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Riot

Riots Valorant

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Isn’t even out yet, but it’s already looking like an eSports sensation

 

“The tactical shooter is breaking Twitch records, and it’s still in closed beta.

Riot’s new video game, Valorant, is both a breath of fresh air and completely unoriginal at the same time. The first-person shooter opened its closed beta on Tuesday to gargantuan Twitch viewership, thanks in part to Riot’s deal with the platform that let popular streamers gift access keys to its beta while they played the game live.

After watching many hours of the game and playing quite a few myself, it’s clear that Valorant is a hyper-competitive game catering to perhaps a small slice of the overall gaming community. (Right now, it’s only on PC, with no plans for a console release.) But that doesn’t matter, because it already seems quite likely to be the next big esports sensation, despite its hardcore nature and the fact that it borrows almost every single component of its design from previous competitive titles.

That’s partly because Valorant, even in its beta form, is arriving at a crucial moment for the competitive gaming scene. Much of the esports world revolves around multiplayer online battle arenas, or MOBAs, like Valve’s Dota 2 and Riot’s own megahit League of Legends. There are peripheral esports communities, like the fighting game community and those that surround individual games like Psyonix’s Rocket League, that exist as niche subcultures within the broader esports field, but MOBAs reign supreme.

Only games made by companies with immense resources like Activision Blizzard with the Call of Duty League and Overwatch League and Epic Games with Fortnite have dared to try to buy a seat at the table through unique league structures, high-production values, and massive prize pools.

‘Valorant’ combines ‘Overwatch’ superpowers with a ‘Countrer-Strike’ structure

There is, however, one big exception: Counter-Strike. Arguably the tactical team-based shooter from which Valorant borrows almost all of its structure, Counter-Strike has remained the one competitive FPS resilient to the ever-changing industry and still inexplicably popular all around the world. Counter-Strike has a global fan base that Call of Duty lacks, and it still ranks it as among the top-played games on Steam and the most-watched titles on Twitch, despite its release nearly eight years ago. Right now, more than 1 million people are playing the game on Steam, making it almost as popular on PC than the next four top games combined.

That’s precisely why Valorant seems primed for success. Simply put, the game combines character-specific superpowers heavily influenced by Overwatch with a tense, high-intensity tactical shooter model more or less carbon-copied from Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Riot is attempting to build a modern Counter-Strike, one that appeals to a generation of MOBA fans that grew up on the idea of honing your skill as a specific hero with unique powers and an ultimate ability to use in crucial, match-defining moments.

Going from the early reception on Twitch, Valorant is getting that recipe right in a way that might pull big streamers and pro players away from other games. The game broke Twitch’s record for most-watched game in a single day, with 34 million hours watched. And the game’s peak concurrent viewership of 1.7 million people was second only to the 2019 League of Legends World Championship.

There’s another factor that could contribute to the game’s success: Valorant is not a battle royale game. Riot is bucking the trend that’s taken the gaming industry by storm for the last three years or so by releasing a tactical shooter. Since the release of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds in early 2017, BR games have consumed the shooter market. Fortnite is one of the most dominant games on the planet across all platforms, while a number of competitors have popped up to try to capitalize on Epic’s moneymaking potential, like Respawn’s Apex Legends and Activision’s Call of Duty: Warzone. But we’re also experiencing a bit of BR fatigue, as the initial excitement of the genre fades and its esports potential has proved hit-or-miss.

Valorant is stepping in to offer an alternative, one with a more traditional, team-based and skill-based approach that hardcore shooter fans seem receptive to because it removes all of the luck and randomness of the BR genre. In the handful of games I played in the beta yesterday, I was shocked at how meticulous and slow-moving the game is. Each match demands one team plant a bomb and protect it, while the other tries to defuse it. You have just one life per round. When one team wipes the other completely, which happens often, the round ends early — unless the bomb was planted, and then it must be defused.

‘Valorant’ plays almost identically to ‘Counter-Strike’ where good aim and reflexes are paramount

The team that wins 13 rounds first wins the entire match. And in my experience, that can take upward of 30 to 40 minutes if you’re going up against a squad well-matched with yours. The hero abilities, while they’ve earned Valorant a lot of comparisons to Overwatch, are not as critical as I thought. Having superhuman aim and reflexes, combined with the ability to predict the opponent’s actions and communicate and collaborate with your teammates will largely determine your level of success. Learning how to use the various weapons you can buy at the start of each round — also a feature borrowed from Counter-Strike — will determine how deadly you can be.

The powers are just there to shake things up and, in my estimation, give people moments of glory that they can brag about online and share on social media, similar to how a well-timed Overwatch ultimate activation can earn you the coveted play of the game highlight in Blizzard’s team shooter. Some are quite fun to use, like Jett’s updraft jump and tailwind dash abilities. And Sova, the Hanzo-like bowman Riot uses for the game’s tutorial, has some fantastic benefits, like allowing you to see enemies through walls and even strike them down with his hunter’s fury ultimate.

But at the end of the day, any other player can take you down with a headshot at basically any moment, rendering any powers pretty much moot. In my Valorant matches, I found myself getting punished routinely for stupid mistakes, like peeking around a corner when I was unsure if an enemy was already doing so or forgetting to walk quietly while using the shift key to dampen the sound of my footsteps. Charging into a situation alone will get you killed almost immediately nine times out of 10. Forgetting to play the objective and getting caught up in small firefights will also put your team at a disadvantage as the timer starts ticking down closer to zero.

Valorant is, above all else, a tactical game that requires you to communicate with your teammates to succeed and demands you practice your aim to have any hope of winning a one-on-one bout. That level of skill requirement and dedication may mean it doesn’t hit mainstream levels of popularity like Fortnite or Overwatch, but the game’s design does position Valorant as a more accessible esport than a BR title or something as chaotic as Overwatch or a MOBA. As Counter-Strike has proved over the years, some games, especially easy-to-understand tactical shooters, don’t need 100 million active players to become popular esports; you just need a community of very dedicated fans willing to tune in and keep up with it.

Tactical shooters move slow enough and have clear enough objectives that they are easy to watch and digest, even for viewers who don’t play the game regularly. I can already see the appeal of watching a big Valorant tournament or keeping some favorite streamers playing it casually on in the background while I do something else.

Valorant’ is much more accessible than more chaotic esports like ‘Dota 2’ and ‘Overwatch’

Each round has a coherent start, middle, and end, and there’s a great momentum that builds toward the halfway point when teams switch sides and then the end of a match that makes tuning in at any moment worthwhile. There are opportunities for highlight plays using a well-timed ultimate ability, and one player can, against all odds, take on an entire team alone if they’re skilled enough. There’s a lot of potential for lasting entertainment with Valorant, even if it’s not really the kind of game you enjoy playing yourself.

Valorant has a long road ahead to release. We don’t know exactly when it’s coming out besides a summer to potentially early fall release window, whether it will even come out on consoles, and what exactly Riot’s esports ambitions are. But the game’s early success and the surprisingly effective combination of elements Riot has polled off set up Valorant as the most exciting new game to hit the competitive scene in years. It has the potential to become the company’s next League of Legends, but that will depend on whether the sum of its parts can give it more staying power than all the games it’s borrowing from”

 

 

eSports Readies To Shine

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eSports readies to shine as everyone else presses pause

It happened for them the same way it happened for everybody else: They first wondered whether the looming threat of the coronavirus would mean they would have to do events without an audience.

They were worried mostly about travel at first and making sure crowds were smaller than 250 people, as initial recommendations suggested.

The world of esports was just like everyone else. For weeks, the realities of what COVID-19 might reap on the United States seemed inconceivable until reality crashed down on the entire United States — particularly the sports world — all at once.

“If you had asked me two weeks ago where there was a world where we would play fully online competitive matches for the LCS, I would’ve laughed at you,” said Chris Greeley, commissioner of the League of Legends Championship Series, “but when your options become something that’s bad and something that’s worse, bad looks pretty good.”

What was thought of as bad for the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) just 10 or so days ago is now an enviable position for most sports league to look longingly at. This weekend, the LCS and the League of Legends European Championship (LEC) will resume play from a series of remote locations after just a one-week hiatus for the coronavirus.

In the next few weeks, the Overwatch League (OWL) is set to return to action after a brief hiatus of its own. The Call of Duty League (CDL), which also has a Boca Raton-based team, and the NBA 2K League also expect to resume play in upcoming weeks playing from remote sites after suspending play for COVID-19 concerns.

While the rest of the sports world sleeps for an increasingly uncertain length of time, esports has been able to adapt to our new crowd-controlled, self-isolated way of life by taking its biggest games out of the arenas and to the place most of them originated: the internet.

“This is,” said Ben Spoont, CEO of Boca Raton-based Misfits Gaming, “the beauty of esports.”

Pressing pause

It was less than two weeks ago when Greeley told the LCS management team there was “no way” the league would play games away from the Riot Games studio in Los Angeles. Even when nearly every other sport was suspending play March 12, the LCS instead announced it would play its matches without fans in attendance. All 10 teams in the LCS are situated within about a three-mile radius of Riot, the developer of “League of Legends.”

A day later, the LCS decided to suspend play, although Greeley quickly noted the league already was looking into remote play for the remainder of the spring schedule. It took just a week for the LCS to return to action.

“There’s no pandemic playbook,” Greeley said.

Although esports are unique in their ability to hold remote play like the LCS will this weekend, there were no contingency plans in place for this to ever be necessary. Once the idea of playing games in an arena with no fans started to inch toward reality, the LCS started to think about how it could potentially take the whole league online if need be.

Initially, the plan was to have teams gather at their headquarters and for Riot to send referees to monitor each team. The teams could be together in small groups to communicate without much significant contact with the outside world.

In the last day or two, those plans changed, too. Instead, players will play from their own homes and broadcasters will broadcast from theirs. Everyone will log in to Riot-authorized Discord servers to communicate and matches will broadcast on a delay to prevent cheating. At least this weekend, there won’t be any remote interviews or video of team celebrations. “It’s going to look like League of Legends circa 2012,” Greeley joked.

The OWL and CDL — including the Florida Mayhem and Florida Mutineers — will operate similarly. While concrete plans have not been put in place for the Mutineers of the CDL, the Mayhem will gather at Misfits’ Boca Raton headquarters once its schedule resumes March 28 with a game against the Washington Justice.

OWL and CDL both stream matches exclusively on league YouTube channels, while the LCS and LEC stream matches on Twitch.

Activision Blizzard had an ambitious idea when it announced the OWL in 2016: It would use a traditional sports model with franchises representing individual cities and states. With the NBA, NHL and MLB all suspended, Activision Blizzard’s grand experiment will be put to the test.

“Nothing else is happening, so when you think about professional sports and who’s representing Florida right now, it’s the Mayhem and the Mutineers,” Spoont said, “so we think it’s a great chance for folks to learn about us, to learn who we are, to learn what we stand for.”

Pros get in on the action

It had only been about an hour since the Miami Heat played its final game before an indefinite hiatus when Meyers Leonard was back to work.

“Ladies and gentlemen, how are we doing? This COVID-19 stuff is absolutely crazy,” the Heat post player said to his growing audience on Twitch as he booted up “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.”

“Somebody in my chat said you better not leave this stream for the next 10 months,” Leonard joked.

In the nine days since the NBA suspended play, Leonard streamed himself playing “Call of Duty” on Twitch for more than 50 hours.

“Now all of a sudden every basketball player is a professional gamer,” Spoont joked. “It’s definitely an interesting time for us.”

Spoont, who grew up in Boca Raton and went to the Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale, co-founded Misfits in 2016 with fellow South Floridians Mitchell Rubenstein and Laurie Silvers. Initially, the organization was based out of the United Kingdom and its “League of Legends” team still competes in the LEC. In 2016, Misfits acquired an “Overwatch” team, which became the Mayhem in 2017.

In January, it debuted the Mutineers as a team in the CDL’s inaugural season. The organization has moved its operations to Boca Raton and got the OK to build a permanent headquarters there in February, and the Mayhem even changed its jerseys and avatar skins to be “Vice” style this season — pink and blue.

eSports has always been comfortable with its massive, niche audience. Without any sports alternatives, eSports has arrived at a chance for its biggest mainstream platform yet.

“That’s kind of the void that we’re looking to fill,” Spoont said. “Obviously, this is very trying times for a lot of people and a lot of industries. We as an industry in gaming can do our part to fill a void, to provide entertainment in the safety and comfort of people’s homes. It’s pretty cool what we have the opportunity to do.

“People are going to be playing massive amounts of video games over the next months. … We’re very humble about the fact that we’re going to provide a lot of entertainment for folks to consume, and we’re excited to do that for South Florida and having the Mayhem and the Mutineers represent them.”

 

Esports and Gaming Company Announces Investment

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Simplicity Esports and Gaming Company Announce Investment by Triton Funds, the Largest Student-Run Fund in the U.S.

Simplicity Esports and Gaming Company (OTCQB: WINR) (“Simplicity Esports”), an established brand within the esports industry, owner and manager of multiple esports teams, including Flamengo Esports, and an operator of Esports Gaming Centers, announced today that it has secured a $500,000 investment from TRITON FUNDS (“Triton”).

The funds from the Triton investment will serve as working capital to support the achievement of Simplicity Esports’ previously stated goals of owning a team in a franchised game, broadening its offering of competitive events, including play-at-home online tournaments, and being cash flow positive.

Jed Kaplan, CEO of Simplicity Esports, commented, “Simplicity Esports continues to move closer to our goal of owning a team in a franchised game, as our Brazilian League of Legends team, Flamengo Esports, excels in the highest level of competition in Brazil. Riot’s announcement of franchising in Brazil validates our business plan of fielding a winning team and laying the operational foundation for owning a franchise spot in CBLoL in 2021. As part of the operational foundation, we have begun generating revenue by selling corporate sponsorships to companies that desire to reach our vast audience of Flamengo Esports and Simplicity Esports fans. It’s great to have an investment partner that understands the millennial mindset as deeply as Triton. The investment from Triton will provide us the working capital needed to fully execute our growth strategy. In the current market environment, this will also provide the capital needed to broaden our offering of play-at-home online tournaments. Our play-at-home tournaments will allow us to continue to grow and engage with our customer base from the privacy of their homes.”

Ashkan Mapar, Principal of Triton, commented, “With a great management team leading the company’s expansion throughout the esports and gaming industry, Triton is excited to back Simplicity Esports’ growth as both an institutional investor and strategic partner. We look forward to potentially introducing Simplicity Esports to the collegiate esports leagues in California, beginning with UCSD, and providing the capital needed to take them to the next level.”

About Triton Funds, LLC 

TRITON FUNDS LLC is the largest student-run fund manager in the USA. Founded by undergraduates from the University of California, San Diego, TRITON FUNDS provides students the invaluable opportunity to gain real-world experience investing alongside experienced financial professionals. It invests in high performing teams with revolutionary aspirations to grow their company into industry leaders. TRITON FUNDS creates an ecosystem that assists talented entrepreneurs in successfully growing their ideas and maintaining strong community ethical standards. It provides strategic capitalization, business development support, and engineered exits to organizations that have a viable future in the modern economy.

About Simplicity Esports and Gaming Company:

Simplicity Esports and Gaming Company (WINR) is an established brand within the esports industry, competing and streaming in popular games across different genres, including Apex Legends®, PUBG®, Overwatch®, League of Legends®, Smite®, and various EA Sports® titles. Additionally, Simplicity Esports operates Esports Gaming Centers that provide the public an opportunity to experience and enjoy gaming and esports in a social setting, regardless of skill or experience.

Apex Legends®, PUBG®, Overwatch®, League of Legends®, Smite® and EA Sports® have registered trademarks of their respective owners. 

Forward-Looking Statements

This press release contains statements that constitute “forward-looking statements.” Forward-looking statements are subject to numerous conditions, many of which are beyond Simplicity Esports’ control, including those set forth in the Risk Factors section of Simplicity Esports’ Annual Report on Form 10-K, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) on August 29, 2019, as amended or updated from time to time. Copies are available on the SEC’s website at www.sec.gov. Simplicity Esports undertakes no obligation to update these statements for revisions or changes after the date of this release, except as required by law.