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Hi, and welcome to the thirteenth issue of Thank you for subscribing! 

A friend suggested I add a Q+A section to this newsletter, and I thought the idea was a great one. If you have esports and/or gaming questions, you can now ask me anything via this link and I’ll answer them at the end of the following issue. Questions are anonymous, which feels vaguely like Facebook’s Honesty Box/definitely a trap but we’ll go with it. 

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 @lgflanagan.

And now...on to the news. 

An overview of this week’s headlines

Fortnite is now a billion dollar game; English soccer club West Ham United name Basset & Gold as esports partner; Luminosity Gaming Signs Exclusive Partnership with Universal Music Canada; Swiss Bank PostFinance Will Launch Esports Team in 2019; Gamers are becoming a powerful source of philanthropic donations; Fortnite esports debuts (and conflicts with Friday Fortnite); the Wilpons talk to AP about their experience owning NYXL; Clash Royale surpasses $2B in revenue; a YouTuber joins Team Envy as an investor; interesting cultural commentary on Fortnite; U.S. Air Force inks two esports deals; Sonic the Hedgehog is back.


Combined for this week only
Let’s talk about the current state of Fortnite esports.

Fortnite Summer Skirmish, which started last weekend, was Epic’s debut event for their $100 million commitment to Fortnite esports. The plan is to distribute $8 million in prize money across two months of variously formatted tournaments, with the first event, a duos tournament, meant to be a worthy follow-up to the Pro-Am. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t. Technological issues plagued the tournament, with lag so bad players were being forcibly eliminated (or killing themselves) because they couldn’t even move. Competitors — a collection of North American and international players — were hosted on a private North American server, which simply couldn’t handle the load from international connections. Issues like this produce a dramatically unfair playing environment, but even beyond that, the format just didn’t yield itself to exciting gameplay. To make matters worse, the bounty incentives in place to reward aggressive playstyles were not enough to outweigh the desire to win the huge grand prize, resulting in overly cautious (and frankly, boring) play. The game was ultimately cut short due to the server issues. 

Another interesting dynamic at play is between Epic and YouTuber/streamer Keemstar, the originator of the Friday Fortnite tournaments that are averaging a combined total of 600k viewers each week. Friday Fortnite is decisively the best, most exciting Fortnite competitive play available right now given both the personalities and the format, which rewards the most kills. Epic hasn’t communicated with Keemstar regarding scheduling for their events, and this week they’ve scheduled the Skirmish during the Friday Fortnite timeslot, causing Keem to take to Twitter to voice his frustration. I’m sure they don’t want Friday Fortnite cannibalizing their esports efforts, but Keem has done so much for this game it’s just not a good look for Epic if they don’t play ball. Fingers crossed for a #DramaAlert with more details. 

I want to make crystal clear that this is in no way an indicator of the potential of Fortnite esports; technological issues can, for the most part, be resolved, and growing pains are par for the course. Even a tournament rife with problems was the most viewed content on Twitch all day, so they will bounce back...let’s just hope they’ve rectified the server issues in time for this weekend.

The role of traditional sports
Mets’ Wilpons on brink of championship _ in esports
Throughout the course of the inaugural season of the Overwatch League, I’ve wondered whether or not the team that would ultimately win the Grand Finals would be an endemic esports team or a newcomer sports owner. The total split of sports/esports owners currently in the Overwatch League is about 50/50, and people had so many opinions on who could more effectively manage an esports team. As the season comes to a close, it seems both were right; the final four teams in the playoffs were the Philadelphia Fusion (Comcast), the New York Excelsior (Sterling VC),  the London Spitfire (Cloud9), and the Los Angeles Valiant (Immortals). The likely pick to win it all is the New York Excelsior, who — technically speaking — have been the best-performing team in New York this year. This piece from the AP looks at how the Wilpons approached signing this all-star roster (pound the pavement until you find experts), how they’ve managed the team thus far (Jeff has apparently stayed out of the way), and their plans for the future (securing a home venue that seats 1000 fans). 

One more thing — remember the IOC Summit I told you about two weeks ago? That is taking place this weekend, so more news to come. 

More than just Candy Crush

Clash Royale Passes $2B Revenue—Supercell’s Second Game to Hit Multi-Billion Mark
Finnish developer Supercell’s title Clash Royale has crossed $2 billion in global player spending, the second of their games to do so — making them the first mobile publisher ever to have two multi-billion-dollar games on the App Store and Google Play. Their first title, Clash of Clans, has crossed $6 billion in total since the game’s release in 2012. As is fairly common in mobile, both games are free-to-play with in-app purchases driving revenue. Supercell has heavily invested in Clash Royale esports, and as the league launches next month, players are gearing up. The league has many of the biggest organizations in the world participating in it and will include divisions in North America, Europe, China, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. In other news on Supercell games, apparently Clash of Clans is being used for laundering money from stolen credit cards. What a world. 

Follow the money
YouTuber PrestonPlayz Joins Team Envy As Investor
Dallas-based esports organization Team Envy has announced the addition of YouTuber/Streamer PrestonPlayz to their list of investors as well as team content creators. There is a major esports scene in Texas between Envy and Infinite (Jerry Jones backed, parent company of OpTic) and Envy has detailed their commitment to geolocation. Being one of the biggest personalities in gaming to come out of Texas, Preston is a natural fit for the organization and will draw a huge number of fans to their channels through content as he’s amassed over 6.5 million subscribers on YouTube alone.

Streaming platforms and media rights
Not much in the way of news here this week, but I did want to highlight this awesome piece from The Verge. If you’ve ever wondered what streaming actually entails (or wanted to give it a try) this is a detailed step-by-step guide on how to stream your gaming sessions on PC, Xbox One, PS4, mobile, and Switch. 

Esports reflected in global pop culture

The Most Important Video Game on the Planet
As I’ve mentioned before, the cultural coverage of Fortnite in various mainstream media outlets has, for the most part, felt totally out of touch — even eliciting a comparison to the idiocy of eating Tide Pods — so I never have high expectations when someone forwards me a piece like this. And though I recognize that I read things so you don’t have to, I urge you to read this piece from New York Magazine in full. It really examines what makes this game so popular — the art style, the social aspect, the way the game taps into the brain’s reward systems — and in the process, makes sense of the sensation. 

Particularly striking is the comparison of Fortnite to social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat: an app for people to refresh as opposed to logging into something static, which may be why it resonates so strongly with teens. Equally fascinating to me is the idea that teenagers are logging into Fortnite the way I once did AIM, chatting about school, friends, and whatever else is going on in their lives as they build and blast away. I look at the photos in this piece (which are superb, by the way) and think they’re the sort that could live in the pages of LIFE Magazine: a snapshot of what being a teenager in America looked like in June of 2018. 

Brands and sponsorships
U.S. Air Force
In the last 48 hours, the United States Air Force announced two different esports deals:
the first is an expansion of their existing partnership with ELEAGUE and CS:GO, while the other is a sponsorship of Cloud9’s CS:GO roster. The Cloud9 sponsorship will include video content, an experiential component (player events at airbases), and a jersey sponsorship (left arm, above Twitch). The new deal with ELEAGUE will see the U.S. Air Force once again sponsor the ELEAGUE CS:GO Premier, which takes place from July 21st-29th. As part of the expanded collaboration with ELEAGUE, the Air Force will create a range of integrations
— from live events at bases around the country that aim to showcase the “strategy and skills recruits take on” when they join the Air Force to video content around tactical highlights from games.  

Context: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) is an objective-based first-person shooter game in which teams of terrorists battle to perpetrate an act of terror (bombing, hostage-taking) and counter-terrorists try to prevent it (bomb defusal, hostage rescue). The rating (M for Mature) and nature of the title precludes a number of brands from aligning with it, but an armed forces partner is a natural fit given the military themes within the game.

This may seem like an odd fit as most people don’t traditionally associate being in the armed services with being a hardcore gamer, but my anecdotal experience actually suggests otherwise. Much to my surprise, I’ve met many folks at gaming conventions or esports events who are enlisted, and at BlizzCon just last year I met a big group of guys who were all in the process of joining the Air Force specifically. This is a great partnership for the Air Force as there’s really no better to way to connect with their recruitment target (young men) than esports
and Cloud9 is one of the best, most beloved brands in the space.

Combined for this week only
As we all know, what’s old is new again and classic 90s videogame franchise Sonic the Hedgehog is making a major resurgence in 2018. ICYMI, a new Sonic the Hedgehog live action film is being released by Paramount in November starring James Marsden, and Sega is activating around the Sonic IP all year. My favorite partnership thus far has to be the Puma x Sonic sneakers, a reimagined version of the RS-0 style themed around Sonic and Eggman. 

On the game side, Sega released a new iteration of last year’s Sonic Mania: Sonic Mania Plus. New to the Switch, it’s a remixed version of the original 2D classic and it’s tons of fun. I recommend getting the physical edition as opposed to buying it on the eShop because it has reversible cover art to bring you back to your days playing on the Genesis or Mega Drive.  The Genesis was my first console and Sonic one of the very first games I got, so this is making my 90s-baby heart happy.

And with that, have a great weekend.


Copyright © Lauren Gaba Flanagan, All rights reserved.

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