100 Thieves Creating a Video Game, FaZe Clan Wins 1st CS:GO Major, and More!
EWD: News for Week of 5/16/22-5/22/22
Topics: Partnerships, Gucci, 100 Thieves, NYXL, ESL
FACEIT x GUCCI
Esports tournament platform FACEIT partnered with high-end luxury brand Gucci to launch the Gucci Gaming Academy. Through coaching sessions and team-building activities, the Gucci Gaming Academy aims to development players and their skill-levels.
The program will also bring to attention the increasing amount of mental and physical issues coming from the pressure of in-game performance and scrutiny.
The academy team will start with 4 CS:GO players competing in the FACEIT Pro League (FPL) already. They plan on adding more players to the roster over time. Players on the Gucci Gaming Academy roster will be a part of the academy for a maximum time allotment of 1 year. Candidates are selected based on both in-game performance and intangibles such as soft skills and personal values via interviews.
Additionally, commentator James Bardolph and retired CS:GO professional players Christopher 'GeT_RiGhT’ Alesund and Stephanie ‘missharvey’ Harvey will be ambassadors and mentors for the academy team. According to Esports Insider, the players will have one-on-one sessions with each talent monthly.
Lastly, Gucci and FACEIT will work with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to find ways to support all players involved to improve their gameplay while prioritizing health and safety. Nicolas Oudinot, EVP of New Business and CEO of Gucci VAULT, said this on the partnership:
Gucci is at the forefront of the luxury industry’s foray into the world of gaming and as part of our mission to build meaningful relationships with communities in a genuinely authentic way. We are dedicated to supporting the up-and-coming generations of players to help manage the challenges they may face as a result of participating in esports.
To summarize everything this program has to offer, coaches will provide in-game training 3x a week, mental health support from specialized psychologists, and multiple resources via education, Gucci's "Changemakers Programme", and hardware accessibility. For more details on this partnership, there's a video announcement on the program HERE.
Everything about this Academy program is amazing. Although I didn't expect Gucci of all brands to emerge into this space as an innovator for building an amateur program, it's great to see them build this out with a clear vision in-mind. Esports is far behind traditional sports when it comes to providing resources, coaching, scouting new talent, and giving opportunities to reach your highest level. It's clear that the ambassadors, coaches and everyone on the back-end of this program know what they're doing, and the roster looks very well-rounded.
ESL x Lenovo
Esports tournament organizer ESL Gaming and Lenovo have agreed on an exclusive PC partnership for ESL’s Intel Extreme Masters tournament series. Starting with IEM Dallas in June 2022, Lenovo Legion will be the official OEM Partner covering multiple IEM tournaments that will run until IEM Katowice 2023.
As part of the deal, Lenovo and ESL will collaborate on a series of online and in-person activations around IEM tournaments, showcasing Lenovo Legion gaming computers and equipment. Lenovo Legion will feature its portfolio of gaming PCs through brand integrations. This includes brand exposure for the Lenovo Legion brand at the in-person IEM events as well as on social media and online. In terms of in-person activations, Lenovo said that fans visiting IEM events will have the opportunity to visit the Lenovo Legion booth and game on its "powerful gaming hardware."
Rodrigo Samwell, Chief Commercial Officer at ESL Gaming, said:
Lenovo Legion is the perfect partner for this amazing legendary esports competition that we have created together with Intel. We are convinced that they will strengthen the gaming experience of the pro players and the overall experience of the fans.
As per most tech or peripheral-related partnerships for tournament providers, this one wasn't much different. Lenovo received the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) sponsorship designation and will be a part of a pretty significant esports tournament series, especially in the game of CS:GO. The pop-up booth at the events is a signature way to garner brand awareness, brand loyalty being associated with the tournaments, and a potential increase in sales as well.
NYXL x SPORTFIVE
New York-based esports organization NYXL (formerly Andbox) has partnered with global sports marketing agency Sportfive as the exclusive commercial sales agency. Sportfive, an agency that has an expertise in esports and gaming, will be supporting the commercial development of the recently rebranded organization’s esports and gaming initiatives.
The two companies said they will work together across revenue generation, business development, and sponsorship integration. The first focus of the partnership will be YXL, an accelerator program run by NYXL. According to the Sports Business Journal (SBJ) article covering this, NYXL's new Chief Content Officer Mitch Smith has had a long-standing relationship with Ryan Polun, the head of esports and gaming at Sportfive (Americas). Ryan said further to SBJ:
The planets seemed to align — as our respective organizations are both uniquely situated in New York — and we have shared beliefs surrounding New York City increasingly becoming a hub for creators going forward.
Sportfive continues to build on their already large portfolio of properties in both gaming and traditional sports. They've become the commercial sales AOR with North American organizations Immortals, Misfits, and even North America based agency Bad Moon Talent. Although I've been hyping up UTA and other agencies recently, Sportfive is certainly the most entrenched in the space when it comes to being an AOR and getting sponsorship deals done. To team up with New York's flagship esports organization should carry a lot of interest for brands to work with them in the near future. NYXL has so much potential to build home-grown talent and market share.
Dallas Fuel x Favor Delivery
Dallas Fuel (of Envy Gaming) announced that Favor Delivery will be the presenting sponsor for the Dallas Fuel Kickoff Clash in Arlington, TX. This is the 1st Overwatch League (OWL) Tournament of 2022 taking place between June 2-5. It will be held at the Esports Stadium Arlington, with the teams playing Activision Blizzard’s new Overwatch 2 FPS shooter.
The tournament will feature the OWL’s West division, as the participant pool will be cut to eight through a qualification process based on the seeding matches currently being played over the next couple weeks. The tournament will have a $225,000 prize pool.
According to SBJ's Kevin Hitt, the Overwatch League permits only the host teams to sell the “presented by” right to the tournament in terms of naming partner rights. Additionally, Favor Deliver has already been a sponsor for the Dallas Fuel in 2019 in the OWL's first-ever homestand. The delivery company already has a multiyear team sponsorship deal with Dallas as well. During the four-day event, Favor will be part of numerous activations, including:
VIP seat upgrade
Dallas Fuel Signed jerseys
Favor VIP Experience contest
Exclusive meet-and-greet with Gaku Space, voice of Overwatch hero Genji
Cosplay Photo Station: Overwatch themed cosplay is encouraged and welcomed at the event, with appearances by Frostbite Cosplay and opportunities for fans to snap photos with Overwatch-themed props.
Due to the workplace and sexual harassment issues going on at Overwatch developer Activision Blizzard, It's a little surprising to see the league and its corresponding event hosts not have many shortcomings in securing sponsorship deals. I personally never heard of Favor Delivery before, but apparently it's based in Texas and operates in over 200 cities within the state. Continuing to partner with a team that has Texas roots and has a community of many young and avid gamers should bode well for Favor both short and long-term.
100 Thieves is Making a Video Game
Over the next few years, 100 Thieves will be developing a video game with the community and its creators in-mind. In what is known as Project X, Founder/CEO Matt "Nadeshot" Haag and President/COO John Robinson talked it through in a YouTube video about the goals, reasoning behind it, and aspirations for the project. I'll summarize the video and details below.
Making a video game was something that Matt and John had in mind from the start of 100 Thieves (founded in 2017). One powerful message from John that summarized this project very well and will differentiate themselves from other gaming studios is this:
We're gonna make a game with our creators. We're gonna make a game with our pros. And we're gonna make a game with you, our community.
They believe that if they follow this mantra, they will have a high chance of succeeding. Matt made an emphasis on this point as well, saying
Nowadays, transparency is the #1 priority that every company should have.
100 Thieves, as John mentioned, also has a lot of pros and content creators that have a large voice and interesting perspective on what makes a great video game. In terms of timeline for the game's development, the Project X team haven't even written out one line of code yet. John said that they haven’t decided what genre the game will be, but will let the community know updates soon.
To start this off the development process, they've hired Pete Hawley as the new Chief Product Officer to build a development studio and bring the game to life from the ground up. He's been in game development for 30 years and has worked at EA Studios previously. Pete has also worked on games such as Little Big Planet, Fable, Killzone, and Burnout Paradise. They're actively hiring engineers, designers, and artists.
What 100 Thieves is doing as a business in the gaming space is incredible. In 4 and 1/2 years, 100 Thieves has emerged into the top 3 most valuable esports companies, built a giant headquarters in LA, won an LCS championship, and successfully developed 3 core pillars of their business (content, competitive, merch), and now will create a video game. No esports organization from my understanding has even attempted to do build a game before. 100 Thieves continues to have a vision that is limitless and they've been successful in every direction you look. If there's one organization that I would describe as "sustainable" in terms of business success since it was founded, I would say its 100 Thieves.
Esports Awards Renews Partnerships and Relocates to Las Vegas, NV.
The Esports Awards has renewed its existing sponsorships with seat manufacturer Secretlab and Verizon. Additionally, the 2022 awards ceremony will now take place at the Resorts World Theatre in Las Vegas, NV following a three-year stint at Esports Stadium Arlington in Texas. The main awards event takes place on December 13th.
Secretlab will collaborate with Esports Awards on activations in addition to sponsoring the Esports Team of the Year award. In 2021, the Atlanta FaZe Call of Duty League franchise won this prestigious award. Verizon will sponsor the ceremony for the 3rd consecutive year, lending its name to the Esports Mobile Player of the Year and Esports Mobile Game of the Year categories. Verizon and Esports Awards will also create different activations.
I'm not surprised these 2 brands renewed with the Esports Awards as Both sponsor many properties in the gaming and esports scene. The Esports Awards is trying to separate themselves from the competition when it comes to different esports awards ceremonies that take place on the calendar year. Other competitors have emerged such as The Streamer Awards created by QT Cinderella and the Tempest Awards, so securing these 2 big-name commercial sponsors is big.
OG Esports Partners with Bookmaker 1xBet
OG Esports has partnered with 1xBET, an online sports betting company. According to the OG Esports press release, 1xBet will be an important partner for the future as they continue to grow and enhance their content offering.
As part of this enhance content offering, they will develop a content series called the Road to The International. As part of our agreement, OG Esports will further create content affiliated with the 1xBET brand. They will also have the 1xBET logo placed on their team's jerseys and jackets for both the OG Dota 2 and CSGO rosters.
Alex Sommers, 1xBet spokesperson, commented on the deal:
Just a year after its creation, the organization managed to win The International, won the commitment of hundreds of thousands of fans in all corners of the globe. OG are able to ignite the hearts of fans thanks to bright performances and innovative views on CS:GO and Dota 2.
This is a very odd partnership, to say the least. It's probably just a lack of details on how the partnership will be activated that's causing this confusion. If they aren't integrating some sort've betting-related series of content, then I don't see why 1xBet wants to work with them besides the obvious brand awareness. Hopefully there's other details that we're unaware of because I think 1xBet could do more with this partnership.
FaZe Clan Wins CS:GO PGL Antwerp Major
24 of some of the best CS:GO teams in the world have flown to Antwerp, Belgium, to attend the PGL Major this month. The tournament ran from May 9 to 22. This past Sunday, FaZe Clan took home $500,000 (half of the total prize pool) and won its first CS:GO Major title. They beat one of the best CS:GO players ever in S1mple and Natus Vincere (NAVI) in a 2-0 victory.
The starred quintet of Karrigan, Twistzz, ropz, rain, and broky has also become the first international team to win a Valve-sponsored event in CS:GO. This is a memorable win, especially for veterans karrigan and rain, who were part of the FaZe lineup that blew a 15-9 lead on Inferno at ELEAGUE Boston Major grand finals in 2018, In that major, they lost to the heavy underdogs in Cloud9. For Karrigan, he was visibly emotional right after FaZe won the final map (on Nuke) 16-10, the first Major title of his long career as a CS:GO player. Rain, who went 52-40 K/D throughout the grand finals, was sensational throughout the whole tournament and was named the MVP by HLTV.
In regard to viewership, it peaked during the grand finals at 2,113,610 live viewers and averaged 586,218 throughout the major across all platforms (according to Esports Charts). This Major was the second most-viewed CS:GO match ever according to Dot Esports. The Major, which took place at Sportpaleis arena, can accommodate over 23,000 people. Although I'm not 100% it sold out, I can assure you it was packed. The crowd was going crazy throughout the Grand Finals. Here's a funny quick video that summarizes the wild crowd yesterday.
For anyone at all curious or skeptical about the potential of esports from a live audience perspective, I recommend you watch the grand finals VOD back. Here's the link to it.