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  • Matt Kimball

EWD: News for Week of 4/11/22-4/17/22

Topics: Partnerships, Fortnite, Coachella, Tencent, PGA

Partnerships

Fortnite x Coachella


From April 14th through May 16th, Fortnite players can listen to artists featured at Coachella and purchase 'waves' of in-game item drops in Fortnite's collaboration with the iconic music festival.


According to Fortnite's post, when players are in their Joyride vehicle, they can turn to 'icon radio' where songs from over 30 artists are featured from the Coachella 2022 line-up. This weekend and next, Fortnite will be dropping new Coachella-themed items in the Item Shop:

  • April 14th - This 1st wave included the Wilder and Lyric Outfits plus matching accessories.

  • April 21st - The 2nd wave of items drops includes the Alto and Poet Outfits (both music-reactive) and matching accessories.

  • The Alto Outfit, Poet Outfit, Softest Electropalm Pickaxe, Cactical Crusher Pickaxe, and Mainstage Wrap are available individually or together in the Dancing at Coachella Bundle

  • The Dancing at Coachella Bundle also includes the "Enter the Coachellaverse Loading Screen."

Lastly, Fortnite has started something called "Fortography" which invites players to share screenshots of them in-game on Twitter with the hashtag #Fortography or share on their Fortography post flair on r/FortNiteBR. In their latest Fortography, they ask players to share screenshots of them celebrating in Fortnite "as if you're at a party or festival!" The Fortnite team will then highlight some of their favorite screenshots in a blog post on April 29.

Kimball's Take:

  • Fortnite is always killing it with in-game collaborations with apparel brands, sports entities, or even in this case, marquee music festivals. The skins all look have a 'hipster' aesthetic and will certainly attract Fortnite fans to purchase these in-game skins. We've seen Fortnite hold live virtual concerts with the likes of Marshmello, Ariana Grande and Travis Scott in the past, I wonder if the Coachella sponsorship team was thinking of doing something similar to that. Regardless, I think this is a great collaboration to build up some hype around Coachella's music festival to a younger age demographic. I especially like the "Coachellaverse" loading screen visual because those kind of assets could stick in the customers mind for a while if one was to purchase the bundle.


Riot Games x Intel


Riot Games has partnered with Intel to revamp this year’s Intel Arabian Cup (IAC). The third edition of the IAC will feature competitions for three Riot Games’ titles: League of Legends, Valorant, and League of Legends: Wild Rift. As a part of the deal, IAC will feature a prize pool of $130,000 as they look to grow esports in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA).


The tournament will take place over the next eight months in two different skill categories: IAC Prestige and IAC Playground. Here's the details of each:

  • IAC Prestige: 10 professional teams compete for a share of the $100,000 IAC Prestige prize pool over two separate regular seasons, followed by the Grand Finals. Participants in this series include defending champion Geekay Esports from Saudia Arabia and eight of last year’s IAC finalists.

  • IAC Playground: This is an open amateur event featuring a $30,000 prize pool and provides a pathway for amateur teams to the IAC Prestige tournament. The IAC Playground takes place in three sub-regions: the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) and Iraq, North Africa, and Egypt and Levant (Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria). The top-2 teams from each of these regions will advance to an IAC Prestige qualifier.

Karim Hachani, Head of Publishing MENA at Riot Games said this on the new format:

The new format will not only significantly enhance the experience but also launch new tournaments based on our gaming titles which will help attract more experienced and aspiring players, so they can be part of what has become one of the most popular gaming tournaments in the region

Kimball's Take:

  • Although I'm quite unfamiliar of the development of esports in the MENA region, it appears that the IAC is really helping put this region on the map. According to a Riot Games and Intel virtual press conference, Esports Insider said that viewership in this region is growing six percent quicker than global esports viewership. Hachani also shared, according to the Esports Observer, that last year’s IAC generated 6.1 million views throughout the tournament. With the expansion of the tournament across multiple Riot Games titles, I'm excited to tune in and get more exposed to some of the incredible talent this region has to offer.


EXCEL ESPORTS x Just Eat


British esports organization EXCEL ESPORTS has announced a year-long partnership with British food delivery company Just Eat. Just Eat, the UK’s largest food delivery platform, is named the Official Food Delivery Partner for EXCEL ESPORTS. According to EXCEL's press release, Just Eat and EXCEL will collaborate on creating experiences and exclusive content that will help bring the gaming community together.


The partnership marks Just Eat’s first major foray into the world of gaming and esports. The 2 parties are focused on authentic engagement and creating experiences and events both virtually and physically.


Mark Carter, Commercial Director at EXCEL ESPORTS said:

Sharing a vision to constantly create authentic engagement for our respective communities, we look forward to working closely together on exciting experiences and activations both virtually and at gaming events across the country!

Kimball's Take:

  • This is the 1st time I've ever heard of the UK-Based Just Eat's. With that being said, this is the most authentic way for First Eat's to enter the esports space, partnering with another British esports entity. Food delivery services and gaming are almost endemic to the esports industry, so I'd say this a natural fit between the 2. I'm curious to see how they'll create authentic engagement via activations both in-person and virtually.


Houston Outlaws x Belong Gaming Arenas


Belong Gaming Arenas, a subsidiary of Vindex, has partnered with the Houston Outlaws for the upcoming Battle for Texas Overwatch League (OWL) event. As a part of the deal, Belong Gaming Arenas will set up an on-site special gaming area at the event and provide PCs and peripherals. This gaming area will be similar to those found in its gaming arenas across the United States.


The partnership and on-site area will provide fans an opportunity to play the Overwatch 2 PvP beta during the event. The area will be available throughout the whole duration of the event. Additionally, the Houston Outlaws will award 50 fans in attendance with access to the beta version of Overwatch 2 PvP mode, set to launch on April 26th.


This season-opening event will take place on May 6th at the new Tech Port Arena in San Antonio, Texas. As the event is advertised, it will feature Houston Outlaws against the Dallas Fuel on the new Overwatch 2 game for the first time in front of a live audience. Belong Gaming Arenas joins the likes of Respawn Entertainment, H-E-B Grocery Company and Wingstop as a partner of the event.


Wim Stocks, SVP of Partnerships and Commercial at Belong Gaming Arenas said:

Belong is rooted in this idea of building communities of gamers at the local level, and the Battle for Texas is a great opportunity for us to bring that vision to life in one of our key markets where we have locations in Houston and Dallas, with more to come.

Kimball's Take:

  • Belong Gaming Arenas made a very smart move to partner with Beasley Esports and their Houston Outlaws home event. I'm sure a lot of fans in attendance are looking to get a first-look of what the game looks like competitively and cheer on for their favorite team. At the same time, fans very much need an opportunity to play the beta of the game as well.


Other News


eFuse Under Scrutiny for Hiring Patrick Klein


Current C-suite executive Patrick Klein, who previously resigned from Ohio State's (OSU) women's basketball coaching staff amid sexual harassment and NCAA violations, is receiving scrutiny for his past heinous acts. According to Sports Business Journal (SBJ), Klein's status at eFuse as a chief strategy officer and scrutiny into his past comes at a time when the platform is in the process of facilitating a Series B funding round.


After being put on administrative leave at OSU, Klein resigned his position on August 2nd 2019 as associate head coach at the school. An investigation into Klein’s violations of NCAA rules and university policy found that he violated Ohio State’s sexual harassment policy through text messages and social media interactions with at least 13 student-athletes. According to Buckeye Sports Bulletin, the case report of the investigations says that Klein’s behavior toward these certain student-athletes “consisted of a pervasive pattern of conduct that was reasonably perceived to be sexual in nature and that it interfered with the athletic experience of those student-athletes."


In statement to SBJ, eFuse, in part, said:

We are committed to a fair and transparent hiring process for all our staff, and we have zero tolerance for harassment of any kind. ... We were aware he had resigned from his previous role at Ohio State. Patrick was honest and forthright about his prior resignation; he took responsibility; and he accepted accountability for what happened. Patrick, like all other team members, went through a rigorous interview process, which included a background check and reference checks..."

Kimball's Take:

  • I think it's quite sad and disappointing that this news surrounding him was largely swept under the rug and never really brought up publicly. His past wasn't brought up in the gaming/esports mass media until there was issues with receiving investments for the eFuse company. As SBJ mentioned in their article, the esports/gaming industry has struggled historically with creating an environment free of sexual harassment and misogyny both in the workplace and in-game. This important issue has been most recently been brought up with companies such as Activision Blizzard and Riot Games, who have dealt with legal issues related to workplace mistreatment of women.

  • I speak for everyone (besides that 1 awful esports journalist on Twitter who shall not be named) in that creating an inclusive environment where gender barriers and harassment does not exist on the basis of gender should be a #1 priority for all organizations. Toxic masculinity and stereotypes towards women is seen as commonplace in gaming & esports, and that needs to stop.


Tencent to Block Access to Foreign Games


Tencent, a Chinese internet and technology company, will shut down a service that allowed Chinese gamers to access unapproved foreign games. As Chinese regulators more closely scrutinize the industry, the country's largest social and gaming firm will update mobile and desktop apps to new versions that would only support games operating in China. The new versions will no longer allow users to access foreign games starting on May 31st.


According to Reuters, gamers in China are only allowed to play titles approved by the government and are not allowed to play with foreigners on foreign servers. While such foreign games are not explicitly blocked by online curbs, local internet speeds are generally too slow for gamers to access them.


This move comes days after China lifted a 9-month freeze on gaming licences. During this 9-month period, gaming companies including Tencent made major adjustments to their business practices to comply with regulatory requests. Last week, Chinese government approved 45 domestically produced games.


Kimball's Take:

  • With the current authoritarian state, it's not too surprising China has enacted these restrictions on gaming. We've seen in the past that the country restricted gaming-time by minors to 3 hours a week. China is a huge market in gaming, and these new regulations make it even more difficult for gaming companies to expand overseas or grow Chinese esports to another level.


UPS to Enter the Metaverse


UPS, an American multinational shipping and receiving company, is planning to venture into the metaverse with virtual retail shipping services. According to Mike Kondoudis, a USPTO licensed trademark attorney, he announced via Twitter that the firm filed new patent applications to register United Parcel Service, The UPS Store, UPS, and the UPS Logo.


The trademark applications cover a plethora of virtual and NFT goods and services.

Specifically, UPS seeks to offer:

  • NFTs and crypto-collectibles, NFT-backed multimedia

  • Virtual retail shipping and delivery

  • Virtual clothing, packages, vehicles, airplanes, and sports collectibles

  • Marketplaces for digital goods and NFT-backed media, and retail stores featuring virtual goods

Kimball's Take:

  • After Facebook rebranded to Meta and announced its ambitions in the metaverse, Companies, brands, and restaurants such as Samsung, Disney, Wendy's, Chipotle Mastercard, Nike, and Adidas have came flocking to either create NFT's, file for trademark patents, or collaborated with gaming platforms (i.e. Roblox). As virtual assets continue to be created in the metaverse, I'm curious to see how a global shipping and receiving brand like UPS can offer value via its services.


PGA Golfer Jon Rahm Invests in Esports


Jon Rahm joins the Kraft family, Rob Gronkowski, and Danny Ainge as investors for Foxboro, Massachusetts-based Oxygen Esports. Oxygen Esports just completed a Series A financing round led by some of these investors. Oxygen, labeled as "New England's premier esports organization," has made Boston its home and is looking at deepening its ties there.


The company has been making some big moves the past several months, starting with them buying-in to the 12th spot in the Call of Duty League. A city-based franchise league, they now have exclusivity for the city of Boston and named their team the Boston Breach. Prior to this, Oxygen partnered with Kraft Sports and Entertainment to run the Boston Uprising, the Krafts’ former OWL team. Oxygen also has teams competing in Rainbow Six Siege North American League, Rocket League Championship Series, Valorant Champions Tour, Halo, and others.


According to SBJ, a part of the investment will go toward housing its roster of esports teams in the Boston area while also investing in an amateur eco-system and talent pipeline across New England.


Kimball's Take:

  • As someone who has been born and raised in the state of Massachusetts, it's great to see an esports organization take a leap in the New England market. Although traditional New England sports fans are extremely passionate, it'll take some time for this organization to cultivate a large-scale audience. It's also cool to see a noted Call of Duty player and fan in the likes of Jon Rahm investing his money into esports.




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