EWD: News for Week of 3/28/22-4/3/22
Updated: Apr 25
Topics: Partnerships, NFTs, Riot Games, Karl Jacobs, VALORANT Champions Tour (VCT)
Riot Games x Wisdom Gaming
Minnesota-based company Wisdom Gaming has partnered with Riot Games to produce an in-person event for the Wild Rift North American Series (WNS). It was announced back in late January that Wisdom Gaming was an exclusive partner for season 1. Now, more details have been revealed.
The North American Regional Championship (NARC) will take place at Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota from April 29 to May 1. The top 8 WNS teams will participate in the season finals. Wisdom Gaming is named the exclusive broadcast and operations partner for the regional finals. According to the Wisdom Gaming and Riot Games partnership, this will be the last event they'll be working together in their existing agreement.
This finals at the end of April will mark the end of the first edition of the WNS, an $80,000 (~£61,000) League of Legends: Wild Rift league in North America. The winner of this event advance to the Wild Rift Icons Global Championships where the event will be played in front of a live audience.
Jaycie Gluck, SVP of Wisdom Gaming, said:
It’s been incredible to watch the positive response from the NA Wild Rift community this season. Having the Regional Championships take place in person marks a first for the community and the esports community within the Twin Cities who will benefit greatly from this event and future events we plan to bring through our space within Mall of America.
Wisdom Gaming has been doing some great stuff in terms of building positive esports rapport in the Minnesota/ Upper Midwest region of the United States. I've covered them starting a high school esports league called "Wisdom Gaming's Minnesota Varsity League" and they've partnered with the Mall of America to create an 18,000 square foot esports broadcast studio. On top of the recent Call of Duty League Minnesota RØKKR Major II event this past weekend at Mystic Lake Casino in Minnesota, esports is certainly developing and getting noticed in this region.
Complexity x Lenovo
Complexity Gaming, one of North America’s longest-standing esports organizations, has partnered with Lenovo. In a multi-year sponsorship agreement, Lenovo is now the exclusive desktop and laptop PC provider for Complexity. Additionally, Complexity’s headquarters located at The Star in Frisco, Texas will now be named the Lenovo Legion Esports Center. The Lenovo logo will also be featured on Complexity’s official jerseys.
According to the Lenovo press release, Lenovo will support Complexity’s pursuit to enhance player performance and improve the industry standard for player care. Lenovo’s innovative technology will allow Complexity content creators and production to produce a variety of new videos, including animation and 3D content.
Last, but certainly not least, Complexity and Lenovo will look to foster a more accepting and supportive gaming community. This will be done through education-centered events that focuses on encouraging diversity, inclusivity, internet safety, and more.
Gerald Youngblood, Chief Marketing Officer of Lenovo North America, said:
Gaming is a hundred-billion-dollar industry and a key focus for our business. Lenovo’s collaboration with Complexity was a natural decision as we seek to deepen our commitment to, and investment in, the esports and gaming communities.
This was a no-brainer move for both parties. Complexity didn't already have an existing PC partnership fulfilled in that category, and Lenovo is a very credible and valuable company that wants to be engrained in the esports and gaming communities. They both have a clear vision in-mind at the signing of this sponsorship agreement. Lenovo wants to help support Complexity's drive for optimal player performance and support a more inclusive gaming community. This partnership was more than just a standard logo placement on player jersey's.
Astralis x DI
The Confederation of Danish Industry (DI), Denmark's largest business organization (chambers of commerce), partners with Danish-based esports organization Astralis. They're teaming up to analyze the potential of 'digital competition entertainment' and support esports development in Denmark.
According to the press release, the purpose of the collaboration is to anchor esports in DI and shape a visionary framework in the rapidly growing billion-dollar industry. Maria Krüger Torp, Head of DI Tourism and Experience Economics explained that Danish esports has made its mark on tourism and creating experiences for their citizens. However, she believes that with some refinements and expansion, this collaboration will bring esports in the entertainment industry much further in this area.
Anders Hørsholt, CEO of Astralis, said:
At Astralis, we see enormous potential in expanding the business. We like to join forces with other strong actors in developing the industry and the way we create business. DI is a great in this regard.
This is a unique collaboration that could help boster even more growth for esports in Denmark. The 2 have close ties as of recently with Astralis's new flagship 1200 sqm gaming center (called Astralis Nexus) is in close proximity to DI. They both believe Denmark are among the pioneering countries in this esports ecosystem. I think it's clear what they want: become an esports hub and marquee destination in Europe locally, nationally, and eventually globally.
Journeys Shoes x Karl Jacobs
Journeys, a North North American footwear retailer, has brought on content creator Karl Jacobs as its new creative ambassador. Jacobs will work with Journeys to create content strategies focusing on gaming. According to SBJ's Kevin Hitt, Jacobs is represented by Night, and the deal had assistance from Loaded, a gaming management and advisory firm.
In regard to his role as creative ambassador, Jacobs will help create content surrounding seasonal sales, back-to-school sales, holiday campaigns and more. He will act as the catalyst that introduces the apparel brand to the esports and gaming community.
Karl Jacobs has rose onto the gaming scene as of recently. He rose to prominence when he was featured in videos with YouTube content king Jimmy “MrBeast” Donaldson. He has a very passionate community around him that was built on his Minecraft content. He hasn't posted any new YouTube videos since the new calendar year, but he has amassed 28 million followers across all of his social media channels.
Looking at his videos and pictures on social media from afar, he has a trendy aesthetic with his outfits that very much encapsulates what Journey's is trying to target in my opinion. I think this is the perfect person for Journeys Shoes to bring on as a content ambassador to help gain some interest in the gaming/esports community.
Fnatic Creates New NFT-Driven membership program
London-based esports organization Fnatic announces a new exclusive fan membership program created in partnership with Crypto.com. This new membership program will provide fans with exclusive events, content and merchandise in the 2nd NFT-driven program from a prominent esports organization. G2 Esports launched the 1st NFT membership program called Samurai Army in mid-January.
The program will be offered in 3-tiers: free, $250 and $600. Fnatic is limiting membership in its paid tiers to 2,500 each, while the free program will accept registrations until April 7. This is how it works: Members make a one-time payment to receive an NFT key representing their membership, the key will be transferrable and could in theory be re-sold.
This membership program is relatively risky for Fnatic. The majority of NFT projects announced by gaming and esports entities in recent months have received a lot of backlash.
The only noteworthy esports NFT venture that didn’t receive negative attention is the 100 Thieves digital chain given to 100 Thieves players following its 2021 LCS championship win. The NFT was offered for free and they partnered with Polygon Technology, a decentralized Ethereum scaling platform that didn't provide a huge carbon footprint impact; each NFT download was equivalent to sending ~2.5 emails.
Fnatic has taken a similar approach to 100 Thieves: offering the digital collectible for free and covering all transaction fees. Fnatic has specified it’s using a lower energy-demand blockchain known as “proof-of-stake,” though the environmental impact is not always the most significant critique leveled against NFT projects. Regardless, the organization is treading deep waters with offering a fee to this program considering all of the backlash blockchain technology has had in this space. For example, take a look at G2 Esports' Samurai Army NFT announcement tweets' replies. Curious to see if there will be some-what positive public opinion on this recent news.
ESL Gaming announces Mobile esports titles
Tournament organizer ESL Gaming and Qualcomm Technologies announces the mobile esports titles included in the Snapdragon Pro Series, a global mobile esports ecosystem. Within the new series, the titles are separated by 3 competitive tiers:
Snapdragon Mobile Open: PUBG Mobile, Asphalt 9: Legends and Legends of Runeterra
Snapdragon Mobile Challenge: Clash of Clans, Free Fire and League of Legends: Wild Rift. Snapdragon Mobile Masters: will feature Brawl Stars (highest tier)
The six regions included in the ecosystem (North America, Europe, the Middle East, China, North Africa, and Asia-Pacific) will feature its own game titles based on the relevance of the games in the respective regions.
There's no details as of yet if titles in the Challengers or Masters tier will also be available in lower levels of the series. However, ESL’s Brawl Stars twitter account does appear to show 3 competition levels across 3 regions: North America, Europe & MENA, and Asia-Pacific. Brawl Stars, Clash of Clans, Clash Royale and Asphalt 9: Legends will be played in these 3 regions as well. In regard to PUBG Mobile, ESL Gaming has partnered with them to integrate the PUBG Mobile Club Open into the Snapdragon Mobile Open in these regions too. The Asia-Pacific region will feature Brawl Stars, Free Fire, League of Legends: Wild Rift and Legends of Runeterra.
Further details about the Snapdragon Pro Series in India and China are yet to be announced. The series is set to commence on April 12th with a total prize pool that amounts to $2m (£1.52m). The final events of the Snapdragon Mobile Challenge in the NA, EU/MENA, and Asia-pacific regions, as well as the Snapdragon Mobile Masters event, are expected to be live on LAN for both fans and competitors.
My only question with this news is how ESL is going to decide which games are played in each region. They say it's according to "relevance," but that's a vague term that could be quantified in many ways. Besides this, it appears that ESL, Qualcomm Technologies, and their Snapdragon Pro Series is going to be very successful in producing a majority of mobile esports events and tournament opportunities for the time being.
Minnesota RØKKR Call of Duty League 2022 Stage II Major Highlights
The CDL returns to Minnesota for its 2nd LAN event since the league's inaugural season kickoff event in 2020. The company behind the RØKKR has changed significantly since that inaugural 2020 season. Originally operating as Wise Esports Ventures, the company rebranded in 2021 as Version1 and expanded into games such as Rocket League and Valorant.
The Minnesota RØKKR in this past weekends event started in the losers bracket based on their win-loss record in online stage II Major qualifiers. Minnesota bounced out of the tournament in their 1st match against OpTic Texas, who won the Major I event in their home arena. It was an unfortunate draw for Minnesota as OpTic was the #1 seed and were upset by the #8 seeded Seattle Surge in the 1st round Winners bracket game.
In a true cinderella story run, Los Angeles Guerrillas won the event with a substitute player playing with in the entire tournament. Kris 'Spart' Cervantez filled in for the sick Peirce 'Gunless' Hillman roughly a week prior to the LAN event happening. This led to them barely even practicing with a fill-in player. Starting in winners round 1, they lost to the Boston Breach in a 3-0 fashion. At this point, everyone was expecting them to bow out of the tournament with a T12 placing. Instead, they defied all odds and clutched up and won 3 game 5's out of their 6 straight best-of-5 losers bracket match victories. Their unexpected success wouldn't have happened if they didn't win a league record 10 Search & Destroy games in a row. They beat the dynasty team Atlanta FaZe in the Grand Final 5-2 and took home $200,000.
In regard to viewership, it peaked at 98,713 in the losers round 2 matchup between OpTic and LA Thieves (Esports Charts). The grand final peaked at 82,555 viewers. It was broadcasted on the Call of Duty League YouTube channel all last weekend. The broadcast averaged 55,901 viewers. It's fairly disappointing for the league to not even hit 100,000 viewers. Compared to the Call of Duty League 2022 Stage 1 Major hosted by OpTic Texas, it peaked at 157,421 and averaged 69,925 viewers. Although the fan favorite team OpTic Texas didn't make it to the Grand Finals or even championship Sunday for that matter, the grand finals shouldn't be peaking at 82,555 viewers. Not too sure what the fix could be from the leagues side besides starting the games earlier so European viewers can watch the games at a more reasonable local time.
VALORANT Champions Tour 2022 Stage 1 News
Riot Games' VALORANT announced the groups and group stage brackets for VCT Masters Reykjavík, Iceland. The tournament is played out with 2 groups in the group stage: A and B. 2 teams make out of each group to match up against the top seeds from the major regions: The Guard (NA), G2 Esports (EMEA), Paper Rex (APAC), and LOUD (BR). For those who make it out of the group stage, the most simplified way to explain it is you win 2 to advance, lose 2 and you're out of the tournament. However, if you lose 1 game and win 2 you'll come out of the group as a 2 seed rather than a 1 seed. Here's the breakdown of the groups:
Fnatic vs Ninjas in Pyjamas - EMEA’s third seed in Fnatic will take on a former European foe in NiP, whose Brazilian roster secured the final spot at the tournament via the Brazil vs. LATAM Playoff.
DRX VS vs ZETA DIVISION - DRX and ZETA will meet for the first time in the battle of Asian super-teams.
Liquid vs. KRÜ Esports - Liquid have a lot to prove after receiving an invite to an event in the wake of FPX being unable to attend. They will start their run with a rematch from Champions against LATAM’s KRÜ Esports.
OpTic vs. XERXIA - Another Champions 2021 group stage rematch will pit OpTic against XERXIA (formerly known as X10) in the first round of groups.
The group stage begins on Sunday April 10th, and will conclude on Wednesday April 13th, with playoffs starting on Thursday April 14th. Playoffs are a double-elimination bracket that will conclude with a five-map grand finals on Sunday, April 24.
In news unrelated to VCT Stage 1, 100 Thieves has made a roster shuffle, according to sources to Dot Esports. The two players that remain on roster are Peter “Asuna” Mazuryk and Sean “bang” Bezerra, while Ethan Arnold’s future remains unknown. Team captain Spencer “Hiko” Martin will likely depart from 100 Thieves’ starting roster. 100 Thieves has made contact with at least two players. One of these players is Rise player Derrek Ha. Once negotiations have concluded, the Sova player will likely slot into 100 Thieves’ roster alongside Bang and Asuna.
There's also rumors that former long-time member of TSM Valorant Matthew “WARDELL” Yu is a potential transfer target for 100 Thieves. Apparently, however, conversations of that have subsided. If WARDELL cannot find an adequate team, he will likely move into content creation full time.
Although I'm no expert, it appears that 100 Thieves are making some solid moves to build their roster for future success. They've recently added former commentator duo Daniel “ddk” Kapadia and Sean Gares as the general manager and head coach as well. Former Envy coach Michael “Mikes” Hockom also joined as the assistant coach on March 22. It remains to be seen who their full roster will be, but they've bolstered the team's coaching staff and have moved past their unsuccessful regime prior.