Hello, and welcome to the ninth issue of thisweek.gg. Thank you so much for subscribing.
As always, if you’d like clarification, detail, or wish to speak further about something you read here, my inbox is open: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find me on Twitter retweeting Overwatch League memes @lgflanagan.
And now...on to the news.
An overview of this week’s headlines
DreamHack Austin takes place; more details on OWL's timeline for home/away; a Premiere League FC enters esports; gaming phones are announced at Computex; PlayVS raises $15 million; Facebook launches an online gaming destination; Fortnite preps for their first E3; the Doc snags Gillette; IKEA launches an esports initiative; a new Battle Royale game emerges.
Big games this week
DHATX: June 1-3
In Texas last weekend, thousands gathered together to participate in DreamHack Austin, which is essentially a three-day gaming festival comprised of different activities ranging from tournaments, LAN parties, art shows, screenings, freeplay, networking events, panels, keynotes, cosplay contests, musical acts, and more. For those who wanted to watch esports, there was competitive play from some of the best in the world across several titles: PUBG, CS:GO, Rainbow6 Siege, StarCraft II, Dragon Ball FighterZ, Hearthstone, Tekken, and Smash. One interesting takeaway, as pointed out by TEO writer Jordan Fragen, has to do with the PUBG duos showdown that took place at DHATX. The backstory here is that while many players still prefer PUBG in the Battle Royale genre, Fortnite has taken a huge amount of attention away from it. Two of the biggest streamers on Twitch playing together at DreamHack wasn’t enough to cause a major spike in viewership, which is fairly concerning in terms of measuring the appetite for PUBG esports (the first major tournament is this summer).
Ownership and operation
Overwatch League aims to get teams to their home cities by 2020, sources said
There have been murmurs of the Overwatch League transitioning to a home-away model by 2020 for some time, and ESPN reported some further details on the league’s plans. As some of you may know, the Overwatch League has played the entirety of the first season -- and will play the second season -- in Burbank, California. Geolocation is a key differentiator for the league, and commissioner Nate Nanzer has made their position clear from the get-go: they want to transition to home/away as soon as logistically possible. As of now, the LA Valiant is the only team to have announced their home venue (the Microsoft Theater @ LA Live). The addition of six franchises for season two means 17 teams need to secure venues in home cities in time for the start of season three. The rollout of the home-away model will starkly illustrate the differences between the sports ownership groups and the esports ownership groups, namely that nearly all sports-affiliated OWL teams are already connected to home venues. Endemic esports owners are apparently exploring partnerships to secure home venues; such is the case with the San Francisco Shock, who are reportedly considering UC Berkeley as a possible option.
The role of traditional sports
Manchester City Signs FIFA Online Team to Compete in China
Manchester City, the 2017/18 Premier League Champions, announced that they’ve signed a FIFA team in China. As mentioned in previous issues, football clubs are paying close attention to esports and a few have already started to get involved -- but this is the first premiere league club to do so. The team will compete in China’s professional FIFA League, the Online Star League (FSL). European FCs have massive fan bases in China, which is also the biggest market for esports on earth -- so this is a completely natural place for clubs to play (see what I did there) in order to broaden their footprint in the region.
In other FC x Esports news, Austrian footballer Christian Fuchs is launching an esports team to represent Leicester City in FIFA (with other titles TBA). Fuchs is the first active Premiere League player to start their own esports team.
Watch this space, because we’re at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what FCs are going to do in esports -- and I believe they’ll go well beyond FIFA. If the EU LCS and/or the Overwatch League expansion franchises don’t include at least one FC, I’ll buy everyone reading this a Mountain Dew.
More than just Candy Crush
Android gaming phones have a lot of growing up to do
As mobile games evolve (and as Battle Royale games bring tens of millions of players to app stores everywhere), so too must the hardware -- which is why there’s so much conversation right now around gaming phones. If you don’t know, most people in gaming are on Android, and anyone who takes mobile gaming seriously is definitely on Android. There’s certainly room in the category to create a powerful piece of hardware made with gaming in mind, and this year’s Computex showed several companies ready to go to market. Consumer electronics company Asus announced their Republic of Gamers (ROG) Phone, which is a very tricked out, very fast phone with tons of gaming accessories -- but critics agree that the price point makes it not quite the solution the industry is looking for, especially in China -- the world’s largest mobile gaming market (recent reports say it’ll hit $42 billion by 2022). A couple of other gaming phones announced at Computex are targeted squarely at the Chinese market and coming in a little under $500, which feels much more realistic.
Watch this space, because the proliferation of mobile games/esports (and the huge amounts of money being made on them) is putting pressure on the hardware side to adapt in the immediate future.
INVESTMENTS & STARTUPS
Follow the money
San Francisco 49ers part of $15 million funding round for PlayVS
I wrote about PlayVS in a previous issue and I’m so excited about this piece of news.
PlayVS, founded by Delane Parnell, is a formalized league system for high school esports. Through a partnership with what is essentially the NCAA of high school, they seek to bring esports to 20,000 high schools across the USA. They announced Monday that they’ve secured $15 million in a Series A round that includes the San Francisco 49ers, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin and professional athletes Russell Okung, Baron Davis and Kelvin Beachum. The round was led by New Enterprise Associates. The round is the largest ever raised in the consumer internet industry by a black founder.
If you’re curious about where esports is headed, look no further than what Delane is creating. It’s a widely held belief that the future of the industry doesn’t just lie with the top-tier of competitive play; it’s equally as much about support through developmental and recreational leagues. Providing infrastructure (or a path to pro, in some cases) at the high school and collegiate levels will legitimize gaming for kids who love to play. How cool is that? I can’t stop thinking about what the esports version of a letterman jacket will look like...
Streaming platforms and media rights
Facebook Is Launching A Video Destination Dedicated To Its Gaming Content
Going into E3, Facebook has announced fb.gg -- a destination for content from Facebook’s top gamers, including streams and on-demand videos. As you know if you’ve read thisweek.gg from the beginning, Facebook has been aggressive in trying to take market share from Twitch and YouTube, and this is just the latest in a slate of initiatives they’ve put in place to try and attract creators. Facebook plans to have a big booth presence at E3 to show off their games-focused features, like their partner program, discovery tools, and creator monetization systems. Details on Facebook @ E3 will be included in the special edition recap issue.
Esports reflected in global pop culture
A major cultural moment: Fortnite's first E3
E3 is next week, and I genuinely believe this will be a revolutionary year because it’s coming at a time when competitive gaming/conversation around gaming in general has reached absolute fever pitch. As such, I want to take a beat on Fortnite going into what will be their first E3.
Everyone in the world would’ve been talking about Fortnite at E3 even before they announced the Celebrity Pro-Am, but with it, the hype has reached unearthly heights. People who may not have even known what E3 was a year ago are now anxiously awaiting Tuesday’s tournament, which will see 50 pro players pair up with 50 celebrities in the ultimate Battle Royale. The prize pool is $3 million, which will go to the charity of their choice. Expect news of more broken viewership records in next week’s issue.
Also of note: ridesharing app Lyft ran a promotion with Fortnite, turning the car icons into battle busses and giving one rider and a guest the chance to win free Pro-Am tickets coupled with airfare and lodging. If that's not a victory royale, I don't know what is.
Another topic of conversation around Fortnite at E3 -- European esports organization Fnatic announced they’ll be holding open tryouts for their Fortnite squad at the convention. This is part of the beauty of this game, which is that it’s really opened up the playing field for competitive beyond just the select few in the top sliver of ranked play. Fortnite signings have seemingly come from all over the place; Twitch, Ninja’s event in Vegas, and now E3 -- I’m hoping there are some great content teams in place ready to tell these origin stories.
If you’re reading this and think this could be your chance to go pro, head to gaming chair company DXRacer’s booth between Tuesday and Thursday of next week. Also @ me so we can duo.
Side note, do I need to bring a literal suitcase for all the Fortnite swag I want to grab at their booth?
Brands and sponsorships
Dr. DisRespect x Gillette
One of Twitch’s biggest streamers, Dr. DisRespect, has finally secured the sponsorship we’ve all been waiting for: Gillette. The backstory here is that the Doc has long had an association with the brand, between his Tom Selleck-esque mustache and his unofficial stream theme song based on their slogan, “the best a man can get.” This was a brilliant move by the brand, as they embraced a relationship that came about organically and proved they’re paying attention to the community. As Gillette competes with DNVBs like Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s, they need to reach younger, digitally-driven guys, and they’ve decided to do so in one of the best ways I know how: esports and gaming. This is the second major partnership for Gillette in the space, the first being with the Kraft Group’s Overwatch League team, the Boston Uprising.
A still from the announcement video:
IKEA x UNYQ
At their Democratic Design Days event, IKEA revealed plans to collaborate with medical wearable company UNYQ on an esports equipment initiative, creating new innovations around gaming furniture. Ergonomics are a huge part of the gaming experience -- look no further than the growth of the gaming chair market -- and this partnership is a brilliant marriage of Scandinavian design and cutting-edge technology. The partnership will also explore ways to make gaming spaces more functional and better prepared for things like LAN events. Products will be available in 2020.
THE NEXT FORTNITE?
What's flashing in the pan
Well, there’s a new horse in the Battle Royale race: Realm Royale.
Realm Royale is a Battle Royale game set in medieval times that introduces character classes, which is brand new to the genre. The art style is...really quite similar to Fortnite, but the ability to play as an assassin, engineer, hunter, mage, or warrior is a genuine differentiator. Realm Royale has just entered early access mode on Steam and is starting to pick up some heat on Twitch, but don’t get too excited -- it’s too early to tell whether or not it’s here to stay.
Games I’m playing and loving
E3 always makes me want to celebrate my favorite games, and as such, I’ve been playing what I think is undoubtedly one of the deepest, richest, most spectacular games of all time -- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I decided to alternate between playing through BOTW and Super Mario Odyssey -- Nintendo parallel-pathed the development of these two titles as they’re both Switch exclusives -- and I am obsessed with the complementary mechanics. BOTW is so expansive that if you can show some self-restraint, you can play for months and still not have played all the way through it. And even if you do, there’s DLC!
I know no one has time for more content, but you will have so much fun with this game, I promise.
Oh, and anyone who tells you all videogames are fun is a liar.
Because I needed somewhere to put memes
The poor ESA social media manager posted a tweet asking people how their first day of the convention was...six days before the convention started. I had to laugh.