McLaren Signs New Partnerships for New Esports Series

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McLaren has had its sights set on the Esports industry for quite some time now. Last year, the car manufacturer hosted the World’s Fastest Gamer, an Esports racing competition which was won by Ruby van Buren. Following the success of that particular event, McLaren has recently revealed its plans for the Esports industry and the company indeed intends to seal its place in the world of Esports with the launch of a new Esports series called ‘Shadow Project’.

The ‘Shadow Project’ Esports series is an extension of 2017’s World’s Fastest Gamer (WFG) tournament. However, unlike the WFG that was purely dependent and focused on the traditional driving simulator titles, Shadow Project will branch out and include more casual racing titles. These will even include smartphone titles like Real Racing 3 which will be played alongside established competitive gaming titles like rFactor 2, iRacing and Forza Motorsport.

The winner of this Esports series will earn a spot on the company’s newly formed Esports racing team which will further create an opportunity for them to join McLaren’s Formula 1 team as a simulation driver.

“Last year’s competition proved that the skills learned as a racing gamer are transferable to the real world. This is unique to the racing genre. We believe that Esports and real-world racing have much to learn and give to each other and last year’s competition was just the start,” Ben Payne, Mclaren Director of Esports said. “McLaren Shadow Project will be the most open and inclusive racing Esports competition on the planet. We are looking for the most talented virtual racers from all countries and backgrounds. To make this possible we have partnered with the biggest racing game brands in the world – Real Racing 3 on mobile, Forza Motorsport on Xbox, PC racing sims iRacing and rFactor 2”

The Partnerships

While Shadow Project is entirely owned by McLaren but the company has welcomed various partners including Dell’s Alienware, VR brand HTC Vive, Logitech G, Sparco Gaming, Electronic Arts (EA) and Microsoft. HTC Vive’s involvement is perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of this development as it creates the potential for VR-enabled racing titles to be part of the line-up of the racing games the players will have to triumph at in order to claim the position of champion.

 

“Season one proved that Esports are a new talent frontier for motorsport and after pioneering the program in 2017, McLaren plans to develop the concept to generate greater global reach and engagement in season two. A strong, diverse Esports program has a direct benefit to McLaren’s innovative ambitions, bringing in new audiences, partners, and talent to motorsport,” says McLaren CEO Zak Brown. “By ramping up over multiple platforms across the online world, it will establish McLaren as an important brand in the motorsport Esports community.”

Disney and Nintendo Partner for Esports Competition

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In the wake of the rapid growth and immense popularity of Esports, otherwise known as competitive video gaming, the House of Mouse has launched the Nintendo Family Showdown, a new US competitive gaming contest where select families will go against each other in head to head battles in a series of Nintendo game challenges that will be broadcast across Disney’s linear and digital platforms.

To apply for the exciting new gaming event, the parents and legal caretakers of eligible kids aged between six and 18 can submit one-minute (or less) video explaining why they are the biggest fans of Nintendo. This application period began on June 18 and when it finally comes to an end, four families will ultimately be selected to compete in the Nintendo Switch Family Showdown that will be aired on Disney XD and the Disney Channel – the competition will also be streamed on the DisneyNow app later this summer.

Some of the challenges that will be featured in the competition will include searching for collectibles in the popular Super Mario Odyssey game, dance battles in Just Dance 2018, as well as head to head matchups in Mario Tennis Aces. The four lucky families that will be selected will on August 3 head to Los Angeles to meet some of the Disney Channel stars and compete in the showdown for a shot at winning the prizes that will be on offer.

Betting on Esports

This particular contest will serve as a sort of propellant of Disney’s gradual but nicely executed venture into the Esports space – it comes right in the heels of the launch of D|XP, Disney XD’s new gaming-themed programming block last summer (June 17, 2017).

The Nintendo Switch Family Showdown aside, Disney XD had already been airing original Esports content provided by Electronic Sports League (ESL). D|XP airs a number of ESL’s shows including the ESL Brawlers and ESL Speedrunners as well as a number of series produced by VICE’s Waypoint, ESPN, Disney Digital Network, Warner Bros. Television, IGN, Attack Media, Group’s Blue Ribbon Content, Banger Films and Disney Digital Network.

Nickelodeon Not Far Behind

Nickelodeon, which is considered to be Disney’s most formidable rival, has also been busy ratcheting up its growing Esports programming lineup. The most recent for the company has been its participation in the $15 million seed round of the Minecraft-centered Super Gaming League – the company added the Super League Gaming Minecraft City Champs, an Esports series that features Minecraft teams in a multi-week national tournament.

 “Nickelodeon is interested in Esports because gaming is an important passion point for kids today, and forging this partnership with Super League puts us at the forefront of where kids will be playing next,” Nickelodeon’s executive vice president Matthew Evans said in an interview with Variety last year.

Esports Shine at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3)

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The Esports craze has been quite a big deal in the past couple of years and if anything is to go by, this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is proof that the rapidly growing and evolving activity is here to stay. Launched in 1995, E3 is known for being a great generator of media impressions something that is currently at the center of Esports’ development hence the Esports companies are naturally drawn to the event. Besides, E3 is all about video gaming, and so is Esports which makes them, essentially, separate parts of a single but humongous entity.

In 2017, a record 68,000 people attended E3 – this included a 15,000 video game fans who took advantage of the opportunity that came with the debut of a more open system that allowed consumers to buy tickets to the sprawling industry-only trade show. This year saw even more consumer attendance and in an effort to connect with and cater to all the different facets of the audience, E3 partnered with Big Block Capital Group as well as other big brands like Volkswagen Jetta to launch Subnation.

According to Owner Big Block, one of the mentioned E3 partners, Subnation is part of a substantive push by Big Block and E3 to connect brands directly to the consumer fan base that built the gamer/Esports worlds.

“Subnation is an omnichannel media platform bringing together gaming and esports with lifestyle brands,” Big Block Capital chief executive officer, Seven Volpone said in an interview with tvrev.com. “Subnation’s mission is to elevate this global trend, celebrating the creators, innovators, and consumers who are defining today’s gaming culture while providing brands a new forum to connect with these important and influential audiences.”

Subnation will offer a series of brand experiences, live performances as well as immersive entertainment celebrating gaming and the thriving Esports culture during the expo. There will also be a nearby after party that has been dubbed Subnation Live and it will feature a performance DeadMau5.

Volpone went further to clarify that the idea behind Subantion is to better engage and connect different brands with the expressions of culture and lifestyle that are now characteristic of both the video gaming and Esports sectors. Capitalizing on this particular areas is a vital move that will eventually bring them in on the big bucks – according to PwC, these particular sectors generated a whopping £23.4 billion in the United States in 2017.

“Esports is a really exciting avenue for Big Block. We’ve been actively involved in eSports for more than 15 years. We tend not to get involved in things just because they are the trend. We really are out there mining for the best things, before they become the best thing,” Volpone added.

Kevin Pahl Set to Represent Global Poker at the WSOP

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The Global Poker Rattlesnake Open may be over, but the leaderboard winner, Kevin ‘BUYMEDINNER’ Pahl, just got a brand new opportunity to add on to his winning by representing Global Poker at the World Series of Poker (WSOP). He will be the third player in history to represent Global Poker in the live arena, and he is going at it in a big way.

Following a great series of runs at the Global poker Championships Rattlesnake Open, the poker pro made his way up the series leaderboard and eventually finished first earning himself a $5,000 live tournament package that will cover buy-ins, travel, and accommodation.

Pahl not only intends to turn his prize package into real money winning by cashing in at WSOP, just like his predecessors did, but also to become the first person to play on behalf of Global Poker to win the coveted WSOP gold bracelet. He will be using his Global Poker tournament package at the WSOP Event #48: $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em MONSTER STACK that will begin on June 23. After this, Pahl also plans to participate in the $1,100 buy-in $1 million guaranteed event at the Wynn Summer Classic that is scheduled for June 28.

“When I first started on the site, I had heard good things about Global Poker so I wanted to give it a go. I played around a bit and at the start of the year, I had SC$10 on the site. I played some SC$1 SNGs; these were going well so I moved up to the SC$6 ones. I worked on my game and before I knew it, I was playing the 20’s and am now playing a wide range of the SNGs quite regularly,” he said.

A college soccer coach by day, Pahl started small on the Global Poker site and slowly built up the stakes in sit ‘n’ go’s, a game that he particularly enjoys especially because of its ideal pace and structures. The pace and structure aside, Pahl also says that he loves playing at Global because of the camaraderie with other players

“Global Poker has been great to me,” he adds. “I am really happy. Sure, there are other sites out there but I don’t really like them. Global Poker has been 100 percent fantastic! As well as the games being good, the people on Global Poker are really friendly. I chat with a lot of people on the site when I play and it makes things really enjoyable, everyone seems really nice.”

High School Esports Startup Receives Massive Investment

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One of the things that makes the flourishing world of Esports the marvel it is, is the colossal amount of enthusiasm the stakeholders have despite the deficiency of necessary infrastructure to support this enthusiasm. In essence, Esports is growing quite fast and thus the normal processes involved in the formation of regulatory bodies as well as other structures are bound to be outpaced.

Some of the people who have been affected most by this situation are high school students and their teachers who hope to participate in various Esports activities. Unlike many other similar activities, such as traditional sports where there are bodies to guide their actions, they have been forced to self-organize due to the lack of official bodies to guide them. However, this is all about to take a turn for the better.

PlayVS, a startup that specializes in building infrastructure to support high school Esports, has recently received a massive round of funding from a star-studded high profile investors including an assortment of venture capital groups, the San Francisco 49ers, hip-hop artist Nas, New York Jets’ Kelvin Beachum, Los Angeles Chargers’ Russel Okung, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin and NBA all-star Baron Davis.

According to a report by ESPN, the valuation of the company is now somewhere around $50 million. This gives PlayVS a better shot at achieving their goal of developing software to formalize high school Esports competitions. The platform serves as an all-in-one online portal for students and the administration in addition to being an access portal to a select number of some of the most popular Esports titles. The platform also allows for setting and scheduling of matches, tracking and collection of player stats, as well the auto-reporting of wins and losses to prevent cheating.

Working with the NFHS

As it stands, PlayVS is the only private company that is has been officially sanctioned by the National Federation of State High Schools (NFHS) which is a non-profit organization that publishes the rules for most high school sports and performing arts activities across the United States. The NFHS will be rolling out Esports exclusively on the PlayVS Web app and this extends the company’s reach to 19,500 high schools.

“Esports sort of has this task—this mountain task—to become multigenerational. If a sport has a strong and a stable high school system, then that sport typically not only has staying power but it also lasts for multiple generations at the pro level,” says Delane Parnell, the PlayVS founder and CEO. “With our funding, we can take all the steps necessary to ensure that our inaugural season is a massive success while being affordable for schools, parents, and students across the country.”

In October this year, PlayVS in, collaboration with the NFHS, will launch its inaugural season, a venture that will bring organized Esports to over 18 states and about 5 million students from 5,000 different high schools.

Russian’s Minister of Sports Acknowledges Growth of Esports

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For the first time since it was launched in 1997, the St. Petersburgh International Economic Forum, an annual business event, included a dedicated Esports panel session. The session gathered a number of representatives of the state, sports, business and infrastructure organizations among other stakeholders in the development of Russian Esports.

Titled ‘Cybersport: Global Trends in Sports and Business’, the session involved discussions from a number of big industry names including:

  • Emin Antonyan, Secretary General, Chairman of the Executive Board, Russian Esports Federation
  • Ilya Galaev, President, VFSO Trudovye Rezervy
  • Roman Dvoryankin, General Manager, Virtus.pro
  • Nail Izmailov, Vice President, FC Spartak Moscow
  • Aleksandr Prokopyev, Deputy of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, Member of the Committee on Physical Culture, Sport, Tourism, and Youth Affairs
  • Neil Sturrock, President of Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Caucasus and Central Asia, PepsiCo
  • Anton Cherepennikov, Director, Member of the Board of Directors, ESforce Holding

The moderator, in this case, was Match TV general producer Tinatin Kendalaki. Also present was the Minister of Sport of the Russian Federation, Pavel Kolobkov though he spoke at a separate session. During the said session, the minister pointed out that he believes that Esports is a legitimate sports discipline, especially because like traditional sports, it involves rules, training methodology and tournament systems. He, however, made it clear that he was of the opinion that Esports will not be replacing sports but instead flourish alongside them.

According to the Esports observer, the government of Russia has expressed a lot of keenness to work with the Esports industry to regulate Esports development in Russian. Pavel Kolobkov acknowledged that the Russian Esports sphere is developing quickly and thus the government needs to work on implementing some legal boundaries to regulate it.

“We had a long discussion, and I believe that we made the right choice because it does not matter whether the government or somebody else recognizes Esports as a sport,” Kolobkov said. “It was recognized by the society. By people who are making it. Our task is to regulate it and put in some legal boundaries, allow it to develop under our control, along with the government, along with us. That is why I am sure that at this moment one can say that Esports is quite an established sphere.”

Russia was the first country to officially recognize Esports way back in 2001 – in fact, Esports was included in the list of sports that were officially recognized and existed in the country. This was, however, followed by a period of complication that saw the activity scraped from the list twice after the restructuring of the Ministry of Sports. Everything eventually went back to normal towards the end of 2017 with Esports players now being able to earn official sporting grades just like other players of traditional sports.

MSI Final Becomes the Most Watched Esports Match in History

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Esports is almost at its prime after having gone through a decade of steady of growth to become the massive global phenomenon it currently is. This cuts across a variety of different aspects of gaming with the most notable being the impact that Esports is having on viewing entertainment both on television and streaming services. In fact, a number of records are being broken to that effect.

China and South Korea are the most recent record breakers after the MSI Final for League of Legends that pitted China’s Royal Never Give Up and South Korea’s Kingzone DragonX against each other drew in a staggering 127,551,726 viewers. This a significantly huge increase from the previous record’s 106 million figure that was set in 2017’s finals of the same tournament and also happened to feature China’s Royal Never Give Up Esports team. According to eSports Charts, a company that specializes in the analysis of data stemming from Esports broadcasts, these figures represent a great leap forward for Esports – for instance, it is now almost at par with the Super Bowl’s viewership that clocked 111 million in 2015.

The vast majority of the viewers were found to be from China, which should not come as much of a surprise since League of Legends is very popular in the country – the game boasts of over two billion watch hours in China. However, both China and South Korea have always been hardcore Esports action dens and thus the audiences in these regions have had time to mature and grow immensely which makes the disparities minimal

The viewership is certainly proof that Riot Games made the right choice when it decided to hold the tournament during times that favored the Eastern audience. This move was largely criticized and opposed by the North American and European communities but since it paid off quite decently, the company has very little to worry about.

Game Highlights

The MSI finals for League of Legends has been touted as a battle for regional pride owing to the fact that it was majorly about South Korea’s dominance in the game since 2016 and China’s unwavering quest for redemption after having failed to make it to the finals in previous tournaments – the last time China nabbed an MSI finals victory was in 2015.

China’s Royal Never Give Up managed to achieve a 3-1 victory in the MSI finals series against now former champions Kingzone DragonX. The team also broke the record for being the first non-South Korean team to beat a South Korean team in a League of Legends tournament of this magnitude in the past three years: 1,106 days to be more precise.

Also, we cannot speak of Royal Never Give Up’s victory without giving Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao, who is now undoubtedly the world’s greatest League of Legends player. Uzi beat all odds and went on to win his second trophy after six long years which makes this tournament another career-defining moment for the Chinese League of Legends Superstar.

“I’ve been trying to win this title for six years now,” Uzi said on stage following the victory. “I can’t imagine I’m standing here with this trophy. I’m super excited for this moment.”

‘INSIDERS: Super High Roller Bowl 2018’ Series Kicks Off

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Poker Central’s new documentary series, ‘INSIDERS: Supers High Roller Bowl 218” debuts today (Thursday, May 10) on PokerGO. The series that has been produced by Poker Central in collaboration with CakeWorks will give PokerGO subscribers a chance to watch as Brandon Adams, Daniel Negreanu, and Seth Davies prepare for the 2018 Super High Roller Bowl.

The 2018 Super High Roller Bowl will be a $300,000 buy-in tournament and will feature 48 players – 30 of them will be selected by random lottery while the remaining 18 will be VIP guest entrants. As for the stars of the new series, Daniel Negreanu was selected via the lottery while his counterparts were among the 15 VIPs that were selected by Poker Central and ARIA.

To give viewers a sneak peek of what to expect, the seven-episode series will premiere its first episode on the Poker Central YouTube channel for a limited time. The remaining episodes will be released on PokerGO in the weeks leading up to and immediately after the 2018 Super High Roller Bowl. Also, the series has been produced in collaboration with Jess Cook, Emmy Award-winning producer best known for his work on the SHOWTIME original series “All Access” – this gives PokerGO subscribers even more reason to be excited.

Each and every episode of the series will delve into the behind-the-scenes action and show how the three poker stars prepare for the 2018 Super High Rollers Bowl which is without a doubt one of the most prestigious gaming events in the world. Viewers will get to see both the mental and physical preparations that the players go through.

“We wanted to give our fans a new perspective on poker – an inside look at the training it takes for these high stakes players to be at the top of their game,” said Sam Simmons, Poker Central’s vice president of content. “We look forward to highlighting the intense preparation that Daniel, Brandon, and Seth undergo in their own unique ways leading up to and throughout the Super High Roller Bowl.”

Have a look at the trailer here.

Microsoft Store Teams Up with ESL to Open Esports Academy

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Microsoft has hopped on the Esports bandwagon by teaming up with Electronic Sports League (ESL) to launch a sports academy at one of Microsoft’s stores in Sydney, Australia. This initiative gives Sydney based Esports enthusiasts an opportunity to learn about the industry by signing up for the Esports Academy that will run from Monday, April 16 to Sunday, April 22.

The Esports Academy will help students who wish pursue careers in Esports to realize this dream by imparting them knowledge about actual Esports gaming as well as the nitty-gritty details of the business element of Esports. There will be appearances from a number of Esports players from Australia’s thriving Esports scene – they will teach the academy’s students all that they need to know about the Esports ecosystem.

“We see a lot of excitement and engagement around video games at the Microsoft Store, from casual gamers to some of the players that attend our regular tournaments and competitions,” said the Microsoft Store’s Gaming Community Manager, Max Ferfoglia. “This event is all about bringing the gaming community at Microsoft Store together with some of the top talent in Australia so people can learn more about Esports, how to improve their game and also hear about the pathways that exist to get into the industry.”

“We wanted to give the gamers the kind of opportunities we never had when we were trying to go pro.”

Even though it will only run for a week, the Esports Academy will give the participants the required knowledge which is much more important in the competitive electronic gaming scene. The three-hour sessions will include lessons on understanding networking, the various roles available in Esports as well as an open pitching session and a Q&A session. At the end of the session, the attendees will be required to plan a hypothetical tournament to any scale they wish.

This program is, of course, not even close to formalized education but it will go a long way in imparting valuable networking opportunities for the students. Hopefully, since it is a pilot project, it will be successful enough to spawn more similar initiatives in Sydney and many other parts of the globe. Meanwhile, interested Esports lovers in Sydney can sign up here.

Copycat Lawsuits Piling Up Against Social Casino Operators

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A slew of lawsuits have begun piling up against Washington State social gambling operators in the wake of a federal court ruling which found that Big Fish Casino which was previously owned by Churchill Downs violated Washington State gaming laws. All these copycat lawsuits hope to capitalize on the recent court ruling and state laws that govern and regulate online gambling.

As of Monday, Geekwire reports that four lawsuits had already been filed against four other social gaming operators namely High 5 Games, Playtika, DoubleDown Interactive and Huuge Games. Each of these operators offers a series of casino games like blackjack, slots, and roulette that use virtual chips. These chips have no monetary value but players must have them in order to play. Therefore, when players run out of the chips, they can either opt to wait until the game offers more free chips or buy a huge number of chips with real money and get back to playing.

All four suits further user similar language and arguments in their filings which also happen to be centre around the same arguments of the Big Fish Casino case. This takes advantage of a vague clause in Washington state law that backed the idea that the chips represent “something of value” even though they are not worth any money on their own.

“Double Down Casino games are illegal gambling games because they are online games at which players wager things of value (the chips) and by an element of chance (e.g., by spinning an online slot machine) are able to obtain additional entertainment and extend gameplay (by winning additional chips),” states one of the suits.

All these cases including the Big Fish casino case that preceded them are very likely to have major implications for the casual casino games market as a number of social casino gaming providers today depend on in-app purchases as revenue sources. The lawsuits represent an emerging backlash against this model. Already, online gambling lawsuits are becoming fairly common but the tide turned in favour of the petitioners and this opened the door for similar occurrences in the near future.

Playing It Safe

Again, following the Big Fish Casino ruling, PokerStars became one of the first social gambling operators to stop offering free play games in an effort adhere to the terms outlined by the March 28 Court of Appeals decision. According to the Washington State Gambling Commission press release, PokerStars opted out of the state’s online gambling industry. The gambling commission however assured the public that it had nothing to with this move by the online gaming operator:

“We are not a party to the civil court case, we did not testify in the case, and we did not order these sites to discontinue free online play for Washington residents. Customers with concerns should contact these websites directly,” reads the April 4 press release.

PokerStars’ parent company, The Stars Group, released a statement shortly after saying that the company was “reviewing the rulings and ensuring that our activities are in line with state regulations.” The company also said that it would reinstate players to their status before the free game offerings were altered once the law is clarified.