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Hello, and welcome to the fifth issue of 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: You can also find me on Twitter retweeting Overwatch League memes @lgflanagan.

And now...onto the news. 

An overview of this week’s headlines

League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational is underway, numbers for 2019 OWL franchises leak, 76ers-owned Team Dignitas bring over a new CEO from NBC, Tencent hosts an esports event for a WeChat game, a summary of the Milken Global Conference esports panel, Chinese livestreaming platform Huya IPOs, Facebook adds another Twitch-like feature to their live platform, Fortnite and the latest Avengers film collaborate, Houston Outlaws announces a partnership with T-Mobile, Epic Games sponsors a segment on Dude Perfect.


Big games this week

League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational
Last weekend marked the kick-off of the second most important League of Legends esports event of the year: MSI. 14 teams from around the world (one from every professional LoL league) have gathered in Berlin to play through four stages, culminating in the finals on Sunday, May 20th. MSI results impact Worlds 2018 regional seeds, so it goes without saying that there is significant pressure to perform well over the course of the next week. If you’re looking for someone to root for, Team Liquid is representing North America (full disclosure: they're off to a rocky start). 

Ownership and operation
Sources: Overwatch League expansion slots expected to be $30-60 million
As I mentioned in a previous issue, expansion sales have kicked off in the Overwatch League and the executive team from ATVI is hoping to sell four to six new franchises for 2019. Sources are saying slots for this round will go for between $30-60 million, which is significantly more than the $20 million buy-in for the inaugural season. Obviously they’ve conquered the biggest obstacle they had in selling the original slots: proof of concept. The league has been a major success, with a steady stream of between 70,000-100,000 concurrent viewers on Twitch and tens of millions secured in sponsorship deals.

Exact price for each slot depends on a few factors, which is why there is such a large range. Sources have cited that the general population of a city as well as the number of Overwatch players in the region are being considered when determining the value of a franchise. Additionally, if there are multiple franchise requests for a single city, the price is subject to change as organizations bid against one another. 

I’m extremely eager to see whether or not the change in price will shift the current makeup of endemic esports owners and outside entities, which is presently about 50/50.

The role of traditional sports
Team Dignitas Brings Aboard Former NBC Sports Executive as CEO
Esports organization Team Dignitas (owned by Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, parent company of the Philadelphia 76ers/New Jersey Devils) has hired Michael Prindiville as their CEO. Prindiville comes from NBC Sports, where he served in a managerial role and was the co-creator and COO of the Universal Open, an NBC-televised Rocket League competition organized with UK-based tournament organizer FACEIT. Dignitas did not secure a North American LCS franchise nor did they buy into the Overwatch League, and sources say Prindiville’s first moves will be considering applications for the European LCS franchise as well as OWL season 2.

More than just Candy Crush
Tencent apparently hosted an esports event for its WeChat game Jump Jump
At nearly a billion monthly active users, Chinese social messaging app WeChat is one of the largest messaging clients in the world. As they are owned by one of the largest mobile developers in the world, Tencent, it’s no surprise that similar to Facebook and Farmville, mobile gaming is built into the WeChat experience. One such WeChat-native game, Jump Jump, has become so popular, Tencent put up $15,000 hosted an esports event for it. The top 30 players on the games leaderboard were invited, and the final five players were able to keep going for over two hours. I am generally fascinated by the idea of applying a competitive structure to a game of this sort, and considering that the game has attracted over 100 million (!!!) daily players -- Overwatch, for comparison, has about 40 million total players worldwide -- there should be no shortage of talent.

Follow the money
How investors should think about the esports gold rush
As mentioned last week, there was a panel discussion on esports at the 2018 Milken Global conference. Dean Takahashi, the GamesBeat writer who moderated, released the transcript as well as his download of the discussion. It’s an interesting read in totality, but if you’re short on time, topics covered included: the growth of the market (the audience for esports in 2020 is expected to be greater than all other U.S. professional sports, with the exception of the NFL); the stickiness of the live esports experience; the enormous potential of youth, college, and developmental leagues; the need for sustainability and infrastructure around leagues and venues; the role of mobile; and the importance of debunking traditional gamer stereotypes.   

Emerging companies in the space
Chinese gaming firm Huya prices IPO in New York at $12 per share: source
So clearly Huya is not what we’d call a startup, but it’s a very young company and this is a big moment. Huya is essentially Twitch for the Chinese market, aka a gaming livestreaming platform. It is one of the biggest platforms in China for online gaming and covers over 2,600 titles. They rang the bell at the NYSE yesterday, opening at a price of $12 per share. In its first day of trading, Huya is up 33%, trading for $15.95 per share.

Pre-IPO, the company raised a total of $536.6 million, according to Crunchbase. Post IPO, Huya’s parent company YY Inc will hold 54.9 percent voting power in the company, while a Tencent Holdings investment unit will hold 39.5 percent.

Streaming platforms and media rights
Facebook Adds New Live Stream Tools, One Like Twitch Co-Streams
Facebook added a new feature to its Live platform yesterday, which is essentially their answer to the Twitch co-streaming feature. The new feature is called crossposting, and it allows the same livestream to appear on multiple Facebook pages simultaneously. Obviously the same feed appearing in different places will increase overall viewership for said content significantly, capturing audiences from multiple sources across the site. In addition, Facebook introduced the ability for viewers to rewind live streams -- convenient for taking breaks or re-watching highlights -- a feature YouTube already has but Twitch does not.

Esports reflected in global pop culture
Fortnite Battle Royale and Avengers: Infinity War team up for special event
Earlier this week, Epic Games announced a collaboration with Avengers: Infinity War, which featured a new Fortnite game mode in which players search the map and try to collect six Infinity Stones, turning successful players into Thanos and granting them a power boost. The directors of Infinity War, Joe and Anthony Russo, are apparently big fans of the game and played during postproduction downtime, leading them to seek a promotional collaboration with Epic. They’ve yet to say how long the mashup will last, but I’d recommend playing soon; it’s limited-time-only. 

Perhaps it goes without saying, but the biggest movie of the summer collaborating with this out-of-nowhere game is yet another sign that Fortnite has penetrated (overtaken?) mainstream culture in a completely unprecedented way. Kudos to all involved. 

Brands and sponsorships
Houston Outlaws x T-Mobile
The Houston Outlaws, OpTic Gaming’s team in the Overwatch League, have entered into a partnership with T-Mobile, making them the official wireless partner of the team and its players. T-Mobile has a long history with esports, having had a major presence at events like BlizzCon, making them a natural partner for any team. Throughout the season, T-Mobile will be rewarding their customers with perks like VIP seating at Outlaws events and exclusive discounts. The scope of the partnership also includes a content series.

Current jersey sponsors in the OWL include Dallas Fuel x Jack in the Box, LA Valiant x cancelled Starz show Ash vs. Evil Dead, Seoul Dynasty x Nighthawk, and London Spitfire x Logitech G. 

Epic Games x Dude Perfect
The Game Time segment starts at 3:55.
This week, the sports-stunt focused YouTubers of Dude Perfect played Fortnite on stream with Ninja during Game Time, a pre-taped videogame segment that’s part of their recurring panel show Overtime. Most interestingly, this Fortnite feature was actually sponsored by Epic Games; the fact that the most popular game on earth is paying (presumably big dollars) for YouTube integrations shows the team there is not content to rely solely on organic growth. I also wonder what this deal looks like from Ninja’s perspective; is he cut into the deal between Epic and Dude Perfect?

The video, as of this moment, has garnered a gobsmacking 14,700,052 views in just five days. 

What’s flashing in the pan
This section is on hiatus until I have something to say that isn't just...Fortnite. 

Games I’m playing and loving
To be totally frank, I haven’t touched a single game other than Fortnite since we last spoke. Not to brag, but I’ve played 25 games in the past week and placed in the top 3 four times. I made it to top 2 once and then fell to GUCCIPASTRIES. With that tag, I deserved the L. 

In all seriousness, Fortnite is free to play and available on a variety of platforms so there is absolutely no reason not to get in on the fun. Go play this game!

Because I needed somewhere to put memes
Residents of Daegu, South Korea can rest easy as the arcade claw machine thief has finally been caught. The culprit has broken into a dozen machines in the last year and stolen roughly $5,000 in total. 

Lastly, a question we’ve all been asking over the past few months: does Fortnite hold the keys to the universe? Robin Sloan of The Atlantic weighs in.

Have a great weekend.


Copyright © Lauren Gaba Flanagan, All rights reserved.

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