EWD: News for Week of 12/27/21 - 1/2/22
Updated: Apr 25, 2022
Key Topics: Halo, Call of Duty, TSM FTX, Women in Esports
AMD x OpTic Karma and MaNiaC (Halo Infinite)
AMD, the exclusive PC partner of Halo Infinite, is partnering with two OpTic members, MaNiaC and Karma in creating the AMD Advanced Combat Exercise (ACE) contest. AMD stated that this contest is "designed to demonstrate how expert players can immerse themselves into a deeper, more engaging Halo Infinite Multiplayer experience using an AMD Radeon™ RX 6900 XT Halo Infinite Limited Edition graphics card."
Halo Infinite players could earn their spot into the ACE competition by video capturing themselves completing one or more of a list of 5 specific challenges in-game. They then had to follow and reply with their gameplay to one of AMDGaming, OpTicMaNiac, or DKarma's twitter posts. The player who gets selected through this process would receive an AMD Radeon™ Halo Infinite Limited Edition graphics card. You could also enter the sweepstakes without posting a twitter clip by sharing your name and email on the AMD website.
This activation is quite detailed and very well-thought out. They were able to partner with an FPS console legend in Damon "Karma" Barlow as well as a fairly popular content creator and former Halo player in Nick "MaNiaC" Kershner. Nick and Damon have a very large social media audience as they roughly have 250,000 and 665,000 twitter followers respectively. By leveraging their exclusive PC partnership with Halo Infinite, they were able to incentivize fans to enter this contest by giving away a limited edition Halo Infinite designed graphics card. This activation campaign should certainly generate some awareness and recall for Halo fans. For more information on the AMD partnership and building an optimized Halo on PC experience, click this link HERE. The contest will be broadcasted on January 5th.
Bauer Hockey x Halo Infinite
Another Halo Infinite partnership that, to be honest, I would never expect recently was with Bauer Hockey. Microsoft Canada and 343 Industries teamed up with the top ice hockey apparel brand to produce Halo Infinite-themed sports gear for the launch of Halo Infinite in Canada. This included olive green Master-Chief inspired goalie gear, including pads, gloves, and a mask. Bauer did a giveaway for this gear along with an XBOX Series X via promotion on social media platforms.
From my understanding, Bauer Hockey has never partnered with a video game title before. Bauer Hockey has, however, signed hockey content creator Nasher via an exclusive digital partnership in 2019. Although I didn't initially see the fit between a hockey apparel brand and an FPS shooter, the Master-Chief themed goalie gear truly blew me away. There was a lot of engagements (likes and comments) on both their Instagram and Twitter posts compared to what they usually get per post. It was overall very well designed and I hope more creative activations come out of this in the future.
Zenni x Call of Duty League
Zenni, an online eyewear retailer, is continuing its partnership with the Call of Duty League as the presenting sponsor of the Kickoff Classic. The Kickoff Classic preseason event will take place on Jan 21-23 in a single elimination tournament format at Esports Stadium, Arlington Texas. It will be the CDL's 1st official tournament of the new Vanguard title since the game's release on November 5th.
Last year, the partnership was activated via broadcast commercial breaks and was also the presenting partner for two major tournaments. Along with this, CDL casters wore Zenni eyewear during broadcast. Zenni even used their IP rights to CDL's marks and logos to sell team-designed glasses on their website. The official designation of this partnership in 2021 was the "official eyewear partner" and I'm assuming this will continue to be it in 2022. It remains to be seen if partners are willing to work with the CDL this year as Activision Blizzard's sexual harassment lawsuit and toxic workplace stories are still ongoing.
SPORTFIVE x Immortals
NA Gaming and esports organization Immortals has partnered with SPORTFIVE, a sports marketing agency. SPORTFIVE will be the organizations exclusive global commercial sales agency. Jordan Sherman, CEO of Immortals, stated this in regard to this new partnership:
“SPORTFIVE has been a great partner in seeing the differentiated value proposition that we can bring to brand partners. We’re excited to continue to tap into their unique network to help drive our business forward during this growth period.”
This news comes after the organizations recent announcement of relocating their business operations from Los Angeles to the Great Lakes region (GLR). They believed that there is value for moving their operations to the mid-west and reaching gamers in these communities. Jordan Sherman, CEO of Immortals, also recognized that the GLR has made itself a good market for competitive gaming as it's a destination of choice for "growing companies, technological innovation, entrepreneurs, and emerging industries." Overall, it appears that Immortals is making educated business decisions in optimizing their operations for future success. SPORTFIVE has had a lot of success in securing big-name brands deals for other organizations, so it should be a seamless fit for both parties.
Women in Esports
After ESL's announcement of creating a $500,000 women’s only CS:GO circuit, participation of women in esports had become a talking point this past week. For whatever reason, the gaming community is somewhat split on whether a women’s only league should exist. Before I go on a full rant, I would like to acknowledge Devin Nash’s YouTube video on this subject matter because he motivated me to type out my thoughts. He has an extreme wealth of knowledge on this topic and the entire esports industry from all his experiences. Watch his video HERE before continuing on with reading my whole rant below.
First things first, Excluding factors such as playing time, women perform just as well as men at video games. As Devin mentioned, no studies have shown women to be inferior to men at video games. This false notion that since there’s a lack of participation in women competing at the top-level, it must mean there just not as good as men is ludicrous. The public needs to move past these traditional stereotypes. Female representation and overall gender equality is a must for the gaming and esports industry to grow to newfound heights.
Second, the toxic environment that has historically existed in esports doesn’t help or encourage women to participate either. As Devin Nash, myself, and many other have witnessed, sexism and harassment towards women is almost commonplace in the industry. There’s always been this implicit cultural bias in place where men just can’t fathom seeing women flourish in the gaming and entertainment scene too. For example, when women streamers prove their value/ worth in this industry (e.g. Pokimane, Amouranth, and Valkyrae to name a few), men always have an excuse as to why they got to that level of success. I won’t type out any of the misogynistic stuff men say on the internet or in video game chat lobbies, but I’m sure you’ve seen or have an idea of it. Put simply, women content creators are constantly getting objectified and never acknowledged for how truly talented they are in their craft. If anything, successful female streamers should be commended for their success considering that their male counterparts don’t have to deal with any of these awful things.
Third, organizations and leagues have also put little to no effort in supporting women in this field. Women have not been able to break that glass ceiling into competing at the highest-level besides a few extremely rare cases. Outside of all the successful women streamers and creators, there’s not many role models for women who strive to reach that .01% of top players in any given esports title. Once that glass ceiling is broken, I think the sky’s the limit.
And just like Devin noted, the fact that I’m stating these issues as a privileged white male rather than a women should tell you exactly what’s wrong with this field currently. Hopefully this new circuit created by ESL can help support change in this industry going forward. Lastly, this lack of gender equality, misogyny, and overall harassment towards women continues to exist in traditional sports as well.
CDL Players and Select Owners Growing Frustration with Cod Development
The lack of development support for esports in Call of Duty, along with the Call of Duty League's (CDL) failure to generate viewership at the launch of the new Vanguard title, among other things has led to lots of public frustration from some owners and players. The frustrations kicked off when Halo Infinite had an extremely successful launch for their HCS online tournament within the 1st week of the game coming out. The game also had team skins for purchase via microtransactions (MTX) and a competitive ranked play system right out the box.
Meanwhile, Call of Duty Vanguard once again failed to implement competitive ranked play at its launch. This is something that the COD Esports community has consistently wanted, but have either gotten it halfway through its yearly game cycle when the game loses most of its player base or a poorly made elo-based ranked system in its entirety. There is also no team or weapon skins for the CDL franchises via MTX.
Matthew "Nadeshot" Haag, co-owner of 100 Thieves and the LA Thieves CDL franchise, mentioned this week as well on Twitter that the league didn't allow teams to compete with their full rosters in a competitive fashion at game launch. Call of Duty multiplayer obviously has peak attention and game particpation in the 1st few week of the game coming out. Not having any sort of show matches or kickoff tournaments in the first 2+ month of launch is a complete failure period.
Lastly, the 3rd competitive game mode for the 2022 CDL season wasn't even announced until the early December (a month after release). One would think that the Call of duty development team would work closely with a heavily invested CDL franchised league, but it hasn't happened since its inception.
I don't want to go too in-the-weeds about solutions to these many problems. I will note however that Optic Texas President Hector "H3CZ" Rodriguez has voiced his opinion many times recently on his Twitter and the OpTic Podcast. He also made an appearance on Matthew's Twitch stream (rebroadcast here) where they discussed these many problems with COD and the league's structural problems. Former player and current content creator for FaZe, Thomas "ZooMaa" Paparatto, also did an episode discussing COD's problems with current pro players and coaches on his Esports Insider show called The Flank.
Myth Leaves TSM FTX
Twitch streamer and content creator Ali “Myth” Kabbani is officially parting ways with gaming and esports organization TSM FTX after three years. Myth put out a YouTube video and went into extensive detail as to why he declined to extend his contract with the organization.
In the video, Myth said the “family feel” and friends that he cultivated during his tenure on TSM has been missing. He mentioned the departures of both former TSM president Leena Xu and former League of Legends mid laner Bjergsen. Additionally, Myth felt that he wasn’t really involved in TSM content recently and wasn't being "utilized in an efficient manner."
During his time with TSM, he grew into one of the biggest names during competitive Fortnite's peak viewership, transitioned into a content creator, and culminated millions of followers/subscriber across Twitch, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram. According to TwitchTracker, Myth is the 10th most followed Twitch channel with 7.41 million followers.
For TSM FTX, this is yet another popular member of the organization that has left recently. Former League of Legends superstar Yilang "Doublelift" Peng and current owner Andy ‘Reginald’ Dinh have had a feud recently as well. Although many fans are confused and frustrated with the organizations' direction, TSM FTX is still an extremely successful and valuable. They were named the most valuable esports company by Forbes in 2020 with a total valuation of $410 million. 50% of their revenue comes from esports and the other 50% comes from a culmination of other revenue streams.
NZXT Raises $100 Million in Strategic Investments
NZXT has raised funding of approximately $100 million dollars led by Francisco Partners. NZXT, a computer manufacturing company founded in 2004, hasn't received an investment of this magnitude ever in its existence. Francisco Partners is a leading global tech investment firm that specializes in partnering with technology-enabled businesses. NZXT also has additional top entrepreneurs from multiple industries investing in their product. NZXT states that this investment will allow them to bring more senior talent on-board, invest more in the community, and expand their product as well as consumer reach.
Johnny Hou, CEO of NZXT, will remain the majority shareholder and maintain control of the company. Johnny noted that the pandemic has resulted to an increase in sales of PC gaming rigs and other associated equipment. At the same time however, it’s extremely hard to get a hold of PC components because of the pandemic-induced shortage. NZXT has certainly cemented themselves as one of the top PC manufacturers in the world. In fact, Newegg put NZXT in their top-10 prebuilt gaming PC brands this past year. They have partnered with top-level gaming orgs and content creators such as 100 Thieves, Ninja, and many others. I'm excited to see what comes out of this large investment going forward.