EWD: News for Week of 2/28/22-3/6/22
Updated: Apr 25, 2022
Topics: Partnerships, Russo-Ukrainian War, OpTic, Fnatic, Razer
Envy Gaming, OpTic X Razer
Razer signed a multiyear deal with Envy Gaming, making it the official peripherals partner of the esports organization. This partnership extends to include OpTic Gaming and their corresponding teams as well. Thus, Razer will provide its products and be a partner for the following teams: OpTic Texas in the Call of Duty League, OpTic Halo, OpTic Valorant, Envy Rocket League, the Dallas Fuel in the Overwatch League, and the content creators involved with both organizations.
According to award-winning SBJ journalist Kevin Hitt, these types of sponsorship deals are typically signed annually, not on a multiyear basis. So although these peripheral sponsorship categories are fullfilled amongst organizations all the time, this one is unique in terms of contract length. In terms of contract details itself, Razer will supply headsets, keyboards, mice, mouse mats and gaming chairs to its teams and creators. Razer will also have its brand placed on team jerseys. In regard to activations, Razer will be promoted at numerous events including the OpTic Major I tournament that took place at Esports Stadium Arlington last weekend.
OpTic Owner Hector "H3CZ" Rodriguez also stated in his YouTube video that he always thought that Razer is a brand "that is not afraid to innovate." He also said that he will finally have the opportunity to design his own mousepad as part of the partnership. He hinted at this collaboration via Twitter as well. This is something Hector has wanted to do for a while and he said he'd like to collaborate with other artists on the design. Hector has always had passion for art and graffiti since his youth and he shows this passion in some of his vlogs on his YouTube channel. This is a great way to provide an authentic partnership with OpTic as Hector lives and breathes his brand and so does the fans. I can already see these newly-designed mousepads selling out within an hour once it drops.
ReKTGlobal x Shikenso Analytics
Esports infrastructure company ReKTGlobal announced a partnership with data analytics company Shikenso Analytics. Shikenso analytics company will measure the performance of ReKTGlobal’s existing activations and partnerships. ReKTGlobal is a cutting-edge digital entertainment organization that helps connect brands with meaningful advertisements at the forefront of what matters most to Gen Z audiences.
According to their press release, the US-based esports conglomerate and parent company of esports teams Rogue Esports and the London Royal Ravens have ambitions to give "endemic and non-endemic brands a gateway to gamers around the world through authentic activations." With Shikenso Analytics being a new partner, these activations will be thoroughly audited, monitored, and verified through AI-powered sponsorship measurement solutions. Brad Sive, Chief Revenue Officer at ReKT Global, added:
Shikenso will allow ReKTGlobal to optimize sponsorship placements for our partners, and to provide 3rd party, attributable data to show the efficiency and efficacy of our brand partnerships. Shikenso provides an additional layer of accountability for our partners, ensuring that our partnership dollars are working as hard as possible for our sponsors.”
I expect to see more partnerships such as this amongst parent companies of esports teams and/or esports organizations themselves. Creating meaningful digital experiences that'll catch the attention of young audience demographics is tough. It's especially tough when a respective brand that is a sponsor of a property is non-endemic. Using Data analytics and AI to understand, monitor, and measure possible solutions/outcomes to these sponsorships is becoming more and more relevant and important nowadays.
BLAST Premier x Fortress
BLAST Premier and Australian video games venue Fortress are partnering to host Oceania’s first-ever regional BLAST Premier qualifier this year. BLAST Premier, a CS:GO esports tournament organizer and series, will hold the Fortress OCE Masters LAN finals at the Alienware Arena in Melbourne. The region’s top four teams from the event will compete for a spot in the 2022 BLAST Premier Fall Showdown.
Fortress, shortly after launching in March 2020, had to close its operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Following this setback, Fortress started to build its community through weekly events, as well as online and in-venue tournaments. Additionally, Fortress announced a new venue located in Sydney earlier this year. The venue will be 3000 square meters and is expected to be the biggest gaming venue in the southern hemisphere. It's set to open to the public next summer.
BLAST Premier has recently been renewing a lot of deals, according to Esports Insider. They've signed new deals with Betway, Shikenso Analytics, GRID Esports, Coinbase and CS.MONEY. Overall, BLAST adds to their expansive portfolio of events by extending into the OCE region. This region has a lot of potential as it tries to become a landmark destination for future events and upcoming talent. Hopefully the COVID-19 pandemic subsides soon so this event can thrive once announced.
LDN United x HyperX
LDN UTD announced a partnership with gaming peripherals brand HyperX in a multi-faceted package deal. HyperX is named LDN UTD’s official peripherals partner for 2022. Additionally, both entities will collaborate on a variety of activations including grassroots tournament initiatives and community-focused events. HyperX's logo will be placed on all LDN UTD's 2022 jerseys and digital assets as well.
LDN UTD recently announced an education initiative called UTD EDN in partnership with The Strive Group, an education consulting company too. This program plans to offer an inclusive platform for young talent to enter and succeed in the esports and gaming space. HyperX peripherals will be provided at LDN UTD’s Centre of Excellence in Camden, England where this eight-week program will take place.
Oliver Weingarten, CEO of LDN UTD, said:
Ever since establishing LDN UTD, HyperX has provided unrivaled support to ensure we could support our events by providing our community with the best in class products, whether at GrimeAgainstKnives or most recently with All Access Gaming. We look forward to continuing our long term partnership to ensure the community can continue to experience HyperX’s peripherals in our Camden Centre of Excellence.
LDN UTD appears to be doing great in 2022 both locally in their community and as a company itself. On top of their new UTD EDN initiative, the organization announced that they've brought in celebrity guitarist for The Vamps, Connor Ball as a new Co-owner. They've also secured partnerships with noblechairs and Recast. Excited to see what else is in store for them this year.
Russsia-Ukraine Conflict: Esports Sanctions Placed on Russia
Since Russia's military invasion of Ukraine that's still ongoing, many sanctions, cancellations, and such has impacted the esports ecosystem. SBJ Esports has a great ongoing thread of the sanctions that are being placed on events, organizations, and players. Check that out for updated details. Here's some of what's happened so far as of 3/7/22:
BLAST removes Russian team invites for its top CS:GO tournament
Esports tournament organizer BLAST will not invite any Russian-based teams to their BLAST Premier event in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). This means 2 prominent teams, Virtus.pro and Gambit, will not be able to compete at BLAST organized tournaments. Per BLAST Premier's tweet announcement, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) qualifier is now cancelled as well.
EA, ESL removing Russian teams from competitions, products
Electronic Arts and tournament organizer ESL has new policies in place that removes all organizations that have affiliations with Russian entities for the foreseeable future. For EA, this mainly includes removing all Russian leagues and the Russian national team as playable entities from FIFA 22. For ESL and their CS:GO Pro League, Virtus.pro and Gambit have been excluded from competition. However, ESL has given players from these Russian teams an opportunity to still compete, similar to how the IOC gave out sanctions to Russia for the Olympics. This comes after BLAST's announcement to not invite Russia-based teams to play in the BLAST Premier event.
Virtus.pro Accused ESL of participating in "cancel culture"
After ESforce Holding-owned Russian esports organization Virtus.pro was sanctioned from competing in ESL's CS:GO Pro League, Virtus.pro released 2 statements in frustration. In their 2nd statement, they accused ESL of participating in “cancel culture” for their connection to the Russian government and companies subject to sanctions. In the statement, Virtus.pro said they provided paperwork per ESL's request to see the organizations country of registration, ownership, partner details, and affiliation to entities subject to sanctions. It turns out that Virtus.pro’s parent company ESforce Holding has changed ownership several times recently, but its former and current owners are categorized as Vladimir Putin supporters.
Fnatic Enters Japanese Esports
Fnatic enters Japan’s esports market through acquisition of 4 Rainbow Six Siege players from the GUTS Gaming team. This will allow Fnatic to have a team compete in the Rainbow Six Japan League that is organized by Ubisoft in partnership with Japanese telephone company NTT DoCoMo. According to Trent Murray at SBJ, Fnatic's re-entrance into Rainbow Six Siege is part of a broader plan to expand into Japan’s esports market. He also noted that Fnatic raised $17 million in a funding round led by Japanese corporation Marubeni last year to invest into the Rainbow Six Japan League.
This is a smart move by Fnatic to continue in their expansion efforts globally. According to Sports Pro Media and gaming information firm Famitsu, The Japanese esports market grew by 9% in 2020 and is set to continue its upward momentum in the coming years. A study from them showed that the number of fans attending esports events jumped by 42% to nearly 6.9 million people last year. Lastly, Famitsu is projecting a steep growth curve into the middle of the decade, with esports revenues increasing by nearly 30% year-to-year.
OpTic Texas CDL Major 1 highlights
OpTic Texas/Envy Gaming hosted the 1st major event of the Call of Duty League's (CDL) 2022 season at Esports Stadium Arlington, Texas. OpTic Texas came out strong and won the event at home in front a loud crowd. They faced off against Atlanta FaZe, the reigning 2021 CDL Champions and won the match 5-2 in a best of 9 series. Fan favorite Scump, tournament MVP Dashy, and the former Dallas Empire star pairing of Shotzzy and iLLeY led the way in winning OpTic's first championship in 1,183 days. I'll touch on some highlights that I thought were noteworthy from this event:
The crowd was LOUD.
Some commentators and fans said this was the loudest crowd ever in the 12+ years and long-rooted history of Call of Duty. Take a look at this clip for yourself to see the energy from OpTic and the crowd that represents the #Greenwall (term for diehard OpTic fans) in the Winners Semifinals match vs. Atlanta FaZe.
CDL Major 1 2022 Viewership
According to Esports Charts, peak viewership was 157,421 viewers during the Grand Final between OpTic Texas and Atlanta FaZe. The 2nd highest viewership by match was the Winners Final between London Royal Ravens and OpTic Texas. Average viewership was 69,925. Comparatively, last season's Major 1 peaked at 118,078 on day 3 (then OpTic Chicago vs. Dallas Empire) The tournament was broadcasted solely on YouTube live on the Call of Duty League channel. There was also viewership rewards at this event if you link your YouTube and Activision accounts. Overall, these viewership numbers exceeded my expectations considering all the issues the game had at its launch on the competitive side.
OpTic Success in this Esport
OpTic has had the strongest fanbase throughout Call of Duty's history due to the organizations priorities to produce content. Whether it be posting on Twitter, streaming on Twitch, or producing vlogs, podcasts, documentaries, and gaming commentaries on YouTube, OpTic is one of the best organizations in giving fans an opportunity to get an inside-look of the team and its players. That's what draws gaming fans into esports and streaming services such as Twitch: a chance to interact with, and learn from the best gaming talent in a respective esport.
Epic Games Acquires Bandcamp
Epic Games has acquired online music store Bandcamp. Bandcamp is a platform that gives fans a way to support independent musicians directly, giving artists an average of 82% of every sale. Both parties have a shared vision to continue building artist-friendly platforms for its creators. Ethan Diamond, Bandcamp co-founder and CEO said in his statement that "Bandcamp will keep operating as a standalone marketplace and music community, and I will continue to lead our team."
According to Diamond, not only does Epic provide the necessary resources to bring more benefits to artists, labels, and fans, but they also strongly align with Bandcamp's mission and values. He said that behind the scenes they'll be working with Epic to expand internationally and push development forward across Bandcamp. This includes developing things like album pages, mobile apps, merchandise tools, payment system, and search and discovery features. He also plans to develop newer initiatives like their vinyl pressing and live streaming services with this new partnership.
Although I don't know much about Bandcamp, they certainly got a solid partner to invest in what they're doing. Epic Games has a ton of resources through their extremely successful games. Additionally, the companies connections through all of their partnerships and collaborations in pop culture via Fortnite skins should be noteworthy as well.