the future women are a more accepted part of the space, and I think that starts with everyone coming together and making that space more approachable,” Kelley said. “Leagues and gaming companies are doing a lot in order to expand opportunities for women to approach this space in gaming.”

NBC News’ Simone Boyce explained that the fandom is what’s truly driving the esports community. “I’m such a fan of the fandom,” she said. “When you attend an esports event, you see how genuine it is. Everybody has a story about why they game.” Boyce believes that as esports takes off and sets becoming more impressive and over the top, at its core it’s still a deeply personal experience for all involved. “It’s still something very personal and intimate for a lot of people,” Boyce said.

The Future Of Esports

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The Future Of Esports

When you think of gaming and esports a 27-year-old Black Latina woman probably doesn’t come to mind. Well that’s probably going to change really soon because Erin A. Simon is poised to take esports to new heights. And she’s poised to do it from her own unique perspective. 

Just today the Cheddar Esports Host and Grass Routes Podcast co-Founder and co-Host signed with Matthew Olson and David Koonin of CAA. It’s a sign that major companies are taking note of the esports community and recognize that there’s money to be made. It’s also a sign that major companies see the value in having diverse personalities represent the industry of esports. And that’s exactly why Simon decided to sign with one of the largest talent firms on the planet.

“I really respected the fact that they wanted to support and help me grow the lane that I’m currently in. They took their time to understand that my lane is the intersection of culture and esports. Throughout this process of signing with them I always felt heard so I really appreciated that.” 

Being heard is something that for so long so many gamers hadn’t had the opportunity to experience. That’s because esports (and the gaming industry as a whole) was largely ignored or shunned for a significant amount of time. The gamers were considered nerds and social outcasts. The belief was that there were no real careers to be had or money to be made within gaming. But now that organizations like the NBA and artists like Drake have caught on, the community of gamers are ready for primetime. 

Simon, a former NCAA Division-I soccer player and lifetime avid gamer, likens the growth of gaming to that of hip-hop. “I really think that there are some strong parallels between hip-hop and gaming. They both started as these underground movements that general society didn’t accept or take seriously. People said hip-hop was horrible and bad for children. And now its an internationally accepted and celebrated form of art. I see gaming going the same way. As someone who has been watching the change and been a gamer since before it was socially acceptable, it’s important to me to be one of the ones telling the stories of the people and situations who make up the industry.”

And the stories of the people in esports that are available for her to tell are vast. Unlike some traditional sports, like football, for instance, esports fans and players cross gender, racial, national, economic, ethnic and sexual orientation lines. 

“One of the top fighting game competitors in the world is from Pakistan,” explains Simon. “And he’ll tell you that there are probably a lot of kids who are better than him in Pakistan; he’s just one of the few who has access to stable internet and the means to get a VISA. There are kids in inner cities who love and are really good at gaming but can only afford gaming consoles instead of PCs which have the big money tournaments attached to them. These are the kinds of social issues, issues of access and economics, that I want to tell about the esports community.”

Simon has been preparing to tell stories since she was in high school. At the ripe old age of 16 she started a blog, Box of Mess, where she produced content surrounding sports, entertainment, music and style. Her stories earned more than 1.5 million YouTube views and set her on the pathway to sports journalism. As an undergraduate at the University of Kentucky, she juggled being a student-athlete while holding down internships within Kentucky’s Athletic Department, at Dow Jones, the Wall Street Journal and more. Following graduation Simon worked at companies like Revolt TV, Cycle and as a freelance journalist. In August 2018 she co-launched Grass Routes Podcast with partner Brandon “Killa BH” Hall and landed her current position as the co-Host of Cheddar Esports in November 2018. 

If it seems like that’s a lot to accomplish in a short 27 years on this earth, that’s because it is. But Simon’s not worn out; her passion for esports and storytelling drives her to work harder and tell more stories. “I remember being the kid who was afraid to tell people that I was a gamer because of the bullying and the stigma surrounding gaming. My family and I used to play sports and video games together so sports and esports are a huge part of who I am. This is a space that I genuinely love and am so knowledgeable about. So I’m grateful that there’s now a lane for me to share stories about what I love and do it from my unique perspective.” 

For a woman of color to co-host a show on a live stream, post-cable network that garners 6.5 million views per month and is aired on SlingTV, Hulu Live, YouTube TV, Philo, Twitter, Facebook Watch, Pluto, Xumo and more; is epic. While she is proud of her accomplishments and positioning within the industry, Simon wouldn’t dare allow you to think that she’s the only or one of few women and women of color who are pushing the industry forward.

“Although we might not be getting the publicity just yet. Women are heavily involved in esports. You have women like Johanna Faries, who spent 11-years at the NFL and then went on to become the Commissioner of Call of Duty Esports; and women like Nicole LaPointe Jameson, who is the CEO of Evil Geniuses. Women run support groups, are gamers, commentators and overall leaders in esports. I’m just one of a significant number and I promise you’ll start learning more about us as the industry grows.”

There’s no doubt that Simon will hold good on that promise. As long as she continues to add her spin of culture to esports, there’s no doubt that she will continue to garner interest and the support of fans (old and new) to the world of esports.

Warcraft eSports Beginning

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The humble beginnings of World of Warcraft esports

This is the first installment of a three-part series that explores the past, the present, and the future of World of Warcraft esports.

Released in 2004, World of Warcraft has gone from the bedroom fantasy of Warcraft III fans – living out their dreams in the expanse of Azeroth – to becoming a worldwide phenomenon that has stood the test of time as the most popular massively multiplayer online game in the world.

In 2019, World of Warcraft is still the king of the MMO scene. Having fended off countless attempts to claim its throne, it has held strong and soldiered on. While it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, and the game is certainly not as it was during the height of its fame, it continues to maintain substantial cultural relevance.

When it comes to esports, 2019 may well be one of the most important years in the history of the game. With World of Warcraft now enjoying its 15th year, its competitive scene continues to grow. With improving prize pools funded by the community, the future looks bright.

That’s where this series of articles comes in. We’ll take a look at the three key aspects of the title’s esports efforts: the past, the present, and the future, and what it all means.

The foundation of something great, forged on a battlefield of blood

One thing that’s important to note about World of Warcraft is that when it launched back in 2004, it lacked a true ‘player vs. player’ aspect. Sure, players could kill each other – and they frequently did – but it was largely just to be annoying or to make their own fun.

The actual idea of PvP would not come to World of Warcraft until patch 1.4, nearly six months after the game’s US release, when Blizzard added a PvP Honour System. Sure, Blizzard added the Gurubashi Arena in December 2004’s patch 1.2 which gave players a reason to participate in PvP, but the introduction of an actual ranked system gave players something to look forward to. Thankfully for PvP players, the wait for the next addition was short-lived.

Patch 1.5’s introduction of Battlegrounds gave fans not only a reason to fight, but also a place to do it too. Players in groups of 10 for Warsong Gulch (Capture the Flag) and 40 for Alterac Valley (a large scale PvP/PvE hybrid) would do battle against the opposition faction. At the end of each week, players would earn a rank based on the number of honour points they’d accrued in comparison to other members of their faction, with the highest ranks obtaining specific PvP armour, mounts, and weapons.

It would take another year and an expansion later until the foundations of World of Warcraft esports started to take shape. In patch 2.0.1, Arena battles would be added to the game alongside seasons and a revamped honour system. The arena saw groups of two, three, or five (with three vs. three becoming the competitive standard) do battle on a much smaller battlefield with an MMR system and team registration. Teams could pick a name and logo and fight against other teams, gaining ranks and unique items. Over the course of the following years, Blizzard would keep adding new seasons and new arenas to the game. In 2007, things started to change and Blizzard finally brought esports to World of Warcraft.

The beginning of a 12-year story

In 2007, Blizzard embraced esports at its annual fan expo, BlizzCon, in the form of three vs. three arena. This started a trend that has continued ever since, with Blizzard adding more events over multiple days – including events in the build-up to BlizzCon. The expo became the final event in the World of Warcraft esports calendar, as it had for Warcraft III and StarCraft. During 2007’s BlizzCon, Blizzard put $40,000 (£32,000) up for the finalist, and the competition in the end was won by MoB Turtle Beach.

Blizzard would also go on to run a number of events across the globe, including the now-defunct Worldwide Invitational events – which saw World of Warcraft esports feature at the Paris event in 2008. At the event, Blizzard put on a host of professional and casual tournaments for attendees. Blizzard has also worked with ESL over the years, with the event organiser helping Blizzard with European events. To do this, it continues to assist Blizzard with events in Australia.

Blizzard always seemed to have esports be a secondary part of World of Warcraft. It was something that existed but always felt like it was disconnected from the core game, a sideshow of sorts at BlizzCon for those who truly loved that aspect of the game. As esports’ popularity has grown over the years, World of Warcraft’s competitive scenes has stepped up and the prize pools and support have increased to match. It would take until 2017-2018 for the scene to really start picking up steam in the wider community, and when 2019 rolled around Blizzard would finally connect its esports efforts to its in-game players‘.

When Blizzard tried something different

During the period of 2010-2013, Blizzard would do something a little different when it came to BlizzCon. 2010 brought the first attempt to bring the raid experience to BlizzCon as Blizzard brought #1 guild Paragon on stage to fight against a number of bosses from past raids. The series of boss waves took place outside the Horde city of Orgrimmar, with a live audience cheering them on alongside a team providing a running commentary on events. It was an interesting idea and one that Blizzard would return to the following year in a more refined and competitive format.

2011 saw what was truly our first glimpse at the Race to World First, we just didn’t know it at the time. Two guilds – Blood Legion and Vodka – would go head-to-head on stage in a race to finish the Firelands 25-man raid first. Blizzard would repeat the event in 2013 where Method would take on Midwinter. The above clip shows the start of something different in World of Warcraft esports, but it wasn’t to be. Blizzard would not bring the format back at subsequent BlizzCon iterations.

At this time competitive raiding was left to the community to enjoy on the forums, with Reddit users constantly refreshing guild ranking sites or waiting for in-game announcements to find out who had killed the boss first. In 2017, however, Blizzard would later revive the format.

Blizzard constructs the second pillar of World of Warcraft esports

Welcome to the Mythic Dungeon Invitational (MDI), World of Warcraft esports’ second pillar. With the release of World of Warcraft: Legion, Blizzard changed one of the staples of WoW: the dungeon system received a new mode. These more challenging versions would see players acquiring keys to make the dungeon more difficult, with ‘affixes’ (see: debuffs) being applied as players took their key past certain thresholds, with a maximum of four affixes active once you reach level 10.

Players would race to finish the objectives before a timer expired and be awarded loot based on speed, with teams who complete the keystone in time receiving a new key for another dungeon at a higher level. These affixes would add a range of things, from increasing the density of mobs in a pack, spawning pools of healing blood when an enemy was killed to ones that caused mobs to enrage when hitting 20 percent HP.

In 2017 and 2018, Blizzard brought the MDI to BlizzCon. The best teams from Europe, China, Asia-Pacific, and the Americas would head to BlizzCon to battle on stage to become the MDI champions. Both on-stage teams would fight through the same dungeon with the same affix combination, using whatever five-man composition they wished (with rules applied to changes post-game). The winner was the team who killed the last boss & achieve a 100 percent clear completion percentage, awarded for killing a certain number of non-boss mobs in a dungeon. MDI was focused less on the PvP side of esports, rather occupying the ‘games done quick’ or ‘speedrunning’ aspect of other titles. While MDI was not for everyone, it always felt like a more natural fit for World of Warcraft, a game that at its core is a PvE experience.

In 2019, the MDI would change name to the Mythic Dungeon International, and as the event headed into World of Warcraft’s new expansion – Battle for Azeroth – it gained a seasonal format like the WoW Arena Championship (AWC) with a BlizzCon final finishing off the season.

We’d also be remiss not to mention the community-run Mythic+ Keystone Masters events started by Cirranor, the MDI 2018 champion and member of Excel Esports’ former arena team Kjell’s Angels (later to be renamed exceL Angels). Cirranor was also joined by Shine as an Executive Producer and Method Darrie as an Assistant Producer. The Keystone Masters continues to take place to this day and we’ll touch on it more in our second article in the series.

In summary

With a game that’s 15 years old, you have to keep it brief when looking back at its history. We’ve simplified a lot of what happened and condensed it, not mentioning some of the esports and streaming personalities World of Warcraft esports has produced over the years, from Sodapoppin to Rekful. The game’s competitive past has definitely influenced its present and, with 2019 being its most significant esports year to date, we’d also wager that it will continue to grow in the future.

In our next article, we’ll look at World of Warcraft’s current climate in esports and the four pillars that it sits upon. We’ll look at what changes Blizzard made in 2019, how Method and Red Bull added a new pillar, and how the community has created its own scene out of an often-forgotten aspect of the title.

Navy Drops TV Ads

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Navy Drops TV Ads: Trades Super Bowl Spots for Esports, YouTube

The Navy is punting on television advertising and won’t roll out a new ad campaign in time for the Super Bowl. Instead, the service will spend virtually all its advertising money in the digital realm.

In 2020, Navy officials told USNI News, the service plans to spend nearly $33 million – 97 percent of its advertising budget – on online advertising. A little more than $1 million will be spent on billboards ads and spots on local radio stations. That leaves the Navy’s planned television buy at zero dollars.

Two years ago, the Navy spent $20.2 million on television advertising, about 45 percent of the service’s $45-million advertising budget, according to the Navy. That’s when the Navy launched its “Forged by the Sea” campaign during the 2017 Army/Navy football game.

The Navy is shifting to online-mostly advertising for a simple reason: research says the service’s target audience of people between 17 and 28 years old is already there, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Robert Burke said during a recent appearance at the Military Reporters and Editors annual conference.

“One thing we did learn, is paying for a lot of TV ads in the middle of Super Bowl games,” Burke said. “[The] target audience is not watching that.”

Since 2018, the Navy slimmed down its television advertising with no negative effect on recruiting, Burke said. The digital techniques already employed by the Navy allowed the service to reduce its recruiting expenditures but still meet its goals. In 2020, the Navy wants to add about 5,100 people to field a force of 340,500 active-duty personnel.

In February, the Navy will roll out its new focus on advertising around esports, where contestants compete against each other in various games online for money. The Navy will become a prominent sponsor of esports events and will also start fielding an all-Navy esports team pulled from the service’s current pool of active duty recruiters.

The move follows an ongoing Navy effort on YouTube showing scenarios where Navy personnel compete against social media influencers, such as William Osman, a mechanical and electrical engineer with more than 1.4 million subscribers, in various skill tests. The idea is depicting what life is like in the Navy.

“Right now, it’s predominantly digital that’s bringing us better returns,” Burke said. “YouTube, five, ten, 15-second headers that repeat for the audience that shows interest in them, that turns into leads at call centers.”

By 2021, the esports viewership is expected to be 84 million people, surpassing all other professional sports leagues except the estimated 141 million NFL viewers, according to a 2018 Syracuse University study the Navy Recruiting Command used to help form their online strategy. More significantly for the Navy, the same report estimates 61 percent of esports viewers are under the age of 25.

“We had a lot more money running in TV three years ago. And now we’re focused on digital, and it’s just because a much younger cohort of people are consuming media online. And when we look at the sports, we see esports is very young,” Sandra Muoio, a senior partner and group director for media at WM Global, told USNI News on Wednesday.

Muoio and her colleague Donna Raidt, a senior partner and group planning director at WM Global, are part of the team of firms called the Navy Partnership that handles Navy marketing and advertising. They’re working with Navy recruiting command officials to plan the service’s foray into the esports world.

Their focus is a generation of people in the teens and early 20s – dubbed Generation Z by demographers and marketers – that has never known life without the internet, states a recent AdAge report, The Gen Z Marketing Playbook.

Drawn from several surveys of mostly college-age adults in the U.S., United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, the report by U.K.-based Student Affinity Network UNiDAYS details how firms can best reach Generation Z , generally considered those born between 1995 and 2010. Gen Z is the top target for Navy recruiters. Among the report’s findings, 49 percent of Gen Zers feel better socializing online than off.

Focusing on esports is seen as a way for the Navy to tap into this community of possible recruits that tend to congregate online, Muoio and Raidt said. To start, they described the Navy’s esports spending as modest while the service learns where best to focus its recruiting efforts. They want to see which specific online games yield the most potential recruiting contacts.

“At this point, we’re not looking to be integrated in the game, but want to use it to be engaged,” Raidt said.

Engagement is where the Navy’s esports team fits into the strategy. In May, the Navy plans to hold auditions to join a dedicated team of esports competitors. The Navy is creating an esports team from the service’s current pool of roughly 4,700 active duty recruiters.

The sailors selected will be expected to participate in online gaming and use the platform as a way to connect with other players online at that time, telling them about their experiences in the Navy and encouraging the players to continue a conversation with Navy recruiters.

Earlier this year, the Army fielded a similar team, the Army eSport Team based out of Fort Knox, Ky. The team operates much like the Army’s Golden Knights parachute team and Army Marksmanship Unit, which travel around the country demonstrating their skills and increasing awareness of opportunities in the Army, according to the Army. The U.S. Air Force Academy has an esports team that competes in the Mountain West Conference.

“My expectation is what we’ll end up doing is creating a lot of engagements with a lot of content and just get people a lot more information about the Navy,” Muoio said. “I expect to see a lot more site visits to Navy.com.”

THE GLOBAL ESPORTS FEDERATION TO SHAPE

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THE GLOBAL ESPORTS FEDERATION LAUNCHED TO SHAPE FUTURE OF ESPORTS

• Global esports organisation to cultivate collaboration, forge synergies,
develop, and grow esports and sport-based esports community
• Forum to develop safe, healthy, sustainable esports ecosystem of athletes,
sport organisations, commercial partners, among others
• A voice and authority for international esports coordination
Singapore, 16 December 2019 – Esports (electronic sports) is one of the most exciting and
fastest growing competitive sports around the world, clearly evident in the exponential rise
of its technology-savvy millennial athletes and fan base, along with a parallel growth of an
ecosystem of developers, media, advertisers, to name a few. Increased availability of online
streaming media platforms, particularly YouTube and Twitch, has further fuelled esports
popularity and viewership, making esports into an international phenomenon. Research firm Newzoo1, has predicted that global esports revenue this year will surpass US$1
billion for the first time, growing to US$1.1 billion – a year-on-year growth of 26.7% and
estimated esports audience will reach 453.8 million people, a year-on-year growth of 15%. Early this month, the Olympic Summit announced it saw great potential in esports as many
sports simulations are becoming more physical due to the advancement of virtual and
augmented reality; and urged the International Federations to consider how to incorporate
them into the sports movement. Today, esports has reached yet another defining watershed with the official worldwide launch
of the Global Esports Federation (GEF), which will be the first-ever global governing body for
the esports ecosystem of athletes, sports organisations, commercial partners, and other
constituents, guided by the values of sport and the principle of harnessing technology and
innovation for good. At the launch, the GEF also signed an agreement with Founding Global Partner, Tencent.
The signing of the agreement was conducted by Mr Chris Chan, President of the Global
Esports Federation, and Mr Edward Cheng, Vice President of Tencent, who will also serve as
a Vice President of the GEF. The occasion was witnessed by Guest-of-Honour, Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture,
Community and Youth; Vice Presidents of GEF – Ms Charmaine Crooks, a five-time Olympian
and Board Member of the Canadian Olympic Committee; and Mr Wei Jizhong, Honorary Life
Vice President of the Olympic Council of Asia; as well as Board Members of GEF and
representatives from the world’s esports, sporting, and commercial community. Mr Chris Chan, President, Global Esports Federation remarked at the signing, “We are
excited to navigate the pathway and shape the future with the launch of the Global Esports
Federation. The GEF will help develop the credibility, legitimacy, and prestige to esports in
society by leveraging the history, foundations, the values of sport, and the principle of
harnessing technology and innovation for sports. The commitment of Tencent and the vision
of the leadership team are evident in this groundbreaking moment to join GEF as our
Founding Global Partner. The inclusion of Tencent will tremendously help in the growth,
education, culture, and wellness of the esports ecosystem.” Speaking about the partnership between Tencent as the Founding Global Partner and the
GEF, Mr Edward Cheng, Vice President, Tencent, reiterated the company’s commitment,
“With our collective effort, I believe esports will unleash the unlimited possibilities of sports
in the Digital Age. On the path to building a community with a shared future for mankind,
esports will shine!” The GEF Board today confirmed Singapore as the Global Operations Headquarters after
considering several other global cities. The GEF will focus on four key pillars: connecting
traditional and active esports with the global sporting community; active youth participation;
world-class governance and compliance standards; and education, culture, and wellness.

In fulfilling its mission, the GEF has laid out its first five initial objectives going forward:

• Encourage and support the establishment of National Esports Federations with a set of
relevant standards, guidelines, and regulations;
• Establish an athlete commission, with a focus on athlete well-being, development of
standards for fair play, career support, and education to ensure safe, doping free, and
ethically compliant practices;
• Convene and stage esports competitions, conventions, fora, and development
programmes;
• Development of world class governance structures and guidelines for the Global Esports
Federation; and;
• Create, develop, and stage the annual flagship Global Esports Games, with the first
Games to be staged in 2020. Membership into the GEF is open to sports organisations including international and national
federations and other sports organisations; commercial organisations such as publishers,
developers, sponsors, and event organisers; and non-commercial organisations including
cities and other non-government organisations.

eSports Awards Celebration

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The Esports Awards was a glam celebration, and I can’t wait to go back

It’s not very often that I get to go to live, gaming-based events without having to leave my home territory of North Texas. I got an invite to the “Oscars of Esports,” the Esports Awards — to be held in Arlington. For those of you who don’t know, that’s a stone’s throw from where I live. So I was able to attend for the first time, and I’m so glad this glitzy event came to Texas.

The Esports Awards have been around for a good few years now, but they’ve been hosted in London. But this year a change of venue was in order, and the event moved to the Esports Stadium in Arlington. I dusted off my good dress and a notepad and sallied forth.

I’m sure, when most of you think of esports at all, you’re not necessarily associating it with Arlington, Texas. But the stadium there is the largest dedicated esports space in North America, and was built specifically to attract this sort of event. I got the chance to briefly speak to Esports Awards CEO Tom Mercey and he also seemed excited about the new location. The stadium, which was completed in November 2018, is 100,000 square feet and features gaming stations open to the public, in addition to the competitive space.

I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting, going into the event. It probably wasn’t a relatively ritzy black tie event. While I’d be among the first to defend esports as an actual sport rather than some amateur’s hobby — a stereotype many pros still have to contend with — I think the glamour of it was a little more than even I expected. It’s quite a thing to rub elbows with presenters in floor-length gowns and black ties who’re also excitedly snapping pics with a Reinhardt cosplayer.

The show didn’t go completely without a hitch. Presenters weren’t cued for their entrances, while at least one winner walked off without their award. And I’m still trying to figure out why the deserts were served to us on ceramic floor tiles, but then again I’ll take a cannoli no matter what kind of plate it’s on.

A couple of minor observations while I’m thinking about it:

  • Fortnite World Cup winner Bugha is a doll, remaining humble as he accepted two awards and one of the hosts not-so-subtly reminded everyone he took home a $3 million pot with his win.
  • I’m terrible at recognizing people in person despite ostensibly seeing them on Twitter or on streams. At least three times during the night I said hi to someone and only after walking away either realized or was told that they were someone I should have recognized on sight. Take from that either that my memory for faces retains as much as a rusted sieve, or people really look that different in person.
  • The sole exception to this was Dr. Disrespect, though I suspect it was only his height that helped jog my lone brain cell. His wife was kind enough to listen to the joke I’d told at his expense.

I got home with my goodie bag around one in the morning, and was rather pleased to discover it included a Red Bull. I was definitely going to need it to struggle out of bed the next morning. I’m not as young as I used to be.