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The Explosive Growth of #Esports – Trends to Watch in 2018 $GMBL $ATVI $TTWO $GAME $

Posted by AGORACOM-JC at 3:00 PM on Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

Esport accomplishments in 2017:

  • Intel Extreme Masters held its premiere tournament in Katowice, Poland with on-site attendance of 173,000 fans, making it the biggest live event in esports history
  • Blizzard opened a dedicated esports stadium called Blizzard Arena at the former studio of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson
  • The League of Legends World Championship reached 60 million unique viewers online, compared to 43 million in 2016
  • Overwatch League signed 12 teams for the first-ever global city-based esports league, featuring investments made by some of the most successful owners in the world of sports: Robert Kraft (New England Patriots, New England Revolution), Jeff Wilpon (New York Mets), Stan Kroenke (Los Angeles Rams, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Rapids, Arsenal FC), Andy Miller (Sacramento Kings) and other noteworthy names from both traditional sports and esports

By Jesse Steinberg, Account Supervisor, Taylor

As an avid fan of video gaming and a counselor to some of the most innovative brands in the space, I can confidently say that 2017 was a banner year for esports. Just look at all of the breakthrough accomplishments last year (list after video). But first, it’s worth taking a moment to watch this video that highlights the celebrities who have made investments in esports:

Esport accomplishments in 2017:

  • Overwatch League signed 12 teams for the first-ever global city-based esports league, featuring investments made by some of the most successful owners in the world of sports: Robert Kraft (New England Patriots, New England Revolution), Jeff Wilpon (New York Mets), Stan Kroenke (Los Angeles Rams, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Rapids, Arsenal FC), Andy Miller (Sacramento Kings) and other noteworthy names from both traditional sports and esports
  • Riot introduced a franchising model for teams powered by  investments from mostly NBA team owners and the endemic gaming space
  • Intel Extreme Masters held its premiere tournament in Katowice, Poland with on-site attendance of 173,000 fans, making it the biggest live event in esports history
  • Blizzard opened a dedicated esports stadium called Blizzard Arena at the former studio of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson
  • The League of Legends World Championship reached 60 million unique viewers online, compared to 43 million in 2016

So where does the sport evolve from here and what does it mean for current and prospective sponsors and their partners? Our experience and alliance working with client partners Comcast and Activision Blizzard (and its Overwatch League) tell us the marketing opportunities within esports will only continue to accelerate and diversify. Here are four overarching trends we’ve identified for the next 12 months within this dynamic industry:

  1. Mainstream consumer awareness of esports will grow faster than predictedWith increased investments from celebrities, teams, and non-endemic brands, it’s not a surprise that esports is growing at an unprecedented rate. Nielsen reported in 2016 that 14% of Americans aged 13 and older are avid fans of esports. And according to industry research group Newzoo, 1.3 billion people worldwide are aware of esports. That leaves more than six billion people around the world who are not aware of esports. Talk about opportunity!The reason behind esports’ record growth and global awareness is because the industry continues to blend in seamlessly with traditional sports and our cultural fabric. As an example of esports and traditional sports culture colliding, Overwatch League aired an ad on ESPN during the 2017 ESPYs awards show (you can watch it here). In case you didn’t watch it live – you’ll see more esports awareness plays like that plugged into bigger cultural moments (football Sundays maybe? Super Bowl even?) where you won’t be able to miss it.
  2. Blue chip, non-endemic brands will continue investing in esports through sponsorshipsThis trend isn’t new to 2018 since it’s technically already happening. Companies like BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Jack in the Box, Intel, Snickers, Coca-Cola and others are diving into the space,  innovating across an industry that has already generated  $1.5 billion in 2017 alone. At this rate, esports is projected to bring in $2.3 billion by 2022, according to statistics company SuperData.What we will see in 2018 is the accelerated pace of new brands entering the space and the sophistication and reach of these partnerships. No longer is the market so fragmented that brands can’t get a good read on their ROI. Stability and projected longevity from entities like Overwatch League and Riot’s League Championship Series will offer brands more visible, global, robust platforms from which to activate and leverage their sponsorships.
  3. More celebrities, pro athletes, and team owners will be involved in professional esports The massive growth of esports has not only caught the eyes of brands and team owners. The dizzying pace at which celebrities and pro athletes are investing in esports teams, leagues, tech companies, etc. will be an intriguing sidelight to the growing allure of esports. Just to rattle off a few names who entered the space in 2017:
    • Marshawn Lynch
    • Jennifer Lopez
    • Joe Montana
    • Shaquille O’Neal
    • Robert Kraft

      These investments are just another indication of the benefits esports has to offer. Smart investors who jump in early will ultimately reap the rewards of brand integration and awareness and increased revenue stream. This year, when the Kraft Group bought into the Overwatch League, Robert Kraft, chairman, and CEO of the Kraft Group, said this decision was made after careful and extensive research in the industry.
      “We have been exploring the esports market for a number of years and have been waiting for the right opportunity to enter,” said Kraft. “The incredible global success of Overwatch since its launch, coupled with the League’s meticulous focus on a structure and strategy that clearly represents the future of esports made this the obvious entry point for the Kraft Group.”

    Be prepared for many more global influencers to align with the sport. Remember, everyone wants to be first in line when something special rolls around and because this industry is still in its formative years, the opportunities to invest have a very high ceiling. For more on this, see the video above. 

4. Broadcast/streaming convergence as big media players battle for valuable media rights.

Are we moving to a premium viewing model in esports like some experts predict? The answer is not entirely – at least for now. But what will happen is more deals being made with significant streaming partners like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and, of course, Twitch. And when you look at the younger audience demographics, it’s easy to understand why esports has found a home on these platforms. In addition to online media, mainstream television networks will also jump in to grab a piece of this lucrative pie. In 2016, Turner made a bold move by investing in esports. This year, ESL announced a partnership with former Fox Sports chief  David Hill to launch “eSports by Hill” which will provide premium broadcast experiences to esports.

The esports industry is growing at an exponential rate year-over-year. Media rights, advertising, merchandise sales, sponsorship opportunities and revenue streams are all increasing by double digits each year  — and we see no end in sight. Taking the aforementioned four trends into account, marketers should not view esports as building toward a bubble.

With hundreds of millions of streaming hours viewed and revenue generated in this space, we can’t point to a reason why NOT to invest in an area with such a significant potential for marketers.


Investors are gearing up to bet big on #Esports – here are the top stocks, companies & opportunities $GMBL $ATVI $TTWO $GAME $

Posted by AGORACOM-JC at 10:10 AM on Tuesday, December 19th, 2017

  • Increasing number of traditional media companies want to capitalize on the growing industry of eSports
  • Currently, there are approximately 300 million people worldwide tuned in on eSports. It is projected that by 2020, the number of viewers will be closer to 500 million

FILE PHOTO: The Activision booth is shown at the E3 2017 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los AngelesThomson Reuters

An increasing number of traditional media companies want to capitalize on the growing industry of eSports.

Currently, there are approximately 300 million people worldwide tuned in on eSports. It is projected that by 2020, the number of viewers will be closer to 500 million.

Recently, shares of video game manufacturers have lifted to all-time highs thanks to a new generation of consoles, the promise of VR gaming, and the adaptation of many titles in professional gaming that attract revenue, as well as paying spectators at tournaments and competitions.

eSports Stocks to Invest In

Activision Blizzard, Inc. (ATVI)

Activision reported a rise in revenue from its high-margin digital business to $1.35 billion (about 84% of its total revenue of $2 billion, which was just shy of their projection of 2.01 billion). Results in the reported quarter were driven by the popularity of the company’s sci-fi first-person shooter game Destiny 2. The console version of Destiny 2, which was released September 6, was recognized as the best-selling console game of 2017 in the United States to date despite less than a month of sales, according to research firm NPD Group.

Electronic Arts Inc. (EA)

As a result of their efforts to shift players toward mobile and digital, EA’s digital sales rose 23% and accounted for 61% of overall revenue. The future of EA is looking promising since digital games have lower fixed costs and sustained future profits.

Sales rose 21.7% to $689 million in the second quarter ending September 30 as more gamers bought their titles online instead of purchasing physical copies from retail stores. EA’s net loss narrowed to $22 million form $38 million and revenue rose 7% thanks to its latest editions of Madden NFL and FIFA. Investors have bid up EA shares by 50% since the start of this year.

EA had some recent negative publicity regarding its release of Star Wars Battlefront II and the microtranscations involved. Many of the more famous playable Star Wars characters (such as Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and Princess Leia) were unavailable to play from the start and required in-game credits to unlock. Some Reddit users did the math and determined it would take dozens of hours of play to acquire the necessary credits; however, players could also pay real money for randomized, virtual “loot crates” that contain the currency used to unlock these characters.

The problem worsened when EA responded on Reddit to the outcry by saying “The intent is to provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different heroes.” The response received more than 670,000 downvotes, the most in the history of Reddit by a wide margin.

EA deactivated micro-transactions entirely on the day before the game’s release but said it planned to reintroduce them later after making some changes. The company’s share price dropped 2.5% on launch day, and Wall Street analysts lowered their expectations for the stock. By the end of November, EA had lost $3 billion in stock value since the launch.

Despite this, Battlefront II was still the second best-selling game in November (the biggest month for game sales all year) behind only the juggernaut Call of Duty: WWII.

Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. (TTWO)

Raising their full-year adjusted revenue forecast in its second-quarter, Take-Two is in a “sweet spot” for game releases, according to Goldman Sachs. It has been noted that their investment in new content like Grand Theft Auto and its efforts to monetize existing content, as well as the new release of NBA 2K18, have contributed to the increase in revenue. With only one month of sales, NBA 2K18 has become the best-selling sports game this year. Take-Two is also bringing existing titles to new devices such as the Nintendo Switch, which has sold 50 million units so far.

Companies Investing in eSports

YouTube has made the biggest investment into eSports to date, signing a multi-year broadcasting deal with Faceit to stream its eSports Championship Series (ECS) pro gaming league. Faceit is an eSports platform where consumers and eSports enterprises can organize competitions online. It also is involved on the production side of eSports events.

In 2014, Amazon was acquired by Twitch, the live streaming video platform that has been and continues to be the leader in online gaming broadcasts.

Other big companies such as Microsoft, Activision Publishing, and Capcom have been investing in growing the console market with games such as Halo 5, Call of Duty: Black Ops, and Street Fighter IV. The eSports market is continuing to open up to a broader audience with companies such as Super Evil Megacorp and Blizzard Entertainment who have introduced eSports to mobile gamers through Vainglory and Hearthstone.

Even brands such as Coca-Cola, Red Bull, Pizza Hut, and American Express have explored professional video gaming. Coca-Cola was one of the first of the nonendemic brands to jump into the industry.

Business Opportunities in eSports

Investment in the industry is largely driven by partnerships with other sports properties and leagues. Teams like the Miami Heat, Manchester City, West Ham, and the Philadelphia 76ers are investing in players and teams in the eSports space. It gives opportunities for more growth and fan base development while also creating new and appealing assets to sell to current and future corporate partners.

Big opportunities to build new fan bases and engage with the rapid growing audience of eSports opens doors for marketers to gain assets such as naming rights, branded content, experimental activation, or jersey branding.

Twitch and YouTube only add value to the industry as more stakeholders and events emerge, thus making broadcasting and streaming tournaments and competitions all the more in demand in this growing industry.

At the current rate of growth of engagement and number of leagues competing, event production has become essential to meet the demands of spectators as well as leagues themselves. These events provide not only an opportunity for leagues to participate for prize money, but also for businesses to directly advertise and sell products to engaged customers.

More to Learn

The market for eSports continues to grow, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down in the coming years. That’s why BI Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, has put together a comprehensive guide on the future of professional gaming called The eSports Ecosystem.


Jobs and careers in the #Esports & video gaming industry continue to grow $GMBL $ATVI $TTWO $GAME $

Posted by AGORACOM-JC at 11:09 AM on Monday, December 11th, 2017

Dec. 8, 2017

eSports is on the brink of becoming a billion-dollar industry and continues to grow exponentially.

In Asia, it was recently announced that eSports would become a medal event at the 2022 Asian Games in Hanghou, China. Even the International Olympic Committee has been considering eSports gaming as a sanctioned sport for the Games.

The global audience for eSports will reach 385.5 million this year, according to research firm Newzoo. With growth this rapid, opportunities for more jobs and careers to support this expanding industry are sprouting faster than ever.


Though still in the early stages of development, eSports league teams continue to grow in number, and they look a lot like teams in other sports leagues. Teams hire players, train them, build stadiums, and sell tickets for fans to watch games.

And similar to established sports leagues, there’s big money involved, Activision Blizzard was seeking $20 million per team and players are being paid in excess of $100,000 per year in certain cases.

However, to become a player in a professional league, the time commitment is no less than any other sports team. For example, to excel at League of Legends, the world’s most popular competitive video game, only a select few can handle the pro-level regimen required to gain the extensive game knowledge, elite mechanical skills, and reflexes to compete.


For brands and marketers, there are huge opportunities to build new fan bases and engage with this growing audience, which is made up largely of young people who are willing to spend hour after hour at venues and online. As a marketer, assets such as naming rights, branded content, experiential activation, tech integration, jersey branding, and so forth are available for brands willing to invest in the eSports space.

As the market continues to mature, more opportunities will grow in co-branded merchandise, as well as direct selling to fans during livestreams. Currently, brand sponsorships are made up of largely endemic brands such as Razer, Hyper, and Turtle Beach, (all of which are gaming accessory manufacturers) and other major brands such as Coca-Cola, Buffalo Wild Wings, Bud Light and Gillette closer behind. However, eSports still remains largely untapped.

Melia Robinson

Event Planning

As the growth and success of eSports leagues continue to rise, the execution of tournaments and competitions requires thorough planning and precise detailing. Understanding the event production and conceptualizing design, as well as developing and maintaining productive business relationships are only just the standard requirements to excel in eSports events.

Understanding the culture and community of video gaming can have a heavy influence on the success of tournaments. With thousands of attendees and millions of viewers, some tournaments have millions of dollars in prize money on the line. And other festivities. such as musical performances and shows, can surround the main event. Hosts of such events treat teams as they do with traditional sports teams, and use similar broadcasting tools, such as professional livestream broadcasting, commentating, and signings.


Starting as an online-only venture, eSports was only thought as a niche group. But recently, eSports have proved that their size and level of engagement are that of any other sports event.

Amazon’s Twitch recorded 100 million viewers per month in 2014, a 66% increase in viewership from 2013. and Newzoo projects that figure to grow to 345 million by 2019. As an audience, eSports viewers are highly engaged, so projections indicate that 213 million people will watch competitive gaming this year.

BI Intelligence

Streaming and broadcasting have been instrumental in bringing eSports to the masses, and on-demand platforms such as Twitch and YouTube only add value as larger stakeholders and events emerge.

But eSports have more restrictions in terms of broadcasting. In traditional sports, there are no rights to the game. For example, in baseball, there are no rights to claim the rules and regulations, of the game which allows anyone to play it.

However, in eSports, those rights belong to the publisher of a game, such as Sony or EA, who own the underlying IP in that game. Publishers grant rights on an exclusive basis to licensees and broadcasters and charge fees accordingly. The growth and demand for major broadcasters into the eSports arena could incentivize publishers and event organizers to have tighter control and to more actively enforce rights. This is despite the history of eSports growing from a culture of players and fans who created and shared content with one another, all of which exposed publisher’s games to the public and caused the industry to explode at the rate it is today.


Esports Entertainment Group $GMBL Appoints Yan Rozum as Chief Technology Officer $ATVI $TTWO $GAME $

Posted by AGORACOM-JC at 9:09 AM on Thursday, December 7th, 2017

Esports large

  • Announced the appointment of Mr. Yan Rozum as Chief Technology Officer
  • Since 2003, Mr. Rozum founded and currently serves as Chief Executive Officer and Director of Swiss Interactive Software (GmbH) Switzerland

ST. MARY’S, Antigua, Dec. 07, 2017 — Esports Entertainment Group, Inc. (OTCQB:GMBL) (or the “Company”), a licensed online gambling company with a specific focus on esports wagering and 18+ gaming, is pleased to announce the appointment of Mr. Yan Rozum as Chief Technology Officer (“CTO”).

Since 2003, Mr. Rozum founded and currently serves as Chief Executive Officer and Director of Swiss Interactive Software (GmbH) Switzerland, a Swiss based iGaming software development company that delivers complex engineered sports wagering and iGaming systems for a roster of clients operating around the globe. Mr. Rozum is a leading authority on Information and Communications Technology, including the design, architecture and delivery of high volume transactional sports and event wagering software platforms, as well as, peer-2-peer exchange wagering systems for real-money online iGaming operators. From 2000 through 2002, Mr. Rozum was a Ph.D. candidate at the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus in Minsk, Belarus. He holds a Diploma of Higher Education in Journalism from the Institute of Modern Knowledge in Minsk, Belarus, as well as, a Diploma from the Swedish Institute of Management in Stockholm, Sweden. Mr. Rozum has been a Director of the Company since March 9, 2015.

Grant Johnson, CEO stated, “We are thrilled that Yan has accepted the appointment as CTO of the Company. Yan’s in-depth sport and event wagering industry knowledge and relationships has been invaluable to the development of our global esports wagering platform.”

Yan Rozum stated, “I am honored to join Esports Entertainment as CTO. During my time as Director of the Company and, more recently, working on development of its esports wagering platform, it has become very clear that I share Grant’s vision of both the esports industry and Esports Entertainment Group.  Accepting the position of CTO is therefore a logical step in the long-term success of the Company.”

This press release is available on our Online Investor Relations Community for shareholders and potential shareholders to ask questions, receive answers and collaborate with management in a fully moderated forum at

About Esports Entertainment Group

Esports Entertainment Group, Inc. is a licensed online gambling company with a specific focus on esports wagering and 18+ gaming. Initially, Esports Entertainment intends to offer bet exchange style wagering on esports events in a licensed, regulated and secured platform to the global esports audience, excluding the US and EU. In addition, Esports Entertainment intends to offer users from around the world the ability to participate in multi-player mobile and PC video game tournaments for cash prizes. Esports Entertainment is led by a team of industry professionals and technical experts from the online gambling and the video game industries, and esports. The Company holds licenses to conduct online gambling and 18+ gaming on a global basis, excluding the US and EU, in Curacao, Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Kahnawake Gaming Commission in Canada. The Company maintains offices in Antigua and Curacao. Esports Entertainment common stock is listed on the OTCQB under the symbol GMBL.  For more information visit
The information contained herein includes forward-looking statements. These statements relate to future events or to our future financial performance, and involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause our actual results, levels of activity, performance, or achievements to be materially different from any future results, levels of activity, performance or achievements expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. You should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements since they involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors which are, in some cases, beyond our control and which could, and likely will, materially affect actual results, levels of activity, performance or achievements. Any forward-looking statement reflects our current views with respect to future events and is subject to these and other risks, uncertainties and assumptions relating to our operations, results of operations, growth strategy and liquidity. We assume no obligation to publicly update or revise these forward-looking statements for any reason, or to update the reasons actual results could differ materially from those anticipated in these forward-looking statements, even if new information becomes available in the future. The safe harbor for forward-looking statements contained in the Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 protects companies from liability for their forward-looking statements if they comply with the requirements of the Act.



Corporate Finance Inquiries
Stephen Cotugno
Vice President, Corporate Development

Investor Relations Inquiries

Source: GlobeNewswire (December 7, 2017 – 8:00 AM EST)

News by QuoteMedia

Alibaba $BABA betting on long-term gain from #Esports investment, bodes well for $GMBL $ATVI $TTWO $GAME $

Posted by AGORACOM-JC at 10:16 AM on Thursday, November 30th, 2017

  • Chinese e-commerce conglomerate Alibaba believes it is only a matter of time before its bet on competitive video gaming comes up big
  • Alibaba’s sports arm Alisports was opened in 2015 with the aim of cashing in on the rapidly growing world of electronic sports, where players square off in lucrative video game tournaments that draw millions of viewers online

BARCELONA: The booming eSports industry may not yet attract the sponsors and television rights of real life sports, but Chinese e-commerce conglomerate Alibaba believes it is only a matter of time before its bet on competitive video gaming comes up big.

Alibaba’s sports arm Alisports was opened in 2015 with the aim of cashing in on the rapidly growing world of electronic sports, where players square off in lucrative video game tournaments that draw millions of viewers online.

“We are prepared to lose money. We can accept the losses now as we hope to promote this sport,” Alisports CEO Zhang Dazhong told AFP in an interview at the European final of the second edition of Alisports’ World Electronic Sports Games (WESG) in Barcelona, which wrapped up on Sunday (Nov 26).

“For a sport that has a lot of participation, it must have a bright future. Even if for now you don’t make a lot of money, in the future, you’ll definitely be rewarded. This is something we firmly believe in.”

In 2016, Alisports entered into an agreement with the International e-Sports Federation (IeSF) to create the WESG, a market-leading international tournament.

The first edition of the WESG saw 63,000 participants from 125 countries battle for a share of the US$5.5 million prize pot.

Yet the results weren’t so lucrative for Alisports, who lost 70 per cent of their investment.

“We estimate that we will be losing money for the next five years,” admitted Zhang.


Alisports’ strategy, though, is a long-term one.

“We estimate that in five to ten years … the business model will be more complete. On top of the competitions, we have to bear in mind the electronics business and marketing related to eSports,” added Zhang.

Participation in eSports has soared as virtual games gain traction with a worldwide fan audience now estimated at 400 million people according to a study by Deloitte, more than that for baseball or American football’s National Football League.

The size of the eSports market will more than double to US$696 million this year from US$325 million in 2015, according to Deloitte’s study. It predicts the market will be worth US$1.5 billion in 2020.

But the market is fragmented, with different operators staging their own tournaments, and sales of television rights and merchandising remain weak.

An eSport fan brings only three euros to the table annually on average, according to a recent study by market research group Nielsen Sports, compared to 30 euros for a football fan.

Yet, Alibaba believes its position as the market leader in China, the worldwide powerhouse of eSports, ensures the return on eSports will be plentiful.

“In China we have 1.8 million eSport fanatics and 65 per cent of those are between 18 and 25,” continued Zhang.

“They play video games, but they also buy all sorts of products from Alibaba. We understand them very well.”


The leap in popularity has helped fuel talk that professional gaming could become an Olympic discipline, but not everyone is convinced.

“I think we have to differentiate eSports and gaming in general,” Zhang said when he was asked about the controversy.

“Gaming of course isn’t a sport, but eSports involve high-level confrontation, teams, individual resistance, so I think it’s a sport. And I think that sport in general is evolving towards a combination of technology and physical activity.”

Zhang said he hopes eSports will be part of the 2024 Olympics in Paris or the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.

“It could happen, because at this year’s Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, we already gave a demonstration of games. In the Asian Games in Hangzhou in 2022, it’s already an official event,” he said.

The director of the Paris 2024 Olympics committee said earlier this month that the door to the Games was “not closed” to eSports.

Source: AFP/zl


How a 23-Year-Old Gamer Got Billionaires to Back His #Esports Team $GMBL $ATVI $TTWO $GAME $

Posted by AGORACOM-JC at 11:56 AM on Tuesday, November 28th, 2017
  • 23-year-old college dropout has raised tens of millions of dollars
  • From investors such as former junk bond king Mike Milken and billionaire Phil Anschutz’s AEG, to be among the first team owners in a new international video-game league


Christopher Palmeri
November 28, 2017, 5:00 AM EST

Noah Whinston is a young man on the go. The 23-year-old college dropout has raised tens of millions of dollars, from investors such as former junk bond king Mike Milken and billionaire Phil Anschutz’s AEG, to be among the first team owners in a new international video-game league.

The Los Angeles Valiant will start competing next month in the inaugural year of Activision Blizzard Inc.’s Overwatch League. Whinston and his backers paid the video-game giant $20 million for their franchise rights, aiming to get in on the ground floor of what could be the next big professional sport.

Video-game competitions have been around since the 1970s. What’s different now is that young people are spending less time watching traditional sports like football and basketball and more time glued to game consoles and tablets. Companies like Activision see live events and broadcasts of their games as a natural extension of their business and are tapping big names in media, finance and sports to participate.

Noah Whinston at the training facility for the Los Angeles Valiant.
Photographer: Troy Harvey

Activision, based in Santa Monica, California, has raised $240 million selling franchises for the Overwatch League, in which players compete in a cartoon-like shooting game that’s a little more than a year old. Last week, Riot Games, part of Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd., announced 10 franchises for its newly revamped North American League of Legends Championship Series. Prices started at $10 million.

“Everybody is looking at an audience base that is 300 million people and saying there has to be a way to harness the commercial part of this,” said Bruce Stein, a former Mattel Inc. executive whose company acquired the rights to a League of Legends team. “We see this as a sea change in the way people interact with content,” said Stein, whose company attracted investments from basketball great Magic Johnson and Walt Disney Co.

The change is dizzying for the older hands. Last month, Jason Lake sold a majority stake in his 14-year-old CompLexity Gaming to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and investor John Goff for an undisclosed sum. Lake said he always operated on a break-even basis, but competing in a world of $20 million franchise fees and dedicated training facilities required outside capital. Players who used be paid $2,500 a month are being lured to other teams for 10 times that salary, according to Lake. “We were becoming a farm team,” he said.

Whinston grew up in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, where his father was an economics professor and his mother taught political science. Whinston played online poker for money in high school and built a business selling Magic: The Gathering trading cards. He later discovered a site called Vulcun where fans could build esports teams and win money much like in fantasy sports. Soon Whinston’s name was popping up at the top of leader boards.

Amid questions about the legality of such betting, Vulcun shut down, but not before Whinston was introduced to Clinton Foy, a Los Angeles-based venture capitalist. The pair bought an existing esports business, Team 8, and renamed it the Immortals, bringing in investors including Peter Levin, an executive at Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., and a venture capital fund affiliated with the rock band Linkin Park. Foy said he had to sign leases on property for the Immortals because no landlords would rent to the boyish CEO.

Noah’s father Michael Whinston, who now teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said he and his wife tried to talk their son out of leaving school. The senior Whinston now feels his son was right. “I’m an economist,” Michael Whinston said. “He passed the market test.”

A team meeting at the new Immortals and Los Angeles Valiant training facility located in Los Angeles.
Photographer: Troy Harvey

The Immortals now fields teams playing four games, including Valve Corp.’s Dota 2 and Nintendo Co.’s Super Smash Bros. The company failed to win a League of Legends franchise, despite having a team in a prior version of the league and seeming like a shoo-in to everyone in the industry. “I won’t lie, I’m disappointed, even a little heartbroken, in not being able to participate,” Whinston said in a video statement to fans.

In an online chat with fans, Riot Games esports executive Chris Hopper declined to discuss why some teams didn’t make the cut, calling the decision “really difficult.”

Esports competitions generate money from ticket sales, corporate sponsorships and team merchandise. The Immortals’ sponsors come from the video game world: HP Inc., chairmaker LF Gaming and Bloody Gaming, which sells mouses and other accessories. Stein’s Team Liquid has 12 sponsors including Monster Beverage Corp. listed on its website.

Whinston’s company houses its two dozen pros in an apartment building in Marina Del Rey. Players practice from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Immortals’ Culver City campus. They scrimmage and in some cases play other teams, working from inside a handful of garage-like “pods.” Lunch and dinner are provided. Physical therapists and sports psychologists are on call.

The 20,000-square-foot property is among the first standalone training facilities for esports. Previously players lived and practiced in houses rented by the company. Whinston lived in one with nine other people. “I lasted 18 months,” he said. When the new Overwatch League season starts, teams will compete in a theater Activision leases in Burbank, California.

Whinston said his approach to picking teams involves a mix of data and human dynamics. Eight of his 11 Overwatch players are under 20 years old, green even by esports standards. Seb Barton, a U.K. native who goes by the name Numlocked, is an elder statesman at 24. He’s an important part of the team, Whinston said, because his effusive personality rallies others when they’re not performing well.

“We’re not looking to go out there, sign the biggest name free agents, and just try to throw them in a room and hope it all works out,” Whinston said. “We’re not the New York Yankees of esports. We’re not trying to be.”

—With assistance from Eben Novy-Williams


Life in an #Esports gaming house with #Schlinks $GMBL $ATVI $TTWO $GAME $

Posted by AGORACOM-JC at 11:34 AM on Monday, November 27th, 2017

It’s essentially every gamer’s wildest fantasy – living in a house full of other esports enthusiasts.

  • Essentially every gamer’s wildest fantasy: Living in a house full of other esports enthusiasts, where everyone understands that online games can’t be paused
  • But for esports pros, gaming house life is even more valuable than not being nagged to empty the dishwasher all the time – it allows teams to bond and gel on all-new levels.
27 November 2017 – 17:01 By Good Luck Have Fun

Image: Scott Peter Smith

It’s essentially every gamer’s wildest fantasy: Living in a house full of other esports enthusiasts, where everyone understands that online games can’t be paused. But for esports pros, gaming house life is even more valuable than not being nagged to empty the dishwasher all the time – it allows teams to bond and gel on all-new levels.

The concept of gaming houses is new to the South African esports scene, so naturally there’s a lot to be learned from the first MGO to do it, White Rabbit Gaming. We managed to get over our jealousy long enough to catch up with Nicholas ‘Schlinks’ Dammert about what it’s like to literally be living the dream.

“Since WRG were the first in the local scene to venture into the whole idea of gaming houses, I was really excited for this new adventure. Initially I thought it would be quite hard to adjust to the new living circumstances and the change of scenery (Capetonian for life). I expected most of my days to be quite repetitive and restricted, but nevertheless would enjoy the tough grind. “It turned out to be extremely liberating. Outside of team obligations (practices, tournaments) you’re in control of whatever you want to do. On off days you could go read a book, watch series or spend your time visiting new places and experiencing new things. Although it took some time to get used to, the gaming house started to feel like a second home and the change of scenery was hardly noticeable.”

SA gets its first house of gaming – yes, an actual house

In what many consider to be a significant step in local esport development, South Africa now has its own dedicated gaming house
2 months ago

A man after our own hearts – #capetown4lyf. We had to try hard to not make the rest of the interview about how great Cape Town is. Fortunately for you, our self control is excellent.

When gaming is such a massive part of your life, it must be, as Schlinks says, “extremely liberating” to be able to just focus on what you do best. It allows the players to dive right into the competitive side.

“The grind was really fun. When we’re motivated and every one of us are all playing tons of Dota, matching into each other (in solo queue) or against one another, there’s really high spirits in the team (special shoutout to Castaway’s mid Techies vs my offlane Dazzle in ranked). “Most importantly, every time we managed to achieve a good result against a notable team or placed high in online international tournaments we could all celebrate our achievements together.”

Instead of whooping and hollering over Discord or TeamSpeak, these guys get to walk right up to each other after an online win, high five, tap a few bums, hug it out in a manly fashion and crack a beer in appreciation – adopting the best elements of traditional team sports.

But when you’re living in a gaming house, are you allowed to do anything other than game, eat, sleep, repeat? Are you even allowed to eat and sleep?

“It all depends on whether Dota 2 is getting any local action. While us Dota players are fortunately able to practice on international servers with only minor drawbacks, it’s fairly difficult to maintain a hyper-competitive mindset all the time – it all depends on the competitive climate. “Basically, if there aren’t many international qualifiers or local tournaments being held, us WRG players take a more mellow approach and prefer to play solo queue or relax. But don’t be fooled – we practice a damn load and intensely when we are in that competitive mindset. “On a good day I would play for about 8 hours (practice/solo queue) – taking breaks to walk to the local convenience store and spending some time with the boys while we cook/eat dinner. On lazy days I would watch series all day and order take-out. “As surprising as it may seem, we do tend to go out a fair bit. I believe it’s important to get that little break from the surreal life of full-time gaming and enjoy the time we spend out of the house. We tend to usually walk to the shop around lunch time every day and some of the WRG guys go gymming every few days. Depending on the mood, we also spontaneously visit the casino and have some good nights out around Joburg. Good times.”

It all sounds too good to be true, but Schlinks assures us it was all very real. And yes, we’re nerdgasming over here too.

While there were obvious benefits, there were a few bugs that needed patching too, which is to be expected when you put five highly-competitive individuals in such close quarters for too long. But even those issues were resolved by the magic of the gaming house.

“The positives were very clear. Our performance in-game and communication improved significantly over the competitive Dota season (locally and internationally). The only negative I could point out is the clashes amongst players, but as of late these issues have been rectified via open communication between players and the support we offer one another. “You learn a lot about your teammates once you spend upwards of 75% of your time with them for months at a time. Thankfully we all get along really well and I have come to respect each of them. As time passes it’s typical that some personal issues or clashes ensue, but they’re generally very small-scale and we resolve them swiftly and maturely (while others in the team prefer to box it out – no kidding. Kicking too).”

Competition is tough for the South African Dota 2 circuit but international play is what will really improve your game, say gamers.
Image: Scott Peter Smith

For those of you who don’t stalk local esports players like we do, Schlinks moved back home to Cape Town a few weeks ago. Given the success of the whole experience, this left a couple of onlookers speculating about his future at WRG. But fear not, he ain’t goin’ nowhere. Except for, like, back to Joburg. Poor guy.

“As many people know, the Dota 2 competitive scene in South Africa has largely been on hold for the latter part of the year. Internationally however, the Dota 2 competitive scene has completely restructured and now works in qualifier ‘blocks’ (periods of which many qualifiers are held).

“Once these blocks were finished, I felt the majority of my days were lazy days. I figured I needed a break from the mild pressure of practicing and flew back home to Cape Town – where I am seriously contemplating my Dota 2 career for the upcoming year. However, the move back is only temporary and as soon as things spice up in the local Dota 2 scene I’ll be on the next flight back to the gaming house.”

The benefits of gaming houses are clear, with one of the top Dota players in the country vouching for their efficacy. But are they vital for team growth and progression?

“While they’re a great benefit to any team that would utilise them correctly, I don’t think they’re necessary for that next level.

“The current situation is that esports in SA has – for the most part – been circulating around itself with regards to playstyles, strategies and general competitiveness. The level of competitiveness in SA has been maximised and we need to look overseas in order to expand.

“Thus, for us to reach the next level of competitiveness we would need to have achieved reputable results in international events (‘putting SA on the map’) and in order to get good results teams need to be exposed to these international teams’ level of competitiveness.”

The gaming house life has certainly helped WRG improve as a team. They have the freedom to train as much as they like, their communication skills are getting almost as good as their Dota skills, and they’ve got the international results to show for it. So, while not vital to the scene, gaming houses do seem to play a part in getting us some international exposure.

We’ll leave you today with Schlinks’ answer to our ultimatum: Gaming house and no salary, or salary and no gaming house?

“I’d definitely choose both options – a luxurious gaming house as well as a hefty salary.”

Nope, that’s not how ultimatums work, bro.

“If I had to choose, my answer would be the salary. The reason being: While a gaming house helps in most aspects of gaming, I think the main objective of a gaming house can primarily be achieved by a bootcamp before a tournament. On the other hand, a salary changes the game entirely.

“If salaries were mainstream it would stabilise the competitive scene in many ways. More players would find themselves in an adequate financial state from gaming revenue. This will result in growth amongst the entire competitive scene as we see less players leaving the scene, more players entering the competitive sphere, fewer players jumping ship and switching to other teams and overall less emphasis on trying to place first at every event.

“The point of less pressure on placing first alone encourages practice amongst teams on a local scale and I think we will see the scene expand at a rapid rate – both in mentality about practicing (thus competitiveness) and the pure number growth.”

There you have it MGO owners. If you’re thinking about renting a house for your teams, rather consider putting that money towards stable salaries for the players. But if you’re feeling generous, get them a nice little house too. Preferably in Cape Town.


Alonso launches #Esports team $GMBL $ATVI $TTWO $GAME $

Posted by AGORACOM-JC at 11:09 AM on Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

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By: Jonathan Noble, Formula 1 Editor
1 hour ago
  • Fernando Alonso has become the first Formula 1 driver to branch out into eSports, after launching his own team ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
  • Two-time world champion has formed a partnership with McLaren sponsor Logitech to expand into the gaming world – with ambitions set on his outfit becoming the best in the world

The two-time world champion has formed a partnership with McLaren sponsor Logitech to expand into the gaming world – with ambitions set on his outfit becoming the best in the world

The team, which will be called FA Racing G2 Logitech G, will compete in a host of top-line series both in F1 sim racing and other online categories.

“I am a team principal finally,” smiled Alonso at the launch of the team in the Yas Marina paddock on Thursday. “There will be no meetings very early. We will change completely the way we work!!”

Alonso said he had been approached by Logitech and G2 a few months ago about the idea, and believed it was the right time to get involved with gaming as eSports racing was starting to take off.

“It is very exciting, and it is a completely new thing to discover,” he explained. “I think eSports in other formats has been very successful but in racing, it is at the very beginning, and I think huge potential will come.

“I am happy to be one of the first investing in this direction and I think good and fun times are coming – not only for us, but for gamers at home and for fans.”

While the focus on FA Racing will be on professional championships, competing in the official F1 game, rFactor and other categories, Alonso said that part of his team’s plan was to find ways that fans could race with them too.

When asked if he had signed himself to his own team, Alonso said: “Not yet. But we have some ideas for our fans to have online competitions, monthly, that they can not only participate with our pro drivers but also with myself.

“I will definitely be slower – more the amateur level. We will have fun, that is the first thing, and we will develop a platform that is available for everyone in the world.”

F1 boost

F1 commercial chief Sean Bratches believed Alonso’s decision to run an eSports team would deliver a big boost to the sport’s profile amid younger fans.

“Fernando’s brand has been a pillar of the success of F1 in the linear world, and just like other brands going into other areas, he gives a credibility,” he said.

“A lot of drivers and athletes, in their second career, go into business and I think while this is a fun participatory game, it is competition. It is a big business and it is just getting bigger.

“F1 and Fernando are getting in at the early stages, notwithstanding that it has been around a couple of years.”


#Goldenstate Warriors unveil Hunter Leigh as head of #Esports $GMBL $ATVI $TTWO $GAME $

Posted by AGORACOM-JC at 10:19 AM on Tuesday, November 21st, 2017

  • Golden State Warriors esports arm has named Hunter Leigh as its head of esports.
  • Comes after the NBA Championship team were confirmed as an partner in Riot Games’ new North American League of Legends Championship Series franchise system.

In the role, Leigh will oversee esports activity related to the Warriors itself, who are set to compete in the NBA 2K League as well as the newly named “Golden State Guardians”, the brand that will enter the NA LCS for the new season.

Hunter Leigh is a man with an array of experience in esports. Prior to this role, he was head of esports operations for Yahoo Esports which shut back in June following Verizon’s acquisition of the Yahoo brand. He has also set up several esports events in the growing University and College space in the United States, including in League of Legends and FGC titles.

Leigh commented in a release: “The Warriors are such a well-respected sports franchise and organization, and I am fortunate that they selected me to help steward their entrance into esports. I’m eager to hit the ground running as it relates to player acquisitions and building competitive teams for both League of Legends and the NBA 2K League. The Warriors have a proven model for championship success, and I am looking to bring their player development and analytical approach to the esports space.”

Esports Insider says: The Warriors have in Leigh a man with a great understanding of the esports scene. With regards to folk that can oversee a successful entrance into esports and truly understand the demographic, there’s likely few candidates better suited to the role. We look forward to seeing who the Golden Guardians sign as they look to be competitive in what should be an intriguing first season of the new LCS.


What I learned visiting my first live #Esports tournament $GMBL $ATVI $TTWO $GAME $

Posted by AGORACOM-JC at 9:36 AM on Monday, November 20th, 2017

  • The appeal of the live experience for most sports is obvious
  • For all the convenience of a televised game, it can’t compare to the sense of scale and 3D perspective you get actually seeing professional sports in person;
  • Watching plays develop and players perform nearly superhuman feats right in front of you.

Just watching on Twitch isn’t the same as being immersed in the crowd.

Kyle Orland – 11/19/2017, 10:00 AM

At this point, I don’t have much patience for the argument that eSports fans should stop watching other people play video games and just play those games themselves.

For one, it’s an argument that few people make about spectator sports like basketball and football, where the skill difference between a pro and a novice is roughly the same as in eSports. For another, the thrill of watching a competitor at the top of his or her game is entirely distinct (and better in some ways) from competing yourself.


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What I’ve never quite understood, though, is the concept of paying money for a ticket to watch a live eSports competition in-person.

The appeal of the live experience for most sports is obvious. For all the convenience of a televised game, it can’t compare to the sense of scale and 3D perspective you get actually seeing professional sports in person, watching plays develop and players perform nearly superhuman feats right in front of you.

None of that really applies in eSports, where you’re basically going to a large room to watch a big screen that has the exact same game content you could see at home on Twitch, down to the pixel. Watching the eSports competitors themselves as they sit like statues and become part of the machine during a match hardly seems worth the price of admission, either.

Yet plenty of people pay that admission. The League of Legends World Finals alone filled 80 to 90,000 seats in the Beijing National Stadium this year. What were these people seeing that I wasn’t?

To find out, I decided to check out the Rocket League Championship Series (RLCS) Season 4 world finals in nearby MGM National Harbor last weekend. What I quickly found out is that the point of being in a live eSports crowd is, to a large extent, just being part of the crowd.

Take a seat

Rocket League is by far my favorite eSport to watch as a spectator. While I can follow a high-level game of Hearthstone or Smash Bros. with the best of them, Rocket League‘s simple two-teams, two-goals format makes it incredibly simple for even a novice player to keep track of the action.

Watching a high-level Rocket League match, you get a real sense of the strategy and coordination necessary for the three-person teams to balance an offensive threat with the ability to rush back and knock a ball away on defense. And while pros make it look exceedingly simple to make precision passes and shots while rocketing at high speeds through the air, regular players know how hard it is to just make contact with a ball high above the arena.

I’ve only been a casual fan of the RLCS, checking out a few stray matches when my weekend schedule allows. Going into the finals weekend, I was at least peripherally aware of the stories surrounding competing teams like the robotically efficient Cloud 9 and the crowd-pleasing G2 eSports. I also knew that these hometown favorite North American teams were extreme underdogs to the European powerhouses like Method and Gale Force.

But it was something else to see a crowd of 3,000 react to those teams right in front of me, rather than just hearing their cheers through an ambient microphone via Twitch. In that National Harbor ballroom, the crowd itself practically became a participant in the competition, going crazy for the North American teams and icily silent for the European competition.

The competitors themselves almost faded into the background in this environment. Ghost Gaming player Zanejackey tried to get the crowd riled up at one point, standing and raising his arms above his head to get the noise pumping louder, but he received little to no notice for his efforts. While the crowd was treated to live webcam close-ups of the players at many points in the matches, the stony-faced videos may as well have been photographs.

What the crowd did react to was the action on those big projection screens. In tense overtime situations, the entire room swooned in crescendo with each shot and cried out in pain or glee with every close miss or solid goal. In quiet moments between matches, audience members might pick up a cheer of “Let’s go G2!” or try to get a wave going through the stands.

If I had been watching from my living room, I wouldn’t have heard the guy sitting behind me exclaim “it’s getting lit now, man!” after a big overtime goal. I wouldn’t have witnessed a neighbor literally jump up and slap his knee after a close crossbar miss.

I’m still not sure these kinds of moments are in and of themselves worth the significant money it costs to attend one of these events live. That said, I can now say I at least understand the potential appeal of sharing a dramatic eSports competition with a few thousands strangers.

Listing image by Kyle Orland