Overwatch’s Shanghai Dragons Announces First Female Player

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The Overwatch League has finally announced the first ever female player – there has been a tremendous amount of speculation regarding the matter in recent weeks and the League officially confirmed it on the team Twitter on Wednesday. The announcement also comes after recent discussions pertaining to the lack of female players in the very popular Esports title.

“I’m kind of shocked with the absence of women in the Overwatch League teams. For such a diverse game, with more than half of its roster being girls, it’s kind of disappointing. Girls play games too, and the lack of representation is not okay,” one critic pointed out on a Twitter post.

In what might seems to be an acknowledgment of concerns by critics, Shanghai Dragons, the team, announced the signing of four new players, who included Kim “Geguri” Se-Yeon, who will be the Overwatch League’s first female player. Joining Geguri will be Le “Fearless” Eui-Seok, He “Sky” Junjian and Chon “Ado” Gi-Hyeon.

The Shanghai Dragons have had a good number of wins in previous seasons and it seems that the only way to go is up. However, the team will have to brace itself for the uphill task it will have to try and make their way up the overall standings in a bid to reach the playoffs by the end of the season. The newly signed players are going to be a critical part of this journey. For instance, Fearless is a tank main who previously played with Element Mystic while Ado is a great DPS player with great strength on Genji and many other Attack heroes. Sky, also, is recognized mostly for his Ana play in China’s Miraculous Youngster squad – in essence, he will be adding a great deal of flexibility to the team.

Being the first ever female player in the Overwatch League is definitely going to make Geguri the biggest name of the four newly signed games, but she brings so much more to the table. She had her first brushes with mainstream popularity within the competitive gaming community for her Zarya play, where she had an amazing 80 percent win rate. While other players thought that she was cheating, it turns out that she just that good. The Shanghai Dragons also seemed to be particularly impressed by her expanded hero pool that now includes D.Va, Roadhog as well as Zarya at higher levels.

Hopefully, these new additions will better Shanghai Dragons’ luck – they have not won a single series in the first stage of the season.

Pro Gaming: Could Esports Be the Future of the Olympics?

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This year’s Winter Olympics was graced by Esports or competitive video gaming is what is considered to be a warm-up of better things to come. Having been finally recognized as “real” sports by Olympic officials, Esports has its sights set on expanding more and eventually getting their own spot on the medal table.

The most recent debate on what the requirements pertaining to Esports relevance as part of the Olympics was rekindled by a gaming tournament of sorts that was held in PyongChang, which is also the venue of the ongoing Olympics. Professional video gamers who were brought in by Intel Corp, an Olympic sponsor, got the attention of everyone by playing Starcraft II. The game is known for being a real-time strategy game that demands tactical thinking, concentration, and even quick reflexes. While this may sound like the characteristics of any Olympic sport, the raging debate is about whether the rigorous requirements are sufficient to earn Esports a spot among other Olympic games.

A decent number of nations and the International Olympic Committee already recognize Esports as a “sporting activity” and thus it could go Olympic as early as 2024. Looking back at some of the key factors for its success outside all the Olympic buzz, Esports has certainly earned it;

It’s been with us for a while

Prior to the true beginning of Esports in 2000 when the Korea eSports Association (KeSPA) was created to promote and regulate Esports competitions, there were lots of video game competitions of varying scales. Remember Pac-man? Or Space Invaders? If anything is to make Esports Olympic-worthy, then, this is it.

It is a diverse and complete ecosystem

Today, Esports draws a flurry of different participants from all over the world just like regular physical sports. Other characteristics that make it such a worthy newcomer of the Olympics include the fact that it too has had its fair share of scandal. Controversies ranging from doping to abuse by Esports organizers are not completely unheard of in the Esports community. This is, of course, not something that we should be proud of but it does go a long way in proving the maturity of the Esports ecosystem as well as how serious the participants, stakeholders, and spectators are.

Former PokerStars Duo Launch Esports Betting Platform

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Lars Lien and Mike Stevens who are both former PokerStars ambassadors recently joined forces to launch a crypto-based Esports betting platform. The platform which is due to go live any time this year is going to be a Bitcoin-based startup where punters will be allowed to wager on professional Esports events. Furthermore, the platform that has been dubbed Luckbox.com, will allow users to make deposits using both in-game items and various cryptocurrencies, something that both Lien and Stevens believe will go a long way in opening up markets that are currently experiencing restrictions as far as payment services are concerned.

While a global roll-out is the ultimate goal of this endeavor, Lien and Stevens are hoping to obtain a license in the Isle of Man for the platform before they begin preparing to extend to other parts of the world. Soon, Luckbox.com will be launching an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) and the platform is already being aggressively marketed in various parts of the world including Africa. As of now, the two have raised 483.5 Bitcoin form strategic contributors and the ICO they are planning is intended to generate the remaining finances that they require to launch.

The Initial Coin Offering will revolve around the sale of a utility token that will be used on Luckbox.com and also traded by accredited investors to hold a ‘profit share’ token that will entitle the holder to about 20% of the company’s annual net income.

Luckbox.com will be issuing two tokens to its users once it goes live. The first is LuckCash which is a utility token for the platform and the second is LuckProfits which, like we mentioned earlier, gives the holder contractual rights to a share of the company’s net profits.

Lien and Stevens are among many other entrepreneurs who have seen the huge potential in emerging markets such as Esports. There is generally a whole lot to look forward to in this regard, that is, the development of smart contracts will lower transaction costs, and dispel the dependency on traditional bank accounts.

How The Overwatch League Could Change the Face of Esports

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The highly anticipated Overwatch League kicks off this week but the size of the investment makes it more of a gamble for Blizzard. However, if things go as expected, the league will set new standards for the Esports industry and become a benchmark for all other electronic games. On the other hand, if it flops, Esports may be viewed as a not so worthwhile venture and skeptics are already waiting to pull the “I told you so” card.

Since it was announced back in 2016 at Blizzcon, Blizzard has been pushing the Overwatch League quite hard in order to make it similar or even better than traditional sports franchises. Within the same period, the league has gained a strong following who are looking forward to the competitions. It is not just the competitive Overwatch community that cannot wait to see how the games play out – a number of Blizzard’s investors and sponsors are banking on its success and they stand to gain a lot when the Overwatch league gets to a point where it can be likened to the NFL Esports.

The Overwatch League will run for seven months with 12 professional Esports teams battling it out to pocket a piece of the $3.5 million in the prize pool. All the matches will be streamed live from the impressively high-tech Blizzard Arena in Los Angeles.

Going Mainstream

Blizzard has some very ambitious plans for taking the Overwatch League and Esports as whole mainstream even though it is particularly younger than some other established Esports like DotA 2 and CS:GO. Already Blizzard has brought the League onto the menus of its $35 million strong online player base in order to popularize the Esport. While this may seem like a power player by the company, placing the Overwatch league front and center in-game will go a long way in blurring the line between the die-hard competitive gaming and casual or hobbyist gaming.

Esports Betting and Gambling

This applies to nearly all Esports franchises that have gained a lot of traction in the past few years because of the growing number of spectators. Numerous betting sites that allow Esports fans to bet on the games the same way they do for soccer, hockey and many other traditional games have popped up. The number keeps growing and considering how huge the Overwatch league might be, it will not come as a surprise that a few wagering offerings come into play within the period that the league is supposed to run. There is a lot of enticing opportunities in this especially considering the huge amounts of money that are on the line in top Esports tournaments.

Could Shanghai Become the Mecca of Esports?

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Last month, Shanghai City authorities unveiled plans and measures intended to facilitate and boost the city’s cultural and creative industries – one of the highlights of the announcement was the plan to become the global Esports capital. This goes a long way in validating their commitment to encouraging investments in the construction of Esports stadiums, developing Esports industrial parks, incubating the local Esports outfits and brands as well as hosting more international tournaments.

In 2017, China’s Esports industry went through a dramatic escalation to over $11 billion – the mobile Esports market alone recorded a 104 percent increase in domestic revenue. Already, a number of popular Chinese brands are getting into Esports after the realization that the statistics are proof that it is here to stay. One such brand is Bilibili, a popular video-sharing site which launched an Esports of the same name on December 18th. Bilibili Gaming will compete in the next season of the League of Legends Pro League which was founded in China back in 2013 and has grown to become an integral part of the Chinese Esports culture.

Esports in China dates back to the late 90s when the country hosted the biggest international tournaments such as the World Cyber Games and Electronic Sports World. Despite having faced a number of problems in following years, the early noughties saw Esports grow to greater heights with the influx of investments in form of capital that significantly helped gamers to secure more lucrative contracts and invest in establishing themselves as professionals. Evidently, this has worked out quite well as proven by the thousands of eager fans who grace Esports events such as last month’s League of Legends World Championship that was held in Bird’s Nest Stadium, Beijing.

Beijing may be a great choice to host Esports tournaments but Shanghai is undoubtedly the home of Chinese Esports. Not only has it hosted a number of tournaments but it also houses the largest number of Esports followers and boasts of a plethora of technological advantages over Beijing. Shanghai’s municipal authorities have not been shy in declaring their support for the gaming culture as well – they have shortened the approval procedures for domestically created games to as little as five days. Furthermore, the municipality is quite welcoming to Esports entrepreneurs from other parts of China while offering local schooling for their children and Shanghainese residency rights as incentives.

As far as technology is concerned, Shanghai has always had an upper hand. The city’s internet speeds, for instance, are the highest in China – even higher than in the capital. This is usually a major consideration for many people especially those who take part in competitive online gaming either as viewers or as players.

Shanghai’s Esports industry indeed has a very bright future but the revolution itself is not without its flaws. A number of issues have been raised regarding the impacts of the industry on the local community. The spoils from the booming Esports business should be plowed back to ensure that quality is guaranteed going forward and that some sort of relevant education is provided as well. Also, just as important is regulation – restrictions need to be made when it comes to the ages of gamers lest the city breeds gaming junkies with little or no education. With the forward-thinking approach of the Shanghainese people and government, Esports education could even be integrated with education to achieve what could possibly be the best result.

Jennifer Lopez, Stan Kroenke, and Gillette Get into Esports

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It is now quite clear that competitive gaming is on the verge of blowing up and taking over the mainstream market – with backing from celebrities and mainstream brands it is only a matter of time before it hits big time. The most recent entrants into the eSports industry are superstar singer Jennifer Lopez and Arsenal’s majority shareholder Stan Kroenke both of whom have invested in eSports teams ahead of highly anticipated gaming competitions that will play a huge role in increasing the mainstream appeal of the already booming industry.

Jennifer Lopez bought into a team franchise that will participate in the world-renowned Overwatch League which will draw competing teams from cities like San Francisco, London, and Seoul among others. LA Gladiators, which is run by Kroenke will join in on the action once the global Overwatch League is launched in January 2018.

Kroenke and J-Lo join a host of stars who have seen the potential in eSports – they include Formula One driver Fernando Alonso as well as former basketball pro, Magic Johnson. According to Newzoo, a firm that offers market intelligence for eSports, the global eSports economy grew 34 percent year-on-year to about $660 million and is expected to hit a whopping $1.5 billion by 2020. Further estimates reveal that the current eSports audience count stands at about 385 million with a majority relying on streaming services like Twitch to watch the eSports broadcastsTwitch currently boasts of over 400 million monthly views.

Gillette is one of the mainstream brands that have actively endorsed eSports – the company has shown deep interest in participating and integrating their brand with eSports brands. Aside from just investing in League of Legends, Gillette has gone further to add one of the game’s top players, Enrique “xPeke” Cedeno Martinez to its directory of sports stars which also happens to include Brazilian soccer star Neymar.

“If you look at the growth trajectory, the revenue, the viewing numbers, everything is going north,” says Gillette marketing executive, Adam Paris. “eSports is growing at a very rapid rate. Yes, it’s finding its feet, but it feels to me that we as an industry have been talking about investing in it for two to three years at trade show panel events, but I feel it’s time to move on from talking about it and make the jump.”

Fedor Holz Invests in eSports Company Envy Gaming Inc.

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Legendary poker pro, Fedor Holz, becomes the most recent public figure to jump onto the eSports train. According to ESPN, the German poker player acquired a minority stake in popular gaming company Envy Gaming. Inc. in the second quarter of 2017’s fiscal year. Envy Gaming is the parent company of the Dallas Fuel and the renowned Team Envy both of which Holz will be a minority owner.

The venture into the eSports world is certainly a bold move for the poker Phenom who has won nearly $27 million in live tournaments with the most recent being in the World Series of Poker (WSOP) $111,111 High Roller for One Drop where he cashed in nearly $5 million. During this event, Holz’s had left a few Easter eggs that hinted his intention to be an eSports entrepreneur – he donned a Team EnvyUS jersey at the final table which he won and then proceeded to announce that he would be spending less time playing poker so as to focus more on his entrepreneurial ventures.

Holz’s relationship with Envy was initially set off by his friendship with Nathan “NBK” Schmitt, a former Envy Gaming Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player who introduced him to Envy Gaming’s CEO Mike “Hastr0” Rufail. Holz expressed that his interest in joining the company was motivated by a number of reasons.

“I like to invest in things that I’m emotionally connected to because I feel that I contribute the most but I also get the most out of it,” Holz said in an interview with an ESPN reporter. “I like Envy, I like to watch, I like the way they build their infrastructure and team, take care of their players. And it was just a corporation I wanted to be a part of in some way.”

Envy Gaming which was founded in 2007 as a competitive Call of Duty team has already proven its success in the eSports industry – Team Envy bagged the 2016 eSports Team of the Year award at the NowTV ESports Industry Awards. Holz is confident that his input will come in handy especially in regards to mindset issues that may disrupt the performance of young players at the higher and more competitive levels.

“Talking to these players and seeing them myself, a lot of them still struggle with their mindset because they’re really young and the pressure starts really early,” Holz added. “I feel that the mindset or the way you approach the game has very low importance so far compared to more seen sports. I think we can bring some of that into the game, and I’d love to tackle more of that in the next year.”

How the Sports Industry is Being Disrupted by eSports

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It has been quite clear for a while now that the sports industry has been plagued by a plethora of issues – these include the drastic decline in live viewership as well as the possibility of the legalization of sports betting in all states which the leagues are not yet prepared for. The drastically declining live viewership has its roots deeply entrenched in the distribution model that has by all means been outdated. The dominant companies are to blame for this since they are responsible for the slow rollout and implementation of technological innovation in the industry – for instance, the NFL is still not allowing teams to post replay content on social media and FIFA snailed its way to the implementation of goal-line technology.

The sports industry has quite a lot to put up with and with the entry of eSports, the atmosphere is about to get even more competitive. eSports has been on a roll for a while now and as is stands, even people who are not avid gamers acknowledge its popularity. With the tremendous annual increase in viewership over the past couple of years, the eSports industry has bloomed rapidly thanks to the constant experimentation as well as the innovative ways it allows viewers to engage with online content.

Now, platforms like Twitch and even YouTube are facilitating the streaming of hundreds of games including popular eSports titles like League of Legends and Dota 2 both of which generate over 60 million viewed hours monthly. These numbers are significantly large and thus it is impossible to downplay the importance of game streaming especially after putting into consideration the current media landscape. eSports is breaking new grounds for content delivery and interactivity through a number of outstanding service models and this can be partially attributed to the inherently digital nature of eSports which makes the integration of new technologies rather easy and natural. On the same note, this presents new ways to cash in on revenues from different aspects of the eSports business models that are apparently way more efficient than those of regular sports. But why is there such a huge divide between the two?

As it turns out, eSports is more open to innovation, is very engaging and has the potential to grow into something much bigger. This does not necessarily mean that traditional sports completely lacks similar qualities – there are just a number of issues that are holding the industry back. One of the most significant being the dependence of large sports corporations like UEFA and FIFA on revenue streams from cable companies who in most cases buy rights to be the sole broadcasters of matches. It is rather obvious that this leaves regular sports in the stone age in terms of delivery as viewers are now migrating to streaming services. This is where the changes need to be initiated and many of them have already acknowledged the huge market shift and are already taking necessary steps towards regaining the lost glory. Meanwhile, eSports has never shown as much promise as it has now.

‘Entourage’ Star Jerry Ferrara to Scout Knicks eSports Team

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The New York Knicks has managed to recruit ‘Entourage’ actor Jerry Ferrara as the head scout for the entry into the upcoming NBA 2K eSports League.

“It came together naturally,” Ferrara said in an interview with ESPN on Thursday. “I’m an avid Knicks fan, and I love gaming. I currently have seven games that I love playing and following. But 2K is my Number 1.”

The 38-year-old actor also mentioned how his love for NBA started off after in the early 90s after he played some basketball video games such as the NBA Playoffs and Lakers versus Celtics on Sega Genesis. Ferrara, a Brooklyn native will be part of a team that will analyze games at a combine set to be held in February next year – the combine is intended to assist in team drafting in March in preparation for the new eSports league. Other than analyzing gamers, Ferrara will also serve as a creative consultant for the eSports team. He is very excited about analyzing the gamers at the combine to which he pointed out that he could not wait to “sit in the war room during the draft.” As far as his acting career is concerned, he says the Knicks will definitely understand that he may need to leave town every once in a while for an acting job – he, however, hopes that the current situation will allow him to spend at least a couple of days every week on the job.

“I’m hoping I can help with team chemistry,” Ferrara said. “And given my background, we’re going to do some cool things with digital so that fans can learn who our players are.”

“I’m convinced if I were born 10 years later, I’d be doing something in eSports. Maybe not a pro gamer but something in this industry.”

To qualify for the NBA eSports combine, the gamers will need to win 50 games in the pro-am mode of NBA 2K18 in January. Each of the 17 NBA teams that are expected to participate in the league will be required to draft a team in March before the 16-week season begins later in May.

Cloud9, Overwatch and Faker Triumph at The Game Awards

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Thursday’s The Game Awards that was held at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles was a very big day for eSports lovers who got to meet and see various eSports heavyweights nab some awards and recognition.

Overwatch – Best eSports Game/Best Ongoing Game

The first headliner was Overwatch whose team walked away from the event with two awards – one for the ‘Best eSports Game’ which it also received last year and another for the ‘Best Ongoing Game.’ The Blizzard-game has been very successful and this is expected to get even better with their newly launched competitive scene that was kicked off on Thursday with the Overwatch League preseason. Being fan-voted awards, the backlashes that have arisen regarding Blizzard’s success with Overwatch were overlooked since the numbers clearly reflected how devoted its fans are. Overwatch beat out Rainbow Six: Siege, Warframe, Destiny 2, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Grand Theft Auto Online to win the title.

Lee ‘Faker’ Sang-hyeok – Player of The Year

Having been long considered as the world’s best League of Legends player it was not surprising that the decorated international eSports star would walk away with the award. Faker beat out Counter-Strike: Global Offensive players Nikola ‘NiKo’ Kovac and Marcelo ‘coldzera’ David, Overwatch player Ryu Je-hong and Dota 2 player Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi.

This is, however, not the first time that Lee ‘Faker’ is basking in the glory of an anticipated win – he led his team, SK Telecom T1, to the League Legends World Championships for four consecutive years since 2013. SK Telecom T1 emerged the victor three times in 2013, 2015 and 2016 before they were beaten by Samsung Galaxy in 2017. Faker has also been for the past four years representing Korea as the mid-laner at All-Stars.

Cloud9 – Best eSports Team

To nab this award, Cloud9 bested some other great finalists that included Team Liquid, Lunatic Hai, FaZe Clan and even Lee ‘Faker’ Sang-hyeok’s SK Telecom T1. Earlier this year, the team raised about $25 million during their first round of venture capital financing and this award is a great way of capping off their already impressive year. The eSports team is popular for fielding professional eSports teams in Overwatch, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Rocket League, Vainglory, League of Legend, and Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds. In the League of Legends Championships Cloud9 finished second and this earned the team a spot in the quarterfinals of the World Championships.

Other worthy mentions included; Capcom’s Resident Evil 7: biohazard (Best VR/AR game), The Last of Us Part 2 (Most Anticipated Game), Forza Motorsport 7 (Best Sports/Racing Game), Super Mario Odyssey (Best Family Game) and Injustice 2 (Best Fighting Game) among many others.