In the Quarantine Age, an indoor sport seizes center stage

Four men appeared on my television at 2 p.m. in neat rectangles. The backgrounds varied. Barren white walls in one, a few frames in another. A window, some furniture. They all had headsets. One wore a burgundy suit and tie. The others went more casual in the confines of their homes.
::

The gathering resembled the Zoom video chats we have staged with coworkers and friends since the coronavirus outbreak shut down pretty much everything. But this setting was different than our virtual happy hours and mundane meetings.

It was the broadcast for the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS). League of Legends, a multiple-player online battle arena game developed by Riot Games and released in 2009, is the most popular esports title in the world with up to eight million gamers logging on daily to play on their computers. The LCS, which was created in 2012, is the game’s highest level of competition in North America.

It is also one of the few remaining live entertainment options afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thousands were concurrently watching the stream, presented by a large mainstream advertiser, State Farm, on Twitch and YouTube. It was back online after a one-week hiatus, pushing forward when much of society had skidded to a halt. The matches, regularly held in West Los Angeles in front of a few hundred fans, were staged remotely.

“We feel like we’re weathering the storm pretty well,” LCS commissioner Chris Greeley said, “but obviously, as it is for everyone, it’s still a storm.”

I’m a casual gamer. Stick and ball sports were my preference growing up, though in recent years my time has been limited to playing shooters online with friends. It’s a social activity, and one of the few available since COVID-19 arrived. After downloading the game on my laptop, I tried following along with the ad hoc broadcast, curious and confused. I didn’t know the rules or the point of the game but, holed up in my apartment, I welcomed the live competition. The pickings have never been slimmer on a Saturday afternoon.

This should be one of the most exciting periods on the sports calendar. The NCAA Tournament going mad, the start of baseball season, battles for playoff seeding in the NBA, the Masters right around the next magnolia bush, even the XFL for a football fix if mock NFL drafts didn’t suffice.

But those events were postponed for the foreseeable future, if not canceled completely, leaving playing video games — and watching others play them — as two of the limited choices left to sate our social and entertainment thirst. As stadiums and arenas go silent, there is a growing din in a corner of the landscape that until now has largely been drowned out by more traditional, mainstream sports.

It’s coming from the more than 150 million Americans who identify as gamers, and not just the influencers who have become wealthy stars: Ninja, PewDiePie, PrestonPlayz, Markiplier. It’s NBA stars challenging each to other to Call of Duty; teens playing Fortnite at 3 a.m. on indefinite leave from school; 9-to-5 workers at home sneaking in FIFA games between Zoom meetings. It’s me.

Esports were built for the quarantine culture because, to some degree, isolation always has been a part of its DNA. And with hundreds of millions now shut-in for the time being, an already robust community senses an opportunity.

This could be esports’ moment.

“It is an absolutely terrible thing that’s happening around the world,” Ryan Friedman said. “Obviously, it’s a huge net negative, but with the cancellation of traditional sports, a lot of people who would have never given esports a chance are going to start at least looking into it and that’s a good opportunity for esports to draw in a bunch of new viewers.”

Friedman is the chief of staff of Dignitas, an organization with teams in various esports acquired by the Philadelphia 76ers in 2016. He is also the younger brother of Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations. While Andrew’s team sat idle on opening day last week, wondering if Major League Baseball would have a 2020 season, Ryan’s franchise, one of the 10 in the LCS, stayed busy.

Esports — broadly defined as professional competition using video games — had several major events on the calendar canceled, but most entities have been able to continue competition knowing an amplified audience is available. Evidence of the opportunity is found on Twitch, the go-to streaming platform for casual and professional gaming.

“With the cancellation of traditional sports, a lot of people who would have never given esports a chance are going to start at least looking”. Ryan Freidman, Brother of Dodgers President Andrew Friedman.

People are streaming and watching streams more than ever since the outbreak began taking hold, according to TwitchTracker.com and SullyGnome.com, which monitor Twitch audiences. The platform has set all-time highs this month in peak daily active users (22.7 million), average concurrent viewers (1.6 million), and number of streamers (65,000).

“In esports, the show can go on,” esports lawyer Bryce Blum said. “We can transition back to our roots.”

The increase has not, however, been as uniform for conventional esports events. A few esports have seen instant growth in viewers, such as Rocket League and the ESL Pro League, a 24-team Counter-Strike: Global Offensive competition that recently enjoyed its most-watched broadcast day in history. Conversely, League of Legends has experienced a year-over-year jump of around 20,000 viewers on Twitch this month but has seen a dip since the LCS opened its spring season to great fervor in late January.

The industry is nascent but not new with consumers around the world. Money has flooded into the space over the last decade to fuel a booming enterprise that has eclipsed $1 billion globally. And plenty of that capital has been supplied by leaders in traditional sports.

In 2016, Dodgers co-owner Peter Guber and Ted Leonsis, owner of the NBA’s Washington Wizards and NHL’s Washington Capitals, led a group that bought controlling interest in Team Liquid, recognized as the most successful esports organization in history. Dan Gilbert, owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, invested in an organization and the Golden State Warriors founded one in 2017.

A member of Team OOB in action during the League of Legends World Finals at the Girl Gamer Esports Festival in Dubai in February.
A fan watches the final match of the 2018 League of Legends World Championship in South Korea.

The infusion accelerated the industry’s expansion. Live competitions with massive audiences became common. Events filled Staples Center and Madison Square Garden. Millions of dollars have been awarded to players in different games, and several players boast career earnings of more than $1 million.

In recent weeks, traditional sports entities with esports partnerships have turned to the virtual world after their schedules were abruptly detonated. Leonsis’ Monumental Sports and Entertainment Group recently began airing one-hour video game simulations of previously scheduled Wizards and Capitals games on NBC Sports Washington. Formula 1 ran a race with professional drivers and gamers that aired on Twitch. On Friday, MLB held a tournament with four major leaguers on MLB: The Show 20 and steamed it on different platforms.

NASCAR aired a virtual version of the Dixie Vodka 150 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on FOX two Sundays ago with the participants using racing simulators remotely. The real-life NASCAR racers who participated were not rookies to the platform — racers have used virtual simulators as practice tools for the real thing for years. The results were proof.

Denny Hamlin, a three-time Daytona 500 winner, edged out retired driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the win in a $40,000 iRacing rig at his house, barefoot with his daughter cheering behind him. NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon was one of three people on the call for the 35-car race from a studio in Charlotte. The inaugural event drew more than 900,000 viewers, making it the highest-rated esports television program in history.

“NASCAR’s transition [to esports] has been the most intriguing.”

On Sunday, Timmy Hill, a 27-year-old pro driver who has never won a NASCAR Cup Series race, won the second virtual race at Texas Motor Speedway.

NASCAR chief digital officer Tim Clark said the plan is to continue staging virtual versions of its races, following the usual schedule, until its season resumes. As it stands, the on-track season is suspended until May 9.

For its part, the League of Legends Championship Series confronted the coronavirus outbreak like traditional sports leagues, realizing quickly that continuing as usual was irresponsible.

A day after announcing plans to proceed without a studio audience, media and non-essential personnel, the league on March 13 postponed that weekend’s competition entirely. Four days later, the league announced it was going remote for the foreseeable future.

Greeley, the commissioner, said the decision was not easy. In-person events not only make for better entertainment, but better competition. Playing remotely could lead to slower connections, which impacts gameplay. And players are less supervised, opening opportunities for cheating. The league spent the next week devising a plan to limit network issues and rule-breaking.

League of Legends players take part in a live streaming event in Montpellier, France, in September.

On Wednesday, LCS announced the rest of the season, including the finals, which originally were scheduled to be held in a 12,000-seat stadium at the Dallas Cowboys’ practice facility in Frisco, Texas, April 18-19, would take place online.

“We can play from home,” said Steve Arhancet, co-owner and CEO of Team Liquid, the reigning LCS champions. “That makes us a much more resilient entertainment industry when it comes to competitive sports.”

The 10-team LCS returned from its one-week postponement with five matches. The battles comprised Week 8 of the competition’s spring split. A team named Cloud 9 won both of its matches, improving its league-best record in the march toward a $200,000 prize pool to supplement player salaries that average more than $300,000.

::

The four neat rectangles were back on my television after the final match on March 22. The host, in the top left, thanked everyone who made the event possible. He implored the audience for feedback to improve. They were poised to return the next weekend. After another week without sports, I was too.

By Jorge Castil
March 29, 2020

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Fox Sports to televise live Madden NFL 20 esports tournament

Is this esports’ time to shine?

The big picture: Fox Sports on Sunday will air the first-ever Madden NFL Invitational tournament later today on FS1. The two-hour event, to be hosted by Chris Myers and Rachel Bonnetta, will raise awareness for the CDC Foundation’s Covid-19 relief efforts, the network said. Could this be the jumping-off point that esports needs to go mainstream?

Had you told the programming directors at major broadcasters like ESPN and Fox Sports just one month ago that there would essentially be no live sports to air come the end of March, they would have laughed you right out of the room. Yet, here we are.

The NBA and NHL have canceled their seasons. The NCAA basketball tournament was canceled. NASCAR has postponed races through May 3. MLB has postponed the start of its season. Major boxing and MMA events have been called off. Even the Olympics have been pushed back a year.

Contender eSports 405 N Jefferson Ave Springfield, MO 65806

Fox Sports said the esports tournament will consist of seven matches across three rounds of play to determine a winner among a field of celebrity competitors including Derwin James, Antonio Cromartie, Michael Vick, Matt Leinart, Orlando Scandrick, T.J.Houshmandzadeh, Juju Smith-Schuster, and Ahman Green. All players will compete remotely with the matches streamed live during the telecast.

Yeah, it’s essentially Twitch, but on cable TV.

Sure, it’s unusual, but what other option does the broadcaster have? It’s not like there’s a contingency plan in place for this sort of scenario and Fox Sports likely doesn’t have the massive archive of old sporting events to fill open programming slots that ESPN does. The only option, it would seem, is to think outside the box and that’s what we’re seeing play out.

WWE, for example, is still pumping out content, albeit in empty arenas (and yes, it’s just as bizarre and uncomfortable as it sounds). The UFC is still attempting to put on its mega-fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson on April 18, a bout that is seemingly cursed as it has been scheduled and canceled four times already.

For Fox and especially esports in general, however, this is a huge opportunity. Last week’s virtual NASCAR race drew impressive numbers and today’s football broadcast could easily top that. And to think, it wasn’t all that long ago when ESPN’s president proclaimed that esports were not real sports.

Fox Sports’ Madden NFL 20 Invitational is scheduled to kick off at 7:00 Eastern on FS1.

By Shawn Knight
March 29, 2020

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Esports offer fans alternate entertainment

As the coronavirus situation continues to evolve, ripple effects have caused mass cancellations throughout the sports and entertainment world. This opens the door for alternative forms of media to enter into the viewing spectrum.

In recent weeks, major sports, including NBA, NHL, MLB, and MLS, suspended their seasons. With the questions concerning the months ahead, it remains uncertain when and if these leagues can continue.

With social distancing recommendations coming from government officials, avid sports fans are found with more time on their hands and nothing to watch. However, various nontraditional sports leagues have continued action due to the versatility of their structures.

The most prominent of which is esports, competitive gaming leagues revolving around strategic teamwork within the industry’s most popular titles and real-life simulations.

Brett Payne, the owner of Contender eSports, an esports gaming center franchise based in Springfield, said transitioning during this time of isolation has been difficult for all businesses; however, it is “one that is much smoother for the esports world.”

“Everyone has been seeing events get canceled,” Payne said. “However, with the capability for players to compete together online from remote locations, we have been able to continue on with our events — just in a modified format.”

Contender holds events nightly, which are now strictly online. Audiences can view competitions through services such as Twitch and Facebook Live.

“Typically, we don’t stream events in order to encourage people to come in to watch live and meet others,” Payne said. “Given the circumstances, online live streaming services allow us to continue to hold our events and give people access to view them.”

Payne said he believes the ability to continue pushing out content online right now is key to potentially increasing esports viewership over the next few months.

A problem with online competitions is when players are on their own personal internet connections, slow internet speeds can cause “lag input,” where the player’s poor connection causes the game to run less smoothly. Sometimes this can result in players being disconnected from games.

Jesse Skaggs, a former professional Halo player, now runs Contender’s online streams and said he believes he’s seen an increase in audience participation over the last few weeks, despite Contender’s actual game floor closing.

“Viewership is up but not with competitive play,” Skaggs said. “Many mainstream gamers such as Ninja (Tyler Blevins) have seen jumps in viewership because young audiences simply have more free time right now.”

Skaggs said a perfect example of esports gaining interest is the “eNASCAR” virtual race which was run on Sunday. Racers competed in a virtual simulation of a race at the Homestead-Miami racetrack. Denny Hamlin, a professional NASCAR driver, won the race.

“It is a full-on racing experience that is highly accurate to the real thing,” Skaggs said.

Skaggs said with this format, NASCAR was still able to produce a race while avoiding crowds — and probably did so at a much lower production cost than it took to host an actual race.

Skaggs said he doesn’t think esports is going to take over traditional sports anytime soon, but said: “The industry is rapidly growing and now is a good time, with everything going on, for new viewers to be introduced to what (esports) has to offer.”

By Noah Tucker, Sports Reporter, The Standard
March 24, 2020

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Springfield eSports Arcade Offers Unique Opportunity

A little trash talk and razor-sharp focus. It sure seems a lot like sports.

“You’ve got football, you’ve got tennis, you’ve got baseball, you’ve got basketball. With eSports, we have League of Legends, we have [Super] Smash [Bros], we have Apex [Legends], we have FIFA,” said Contender eSports CEO and Founder Brett Payne.

A rapidly growing industry, eSports is competitive video-gaming and the passion that comes with it.

“You can’t imagine the number of people playing and yelling and screaming and cheering,” Payne said.

He saw that passion and decided to found Contender eSports.

Contender eSports Springfield

Springfield arcade manager Jesse Skaggs says it’s the perfect place for gamers in the Ozarks to share their competitive spirit.

“Not everybody can afford a computer like this at home to have that opportunity,” Skaggs said.

Just like a traditional sports venue, Contender eSports in Springfield is now closed to the public, but unlike a basketball gym or a baseball field, closing the doors doesn’t mean the action stops.

“We’re approaching this as a new grand opening,” Payne said. “We are doubling down on our marketing, on our efforts and working with people. This is not a slow time for us at all.”

Instead, the ongoing pandemic forcing people to stay home is driving them online.

“We’re actually seeing growth in that aspect,” Skaggs said. “Because you don’t have to show up. That’s problem number one.”

Skaggs, a former professional Halo player, also played college baseball at Southwest Baptist University.

He often hosts Contender customers on Twitch, a live streaming platform that’s helped eSports explode around the globe.

“When I was 18, I had to make the choice between college baseball and pursuing competitive gaming… If I would’ve known eight years down the road [playing Halo] there’s going to be 44 million people watching me play a pro video game that I was competitive at, I probably would’ve opted out of the college baseball option then,” Skaggs said.

He says as you learn about pro gaming, you notice the similarities between that and professional sports.

“[Pro gamers] have nutrition plans, they have weight lifting plans,” Skaggs said. Yeah, they’re sitting behind a screen for 12 hours in a day, but in the other six, they’re literally training themselves to be able to do that for 12 hours.”

Even those dedicated professionals started out as beginners.

“It’s cool to be able to give the opportunity of what it is now, that’s my biggest thing of doing this as a career is now I can be like ‘hey, this is an option for you’,” Skaggs said.

Just maybe, it’ll click for Springfield’s next professional gamer.

By Mark Spillane
March 25, 2020

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Local eSports leaders to create a league for high schoolers

SPRINGFIELD, Mo- Contender eSports, and the Drury eSports team are squading up to create a league for high schoolers in Springfield.

Contender eSports is Springfield’s only eSports gaming center. Brett Payne owns the Springfield location and the franchise nationwide, with the corporate office in Springfield at the Missouri State eFactory.

Brett started the company towards the end of 2018 and wanted it to be a place for the community to come and enjoy it.

Brett Payne, Founder and CEO – Contender eSports

“There was an opportunity for us to kind of standardize this and make sure that we have a way for every city in the United States to have its own brick and mortar esports facility,” says Brett.

Brett is no stranger to video games. He has four kids ranging from 27 to 6-years-old. So he understands the parental perspective with kids and video games.

He says since the gaming center has opened, it opened last week, parents are shocked with how family-friendly of a place it is.

“They come in here; they see so many people while they’re playing. They sit on the couches, they talk with their other friends. They know that this is a very family-friendly place, so we try to make it really really safe for everybody,” says Brett.

The mission of Contender is to reach gamers of all ages. To reach high school students, they are creating gaming leagues for high schoolers in Springfield.

Contender and the Drury eSports team are hoping to create the league in the coming weeks.

“We’re working together to start the first Springfield eSports high school league. So parents that have been arguing with their kids about playing various games all of a sudden are going to see those kids competing against other high schools here,” says Brett.

Esports: nothing but (inter)net for a group of Drury athletes Drury eSports Head Coach

Michael Jones says Drury’s role is to coach the students on teamwork.

“We’re offering the expertise in how do you run a team? What are the duties of a couch? There’s a lot of teachers and faculty members that are stepping up that are seeing this as something their students are passionate about, and they want to support that. So we’re volunteering to offer mentorship and coaching to these young gamers so that they can learn how to be part of a team,” says Michael.

Until the leagues are set in stone, high schoolers are still welcome to play with friends at Contender.

In more eSports news, Drury will be hosting an eSports festival at the O’Reilly Family Event Center on February 22nd and 23rd.

According to a press release from Drury, “Teams in the Midwest Esports Conference will hold official competitions in a double, round-robin regular season in the game League of Legends. In addition to spectating the conference’s League of Legends contests, attendees can sign up for tournaments in a variety of games.”

By Chris Six
Feb 10, 2020 / 06:25 PM CST / Updated: Feb 10, 2020 / 06:27 PM CST

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For serious esports players, it’s more than video games

For 17-year-old Martín Trejo, playing video games isn’t a solitary activity.

Quite the opposite, actually.

For him, gaming connects people and makes the world a little smaller.

Like when he left friends behind in Mexico, where he grew up, and kept in touch by gaming with them from another country.

“Let’s say you’re on a regular sports team. Your friend moves out of the city. You can’t play with them anymore. But if you’re playing games, you’re still able to,” the senior said.

The community aspect of gaming is part of what drew him to join the esports team – a competitive video gaming group – at Del Norte High School.

“Something that made me interested is that I can meet new people. All these people are in different grades than me,” he said, gesturing around the room at his teammates playing the Nintendo Switch.

Trejo, captain of a multi-player online battle arena team, recently became one of the first esports scholarship recipients at Albuquerque Public Schools.

The scholarships cover season fees and the cost of a team jersey.

“I didn’t think that was going to be a resource,” Trejo said.

The first batch was awarded this month to 55 high school students, according to APS.

Chief information and strategy officer Richard Bowman, who was a driver in bringing esports districtwide, said the scholarships were a way to make joining a team possible.

“We did not want a lack of means to become a problem in accessing esports,” he said.

Bowman said esports is a growing industry that can open doors, such as college, for APS students.

“I think it’s important to give the opportunity to all the different types of kids at school. Esports is a big and growing opportunity, and APS should be a leader in it,” he said.

As of Friday, 32 more students were slated to receive scholarships, for a total of 87, according to esports project supervisor Laurie Lehman.

An APS Education Foundation grant and donations are used to fund the scholarships.

Vy Nguyen, 17, is one recipient.

The League of Legends team captain joined the Del Norte esports team a couple of months ago because she wanted to have a group she could play with consistently.

She said that in addition to becoming a better gamer, being on the team has taught her communication skills and patience.

“It’s important to get along with your team and understand each other,” she said.

As the only girl on the team, she hopes to see the program expand with more diverse members.

“The boys are nice. They’re really cool, but I do wish there were more girls,” the junior said. “So, I hope me being in the esports team will convince other girls to join.”

Esports – a New Mexico Activities Association-approved activity – officially started in APS in the 2018-19 school year and is offered to high school students.

Joshua Martinez, APS esports coordinator, said the NMAA picks the games, avoiding anything violent or inappropriate, and schools compete throughout the season.

Martinez said 19 high schools are participating in esports across APS, up from around eight schools that participated last year.

While gaming can be a fanciful escape into another universe, it’s not just fun and – well – games.

Trejo said esports has helped his skills in leadership, communication, problem solving and teamwork.

“It makes me feel like I’ve become a better person,” he said.

By SHELBY PEREA / JOURNAL STAFF WRITER
PUBLISHED DECEMBER 25, 2019

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Music Industry: How Esports will be the next contender

Inaugural track Music and Sports by Midem, scheduled to take place on June 6 and created by the sister company of Midem’s Esports BAR, is the only venue where people will be able to know how and why these two industries come together to play a key role in the future.

With some of the biggest gambling-giants like Bet365 and Betway esports offering odds on esports games, it’s clearly evident that the Esports industry is going to grow massively.

Executives and musicians from the fields of music and esports will share their knowledge and how this partnership will affect pop culture in the future.

“This Midem event is the only one designed to create a dialogue with esports professionals, as music is becoming important for sports production,” says Stephane Gambetta, Production Manager Esports BAR.

Digital entertainment is possibly one of the first entertainment platforms that attract the interest of major press and marketers for the uninitiated music industry.

There is a generation that enjoys watching gamers play online, on TV and at venues. Digital natives of Gen Z and the Millennials are a core part of the esports fan base including sports teams playing on streaming platforms, broadcasting Television and live venues.

Now, millions of watchers battle each other on live streaming sites including Twitch, a tech giant subsidiary Amazon.com. Yet gamers and esports enthusiasts using streaming platforms have become superstars with millions of followers running their own online esports tourneys.

Supporters communicate with them in real-time with feverish feedback within the chat region of the computer. Some use micro-trading to make donations, which can make millions of dollars from players organizing gaming tournaments.

The Newzoo research firm forecasts that in 2019 esports are expected to hit 450 million more viewers and the maximum profit of $1 billion. And while this is a small sum compared to the global music industry, a value of $19.1 billion, esports also attract fans in the music industry.

Therefore, innovation in esports from diverse technology, entertainment and commercial groups putting together Esports BAR is making this new phenomenon more formal.

And now, Midem so Esports BAR together want to bring music producers, record labels, retailers and holders of rights to a new yet rapidly growing media ecosystem.

“Rock and fans ‘ experiences are very different,” Gambetta says. Live esports events, comparable to music festivals, are high-performance audio-visual activities. There is also new audiovisual material surrounding music created in the sports industry. “Midem is a great forum for businesses to gather and publish information and understand that music plays an important role in esports,” says Pieter van Rijn, CEO of FUGA Digital Music Distribution Company.

How Esports Betting Affects the Industry

There appears to be a big market that is here to stay, not just the new gambling phenomenon. There are many reasons for the rise of eSports gambling. Second, it’s only natural for people who are in eSports, who want to pay for their expertise while attending eSports games.

ESports are very colorful, there are many surprises and in minutes things can change. This is why e-Sports betting can prove lucrative, but also very thrilling. If you wager on it, watching a match will be much more interesting than watching without gambling.

ESports games are broadcast online live, and usually free to view, making things much easier for viewers and punters in eSports. Millions of people are watching eSports, competitions are competitive, the game is broken into integral parts like maps and maps and other information like kills are registered and it is easy to see why eSports, close to traditional sports, is ideal for gambling.

Betting on eSports became widely known soon after eSports, at least as competitive games, if not as athletics. Yet eSports betting didn’t appear to become so popular, and certainly didn’t seem to be recognized and began offering eSports betting.

There were several reasons to doubt whether eSports gambling would become a major feature.

Next, eSports themselves are extremely uncontrolled and the players fatigued game cheating and other risks. In comparison, eSports primarily targeted teenagers and young adults, which means that the highest proportion of the target population was less than 18.

Skin gambling seemed to be the most prevalent form of eSports betting and real money betting would be limited to wagering among friends and a small number of somewhat depressing online sites. Yet things have changed, and quite rapidly they have changed.

Drake, Lopez and Steve Aoki investing in Esports

In order to reach a wider audience, Games developer Riot Games has approached FUGA to sell the songs to an audience broader, hosting high-performing competitions focused on its game of League of Legends (LoL) and creating in-house music.

In South Korea, last year’s opening ceremony of the Riot games championship event was the K / DA K-pop group live music, followed by the LoL characters ‘ Augmented Reality models, which chanted POP / STARS from Riot Games.

Riot Games wants the help of a marketing company such as FUGA to distribute this product to mainstream music fans.

ENTER Records, which is a joint-venture company with the ESL sports group, established major labels with Universal Music Group (UMG). The FatRat, which has increased its fan base of music available for esports entertainment, has already been included in ENTER Music. German electronic music is now available.

“We find out that the average player can spend up to 10 hours listening to Music.” Dirk Baur, CEO of Universal Music Labs Germany at a recent Esports BAR Conference in Cannes: “We have found that FatRat is a good example of how we use music at events; it provides added value for the way we do.” As Twitch streamed Drake online, a player himself, last year, Tyler Ninja Blevin broke most records.

Consumers of esports “are among the most technologically integrated and not reachable by other means,” says Gambetta, adding: “Sports are a promotional platform that allows its highly-touched audiences to perform music. We are happy to be able to put together the two industries.

By RJ Frometa
PUBLISHED NOVEMBER 11, 2019

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All the questions about ‘Fortnite’ you were too embarrassed to ask

Atlanta (CNN Business)”Fortnite” is big business and an unlikely cultural phenomenon that is sweeping the globe.

The multiplayer video game, about an impending ecological crisis threatening the survival of humanity, is about to have its Super Bowl.

The Fortnite World Cup finals will take place at Arthur Ashe tennis stadium in Queens, New York this weekend. Players from all over the world have flown to the Big Apple and will compete over a $30 million prize pool.

If you’re not among the millions of people playing “Fortnite” and are feeling left behind, we break down everything you need to know.

Let’s start with the basics. What the heck is this game?

“Fortnite” is essentially a crossover between “The Hunger Games” (a post-apocalypse battle) and “Minecraft” (a creative sandbox where players can build anything they like). You can play it on Xbox, PlayStation, Windows and Mac platforms

There are two versions: “Fortnite: Save the World,” which has players banding together to fight off zombie-like monsters who drop from storm clouds, and its free (and more popular) spinoff, “Fortnite Battle Royale,” which pits up to 100 players against each other in a frenzied fight for survival. Last one standing wins.

‘Hunger Games?’ Monsters?? This game sounds violent

“Fortnite” is rated T for Teen, which means suitable for ages 13 and up. It certainly contains violence, but its animation is cartoon-like and there’s no blood or gore.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board explains its parental guidance this way: “This is an action game in which players build forts, gather resources, craft weapons and battle hordes of monsters in frenetic combat … players use guns, swords, and grenades … (and) can also defeat enemies by using various traps (e.g., electric, spikes, poisonous gas). Battles are highlighted by frequent gunfire, explosions, and cries of pain.”

Contender eSports 405 N Jefferson Ave Springfield, MO 65806

Some parents have complained about the game. But while the objective is to kill all of your opponents, “Fortnite” is nowhere near as violent as games like “Call of Duty” or “Grand Theft Auto.”

What makes it so popular?

One driving factor behind “Fortnite’s” popularity is its cost, or lack thereof. Because the “Battle Royale” version is entirely free and accessible on a number of platforms, it has a low barrier to entry — allowing new players to quickly acclimate and feel accomplished.

The developers of the game are attuned to its popularity and release updates weekly with new items and actions.

Players also compete on Twitch, an Amazon-owned live streaming site for gamers, and now on the Nintendo Switch (although they’re still working out the bugs on this platform).

The game’s spontaneity and cartoonish glee make it highly accessible. But “Fortnite” also has a high-skill ceiling, keeping players hooked and eager to improve.

Contender eSports 405 N Jefferson Ave Springfield, MO 65806

How is this game making any money if it’s free?

The original version of “Fortnite” costs $40, and a deluxe version is $60. But it mostly turns a profit from its in-game currency, V-bucks.

“Fortnite” generates most of its money from in-game purchases.

Players spend real money to acquire V-bucks, which can be used to buy customizable aspects of the game such as tools, weapons, outfits and even emotes.

Slow down — what’s an emote?

Emotes are dances or gestures that characters can do in the game. They are one of the most popular aspects of “Fortnite” and have generated hundreds of memes.

Popular emotes include the Floss dance, Carlton’s “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” dance and the Take the L dance, in which a player makes an L on their forehead while kicking, donkey-like, from side to side.

Is it a passing fad, or is ‘Fortnite’ here to stay?

“Fortnite” remains the biggest video game in esports, although it is starting to lose momentum. That’s why, in a bid to remain popular, Epic Games is throwing its giant Fortnite sporting event this weekend. Fans of the game range from 13-year-old boys to 30-something gamers.

The game is also popular with celebrities. Rappers Drake and Travis Scott, NFL player JuJu Smith-Schuster and popular Twitch gamer Ninja all competed on a Twitch livestream of the game and broke the site’s record for concurrent viewers.

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Other famous fans of the game include Joe Jonas, Chance the Rapper and Norm MacDonald.

By Josh Axelrod and Saeed Ahmed, CNN Business
PUBLISHED JULY 26, 2019

— Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article was published June 17, 2018.
CNN’s Brandon Griggs contributed to this story.

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Five reasons why Mercedes-Benz is involved with eSports

Mercedes-Benz and eSports — isn’t that a contradiction? On the one side there’s a brand that even today is often regarded as conservative, has a tradition going back 130 years, and is associated with motorsports. On the other side is a sport whose players and fans used to be mocked as “nerds” and nowadays get excited about fantasy role-playing and “cosplay” (costume play, a performance art whose participants wear costumes representing their favorite fantasy characters — see below).

Outsiders would probably not even mention Mercedes-Benz and eSports in the same breath. Nonetheless, we have been one of the pioneers sponsoring eSports since 2017. At first glance, our partnership seems to be a mismatch — but in fact we fit together very well! In this blog post I’d like to take you with me into the world of virtual sports.

ESL One was held in Birmingham in early June. And Mercedes-Benz was in the midst of it! A big Mercedes EQC star shined brightly above the stage. The audience joined the jury in the vote for the “Mercedes-Benz MVP” — the Most Valuable Player in the tournament. People could play games inside a “Mercedes-Benz In-Car-Gaming CLA,” and there are many similar highlights.

Contender eSports 405 N Jefferson Ave Springfield, MO 65806

We want to communicate authentically in the world of eSports, and that’s why we’ve expanded our activities as a partner of ESL. In addition to its already existing premium partnership with ESL, Mercedes-Benz is now also the event’s exclusive and global mobility partner.

Contender eSports 405 N Jefferson Ave Springfield, MO 65806

That’s kind of cool — but you might still be wondering WHY Mercedes-Benz is involved in eSports. Here are five reasons why:

1. Because eSports are definitely sports

We’ve already explained the Top 3 misunderstandings about eSports. In our opinion, the argument that eSports participants are not real athletes is not justified. The cognitive demands and strains of eSports have been sufficiently documented, and the players’ physical fitness is becoming increasingly important.

Independently of the sports-science perspective, eSports are also sports that should be taken seriously from a marketing standpoint. “Event eSports” such as ESL One function exactly like “traditional” sports! Thomas Müller from the Bayern Munich soccer team is known as a star with rough edges — and in exactly the same way, there are also well-known faces in the eSports scene. The Birmingham Arena, which will be filled with 15,800 spectators in T-shirts representing their favorite teams, is completely sold out. Millions of spectators will also be streaming the matches, complete with live commentary, on their mobile terminals. The arenas, the stars, the fans, the playing field — from a marketing standpoint, there are clear parallels between “traditional” sports and eSports.

Contender eSports 405 N Jefferson Ave Springfield, MO 65806

2. Because eSports are a growing market

The eSports market is growing by leaps and bounds. The financial forecasts for the years ahead are tripping over themselves with superlatives, no matter what specialist report you’re reading. A current article in the sport business magazine SPONSORs predicts that in 2019 the revenues from global eSports will pass the US$1 billion threshold for the first time — and this figure is due to increase.

So it’s fantastic that in this market Mercedes-Benz is perceived as one of the pioneers of “non-endemic” eSports sponsorship. “Non-endemic” refers to companies and their products that are not directly part of the eSports scene — by contrast, endemic sponsors would include video game or electronic hardware producers. By comparison with its direct automotive competitors, Mercedes-Benz is clearly in the lead when it comes to eSports sponsorship. From a global perspective, many major corporate groups such as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola are investing in eSports. Why are they doing that?

Contender eSports 405 N Jefferson Ave Springfield, MO 65806

3. Because eSports reach a future-oriented, attractive target group

Through eSports it’s possible to reach a special young target group that does not exist in “traditional” sport sponsorships in this configuration and in these dimensions. Let’s take a closer look at this target group. The core of this community consists of highly educated millennials.

85% of the core target group is between the ages of 18 and 34. An above-average proportion of the core target group is firmly established in a career and has a high level of purchasing power. In addition, the target group is strikingly tech-savvy. That’s why this community is especially interesting for us as an automaker.

Establishing contact with the members of this target group as early as possible and providing them with a positive experience of the Mercedes-Benz brand can tip the scales later on, when an individual is deciding whether to buy a car from Mercedes-Benz or a competing brand. In other words, the goal of our sponsorship has been designed with the long term in mind. In particular, the future-oriented themes of mobility that are relevant for us, such as carsharing and autonomous driving, are central topics to which the community is more receptive than the average consumer.

Contender eSports 405 N Jefferson Ave Springfield, MO 65806

4. Because eSports have impressive reach figures

From a global perspective, eSports have long been more than just a youth-related phenomenon. In 2017, 81 million people all over the world were playing that year’s most popular game, the League of Legends (LoL) — that’s a far greater number than the population of France (67 million). In 2018, 17.7 million spectators watched the NBA basketball finals. The peak number of online spectators of the LoL championships in 2018 was 205 million fans! And if we compare the Facebook followers of VfB Stuttgart (547,000) with those of the eSports team “Fnatic” (2.5 million), here too the numbers speak for themselves. eSports have a much higher profile in North America and Asia than they do in Europe. At the end of last year, China built a whole “eSports City” from scratch in Hangzhou. It cost €254 million and covers an area the size of 68 soccer fields. China plans to invest an additional €2 billion in this facility between now and 2022. And there are further impressive figures concerning eSports, thanks to their diversity.

Contender eSports 405 N Jefferson Ave Springfield, MO 65806

5. Because eSports have a positive effect on the image of Mercedes-Benz

From a global perspective, Mercedes-Benz benefits from its involvement in an attractive and unique environment. The brand’s image looks fresher and more modern thanks to its close links with the eSports community. The fans, stars, and organizers of this global scene are younger and more closely connected with one another than those of any other sport.

The key to this closeness is the fast communication that the Internet makes possible. Because of the high degree of interaction within the community, sponsors are noticed quickly. They receive direct feedback on platforms such as Twitch and Reddit — platforms that are difficult to penetrate otherwise. Most importantly, the Mercedes-Benz brand strictly distances itself from ego-shooter games and other games that propagate or glorify violence!

Contender eSports 405 N Jefferson Ave Springfield, MO 65806

What are the next steps?

In the Mercedes-Benz sport sponsorship portfolio, eSports are a logical complement to sports such as golf and Formula 1 auto racing. Sponsors are tapping into a young, attractive, and tech-savvy target group that other sports cannot offer — and that’s why companies are investing in this sport. At Mercedes-Benz, our involvement with this up-and-coming sport is by no means over. We have expanded our cooperation with ESL. This year we’ve already been in Katowice, Poland and Mumbai, and now we’re in Birmingham. In October we’ve got a “home game” at ESL One in Hamburg. And our agenda for next year will once again include four major events and dozens of tournaments in the Mercedes-Benz markets. So stay online!

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by Manuel Müller
PUBLISHED May 31, 2019

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eSports Beginners Guide: Introduction to eSports

What Is eSports?

Not quite sure what eSports is? Whether it’s a medium for entertainment, a hobby in one’s freetime, or a potential source of revenue from bets, it’s clear that eSports is something everyone should be on the lookout for, especially as its popularity increases. As you can see below, eSports tournaments are able to not only match, but outshine other traditional sporting events. eSports professional gamers can make millions per year. The old adage that video games will ruin your life is officially dead. Don’t believe us? Read this article – Highest Paid eSports Players in the World and you’ll start to understand.

One poll, taken last year by Washington Post-University of Massachusetts Lowell found that 58 percent of 14-to- 21-year-olds said they watched people playing competitive video games, with a similar percentage reporting that they played such games themselves.

Okay, But What Is It?

Before understanding the radical growth of eSports, let’s first establish the basics. eSports is a video game sport that encompasses a wide range and variety of video games, fans, and viewers. It is played worldwide, typically by professional gamers and in tournaments that have boasted record viewerships of over 100 million fans, like the 2017 World Championship for League of Legends, according to analyst website eSports Charts.

And eSports is played on many more games than League of Legends (frequently referred to as LoL). Although LoL is one of the most popular PC video games for eSports both in the United States and internationally, you may also recognize more pop culturally significant titles like Fortnite, Super Smash Bros, or Call of Duty.

How Does The Sport Work?

Types of Games
Generally, the types of games played by professional players or teams can be strategy games, which include multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games, like LoL, and real-time strategy (RTS) games. Other extremely popular genres include first-person shooter (FPS) games, or fighting games. Although not considered strategy games, these types of games still involve equal amounts of skill, teamwork, and quick reflexes.

Real-time strategy games are called so because they break from the format of traditional turn-based games. Players must control units to react to events as the game progresses, and these games often have resources and building mechanics to further challenge players. Popular examples of RTS games in eSports include StarCraft II or Warcraft III.

MOBA is by far, the most popular genre in terms of viewership and prize money. MOBA games, which originally spawned as a sub-genre of RTS games, are team strategy games where teams work together against an opposing team to take out their base while defending their own. In 2018, the top prize money for the LoL World Championship was nearly $6.5 million dollars. Another popular MOBA game, Dota 2, had a total prize pool of over $25 million dollars in the 2018 championship and over 52 million total viewers.

One of the most universally recognized eSports genres, first-person shooter games include classic franchises like Call of Duty, Rainbow Six, and Counter-Strike, as well as the more recently popular battle royale genre with titles like Fortnite and PlayerUnknown: Battlegrounds. These games center around weapon-based combat through the eyes of the main character, and usually involve teams competing against each other.

Lastly, fighting games, which include Mortal Kombat and Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros, are games which usually focus on individual players’ skills and tactics in round-based matches.

How The Games Are Played
Watching an eSports tournament, you’ll see the same type of setup we’ve all become familiar with after watching traditional sports. Commentators provide information on the teams, players, and the leagues and tournaments, while a live audience usually watches as the games unfold. Like traditional sporting games, the matches and tournaments are broadcast live to the hundreds or millions of fans that watch live through live streaming platforms like YouTube, Twitch, and Facebook.

One of the only things slowing the growth of eSports (which, by the way, is still growing at an insane rate- the audience has expanded by just over 50% since 2016 to now include 557 million total casual viewers and enthusiasts) is the lack of a national or international professional league, like with the NFL or the Olympics.

Due to this lack of an official professional league for eSports, a unique structured system has established itself in the industry. Players organize themselves by specific games, and the games are run and regulated by tournaments or leagues that host the large tournaments and set up the seasons for the sport.

Similar to how American football was organized before the creation of the NFL, teams are organized into a variety of different regions and leagues based on geographic locations. Many leagues focus on specific countries or continents.

The key thing to note is that teams and players are almost always separated by specific games, so they are whittled down throughout seasons through series matches that put teams and players against each other for multiple games in a row. Often, in FPS games, specific teams are extremely skilled or prepared for certain maps over others, so multiple rounds are needed before elimination.

Live Gameplay
With the use of live streaming platforms, like the incredibly popular Twitch streaming site, professional gamers or leagues are able to reach endless amounts of fans in real time. For individual players, this means one on one and more personal interactions with fans. And for large tournament streams, this means real-time engagement with millions of fans and a greater impact on ads that millions of viewers will watch through as they attempt to see every moment of the matches.

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According to Twitch analytic site TwitchTracker, the nearly 600,000 average viewers on the streaming site in 2016 is expected to have grown to 1.28 million by the end of this year. Looking at the graph below, the dramatic growth of live streaming services is shown to be clear.

Where Does The Money Come From?

Contender eSports 405 N Jefferson Ave Springfield, MO 65806

As you can see above, there’s a lot of focus on and attention to viewership and revenue in the eSports system. Large game developers, major brand names, and investors with millions of dollars placed on the future of the market are all involved in the hundreds of millions of dollars that eSports generate.

It’s no surprise then that the growing industry of eSports is capable of large amounts of revenue. According to one analysis by Newzoo, an industry analyst, eSports has seen a more than 30% average annual revenue increase, with most of this generated from brand contributions. And, according to that same analysis, eSports is predicted to generate well over $345 million dollars in revenue in North America and over half a billion dollars overseas.

Clearly industry has seen a large increase in revenue in recent years as more and more people are realizing the potential profit involved with the rapidly growing industry. Newzoo also predicted that by 2021, eSports will be generating over $1.6 billion in total revenue, with $1.3 billion coming from these brand investments.

eSports Betting

In 2018, the well respected gambling industry research firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming predicted that by 2020, the global eSports betting market would be generating $13 billion dollars. And this report came before the legalization of sports betting in the United States in 2019. Across Europe and Asia, eSports betting markets have been active and regulated for some time now.

Contender eSports 405 N Jefferson Ave Springfield, MO 65806

A 2019 article by Inside World football found that “at least 40% of spectators have not played in the video games they watch,” and that “the demographic is 62% male and 38% female, with more than half aged between 21 and 35 years old.” These statistics reveal the reality that Esports is becoming a spectator sport, with potential revenue to be made from the large amounts of people that enjoy watching the sport for entertainment.

The previously referenced article also revealed that, in 2016, over $5.5 billion was wagered on major eSports titles. There are already connections being made in the United States with established gambling organizations. For example, in 2018 gaming provider Paddy Power Betfair acquired the daily fantasy site FanDuel, with FanDuel CEO telling reporters, “eSports is definitely an area of focus for us. If you look at Vegas, there are lots of people who bet on eSports. To use a Wayne Gretzky analogy, ‘That’s where the puck is going.’”

by Brendan Dewley
PUBLISHED May 26, 2019

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