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  • Matt Kimball

EWD: News for Week of 4/4/22-4/10/22

Topics: Partnerships, LEGO, FaZe Clan, Riot Games, SK Gaming

Partnerships


LEGO x Epic Games


The Lego Group and Epic games are collaborating to build a metaverse virtual world for kids. In a long-term partnership, they plan to "shape the future of the metaverse" with intentions of making an immersive digital experience that's fun and family-friendly.


Niels B Christiansen, CEO of The LEGO Group said:

Kids enjoy playing in digital and physical worlds and move seamlessly between the two. We believe there is huge potential for them to develop life-long skills such as creativity, collaboration and communication through digital experiences. But we have a responsibility to make them safe, inspiring and beneficial for all.

For 90 years, the LEGO Group has inspired generations of children via endless creative possibilities of the LEGO brick. On the other side, Epic Games has expertise in building creative tools and immersive worlds that are open and accessible to players and developers everywhere. Epic Games' Fortnite is at the forefront of this, by creating experiences that connect people through gaming, music and creative collaboration. Together, they plan to ensure that "this next iteration of the internet is designed from the outset with the wellbeing of kids in mind."


Kimball's Take:

  • At the time of writing this, there's no information on how this new metaverse would look or when it will be launched. Regardless, these are the kind of collaborations that will further solidify the potential virtual experiences have in the gaming industry. The old LEGO video games we all played in our childhood were extremely fun and I can't fathom the creative potential of having a sandbox environment. I'm imagining a sandbox environment like Minecraft, combined with Epic Games' creative mode in Fortnite and LEGO's iconic video games. This will surely makes waves in this industry.


FaZe x RESPAWN Products


FaZe Clan announced RESPAWN as the organization's official gaming chair partner. The new collaboration will provide FaZe Clan’s roster of content creators and esports professionals with RESPAWN’s gaming chairs. Additionally, RESPAWN will offer FaZe Clan branded chairs in various colorways and three different price points (available for purchase later this year).


Adam Bauer, SVP of Partnerships at FaZe Clan said:

We are proud to partner with RESPAWN as the official gaming chair partner of FaZe Clan. This partnership came together organically through both FaZe Clan and RESPAWN’S quest of making sure our content creators, esports pros and gamers around the world have access to a comfortable gaming setup for long term player health.

Along with the announcement, RESPAWN and FaZe Clan came out with a video that included FaZe members Scoped and Faxuty. The video was a well-edited and fairly funny montage that played off as if the chair was an actual pro player. The 2 FaZe members hyped up "Respawn" as the chair was 'trickshotting' players left and right. Check out the video HERE.


Kimball's Take:

  • Although gaming chair partnerships are one of the most common and uninteresting partnerships, this collaboration certainly has a twist. Not only does RESPAWN get to use FaZe's logo and marks for an upcoming chair, they also were able to use a couple of FaZe's creators to make an amazing video announcement. This is everything a gaming chair company wants out of a partnership with a marquee gaming and lifestyle organization. It's clear that both parties align on a joint mission: creating meaningful content and providing gamers access to a comfortable gaming setup.


Riot Games x Getty Images


Riot Games has renewed and expanded its partnership with visual media company Getty Images to include coverage of LoL, VALORANT, and Wild Rift esports. As the Official Photo Image and Distribution Partner, the expanded agreement will include coverage of the League of Legends World Championship, VALORANT Champions, and the first-ever Wild Rift Global Icons.


Getty Images will also capture and distribute content around the VALORANT Champions Tour (VCT) Game Changers tournament series. This program runs alongside the main Champions Tour and aims to foster an inclusive environment for women and people of historically marginalized gender identities. The first global LAN event to crown the first Game Changers World Champion is set to occur later this year.


They began their partnership in 2020 as Getty Images captured and distributed content for League of Legends Global Esports events, including the World Championship, Mid-Season Invitational, and All-Star Event. John Needham, Riot Games President of Esports said:

As our esports lineup continues to grow, we need a partner who will support our vision of delivering premium content to our fans around the world. Getty Images is unmatched in their expertise in the field and we are confident that our continued partnership will result in the high-quality content our communities are looking for.

According to Getty Images press release, Riot Games worked with Getty Images to launch a new image gallery that gave fans, media, and content creators the ability to view, download, and share images at no cost. Within the first three months of launching in 2021, the image library saw over 70,000 asset views and close to 60,000 asset downloads.


Kimball's Take:

  • This is smart move for Getty Images to expand on their existing contract with Riot Games so it includes all of Riot Games' major esports titles. It's impressive that Getty images not only offers their free image gallery to the community for free, but also got 60,000 asset downloads. It's also great to see that Getty Images will work with the VCT Game Changers tournament this year to capture the first global LAN event and Female World Champions.


SK Gaming x NH Hotel Group


SK Gaming has partnered with hotel chain NH Hotel Group of Central Europe as the official hotel partner. This strategic partnership will allow NH to further grow in the esports sector as one of the first movers for esports hospitality.


Additionally, SK Gaming pro players and content creators will be able to stay at NH Hotels whenever they travel for bootcamps, tournaments and media appearances around Central Europe. According to the SK Gaming press release, they want to ensure the proper rest of their esports athletes in order to perform at their top level even when far from home.


Alexander Dürr, Senior Director of Operation at NH Hotel Group said:

During the pandemic the hotel industry has learned to reinvent itself over and over again, while adapting to different needs. Esports is extremely dynamic and requires us to rethink our usual services even more. Our products should adapt towards the players to create an unique experience

Kimball's Take:

  • It's great to see hotels and hospitality emerge as a potential sponsorship category in the esports sponsorship space. The players do travel quite a bit for tournaments, so it's not an uncharacteristic fit between the hotel and SK Gaming to provide these offerings. Along with the announcement, SK Gaming produced and uploaded a video to their YouTube channel featuring several of SK’s players and content creators doing a house tour in one of NH Hotel's (Berlin, Germany).


Other News


Loaded raises $20M and Made Internal Promotions With Their Staff


Gaming firm Loaded announced that they've secured a $20 million investment led by venture-capital firm Coral Tree Partners. As part of the investment, co-founder/partner Alan Resnikoff and executive advisor Henry Shapiro will join Loaded’s executive board. They've also named new executive leadership via 2 promotions: Josh Swartz to CEO and Bridget Davidson to president of its Talent division.

According to Forbes David Bloom, Swartz is a veteran of several sports management firms, including Wasserman, Relativity Sports and Catalyst Sports & Media. In regard to Loaded, Swartz said that the company moved to expand its reach beyond talent management about 2 years ago. Since then, they've additionally offered brand consulting for companies trying to be a part of the gaming industry with deals that don't just include Loaded’s own roster.


For example, they've recently worked with Beats by Dre, Gillette, Amazon, and footwear retailer Journeys, who recently announced Karl Jacobs as the brand ambassador. Karl Jacobs isn't a Loaded client, however (per Swartz and Forbes). Swartz said:

Our job is to align the brand's interests with the right influencer. And it happened to be an influencer who was not part of our Loaded roster. So our ability to curate and understand the market is really our key differentiator.

Loaded has a roster of roughly 35 to 40 big-name streamers and content creators, including Shroud, DrLupo, CouRage, Myth, Summit1G, QuarterJade, Doublelift, and CohhCarnage.


Kimball's Take:

  • Loaded is certainly making moves to be one of the biggest agencies that does brand consulting and agency representation in the gaming/esports industry. They are in that upper-echelon with major agencies such as Excel Sports Management, United Talent Agency, CAA, WME, and Wasserman. According to the Forbes article, Loaded plans to use the fund towards mergers, acquisitions, and improving internal data and analytics capabilities. Influencer analytics and the use of analytics for their brand consulting sector of their business is so vital nowadays. You can only sell or pitch so much without showing the data to prospective brands.


Verizon Named Founding Partner of Wild Rift Esports North America


Riot Games has secured a multi-year partnership with Verizon. As part of the deal, Verizon becomes the official founding partner of League of Legends: Wild Rift esports in North America. Verizon is officially named the exclusive 5G network and wireless services provider of the Wild Rift North American Series.


Additionally, the company will collaborate with Riot Games to create ‘immersive fan experiences’ while also integrating the brand into Wild Rift tournaments over 2022 calendar year. Matt Archambault, Head of Esports Partnerships and Business Development for Riot Games North America and Oceania, said on the deal:

When assessing elite partners for the launch, it was clear that Verizon’s category recognition for speed, scale, reliability and technology sophistication across mobile seamlessly align with the expectations of the Wild Rift community.

Verizon has the rights to use Wild Rift’s IP across its marketing and social media promotions, in addition to any original content it creates.


Kimball's Take:

  • Considering how involved Verizon has been in bolstering their esports porfolio over the years, including Riot Games' VALORANT and League of Legends tournaments, this is no surprise. By emphasizing the core capabilities of their 5G network with the new mobile League of Legends esports series, it's definitely the most fitting partnership Verizon has had in the esports space. I'm excited to see the immersive fan engagement activations that Verizon has up their sleeves for the Wild Rift Tournaments this year.


Community Gaming Closes $16m Series A Round


Community Gaming, a New York-based all-in-one global earnings platform and competitive organizer, has closed a $16m Series A funding round led by SoftBank Group. Additional investors include CoinFund, Hashed, Multicoin Capital, Shima Capital, Polygon Studios, and ConsenSys Mesh.


Community Gaming began as an in-person competitive esports and gaming tournament operator. In 2019, Community Gaming switch their focus to a hybrid platform of in-person and online events, using blockchain-based smart contracts to provide an all-encompassing competitive gaming experience.


For those who don't know, smart contracts are essentially programs stored on a blockchain that run when predetermined conditions are met. In gaming, smart contracts allow players from all over the world get rewarded for the time they spend playing. As it pertains to the recent investments, the platform will have an update later this year to allow users to earn supplemental income on the blockchain through gamified 'Quests' within the Community Gaming system.


Chris Gonsalves, CEO of Community Gaming said:

Community Gaming's position at the intersection of esports and blockchain technology grants us a tremendous opportunity to lead the growing conversation around gaming in web3. These resources will allow us to further support 'Earnings for Everyone' systems that reward action and time, a re-imagining of the social contract of work as people look for new ways to create supplemental income through gaming.

Community Gaming will use this capital injection towards other things as well, including:

  • Expansion into Latin America and Southeast Asia: It brings economic benefits to underserved regions within the two markets through job creation, local business engagement, and flagship competitive events.

  • Donation: Community Gaming will donate a portion of the funding to its Play2Earn foundation. The nonprofit supports the grassroots growth of gaming for low income individuals and communities around the world


Kimball's Take:

  • This is another big development we're seeing with companies using blockchain technology for gaming. By allowing players to earn real (well, kinda real) currency while simply playing the game allows a new incentive for people to play. It also allows players to get exposed to web3 and blockchain technology who didn't have any existing knowledge of it prior. Overall, it makes total sense why many companies invested in Community Gaming.


AT&T Annihilator Cup Series Returned April 1st


The wildly successful AT&T Annihilator Cup last year returned on April 1st with 20 content creators/professional players competing for a $350,000 prize. Five game titles will be played over five weeks of competition while being livestreamed on the AT&T Twitch channel. Last year, Jake'n'Bake won the tournament and he returns to competition this year.


Who? All of the competitors will be streaming on their own channels. Some of those competing this year are: Mizkif, TimTheTatman, Shroud, Lirik, Emiru and Courage. A staple esports host, Alex “Goldenboy” Mendez, will be hosting the event again.


When? Every Friday in April (April 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29) from 4-7pm ET


Games played? Apex Legends, Dead by Daylight, Street Fighter V, Halo Infinite, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive


What's new this year? They will be broadcasting from a stylized virtual set and give fans more opportunities to connect more to the competition and competitors:

  • AT&T 5G Speed Bonus - Once a competitor triggers the AT&T 5G Speed Bonus each week, the AT&T Annihilator Cup loot drop will be unlocked, providing fans the chance to win prizes while watching. A custom PC giveaway will also run throughout the duration of the competition.

  • AT&T 5G Weekly MVP – The AT&T 5G MVP returns. Each week AT&T names the top player of the week who will add an extra $5,000 to their winnings and be interviewed live to recap all the action.

  • AT&T Fiber Fan Polls – Play along to fun trivia, polls, and questions throughout the broadcast.

  • AT&T Fiber Instant Replay – Capturing the best plays from each match throughout the broadcast to ensure the fans get a glimpse at the most hype moments.

Sabina Ahmed, Assistant Vice President of Sponsorships & Experiential at AT&T said:

When we launched the inaugural AT&T Annihilator Cup last year, it was unprecedently successful with 7.4M unique streams across AT&T and competitor Twitch channels. We knew we had to bring it back this year, with the goal of continuing to connect the community together through meaningful experiences.

Kimball's Take:

  • With the help of brand consultants over at Wasserman, the inaugural AT&T Annihilator Cup was one of the most creative and successful activation and/or event in 2021. In fact, the 2021 Tempest Esports Business Awards awarded AT&T and the cup three nominations for "Best Production of an Event", "Best Endemic Brand Activation", and "Best Brand of the Year." The AT&T sponsorship team, with the assistance of Wasserman, really hit on everything when it comes to executing on a sponsorship opportunity in gaming. From the idea of having 5 games played over 5 weeks, to executing on recruiting fantastic talent and creators, the event is worthy of all the hype. Although I was unable to watch it last year or so far this year, I'll be sure to tune in and see this event come to life.

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