Hello, and welcome to the second issue of thisweek.gg. Thank you so very much for subscribing.
If you didn’t receive the first issue, you can find it here — it includes a formal introduction, the origin story of this newsletter, and an embarrassing childhood photo.
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
And now...onto the news. This week’s issue is long, so buckle in. Asterisk denotes a new section.
An overview of this week’s headlines
Never thought I’d see the day, but Dallas Fuel head coach Kyle Souder is out along with star DPS Rascal, Ashland University is offering Fortnite scholarships, Fortnite Mobile is a cash cow, Splyce wins the Halo World Championships, the H1Z1 Pro League debuts this weekend, Arlington, Texas will get an esports stadium, Mountain Dew aligns with Immortals, NBA 2K secures a streaming partner, Activision Blizzard partners with Nielsen, Dubai announces plans for a world-class venue, a new startup aims to bring esports to high schools, Overwatch League kicks off S2 franchise sales, streamers play the Hearthstone expansion, and a new second place Donkey Kong record is set.
Big games this week
Halo World Championship 2018
The biggest esports event of the year for Halo went down this past weekend: the Halo World Championship. At the Event Center at CenturyLink Field (home of the Seahawks) in Seattle, WA, Splyce and TOX Gaming faced off in the Grand Finals, with Splyce prevailing and taking home a hefty $500K purse. At time of writing, I couldn’t find venue capacity or viewership stats but will update next week.
Ownership and operation
Award Winning Actress And Avid Gamer Michelle Rodriguez Will Appear As The Special Guest For The Opening Weekend Of The Twin Galaxies H1Z1 Pro League In Las Vegas
This weekend will see the debut of the H1Z1 Pro League (H1PL), the first formalized professional league for a battle royale game (if you’re unfamiliar with this genre, think digital Lord of the Flies). Twin Galaxies announced that the inaugural broadcast will include a special guest: actress and gamer Michelle Rodriguez. The H1PL is notable for a few reasons, the first of which is that it will be livestreamed exclusively on Facebook. As mentioned last week, Facebook is bullish on esports, so securing the streaming rights for this league is a win for them. The H1PL is also among the first leagues to be based in Las Vegas; the 15 teams will play at the Twin Galaxies Esports Event Center (aka Caesars Entertainment Studios) over two 10-week splits. You can catch the action on their Facebook starting tomorrow with a pre-show beginning at 6:15PM Pacific.
The role of traditional sports
Cal Berkeley to partner with NRG Esports
NRG Esports, owners of the San Francisco Shock Overwatch League team, is partnering with UC Berkeley to launch an esports community center and various initiatives on campus. Plans for the partnership include diverse programming for student gamers, ranging from health and wellness to OWL viewing parties. UC Berkeley is taking a really smart approach to their collegiate esports program, focusing on creating a “holistic community environment” where students can learn about all aspects of the gaming industry rather than focusing solely on competition. Note: NRG is owned by Sacramento Kings co-owners, Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov.
Esports Heating Up? Arlington Announces 'Stadium' Plan, Blizzard Hiring Operations Manager For Arena
The city of Arlington, Texas in partnership with NGAGE, announced plans to build a $10 million esports stadium. Populous, the global architecture firm behind dozens of the world’s most notable venues (think: Yankee Stadium) will redevelop the Arlington Convention Center in the city’s entertainment district, with room for up to 1,000 spectators. The venue, walking distance from where both the Cowboys and the Rangers play, will feature competition event space, gaming, retail and social spaces, VIP hospitality, a broadcast studio, and team training areas. Most importantly, a dedicated gaming venue comes with stringent technical requirements. The needs for competitive gaming and broadcasting are highly specific and costly, so providing a turnkey venue solution makes a lot of sense. I’m not kidding when I say esports arenas literally smell like fiber networks (in a good way). Another concern is comfort; a single event can last for eight, even ten hours, so the stands (even the cheap seats) need to be comfortable enough to accommodate spectators for that length of time.
WATCH THIS SPACE. Sorry for the alarmist all-caps, but dedicated venues are going to be one of the most significant growth areas in esports. Americans spend an average of $56 billion a year on live sporting events — and esports wants a piece of the pie.
More than just Candy Crush
Fortnite made more than $25 million in its first month on mobile
Fortnite, one of the world’s largest battle royale games, has only been live on mobile for a month, and the average daily spend on in-app purchases is already a million dollars. According to this piece from IGN, the only thing that stands between Fortnite Mobile and and the #1 position on the US daily iPhone App spending chart is Netflix. At this point, I’m hard to impress with gaming growth stats, but folks, this one is truly wild. People are spending more money on spectral axes than on unlimited Tinder likes, and teenagers are taking to Twitter to talk about Fortnite killing their high school’s WiFi.
This gem is via Kotaku
Also of note in mobile, I recently came across an interesting stat from esports market research firm Newzoo — mobile games are hugely popular on YouTube Gaming, with five mobile titles in the top 20 games viewed on YouTube; Mobile Legends, Clash Royale, Arena of Valor, Garena RoV, and Monster Strike. Conversely, there are no mobile titles in the top 20 on Twitch. Leaves me wondering when streaming viewership will catch up...
Follow the money
The Overwatch League is looking at European football clubs for potential team expansion... exclusive interview with commissioner Nate Nanzer (and yes, the Daily Mail does in fact have esports coverage)
The executive team from Activision | Blizzard (ATVI) is out on the road selling Overwatch League franchises for next season. The first stop on their roadshow is Europe; esports is hugely popular in the region and London is currently the sole EU OWL franchise. As a result, ATVI is aggressively targeting qualified buyers in the region and see a huge opportunity in football clubs. CEO Bobby Kotick recently spoke on esports in front of the European Club Association General Assembly, a gathering of EU football clubs in Rome, and league commissioner Nate Nanzer says they're particularly focused on adding teams in markets like France, Germany, Spain, the Nordic region, BeNeLux, and Italy. Outside Europe and Asia, other markets they’ve called out as being of interest include Brazil, Asia Pacific (specifically New Zealand + Australia), and the Middle East (specifically UAE + Saudi Arabia). The twelve current teams paid around $20 million USD apiece, and while no new prices have been made public, it’s clear the league’s success means that number is going up for 2019. Next up on their expansion sales trip is Asia.
Emerging companies in the space
Startup will launch nationwide high school eSports league this fall
PlayVS, an (utterly awesome) LA-based startup founded by Detroit native Delane Parnell, plans to become the official high school esports league. With the support of essentially the high school equivalent of the NCAA, the National Federation of State High School Associations, PlayVS will help create the infrastructure needed to bring esports to 14.5 million American high schoolers. Participation for students is based on a $16/month subscription model to be paid for either by the participant or their school. They will not be playing any first-person shooters but will partner with publishers of MOBA, sports, and fighting games.
Streaming platforms and media rights
NBA, Twitch reach deal on 2K League streaming rights
On Wednesday, the NBA 2K League announced its first media rights deal: an agreement with Twitch to be the exclusive streaming partner for the first season of the league. Twitch will stream up to 199 games during the upcoming season, equating to 17 weeks worth of matchups including three in-season tournaments, playoffs, and league finals. The inaugural season starts May 1st and will run through August.
Activision Blizzard Partners with Nielsen on Esports Brand Valuation
Activision Blizzard announced a partnership with global data and measurement company Nielsen to measure and value esports brand investments across the company’s leagues and titles. Nielsen plans to use the same methodology for esports as it does for traditional sports rights holders and brands. Note: Nielsen launched a dedicated esports vertical, Nielsen Esports, in October 2017.
Esports reflected in global pop culture
Dubai will be home to the Middle East's first esports venue
Esports is growing rapidly in the Middle East, and Dubai has their sights set on becoming the global epicenter of all things gaming. The Dubai Media Office and domestic investment agency TECOM Group announced plans for a dedicated venue, the Dubai X-Stadium, an initiative officially endorsed by the kingdom’s crown prince, who oversees the Dubai Future Foundation.
Brands and sponsorships
How Mountain Dew's New Esports Partnership Is Built Around Content and Collaboration
It should come as no surprise that Mountain Dew is one of the non-endemic corporate pioneers of esports, and this partnership with Immortals is the latest in a long history of activation in the gaming space. As the team’s sole beverage sponsor, Mountain Dew will become the official beverage of the team and the scope includes several content initiatives, including a pilot for an unscripted series offering a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of Immortals pro players. This content will be created in partnership with Immortals backer Lionsgate.
TEAM TEARSHEET: IMMORTALS*
I do think it’s important to give a primer on teams not previously mentioned in this newsletter, to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the landscape. If you’re familiar with this org, feel free to skip ahead to the next section. Side note: Do you understand the structure and functionality of esports teams? If not, feel free to let me know via Twitter (@lgflanagan) or email if this is something you’d like to see and if demand is there, I’ll do a special section in upcoming issues.
Executive Leadership: CEO: Noah Whinston, aka the Mark Zuckerberg of esports; Chairman + Co-founder: Clinton Foy, MD of CrossCut Ventures; President + COO: Ari Segal, who came from NHL team the Arizona Coyotes.
Investors: The Immortals cap table is a who’s who of the (weird and wonderful) LA venture scene. You’ve got AEG in the lead, with participation from Lionsgate via their President of Interactive (and Nerdist co-founder) Peter Levin, Steve Kaplan, co-founder of Oaktree Capital and co-owner of The Memphis Grizzlies + Swansea City, the Milken family, Third Wave VC (and Machinima Chairman) Allen DeBevoise, CrossCut, a fund loosely associated with Linkin Park, the list goes on.
Games: Currently fielding teams in Overwatch, Super Smash Brothers, and Dota 2, and in mobile, Arena of Valor and Clash Royale.
Storytime: IMT had a really tough back half of 2017. After having been a mainstay in the League of Legends scene for years, fans were shocked to learn they did not secure a North American LCS franchise going into 2018 and had to dissolve their roster. Their CS:GO team also imploded amidst a scandal, and they are now hiring in an effort to revitalize their Counter-Strike division. They were able to secure a $20 million franchise in the Overwatch League — competing as the LA Valiant — but have had an turbulent season thus far, with inconsistent performance, major roster changes, and the firing of their head coach.
Moving past Wes Copeland, John McCurdy now sits in second place for the top ten Donkey Kong scores of all time
A positively explosive few weeks in the world of competitive arcade Donkey Kong. First the Billy Mitchell scandal, and now the coronation of a new second place King in John McCurdy — pending formal adjudication and recognition by Twin Galaxies. The current first-place record was just set by Robbie Lakeman in February of this year, and thus I say: Seth Gordon, it’s time for a King of Kong sequel.
THE NEXT FORTNITE?
What’s flashing in the pan
Hearthstone, Blizzard’s online collectible card game — if you’re unfamiliar with this genre, think Magic: The Gathering — just released an expansion, causing a surge in viewership (#3 on Twitch last week) as streamers explore the Witchwood. As a total aside, the Witchwood cards have some of my favorite card art yet, full of Dickensian characters (see below) and dark and twisty forest imagery.
Games I’m playing and loving
Celeste, a retro platformer from indie developer Matt Makes Games, is a really special game. The deep, emotional story, the music (some of the best videogame music I’ve ever heard), and the wonderful 2D pixel art combine to make a very challenging game I’ve genuinely loved playing.
Because I needed somewhere to put memes
The first is this fantastic bit of news — Gary Gygax’s trust is partnering with videogame crowdfunding platform Fig to create videogames out of Gygax’s unpublished IP. Gygax, who died at 69, was the creator of Dungeons & Dragons and is known by many to be the godfather of role-playing games. If you know me IRL, you know this is big news.
The second is that the legendary Doom soundtrack is coming to vinyl and boy, does it look cool. If you want to relive your days playing in god mode and scaring yourself to death, it’s also available on Spotify.
Lastly, Season 5 winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Jinkx Monsoon, plays a ton of Overwatch and wants to voice a character. Let’s collectively hope Blizzard finds a way to make it happen.
Have a great weekend.