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  • Matt Kimball

EWD: News for Week of 1/17/22-1/23/22

Updated: Apr 25

Key Topics: Partnerships, Microsoft, "FaZe1", Team Liquid

Partnerships


Riot Games' VALORANT Renewed Partnerships


Ahead of the kickoff for the 2022 Valorant Champions Tour (VCT) NA Stage 1, Riot Games renewed 5 partnerships. The list of partners include: Red Bull, Verizon, Aim Lab, Secretlab, Prime Gaming, and Nerd Street Gamers. Here's a quick snapshot of all these partnerships being brought to life:

  • Red Bull is the official energy drink of VCT. They also present the Red Bull "Clutch Moment" during every match. Red Bull hosts community VALORANT tournaments as well to spotlight the next generation of pro players and grassroots talent in the game.

  • Verizon is the official 5G and wireless services provider of the VCT. As part of the partnership, Verizon has the "Verizon Up rewards program," which gives discounted in-game digital items for the community. Additionally, Verizon has sponsored broadcast segments and top-shelf video content.

  • Aim Lab is the official FPS training partner of VCT Challengers North America. A free-to-download aim trainer used by millions of players, you can practice your VALORANT aim down to the exact settings in the actual game client. They also had the Aim Lab combine in 2021 where VALORANT players saw how they stacked up against the professionals.

  • Secretlab is the official chair partner of VALORANT Esports Global Events. The company will provide VCT pros with gaming chairs as its Riot Games’ chair of choice in both League of Legends and now VALORANT.

  • Prime Gaming provides premium VCT viewing experience on Twitch. Partnership includes exclusive in-game content and Twitch drops.

  • Nerd Street Gamers is the exclusive partner for stage 1 of 2022 VCT and all of VCT Game Changers in North America. Nerd Street will lead operations and broadcast for the premier tournament series kicking off January 27th. Nerd Street has helped grow VALORANT's grassroots talent pipeline through its gaming and esports venues, Localhost, where teams are able to access premium equipment and compete in-person at LAN tournaments.

Overall, these renewed partnerships are all big-name brands that have all been integrated within the esports ecosystem in other esports titles' previously. Riot Games is committed to working with top-level third party products and services that all make sense within the competitive scene such as Aim Lab, Secretlab, and Nerd Street Gamers. Excited to see if any new partnerships emerge this Valorant season.


League of Legends' LCS, LPL, and LEC Sponsors Announced


As League of Legends global competition returned this past week, new and old sponsors are announced in NA, Europe, and China regions. To start, the payments sponsorship category is fulfilled by Mastercard in both NA and Europe (LCS and LEC). Cryptocurrency exchange FTX will now have a full year as an LCS sponsor after they signed a seven-year deal with the NA region mid-season last year. Total, the LCS has 13 sponsors this season.


The LEC has a strong sponsorship portfolio of 8 total partners. 4 sponsors are official suppliers (Logitech, Red Bull, Prime Gaming, Secretlab), Warner Music fulfills the music category, while LG UltraGear, KitKat, and Kia are considered the main partners. More details on some of the sponsors:

  • LG UltraGear is now joining the LEC as the official gaming monitor partner for the 2022 and 2023 seasons. LG UltraGear will be sponsoring important segments such as Replays and Match of the Week. Additionally, the LEC stated they look forward to collaborating through new content and activations.

  • Entering its 4th year as an LEC sponsor, Red Bull is the 'Official Energy Drink Supplier.' Red Bull aims to promote grassroots LoL esports and bring back the Red Bull Solo Q 1v1 tournament in 2022.

  • Warner Music will be LEC's 'Official Music Partner' in its 4th consecutive year

  • Secretlab has a multi-year sponsorship as the 'Official Gaming Chair Partner' for the LEC and EU Masters Tournament.

  • KitKat is in its 2nd season with the LEC

In the China region (LPL), two new sponsors were announced. Smartphone OnePlus and e-commerce platform Jing Dong bring the total LPL's sponsor count to 13 in 2022.


Guild Esports x Bitstamp


British Organization and lifestyle brand Guild Esports signs a 3-year $6.1 million sponsorship deal with crypto exchange Bitstamp. This is the largest deal ever for the organization. Bitstamp labeled it as the "official exclusive partner" and "official cryptocurrency exchange partner."


As part of the agreement, Bitstamp is given marketing rights and prominent exposure across Guild's jerseys and will appear in social and digital content with Guild's pro players and content creators. Bitstamp plans to collaborate on a number of projects and activations to reach the Guild's fanbase and esports community as a whole


Yet another cryptocurrency exchange is partnering with a global esports brand. It's definitely a good fit for both businesses as they work within the digital space and have a digital-savvy audience. Julian Sawyer, CEO of Bitstamp made it clear that that they hope to reach esports and gaming fans while simultaneously showcasing they're a trusted service to a more mainstream audiences. Guild Esports is led by an experienced management team of esports veterans and co-owned by David Beckham.


Esports Engine x Call of Duty League (CDL)


The CDL is partnering with Esports Engine, a turnkey esports solution company that provides production, broadcasting, tournament, and program design for the 2022 season. They will be the 'Official Broadcast Partner' as familiar MLG executives Adam Apicella and Ryan Thompson make a return to the Call of Duty competitive space to help with broadcast and production. In a statement, they said they will bring:

A new and expanded pre-game show kicking off each match day, always-on player POV cams, live feeds of players on the HUD while matches are in progress, and much more.

Esports Engine will also use its studio in Ohio throughout the year to “host on-site desk talent for Major qualifier matches.”


The CDL Kickoff this past weekend was fairly successful in my opinion considering how heavily criticized the game itself plays. The fresh new talent they brought on the analysis desk in Alyssa "Allycxt" Parker and Velly Cardwell were really good. Former CDL Pro turned content creator Josiah "Slacked" Berry was also a guest analyst that brought a lot of valuable insights. In regard to gameplay itself, it was very entertaining. The game is certainly more fun to watch than it is to play. Rookies Sib, Pred, and Capsidal all played really well in their LAN debut. Seattle Surge has quickly turned it around this year by making it all the way to the grand finals before losing to the Toronto Ultra.


Viewership peaked at about 80,000 with an average of roughly 48,000 viewers throughout the tournament, according to Esports Charts. This pails in comparison to the 2021 Kickoff Classic that peaked at 107,000 and averaged about 60,000 viewers. There's no clear cut answer as to why the viewership went down about 22% in average viewership, but I would accredit the scheduling of the tournament for it. I'm not sure how much of an overlap there is in viewer interest with NFL Football and the CDL, but the tournament matches were running at the exact same time. Compared to last years matches usually starting at around 1 PM EST, this past weekend's matches started at 4:30 PM EST. With matches going well into the night, this limits potential EU viewers from watching. I'm sure the CDL has a lot of fan data to optimize match scheduling, but I thought it was a bit odd to push matches all the way to 4:30 PM EST.


Other News


Microsoft Acquires Activision Blizzard


In the biggest deal in video game history, Microsoft buys Activision Blizzard for $68.7 Billion Dollars. The deal is expected to close in fiscal year 2023, but has been approved by the boards of directors of both Microsoft and Activision Blizzard. In Microsoft's statement they said Bobby Kotick:

Will continue to serve as CEO of Activision Blizzard, and he and his team will maintain their focus on driving efforts to further strengthen the company’s culture and accelerate business growth. Once the deal closes, the Activision Blizzard business will report to Phil Spencer, CEO, Microsoft Gaming.

When the transaction officially closes, Microsoft will be the world’s third-largest gaming company by revenue, behind Tencent and Sony. The planned acquisition includes the IP's of iconic franchises from the Activision, Blizzard and King studios such as Warcraft, Diablo, Overwatch, Call of Duty” and Candy Crush, in addition to Major League Gaming.


There's definitely a lot to unpack with this very unexpected deal that occurred last Tuesday. From Microsoft's perspective, they want to expand it’s already deep library of IPs for its Xbox gaming division. From the historic Call of Duty franchise to getting the IP for mobile games (from the King division), the company is slowly owning the gaming space with its XBOX Game Pass library.


Activision Blizzard has been in the news this past year a lot for claims of workplace misconduct. With Bobby Kotick expected to leave after the deal closes, hopefully the workplace culture and awful stories that have been made public are a thing of the past and are handled accordingly. After an investigative article came out from WSJ about Activision’s handling of workplace issues, nearly 1/5th of Activision’s employees signed a petition calling for Kotick to resign. It is unfortunate, however, that Kotick will probably receive a hefty amount of cash from Microsoft once he leaves.


Here's a full list of studios Microsoft will own (SHEESH):

Although some people think Microsoft is turning into a monopoly, I personally don't think Microsoft has a ton of overstaying power over each studio. Of course they own their IP's, but from what I've read they let the companies themselves do their own thing with game development and such. In essence, they would only step in when they need to (like with Activision Blizzard currently). We'll see if the deal comes to fruition officially and where it'll go from there.


"FaZe1" powered by Moonpay Recruitment Challenge


To kick off 2022, FaZe created a MASSIVE recruitment challenge for fans to enter in called "FaZe1." 2020's FaZe5 challenge welcomed 5 new members to FaZe Clan while this challenge will only welcome 1, on top of a huge signing bonus. Rewards for winning include:

  • $1,000,000 in crypto from their sponsor MoonPay

  • $250,000 GFUEL Energy sponsorship

  • A brand new Nissan GTR

Fans from around the world who enter will complete content challenges to try and make the top 20. The top 20 contestants will then be filmed by the FaZe guys 24 hours a day for 15 days at an undisclosed location in Los Angeles. Fans can also watch to see what's happening in this part of the competition on the FaZe Twitch channel.


This is a very exhaustive challenge created by FaZe and a creative way to activate/showcase their organizations sponsors. From the contests description, I feel like they're trying to create a Squid Games-esque competition where they will be playing in a secret location and doing challenges that'll lead to a huge prize for the winner. If that's the case, I could see FaZe getting a LOT of viewers and interest in the form of both YouTube videos and Twitch live viewers.


However, like Esports insider Jake Lucky mentioned in his tweet, that some fans don't really like the direction FaZe has gone in recent years. Obviously from a business perspective, FaZe has made monumental moves never seen before within gaming and esports. Some fans, however, have noted how FaZe has lost their authenticity. One fan on Twitter said that, FaZe "only care about profit instead of their fanbase." Another fan said, "Everything they do now is intertwined with sponsorships (with the latter being crypto)." For me, I think FaZe has just expanded their business model the last couple years and realized their brands reach has a gigantic audience. They're doing what every other popular brand would do in their position. It's clear that FaZe members that once were doing COD sniping montages aren't interested in that any more. Even before FaZe went public, the OG members were really only vlogging on YouTube. It's certainly a tough spot for FaZe in finding that balance between sticking with what got the organization to fame in the first place vs. growing their portfolio and gaining a market share outside of gaming.


Team Liquid signs World of Warcraft's (WoW) Limit Guild


Team Liquid takes leap into MMO Esports with signing of Limit Guild, the world’s #1 raiding WoW guild. The acquisition rebrands Limit Guild to Liquid Guild as Team Liquid has cultivated a new vertical in their expansive esports rosters - Liquid MMO. As part of the announcement, guild leader Max ‘Maximum’ Smith has received an equity position in Team Liquid and will become a co-owner.


Moving forward, Team Liquid plans to make the MMO ecosystem "a place infused with diversity, equity, belonging and inclusion." Liquid's MMO General Manager Azorea will create an advisory council of women in the MMO space. Liquid aims to develop resources and strategies that enable more women to grow as expert players. They also plan to create Final Fantasy XIV content and are "planning competitive dominion over Riot MMO worlds that have yet to be born."


NA organization Complexity has also dabbled into the MMO Space back in 2019 as the former Limit Guild joined competing as Complexity Limit. In December 2021, Limit and Complexity parted ways. As someone who isn't at all familiar with MMORPG genre, I don't have much of an opinion. However, with Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard and WoW specifically, this move could've been done as a potential domino effect.


Team Liquid signed All-Female Brazilian VALORANT Team


Just over 2 weeks ago, Team Liquid announced that their signing an all-female Brazilian VALORANT team. The lineup of of Ana Beatriz “naxy” Gomes, Paola “drn” Caroline, Paula “bstrdd” Nagiul, Natália “daiki” Vilela, and Natália “nat1” Meneses will compete at VCT Game Changers for the upcoming 2022 season and will be known as Team Liquid Brazil. Previously known as Gamelanders Purple, they’ve competed in many local tournaments and earned their place as a top team in the Brazilian VALORANT scene.


This is obviously a fantastic signing by Liquid as they get the best VALORANT team in the LATAM region and will have a strong contender in the international Game Changers LAN event that's coming in 2022. It's also a great benchmark for such a prominent organization such as Team Liquid to enter the women esports space. Considering Liquid also want to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion through their surge into MMO esports, they should be modeled after among other professional gaming organizations. VALORANT is probably the best esport title so far in creating opportunities for women to compete via the VCT Game Changers and I'm excited to watch it again this year.



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