FaZe Clan Collaborates with Disney, Gucci Creates "Gucci Town" in the Metaverse (Roblox), and More!
EWD: News for Weeks of 5/23/22-6/5/22
Topics: Partnerships, FaZe Clan, OpTic, Gucci, Apple, Disney
Faze Clan x Disney
FaZe Clan announced a year-long collaboration with entertainment giant Disney. As part of this partnership, FaZe did a modernized twist to the iconic mickey mouse character, dubbed "Mickey On The Grid." This new design was showcased in the 1st limited-edition merchandise drop on May 28th.
The “Mickey On The Grid” includes t-shirts, sweatshirts and hats. The designed was created by FaZe Clan lead designer James Casper Vine and Creative Director Jay ‘JVY’ Richardson, in collaboration with the Disney creative team. Product details include glow-in-the-dark embroidery, twill appliqué patches and custom two-tone baseball caps.
It was available in-store at The Armory, FaZe Clan's retail pop-up experience (in partnership with NTWRK and Shopify) located at Fairfax & Melrose in LA, California. Additionally, the collection was available online on May 30th @ 12pm PT as part of FaZe Clan’s 12th anniversary at FaZe’s newly launched web store powered by Shopify - FaZe Shop.
Jay Richardson said this on the collaboration:
This year-long collaboration is a part of our ongoing expansion into retail and consumer products. Myself and the product team at FaZe are honored Disney trusted us to take a creative and modern approach to such an iconic character like Mickey Mouse, and we are excited to continue developing innovative concepts that will bring Disney’s beloved characters to life through shoppable product.
Since the start of May, FaZe Clan has partnered with Current, Door Dash, GHOST, Ducky Keyboards, Naruto Shippuden and now Disney. It's clear that Faze is bolstering their commercial revenue streams with a variety of merchandise partnerships and expanding their overall sponsorship portfolio. Although it's still in limbo whether the company is going to be able to go public on NASDAQ, they continue to have the leg up on other gaming organizations in the space.
OpTic & Envy x Oakley
Eyewear brand Oakley has signed a multi-year partnership with Envy Gaming. As part of the deal, all teams and talent under the OpTic brand will exclusively wear Oakley eyewear during competitive play online and at LAN events. As a result, Oakley is officially the exclusive eyewear partner for OpTic and its professional players. Additionally, Oakley will become a jersey sponsor for OpTic’s Halo and VALORANT teams, as well as OpTic Texas in the Call of Duty League.
This deal is Oakley’s first sponsorship with an esports team. The lifestyle brand previously signed with OpTic Texas player Seth ‘Scump’ Abner, as its first esports athlete. Oakley also already has prescription glasses designed specifically for adult gamers called NxtLvl.
Adam Rymer, CEO of Envy Gaming, said:
Oakley’s commitment to creating positive change, disruption, and the innovative spirit they bring to their products and partnerships is a great fit for what we embody. As more and more athletes, celebrities, musicians, and entertainers – look no further than Oakley’s roster of athletes – turn to gaming as a pastime and competitive outlet, we see an endless runway of opportunities for our partnership.”
This deal seemed to have already been in place months ago as the Oakley brand appeared as a jersey sponsor on the OpTic Texas roster during the CDL 2022 Major I tournament in March. The jersey patch was also seen on OpTic's Valorant team in the Valorant Champions Tour 2022: Stage 1 championship. Regardless, I love this partnership and it seems from Adam's point of view that both parties care about the cultural influence of esports in growing their respective entities. Adam told Adweek that they "carefully chose the best partner possible to help usher them in an audience that expects brands and all of their entertainment to deliver in new and meaningful ways.”
Roblox x Gucci
Gucci has built a permanent city in Roblox called "Gucci Town" to show off its luxury brand in a virtual setting to its fans and the Roblox community. The town features a garden in the center that links together various areas, including a space for mini-games, a cafe, and a virtual store where players can purchase Gucci gear for their Roblox avatar.
The luxury fashion brand previously collaborated with Roblox last year to create a temporary Gucci Garden. Gucci says that more than 20 million players visited the garden last year, despite it only being available for two weeks. Gucci expects this newly created town to steadily evolve over time. Nicolas Oudinot, Gucci’s EVP of new businesses, said to The Verge.
We envision the future developments as an open dialogue between Gucci and the recurring visitors. Emerging content creators and talents from the Roblox community will be on board, while we will infuse the ecosystem with new ideas and visual stimuli, as our creative messaging is forever in flux, evolving with the kaleidoscopic vision of creative director Alessandro Michele.
Although one may not expect a luxury brand such as Gucci to be entrenched in the esports/gaming sphere, they've done quite a bit lately. They've recently partnered with tournament platform FACEIT to revolutionize the amateur space in CS:GO by picking up their own team and providing the necessary resources for the players to realize their dreams of becoming a professional. They also partnered with esports organization 100 Thieves to launch a 100 Thieves-designed Gucci backpack. They've even partnered with Microsoft to create a special edition Xbox Series X last Fall. Gucci’s clearly committed to doing everything that they can to remain one step ahead of its competitors as technology and pop culture continue to evolve. The Drum even deemed Gucci as one of the top 5 brands "winning in the metaverse."
BIG x Coinbase
Berlin International Gaming (BIG) announced cryptocurrency platform Coinbase expanded its previous partnership with the team. As part of this expanded deal, Coinbase has now become the main partner of Germany’s most successful CS:GO team. In a multi-million dollar expansion deal, Coinbase additionally received an extensive media rights package that includes a main-partner position on BIG’s official player jersey. Sports marketing agency SPORTFIVE facilitate the deal.
BIG will continue to do a variety of activations with Coinbase, including community events, tournaments and money-can’t-buy fan experiences. According to BIG's press release on the deal, this partnership followed the multi-million dollar acquisition of membership slots in both the BLAST Premier and ESL Pro League events. As a partner team, BIG will continue competing in these circuits for the long-term future, starting with the BLAST Premier Spring Final in Lisbon this Summer.
Sascha Rangoonwala, Country Manager Germany at Coinbase, commented:
This partnership with Germany’s leading eSports organisation, BIG, has proven to help us better reach digital natives and educate them about the benefits and risks of cryptocurrencies. That’s why we’ve now deepened the partnership and look forward to driving the awareness and adoption of crypto assets in Germany together.
Coinbase has established itself as a mainstay in the esports space over the last year of so. They now have a portfolio of marquee tournament organizers and teams such as: ESL Gaming, BLAST Premier, Team Liquid, and continuing its partnership with BIG. It's obviously very important for these cryptocurrency platforms to work in the gaming and esports space in some way both because of the demographic overlap as well as the digital-forward landscape.
It's only a matter of time we'll stop seeing the select group of fans in the gaming space criticize crypto-related partnerships such as these going forward. At the end of the day, if cryptocurrency exchanges are offering multiple millions of dollars to these properties as we see with this deal, it's impossible to say no to a deal regardless of possible backlash.
Activision Blizzard Owed $400M From OWL and CDL Franchises
Activision Blizzard is owed roughly $400 million in franchise payments from teams participating in the Overwatch (OWL) and Call of Duty (CDL) Leagues. This comes after Activision Blizzard deferred payments for two years, up to Fall 2022, as COVID-19 relief (per The Jacob Wolf Report). There is an ongoing discussion now to potentially put those payments off even longer, towards early 2024.
The 20 franchises in the OWL owe the publisher roughly $6- $7.5 million each. Meanwhile, the CDL teams owe an average of $22.5 million each (initial payment of $2.5 million prior to the COVID outbreak in 2020). This equates to a figure between $390 and $420 million owed to Activision Blizzard.
According to Jacob Wolf, the Overwatch League reduced the debt owed to it by its teams during the COVID-19 pandemic. The new total franchise price for Overwatch League was roughly $16 million—with teams having already paid between $7.5 and $10 million each, sources said. That means Activision Blizzard has received close to $200 million in Overwatch League payments over the past five years.
Surprisingly, the OWL and CDL are the most expensive esports leagues in the world by franchise cost. In the years since, several OWL and CDL owners have divested or lowered their risk by bringing on additional investors. We've seen several high-profile billionaires from traditional sports leagues, including the New England Patriots’ Kraft family, and Denver Nuggets and Arsenal F.C. owner Kroenke Sports & Entertainment.
This appears to be a huge mess that Activision Blizzard and the franchise teams need to figure out very soon. However, the looming Microsoft acquisition of Activision Blizzard planning on happening in 2023 makes it very hard to come up with a resolution. It's crazy that of all esports leagues, these 2 have the highest entry fee to purchase a league spot. In the 3rd season of the CDL, the most followed brand in Cod, OpTic Gaming, has been a part of 3 ownership groups/teams: Immortals, NRG, and now Envy Gaming. This shows just how hard it is to invest the insane figure that Activision Blizzard asks for to enter the league in the first place. Although the pandemic really messed up these investments even more, I do believe that the return on these investments would be fairly slim for team owners.
Be sure to subscribe to The Jacob Wolf Report. If it wasn't for him, I would've not known about this story.
eFuse Acquires Esports.GG
Gaming talent discovery and competition platform eFuse announced the acquisition of international esports media outlet Esports.GG. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. eFuse recognized that they need a dedicated content team that could support its community of gamers and brand partners, so they acquired Esports.GG to help create a central destination for their busy calendar schedule. Esports.GG will maintain editorial independence on how, if and when the site covers market news, including that of its new parent company.
As part of this acquisition, Esports.GG will create a new content section that will serve the latest details and tune-in information for all of eFuse’s events. That content will be clearly labeled and all eFuse-supported editorial will carry the proper disclaimers to ensure readers recognize the relationship between both brands. Additionally, eFuse will take over the domain of Esports.GG’s social channels under the market’s definitive @Esports handle. New resources, leadership and oversight will ensure its creator-first policies maintain content integrity across all published posts.
In the coming months, eFuse will be integrating their high school, collegiate, influencer and professional events onto the Esports.GG platform. eFuse will also be providing the Esports.GG team the opportunities and resources to cover international offline events and accelerate their esports careers. Comprised of mostly freelancers, the acquisition will bring in the entire Esports.GG’s editorial team (35 total), including Esports.GG’s Editor-in-Chief, Lawrence “Malystryx” Phillips.
Lawrence “Malystryx” Phillips, Esports.GG’s Editor-in-Chief commented saying:
This is still the dawn of Esports.GG but becoming part of the eFuse family will supercharge our growth; allowing us to expand our team, cover more titles, improve our platform and ultimately build on our early success as a news & analysis outlet.
Matthew “MJB” Benson, CEO of eFuse, said on the acquisition:
Esports.GG is going to help accelerate revenue opportunities by introducing original content formats and around-the-clock coverage of our biggest events. We’re set for a record-breaking year, and thrilled to welcome their help in reimagining how we work with the market’s top brands.
This is definitely an interesting acquisition to say the least. This acquisition is eFuse’s third and largest to date, trailing the purchase of the Collegiate Carball Association and College CoD in Q4 of 2021. According to figures provided by Esports.GG to AFK Gaming, Esports.GG receives more than 500K unique visitors per month, and experienced a peak of 1.5M page views per month in its first year of operation.
My biggest takeaway from this acquisition that I believe holds the most value is eFuse taking over the domain of the @Esports twitter handle for obv
Apple in Talks To Buy EA Games
Video game publisher Electronic Arts (EA) is actively seeking a potential buyer or merger; Apple, Disney, and Amazon have all been in talks. EA has published popular games such as Apex Legends, the iconic sports-series Madden, the Skate series, and much more.
The idea for a buyout or merger came after Microsoft purchased Activision Blizzard for $68 billion earlier this year. Shortly after, Sony purchased Bungie, the studio behind Destiny for $3.6 billion. According to Puck, EA ideally would like a merger so Andrew Wilson can remain CEO of the combined company.
According to 9to5Mac, EA’s roots go back to Apple back in 1982 when Apple’s then Director of Strategy and Marketing, Trip Hawkins, left the company to start EA. Apple has ventured into gaming recently with their new service called Apple Arcade back in 2019. Through Apple Arcade, users can play ad-free games on their iOS, macOS, and tvOS devices. EA spokesperson John Reseburg said the company would not comment on any “rumors and speculation relating to M&A.”
John Reseburg said:
We are proud to be operating from a position of strength and growth, with a portfolio of amazing games, built around powerful IP, made by incredibly talented teams, and a network of more than half a billion players. We see a very bright future ahead.
As seen by the news recently, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) have been erupting between big tech companies and big-name video game publishers. Not sure if there's an overarching reason behind all of these acquisitions, it appears to be more of a case-by-case situation. I'm sure we'll have more details on this story soon. All I'll say in regard to EA is please release Skate 4 we've been waiting far too long!
Mastercard launches Gaming Rewards Program
Mastercard launched the Mastercard Gamer Xchange (MGX) allowing Asia-Pacific (APAC) users to convert rewards points into gaming currencies that can be used in almost 4,000 titles. Mastercard claims that the Asia-Pacific region is home to 54% of the world’s gaming audience. This is in large part Mastercard's reasoning to launching MGX in the APAC region. However, this new service is international and supports gaming products and currencies in 75 countries around the world.
MGX is a turnkey solution – from sourcing gaming currency to fulfilment – through an API that can be into the loyalty platform’s environment. The company said that with COVID-19 affecting regular activities, people have begun looking for alternative sources of entertainment. Mastercard also cited a “dissatisfaction” amongst consumers who have been limited by their inability to redeem reward points, leading to many sitting on hundreds of thousands of unused points. MGX is targeted at medium- to high-spending gaming audiences. With almost 4,000 games in its library, it shouldn’t have too much of a problem creating interest within its target audience.
Kaveri Khullar, vice president of consumer marketing and sponsorships at Mastercard Asia Pacific, said:
The gaming audience in Asia is growing incredibly diverse — be it in terms of age groups, genders, life stages or income levels. The market is booming with possibility, and with the dynamics of the rewards redemption industry being irreversibly modified, there is no better time than now for brands and consumers to benefit from stepping into the gaming arena,” said Kaveri Khullar, vice president of consumer marketing and sponsorships at Mastercard Asia Pacific.
This is quite a cool way for Mastercard to tap into the high-spending gaming audience. Mastercard is entrenched in the esports space already as they are partnered with the LCS and LEC.
To be honest, When I first read the headline of this news story, I thought these reward/loyalty points went towards in-game digital currencies. Now THAT would be really cool.