esports Updates

Malaysia 5year eSports Plan

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Malaysia’s Government Lays Out Five-Year Strategic Plan for Esports Development

  • The Ministry of Youth and Sports in Malaysia has outlined a five-year domestic plan to grow esports within the Southeast Asian country.
  • Malaysia’s Ministry of Finance has budgeted a further RM 20M ($4.8M USD) for esports in 2020.
  • The government outlined five strategic priorities for esports, including athlete welfare, competitive integrity, a national esports venue, and a certification program. 

Malaysia’s Ministry of Youth and Sports has released a 144-page comprehensive strategy to legislate and create a sustainable esports ecosystem. The five-year plan presents 25 key initiatives within five prioritized strategies “aimed to maintain the continuance of esports excellence in Malaysia.”

In 2019, Malaysia’s government announced it would allocate RM 10M ($2.4M) to start the development of esports domestically. Initial details on how this funding would be allocated were scarce, and in an article from Malaymail, the country’s minister for youth and sport Sayed Saddiq said the ministry only received the budget in October—too late to help fund Malaysia’s Overwatch World Cup team’s journey to Blizzcon. The budget allocation for 2020 will double to $4.8M for 2020.

Currently, there are no dedicated laws to govern esports in Malaysia; instead, competitive gaming is still grouped under the government’s Sports Development Act of 1997. The report directly references South Korea’s Act of Promotion of Esports, which paved the way for government subsidies, university programs, and competition administration in what is still one of the largest esports markets worldwide, alongside China and the U.S.

Malaysia’s own strategic plan for esports outlines five priorities. Summarized, these include: 

  1. Standardizing esports athlete contracts, health programs, and career planning.
  2. Safeguarding competitive integrity and improving gender equality. 
  3. Building a national venue and academy for esports. 
  4. Encouraging further esports talent development, and investment.
  5. Introduce licenses for players, referees, and training centers.

The launch of the Esports Development Strategic Plan was officiated by YB Syed Saddiq Bin Syed Abdul Rahman, Minister of Youth and Sports Malaysia, on Nov. 21, 2019. Elected in 2018, at age 27, Saddiq is the country’s youngest federal minister (since it gained independence in 1957) and is known for his interest in gaming.

According to its Internet Users Survey 2018, Malaysia, a country with a population of over 31M, has seen the estimated number of internet users grow from 20.1M in 2014 to 28.7M, roughly a 42% increase.

Esports Content With ESR

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Telemundo Expands Into English-Language Esports Content With ESR 24/7 Channel Deal

Telemundo Deportes, which launched the first-ever U.S. Spanish-language eSports channel earlier this year to tap into a rapidly growing lucrative market, is boosting its eSports offerings to include English-language content to attract a broader audience. To that end, the NBC-Universal owned network signed a multi-platform deal with ESR 24/7 eSports Channel giving it access to "thousands of pieces of English-language content" that will be used across its platforms every year. 

The content will feature the entire range of esports entertainment from over 10 different titles, such as Fortnite, FIFA, Apex Legends and Overwatch. The Telemundo Deportes eSports channel will also have live events, tournament highlights, short-form match highlights, streamers docuseries, reality, and streamers’ content from their partners and influencers. They include: professional streamer Destiny who has nearly 500k followers on his Twitch channel, and gamer and streamer Tobuscus who has 6.3 million subscribers on his YouTube channel.

Among the content that will be available on Telemundo Deportes is Inside Fortnite World Cup, an original documentary series produced by ESR around the Fortnite World Cup, the largest esports competition in history.  

“With the extensive content provided by ESR and the live, daily action from our streamers, we look to continue engaging with the Hispanic gaming community while increasing our involvement with the esports industry,” says Eli Velazquez, EVP of Sports Content for Telemundo Deportes.

The ESR programming will be presented on Telemundo Deportes’ eSports channels available via the Telemundo Deportes app, YouTube, Twitch and Instagram. In addition, Titulares y Más, Telemundo Deportes’ nightly sports and lifestyle show will continue to present esports news and trends, competition segments and special appearances of Telemundo’s streamers.

Telemundo Deportes’ eSports channels will continue to present content produced by its exclusive streamers, including Sofia “Kipi” Ornelas, Juan “Patán” Sotullo and Jaime “neroxx-” Penalosa, who recently joined the network to offer bilingual streams. The three streamers are playing over 70 live hours combined every week. Their content is also available on-demand and in short-form across Telemundo Deportes’ digital platforms.

ESR, the first 24/7 eSports network in the United States, distributes its 24/7 channel and programming through Sinclair backed STIRR platform, XUMO, Sumsung TV, ESPN, Telemundo, and others partners worldwide.

New Esports Policies

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Tencent Games Rebrands, Beijing-Haidian Government Announces New Esports Policies

Over the past week, the esports industry in China saw several key developments, primarily related to Beijing-Haidian government and Tencent. The company’s games division has rebranded for the first time since 2010, and the Beijing-Haidian government announced a local esports benefit-based policies. In addition, Dota 2’s MDL Chengdu Major concluded over the weekend and led to significant viewership across both English and Russian language broadcasts on Twitch.

Among the top stories: Tencent Games rebranded with a new slogan; the Beijing-Haidian government announced multiple policies for developing esports in the region; LGD Gaming partnered with Philippines esports organization Espoortsplay Gaming to co-build an international Dota 2 team; Mars Media partnered with McLaren for the MDL Chengdu Major; and musician Alan Olav Walker partnered with social media Weibo, contributing an esports theme song for PUBG tournament WEGL. 

Every week The Esports Observer presents the biggest esports business news in China including investments, acquisitions, sponsorships, and other major news from the region.

Tencent Games Rebrands with New Slogan

On Nov. 21Tencent Games, the games division of Chinese conglomerate Tencent Holdings, announced that it has rebranded with a new logo and slogan; changing  from “Create Happiness with Heart” to ‘‘Spark More.” This is the first brand update for Tencent Games since December 2010. 

According to the announcement, Tencent Games has published 480 games worldwide to-date, and served more than 800M users in 200 countries. 

“We will continually partner with Riot GamesSupercellEpic GamesActivision BlizzardUbisoft, and Nintendo.” 

Ren Yuxin, the COO of Tencent Holdings, mentioned this update in a company-wide internal email:

“The update is not only just a rebrand for Tencent Games, but also a cognitive revolution for how to bring more value and visions into games.”

According to the announcement, the concept of “Spark More” is to mainly focus on additional value in the gaming industry, including cultural heritage, social responsibility, technological innovation, and cultural influences outside of China. Tencent Games concluded those values in six words: “Connect,” “Culture,” “Care,” “Responsibility,” “Technology,” and “Honor.”

It should be noted that the poster of “Honor” features the Chinese League of Legends national team winning the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games gold medals. In addition, the official rebrand video from Tencent features Chinese League of Legends professional player Jian “Uzi” Zihao and North American League of Legends player Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng. 

Beijing-Haidian Government Announces Beneficial Policies to Develop Local Esports, $1.42M Maximum Funds

The Beijing-Haidian government has released multiple benefit-based policies for developing the digital culture industry in the city, including esports. According to the announcement,

Beijing-Haidian will offer a maximum ¥10M RMB ($1.42M USD) in allowances for “high-quality” Haidian-based esports companies. For Haidian-based esports teams, the allowances will be a maximum ¥2M ($280K).

For Haidian-hosted esports tournaments, the government will offer a maximum ¥5M ($710K) in allowances and a “fast pass” on approval.

Earlier this month, global esports tournament organizer ESL hosted its first-ever standalone event in China: the $250K Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) Beijing-Haidian, which was held in the Beijing University Student Gymnasium. The Beijing-Haidian government was one of five sponsors in this tournament.

This year, multiple Chinese cities have released their own beneficial policies for developing esports including Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xi’an, and Chengdu. “Our goal is to build Haidian as a multi-billion esports center in the North of China,” Zhang Dongxu, the vice director of Beijing-Haidian media department said in an interview with People Esports, the esports division of Chinese publication People’s Daily.

LGD Gaming Partners with Esportsplay Gaming, Rebuilds Dota 2 Team LGD International

On Nov. 26, Chinese esports organization LGD Gaming announced that it has partnered with Philippines-based esports organization Esportsplay Gaming to co-build a Dota 2 team called LGD International (LGD.Int). 

According to the announcement, the partnership is looking for developing esports in the South East Asia region. As part of the deal, LGD Gaming will bring its “exclusive training system” to the team. The team has not announced its roster at the time of writing. 

This is not the first time that LGD Gaming has tried to build its international Dota 2 team. In 2012, LGD.Int was founded in China and mainly included on European Dota 2 players. The team disbanded in 2013. This is also not the first time that LGD Gaming partnered with a foreign company to build a new team, either. In September, the company partnered with North American esports organization Reciprocity to establish a joint esports team called LGD.REC to compete in the China CrossFire esports league.

LGD’s Chinese Dota 2 team, PSG.LGD, is considered one of the best Dota 2 teams in China. The team is a partnership with the French soccer club Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), and currently has ten sponsors include betting operator Betway, shampoo brand Clear, energy drink brand Monster, alcohol company Harbin Brewery, live streaming platform Douyu, and HLA Jeans.

Other Esports Business News:

  • The Dota 2 MDL Chengdu Major concluded on Nov. 24. During the tournament, organizer Mars Media partnered with car brand McLaren, showcasing the company’s racing cars with MDL logos in the venue. The tournament has led to significant viewership across both English and Russian language broadcasts on Twitch.
  • On Nov. 22, British musician Alan Olav Walker announced that he had partnered with Chinese social media Weibo to contribute a theme song called “Play” for Weibo’s PUBG esports tournament, WEGL.
  • On Nov. 21, Korean esports organization T1 announced that its League of Legends team will come to China for a three-day trip between Nov. 29 – Dec. 2. The trip will be organized by T1’s exclusive business global partner, Lagardère Sports and Entertainment.
  • On. Nov. 24, North American esports organization Team SoloMid (TSM) announced that its League of Legends team will come to Shanghai, China, for a two-month training process. Further details on this training process were not disclosed.

Esports Rising 2019

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Esports Rising 2019: Industry Showing Sophisticated Growth

The growing sophistication of the esports industry was on full display at this year’s Lagardère Sports Esports Rising conference in Marina Del Rey, California. Many panels on Thursday touched on franchise valuations and what those numbers being tossed around means for the industry, particularly as there continues to be consolidation. Organizations and teams from across esports talked about creating sustainable business models and how that will be crucial to maintaining these rising team values.

Franchising was also a key topic, as we heard from a number of teams taking part in Overwatch LeagueLeague of Legends, and the upcoming Call of Duty League. Within that topic, a shift for OWL and CDL to a local-team model was also heavily debated.

Fashion Forward

One brand activation that had everyone buzzing at the conference was Louis Vuitton’s deal with Riot Games for the League of Legends World Championship (Worlds 2019), which was held in Paris last weekend. The fashion brand created a custom trophy case — similar to what it does for the FIFA World Cup — that housed the Summoner’s Cup, the LoL hardware given to the world champ. The French fashion brand also worked with Riot to produce in-game costumes designed by Louis Vuitton Artistic Director of Women’s Collections Nicolas Ghesquière. It’s another step forward in bringing a high-end, non-endemic global brand into the space.

Riot Head of Esports Partnerships Matt Archambault said of the deal during a panel session: “Seeing the trophy case in person blew my mind. .. [Louis Vuitton] drove the product and unique experience. We started with something they’d done in traditional sports and thought about how we can drive this in a way that will be positive.” The data was also there to support the success of the deal. Fans who clicked through or liked the Louis Vuitton Instagram content around LoL Worlds are “six times” more likely to enjoy luxury goods in general, said Zoomph President & co-founder Amir Zonozi.

What’s It All Worth?

“It only matters if it can be sold there.” That quote from New Meta Entertainment’s David Abrams encapsulated rising esports franchise valuations. Teams still have a journey ahead in creating long-term sustainable business models, and that was noted on a panel discussing the state of valuations and franchising. There was some pushback from Gen.G Esports’ Kent Wakeford, who noted reported franchise prices have risen for OWL and LoL teams. “You’re seeing appreciation of underlying assets,” he said.

Complexity Gaming’s Jason Lake said, “We’re trying to build generational sports properties. Many of the properties will probably be worth north of a billion dollars.”

OverActive Media’s Chris Overholt agreed on the lack of franchise valuation transparency. “They’re worth what someone is willing to pay for them,” he said. “Trying to peg them, you’re worth your latest round of financing. Until companies are public or we’re in a place where there’s need of greater transparency, it’s our job to take the theory and monetize the vision.” Team Liquid’s Steve Arhancet believes team valuations have little bearing on success or longevity. “There’s going to be a lot of esports teams that don’t make it,” he said. “They take money from the wrong place (and) are not able to monetize their assets and create a fan base.”

Growing Sponsor Rosters

Growing non-endemic sponsorships is a major goal of esports properties. But how do those non-endemics judge success? Bud Light Director of Sports Marketing Joe Barnes talked about creating a presence in the space beyond logo exposure, such as creating Bud Light-sponsored esports events and airing them on the brand’s Twitch channel. Bud Light also is starting to use its Twitch channel to bring in NFL players and stream them as they watch football games. Adidas’ Milos Ribic said that his brand views esports like soccer in that it’s a global sport with cultural relevance.

This is the third year of Jack in the Box’s deal with Envy Gaming, and OWL’s Sheena Dougher said that the QSR has learned more each year, culminating this year with a digital animated series called “Fuel House” that involved both the “Jack” mascot and the team’s players. Dougher said animation is esports fans’ “love language.” T1 Entertainment & Sports CEO Joe Marsh added, “You can take dollars once, but if you don’t make them feel the love in that first year, they’re not coming back.”

Adding non-endemic sponsors isn’t just for teams, as media brands are seeing solid results as well. Twitch Director of Sponsorships Chad De Luca said, “We have a lot of people that want to give us money. … Brands have seen success and are re-upping and that’s a true testament to success.” De Luca noted Twitch is looking to tap into another area largely untouched by esports — healthcare.

Follow The Numbers

The Esports Observer and law firm Foley & Lardner during the conference released results of the 2019 Esports Survey. Some of the key takeaways:

There has been a rise in esports investments expected from private equity and venture capital firms over the next year.

  • Advertising and sponsorships are expected to be esports’ primary revenue driver.
  • In-game purchases have moved past media rights as the second-largest expected revenue source.
  • Increased M&A activity across several categories, including streaming and broadcasting, events and tournaments, and franchised teams.
  • The U.S. and China are considered to be the most promising esports investment opportunities over the next five years.

Check out the full report here.

Seen & Heard

  • Riot Games’ Whalen Rozelle gave us fair warning he might have to bolt his panel quickly on Thursday. His wife is around two weeks away from having their second child, and you never know when that call might come.
  • Issues related to China these days can be complex and take time to discuss, so when SBJ’s Ben Fischer tried to close out the opening panel with that topic, Complexity’s Jason Lake immediately jumped in and joked to the crowd: “You’re gonna bring up China with 1 minute, 40 seconds left!?!”
  • Everyone has that favorite first video game, and the topic came up on one of our panels. Overwatch League’s Pete Emminger said he got his start playing Pong with his grandparents, while Mobalytics’ Amine Issa went for Super Mario Bros. on Nintendo. Zoomph’s Amir Zonosi said Mario was one of his early favorites, but it was Halo that really sparked his interest in gaming. What do they all play at home these days? Emminger and Zonosi both with Call of Duty Mobile and Issa went with Legends of Runeterra.
  • The end of the conference was perfectly timed up with the start of the Steelers-Browns “Thursday Night Football” game. Several attendees quickly gathered outside the ballroom, where a TV was waiting tuned to Fox to show the game (and what turned out to an interesting end).
  • The Pac-Man machine set up outside the conference ballroom by Lagardère Sports was a big hit among attendees, with the arcade game often having a line 4-5 people deep. The high score? That belonged to RG Sports Consulting’s Renee Gomila. No. 2 was The Adjency’s Ben Bueno, followed by Foley & Lardner Associate Kadmiel Perez.

Shifting Gears

Chris Overholt had a long run in traditional sports before taking the reins at OverActive Media, which runs Toronto-based teams in OWL, CDL, and European League of Legends. Overholt, who has had stints with MLSE, the Dolphins and NHL Panthers, spoke with us about the last 13 months, which has seen him take on a new segment of sports business.

They Said It

  • New Meta Entertainment Chair David Abrams made an interesting reference when noting how big personalities can change the trajectory of a sport: “A lot of people in this industry and in here weren’t born by 1979, but the NBA was in a very different place then. The NBA was on its ass. Two people changed that — Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. … Find someone who’s an influencer or someone who’s good at it and that changes the landscape and that’s where the money flows. I hope there are more people like Faker, across the board.”
  • 100 Thieves Head of Partnerships Matty Lee: “Pop culture is recognizing what’s going on in this little corner of the universe. Brands are seeing long-term value creation by these partnerships.”
  • Riot Games Director of Esports Research & Development Whalen Rozelle on the growth of esports: “There will be challenges just like traditional sports, just like the NBA setting fire to themselves for a brief second in China.”
  • Team Liquid co-owner Steve Arhancet: “There will be a lot (job) recruiters who say, ‘Hey, you played esports at college, you must be pretty smart.’”

Not-So-Quiet Riot

  • The conference concluded Friday morning with a tour of Riot Games HQ in West L.A. Beyond the expected tech-company amenities like a coffee bar and open-work space area (no offices), gaming areas occupy plenty of space at the Gensler-designed Riot campus, which has eight buildings in total for 1,800 full-time employees. There are also artistic designs spread throughout the campus which recreate some of the 145 characters from the LoL game.
  • Whereas North American gamers typically play from home, most in Asia go to public café-style settings, so Riot recreated one of these areas at HQ to expose employees to this different customer dynamic. There is also an esports-style setup for employees, where one room of five players can practice against another up to five players in another room.
  • Want that throwback feel? Riot has that covered as well for employees. There is one large lounge with older games like Dance Dance Revolution and spots for multiple older console-based games. Across the hall is a separate arcade setup — and it’s multiplayer games ONLY in order to encourage employee comradery. Gaming is so much a part of the DNA at Riot that employees receive $300 USD annually to spend on video games — and not just Riot titles. The company wants employees checking out titles from other publishers to keep up with all the latest industry trends.  
  • Following the tour, conference attendees listened to an info session with Riot Head of Esports Insights & Data Doug Watson, Manager of Esports Events Adam Mackasek and Global Head of Communications David Higdon. Execs discussed last weekend’s LoL World Championship in Paris and the many executions and activations around the event (they even got some love from the Eiffel Tower account on Twitter).

New Jersey eSports Wagers

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New Jersey accepts first esports wagers

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) gave approval for the state’s licensed sportsbooks to accept wagers on the recent League of Legends World Championship finals.

The ruling marks the first time the Garden State saw wagers placed on esports, following suit from Nevada, which accepted its first esports bet on IEM Oakland in 2016 with bookmaker William Hill.

While the DGE had given sportsbooks the green light to accept wagers on the tournament, it  applied a few mandates. A limit of $1,000 (£776.25) in bets on the match and a strict prohibition of in-game offerings were instilled ahead of the preliminary trial. The New Jersey esports offering was made available for the weekend, and the weekend only, per the DGE’s permission.

The Borgata casino in Atlantic City accepted New Jersey’s first stake as a Philadelphia broadcaster placed $100 (£77.62) on G2Esports to take home the gold in the finals. Marcus Glover, President of Borgata spoke to the importance of DGE’s decision to welcome esports gambling: “Borgata is proud to be at the forefront of this significant milestone as we look to engage with future generations of esports fans as well as traditional sports fans.”

David Schwartz, Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas acknowledged the Garden State’s voyage moment: “I think in the short term, betting on esports has the potential to be a small growth area. There is definitely fan interest, but right now betting on sports outside of the big three — football, basketball, baseball — is pretty small in the U.S. So it would be a small share of a small share of the overall sports betting handle.”

Following the Supreme Court’s decision to repeal PASPA and allow for legalized sports betting (on a state by state basis) in May 2018, New Jersey has been the most explosive adopter of licensed gambling on sports – both live and online. According to the Associated Press, New Jersey gambling regulators “thoroughly investigated the tournament until they were satisfied as to its integrity before approving bets on it.”

Though a sea of unregulated bookmakers makes it difficult to pinpoint the exact value of esports’ betting handle, it’s speculated the industry is currently worth over $1.5 billion and experiencing a 30 percent average revenue increase year over year, according to Calvin Ayre

Esports Insider says: Although New Jersey’s permission to accept esports wagers is currently a one-off exemption, it could prove to garner more interest around the possibility of a full-time occupancy in the Garden State. 

Allied Esports Entertainment Reports

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Allied Esports Entertainment Reports Net Loss of $4.3M, 85 Events Held At HyperX Esports Arena Las Vegas

  • Allied Esports Entertainment reported a net loss of $4.3M USD in its first quarterly earnings since being formed in August.
  • The company generated $6M in Q3 2019 total net revenues, up 10.2% year-over-year (YoY) from $5.5M.
  • During the third quarter, Allied Esports held 85 events at its flagship venue, the HyperX Esports Arena Las Vegas.

Today, esports entertainment company Allied Esports Entertainment announced its financial results for Q3 2019 for the period ended Sept. 30. Allied Esports Entertainment was formed on Aug. 9, 2019, as a result of the completion of a business combination among Black Ridge Acquisition, Allied Esports InternationalWPT Enterprises, and other affiliates.

The company’s total net revenues in the third quarter of 2019 increased 10.2% to $6.0M from $5.5M in Q3 2018, reflecting growth from all strategic pillars (in-person, multiplatform content, and interactive).

Allied Esports Entertainment’s in-person revenues increased by 17%, to approximately $2.6M for the third quarter of 2019. The increase in in-person revenues was driven by the Allied Esports business, particularly revenue generated from Allied Esports’ flagship venue, the HyperX Esports Arena Las Vegas, at which the company held 85 events during the quarter.

The other two strategic pillars generated a combined $3.4M in revenues primarily attributable to WPT business. In total, the company reported a net loss of $4.3M, compared to a net loss of $6.7M in Q3 2018.

“In our first quarter as a public esports company, Allied Esports delivered solid results driven by continued execution of our operating model along with early benefits from our strategic alliances with Simon and TV Azteca,” said Frank Ng, Allied Esports Entertainment CEO, commenting on the Q3 results. “I am also pleased with the progress we are making in our partnership with our strategic investors, Simon and TV Azteca, as evidenced by the launch of the Simon Cup esports tournament as well as the premiere of WPT television programming and social gaming in Mexico across various distribution channels via TV Azteca.”

Furthermore, the HyperX Esports Trucks in North America and in Europe activated with sponsors such as HyperXLenovoIntelWarsteiner, and Acer, and were deployed at eight events, including Gamescom and Wacken Open Air.

Fortress Esports, the newest member of the Allied Esports Property Network covering Australia and New Zealand, announced the planned opening of its first location in 2020 at Australia’s largest shopping mall, Emporium, in Melbourne, Australia.

Allied Esports and TV Azteca produced two esports events out of Mexico City: Glory Road, a Smash Ultimate event, and Kombat to Glory, a Mortal Kombat event. The events were live-streamed across TV Azteca’s social and digital platforms.

Esports Stream Aggregator

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Esports stream aggregator, calendar Juked launches

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Audio Challenges in Esports

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White Paper: Audio Challenges in Esports

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

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

The Player’s Experience

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

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

Computer Audio

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

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

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

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

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

Team Audio/Communications

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

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

Background Noise

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

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

The Broadcast/Stream Requirements

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

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

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

The Live Audience’s Experience

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

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

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

The League’s Requirements

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

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

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

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

Some Solutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Sri Lanka Recognises Esports As An Official Sport

Sri Lanka Recognises Esports As An Official Sport 975 675 esctoday

"Sri Lanka has officially recognised esports as an official sport", as per a declaration published on October 2nd.

The Ministry of Sports in Sri Lanka published the declaration following an announcement on September 26th by Harin Fernando, Minister of Telecommunications and Sports.

The order developed out of a decade-long effort by the Sri Lankan Esports Association (SLESA) to see esports legitimised. Esports previously made an appearance at the 2018 Asian Games as a demonstration sport, leading to the National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka (NOCSL) aiding the effort to approve its official status as a sport. Esports is a flourishing sport in Sri Lanka and is set to make its inaugural appearance as a medal event at the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, which takes place this December in the Philippines.

Sri Lanka has now joined the likes of France, FinlandKazakhstan, and China as a country that recognises esports as an official sport.

Esports Insider says: Sri Lanka leads the charge in South Asia by elevating esports to an officially-recognized sport. The Southeast Asia Games will give esports another official platform in the region and it simply seems like a matter of time until more countries follow suit.