Are Esports Operators Prepared to Handle Skill-Based Games?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Last month, renowned esports gambling website Unikrn announced plans to bring legal skill-based betting to the United States which will allow players to wager on themselves. Players will be able to link their games to their Unikrn accounts and the platform will in turn generated odds for the player based on their profiles within the game. This is one of the biggest milestones since the launch of such skill-based competitive video games such as Player Unknown’s Battleground and Fortnite.

As much as the esports industry is picking up in several different areas, Ian Smith, the commissioner of the Esports Integrity Coalition (ESIC) is concerned that the industry is yet to be prepared for it. To be more specific, Mr. Smith is skeptical about operators like Unikrn having the ability to ensure the skill ratings of the punters match the abilities of those that are manning the game controls.

The Loopholes

One of the most notable loopholes of this model is the fact that some players may place Fortnite bets using their personal account then handle the controller over to a more talented gamer. Similarly, there is the possibility that some players may nuke the game profile and then hustle the system by placing a series of bets. To make it worse, the ESIC commissioner is still not certain about the existence of any tools that identify players and make sure that player is actually the holder of the game account on platforms such as Unikrn’s.

Unikrn, on the other hand, is very confident about the ability of its team to handle issues to do with fraud. According to Unikrn’s chief executive officer, Rahul Sood, the platform has been studying each and every player’s game so as to thoroughly understand the competitive ecosystem of all the games hosted on its platform. This might be the case especially considering how great the platform’s customer experience is – this is only possible by knowing the gaming style of each player. This information can also be very useful for the company if it is to maintain the integrity of the betting platform.

Is This Effective Enough?

It is still quite obvious that it will be very difficult to detect cheating in battle royale such as Fortnite and Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds than in other types of video games. This is primarily because these battle royale games usually feature multiple players all fighting to emerge as the last man standing.

Furthermore, data from these games are not very reliable because their results are not very predictable – most anti-fraud measures are based on the predictability of certain activities or actions. For instance, talented players can sometimes be easily knocked out of the games during the early stages and a less experienced player may, in some case, get lucky enough to win the game. Since battle royale games are not like the conventional esports betting formats better solutions are definitely needed.

Nippon Partners with Nintendo for Splatoon 2 Esports Leagues

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Nowadays, news of domestic sports competitions venturing into Esports is becoming more and more common. A number of famous teams, leagues, and clubs from all around the world have finally decided to warm up to the idea of acquiring or starting competitive video game teams not only because it is an assured source of some extra revenue but also because it will hopefully broaden their reach.

Japan has not been left behind. The country’ pro baseball league, Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), last week announced that they had made a move into the Esports industry by partnering with Nintendo to create a new Splatoon 2 Esports league. Each of the league’s 12 clubs will be participating in the Esports league which is set to go down in Spring 2019.

To take part in the Splatoon 2 league, players will need to register for the fourth annual Splatoon Koshien event that was scheduled to kick off in July 2018. During the event, a scout from each of the 12 clubs will be around to pick team members based on their own criteria. Players who are selected will be contacted by the team for a special interview scheduled for February 2019 after which all of the 12 teams will be shown off at a special presentation in March before the Splatoon officially kicks off.

At the moment, the league’s official start date has not been announced and, on the same note, no details regarding the ruleset or the prize pool have been released. However, it is worth noting that the language on the official Splatoon Esports Series website seems to suggest that the pool will not have a prize, even though the players are likely to receive compensation for their participation. This is expected especially when considering Nintendo’s operating procedure, that is, the company does not award monetary prizes for tournaments.

Nippon’s Partnership with Konami

The Splatoon 2 Esports league is not NPB’s first Esports venture. In 2017, the baseball league partnered with Konami to host championships for its official baseball title Jikkyō Powerful Pro Yakyū which is known internationally as Power Pros. This tournament was officially recognized by the league and, furthermore, featured promotional content that involved a number of NPB stars.

Last week, NPB announced that it plans to take its relationship with Konami a notch higher with the launch of Pawapuro Pro League, a baseball Esports League that will operate in the same way as the NBA 2K league – each of the NPB clubs will be represented by three players. This one, on the other hand, will have a prize pool of 12 million yen ($12,000).

John Cynn Claims WSOP 2018 Main Event Title, Wins $8.8M

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The 2018 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event spawned one of the most epic heads-up battles in the history of tournament poker and poker in general. The 10-hour long marathon eventually ended when John Cynn defeated Tony Miles heads-up thus winning the main event on Sunday morning and walking away with the crown of poker’s world championship and a whopping $8.8 million in prize money.

While still coming to terms with his epic win, Cynn made it clear that while the amount of the prize money was indeed overwhelmingly large and would significantly change his life, he does not want it to change who he is as a person.

“The money is very significant, but I do like to think that I don’t need the money to be happy,” he said. “But at the same time, practically, it’s going to make things a lot easier — things I want to do in life … even to my parents, this is money that they never could’ve imagined. It’s definitely going to be life-changing.”

When he was entering the 2018 World Series of Poker Main Event, John Cynn who is from Indianapolis had a little less than $1 million in career prize money. This did not stop him from having a pretty good run at the event which eventually brought him to the final table and it was then that he became assured that he would walk away with a huge win.

A Record-Breaking Showdown

Cynn’s and Tony Miles’ heads-up battle lasted over 10 hours but this was not the only record that they broke – the showdown also set the record for the most hands played  heads-up to close at a WSOP main event as well as the most total hands at a WSOP main event final table, that is, 199 and 442 respectively.

Even though Miles entered the day as the chip leader, he failed to outwit John Cynn but all was not lost as he still managed to walk away with $5.5 million for his second-place finish. He was, however, clearly disappointed with the result. Still, he had a perspective of how special the Main Event was for the poker industry as a whole.

“We’ve been playing on little to no sleep — the nerves and the angst that you feel at night, it’s almost impossible to get a good night’s rest,” Miles commented after the event. “Then you come in here and you have to battle for 12 hours heads-up. It was a war, and it was amazing. I’m sure it’ll go down and be chronicled in history as one of the best heads-up matches ever. I have a ton of respect for him. He’s going to be a great champion, and I’m really happy for him.”

The Final Table Results

1: John Cynn (US) $8,800,000

2: Tony Miles (US) $5,000,000

3: Michael Dyer (US) $3,750,000

4: Nicolas Manion (US) $2,825,000

5: Joe Cada (US) $2,150,000

6: Aram Zobian (US) $1,800,000

7: Alex Lynskey (AUS) $1,500,000

8: Artem Metalidi (UKR) $1,250,000

9: Antoine Labat (FRA) $1,000,000

Overwatch League Coming to ESPN, Disney and ABC

Reading Time: 2 minutes

On Wednesday, Blizzard Entertainment announced that it had struck a multi-year broadcast with ESPN, Dinsey and ABC family networks. The broadcast deal includes the Overwatch League playoffs which kicked off on the night of the announced, the Season 1 grand finals that will be played at the Barclays Center in New York later this month as well as the next year’s Overwatch League Season 2.

The coverage began on Wednesday with the playoffs on ESPN3 and Disney XD. This will be followed by 10 hours of the Grand Finals coverage which will also include a July 29 recap show on ABC.

“We are turning the corner here in terms of our interest and engagement in the Esports category,” said ESPN’s Vice President of Digital Media Programming, John Lasker. “We’ve had an interest and have been watching pretty closely how the first year of the Overwatch League has been progressing, and we’re really excited to be a part of this. Clearly, by the way, we’re going to be covering it starting with the playoffs and the finals this year certainly speaks volumes to our excitement and our enthusiasm overall for Esports moving forward.”

Even though the financial terms of the partnership are yet to be revealed, it is quite obvious that this is a huge step forward for the Overwatch League and the Esports industry as a whole. Also, existing distribution agreements such as Twitch broadcasts will remain and this combined with what the Disney and ESPN networks have to offer at both the linear and digital level, Esports are headed nowhere but up.

Is This It?

The Esports industry has been around for a very long time but is undeniable that the era of live streaming is one of its key propellants. Case in point, Twitch has grown and evolved to become the go-to streaming service for competitive video games such as Dota 2, League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Now, other players like Facebook are carving out their own offerings with regards to the Esports streaming.

Online streaming has done a great job for Esports and it will probably remain to be a leader in that regard but the very idea of an Esports tournament championship airing live in primetime on ESPN is very exciting, to say the least. The partnership is, by all means, a well-structured strategy to bring Overwatch to a much larger audience. This brings about a crossover of sorts but the defining factor is that each distribution point is representative of different demographics with a common interest – watching the highest levels of the Overwatch League gameplay.

“It’s a cross-section that’s a hardcore sports fan, especially on ESPN channels,” Pete Vlastelica, president, and CEO of Activision Blizzard Esports leagues said. “They love watching competition, they love watching the best in the world compete at a great game. Maybe they have played video games. Maybe they know of Overwatch. Maybe they even play Overwatch or play it a lot. But they’re fundamentally looking to be entertained by the highest possible level of competition around a great game. And that’s what we’ve got.”

This could have just the right amount of momentum to propel Esports towards mainstream media and mass global adoption.

First All-Crypto Poker Tournament Headed for Atlantic City

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Atlantic City has been a haven for a number of big events in the past few months and it is about to get even better. The next big event will be the Blockchain World Conference (BWC) which will is scheduled for Harrah’s Resort between July 11 and July 13, but this is certainly not the biggest highlight of the event. The BWC also announced that it will be concluding the three-day conference with a bang by hosting the very first casino sanctioned all-crypto poker tournament.

The Blockchain World Conference is an event where blockchain and crypto experts meet to discuss the latest developments in the sector. Already, this year’s event is expected to be largest blockchain event in history with attendees ranging from celebrities to startups, ICOs, entrepreneurs, social media influencers, accredited investors, exchange facilitators, and developers. While these are certainly interesting aspects of the conference the crypto-poker tournament has been stealing the show ever since it was announced.

The 100-player event scheduled for July 14 will start at 11.00 AM is being hosted in conjunction with Blockparty, a blockchain-powered live event ticketing platform – the platform will be used by interested participants to buy-into games, betting as well as cashing out in digital currencies.

“What better way to end a three-day conference in Atlantic City than the world’s first crypto poker tournament? After three days of discussions about blockchain and cryptocurrency, this is a fun and unique way to bring our event to a close– highlighting a compelling real-world application of this technology, in true Atlantic City fashion. The Blockparty team are incredible leaders in blockchain-based live event ticketing and they were the perfect partners for us to work with for an event of this caliber,” Alex Falcone, the Blockchain World Conference COO said.

To guarantee a seat at the all-crypto poker tournament, the interested individuals must already be attendees of the Blockchain World Conference. They will also need to pay a $250 buy-in in cryptocurrency on Blockparty’s ticketing platform.

“As one of the first true real-world applications of blockchain and cryptocurrency, we’re excited to add another event category, like poker, to our ticketing repertoire. It’s a great testament to what we’ve built that the mainstream music scene and crypto enthusiasts alike are recognizing the ease and convenience of our platform and this is a great taste of what the future holds as mainstream adoption of blockchain only continues,” Blockparty CEO, Shiv Madan commented on the company’s partnership with BWC for the tournament.

The winner of the all crypto poker tournament will receive two VIP to the BWC South that is scheduled to take place in Hollywood, Florida, between December 3 and December 5. In addition to this, the winner will also be awarded a three-night stay at the Diplomat Beach Resort as well as a $10,000 cash prize. Blockparty has also promised to award any player that manages to knock out a pro, in addition to the competition it will be holding in order to find 10 people whose buy-in for the crypto poker tournament they will pay.

International Olympics Committee to Host an Esports Forum

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Esports is getting closer and closer to going mainstream thanks to recent efforts and developments that are being driven by a number of interested and curious parties. One of the most notable developments so far are efforts by the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) both of who have joined forces and recently announced that they will be hosting an Esports forum on July 21.

The forum whose key purposes is to act as a gauge of whether or not Esports can be part of Olympics will involve professional Esports players, Esports teams, games publishers, sponsors and event organizers as well as members of the International Sports Federations and  National Olympic Committees. The forum’s primary objective will be to “explore synergies, build joint understanding, and set a platform for future engagement between Esports and gaming industries and the Olympic Movement.”

“Along with the IOC, the GAISF looks forward to welcoming the Esports and gaming community to Lausanne. We understand that sport never stands still and the phenomenal growth of Esports and gaming is part of its continuing evolution. The Esports Forum provides an important and extremely valuable opportunity for us to gain a deeper understanding of Esports, their impact and likely future development, so that we can jointly consider the ways in which we may collaborate to the mutual benefit of all of sport in the years ahead,” said Patrick Baumann, the president of GAISF.

From what we could gather the terms used in the details of the forum’s objectives, the IOC and GIASF are not only trying to promote inclusivity but also trying to find ways of making sure that Esports will make some money for the stakeholders. On offer during the July 21 forum will be a series of talks and panels with regards to how the Olympics and Esports can work together.

In addition to this, the forum will include discussions on Twitch’s success and mode, the push for gender equality and inclusivity, governance structures as far as Esports is concerned and the lives of the professional Esports players.

Esports has continued to grow at an insanely fast pace and is now even considered to be the next biggest frontier in influencer marketing. While it is undeniable that the Esports environment is brimming with potential, advertisers will certainly have to reshape their sponsorship strategies so as to match the unique nature and dynamism of the Esports space.

Even if the Esports forum is successful, Esports is not going to be part of the 2020 Olympics but in 2024 we might finally get to see the first Esports Olympics. This is somewhat a blessing in disguise as it creates room for the committee to lay out suitable guidelines for Esports at the Olympics while at the same time getting acquainted with the nature of the Esports space through existing competitions such as the Overwatch League.

Immortals Acquires Brazilian Esports Brand and New Sponsors

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Following several months of rumors and speculation, North American organization Immortals has finally revealed that it has acquired a popular Brazilian Esports brand known as MIBR (an acronym for Made in Brazil) which had been previously defunct for a little over six years. MIBR’s mysterious return on June 7 hinted at the June 23 acquisition announcement. Immortals further announced that they have hired the team roster for the Brazilian SK Gaming Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team.

Among the players that will be competing under the MIBR brand are a number of legendary CS:GO players and champions including Ricardo “boltz” Prass, Marcelo “coldzera” David, Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo, Fernando “fer” Alvarenga, Jacky “Stewie2K” Yip, and their coach, Ricardo “dead” Sinigaglia.

As previously announced, the general manager is Tomi “lurppis” Kovanen and he will oversee the activities of the team as they relocate to the Los Angeles-based Immortal campus to train and practice ahead of their first competitive appearance on July 3 to July 8 in the ESL One Cologne event at the Lanxess Arena in Germany.

“Brazil is incredibly passionate about Esports, and this acquisition allows us to foster further Esports growth in what we believe is still a relatively untapped market in Brazil and throughout South America,” said Noah Whinston, the chief executive of Immortals and now MIBR. “The MIBR brand creates a direct link to Brazil’s national pride and sports and entertainment culture. We are eager to invest in the Brazilian Esports scene and to create a platform for the region’s amazing professional Esports talent to continue to excel and dominate.”

Immortals owns a number of teams that participate in some of the most popular Esports events like the Overwatch League and Rainbow Six: Siege. Still, the acquisition of MIBR is expected to take the company to even greater heights – MIBR is, by far, the most popular and the most competitively successful team to play Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). Their return is, therefore, certainly going to be a game changer.

Partnering with Tinder and Betway

As part of the new developments following the acquisition, the MIBR Esports brand will be working with Tinder to bring together CS:GO fans from all around the world together through several digital and live campaigns and activations that will be exclusively for Tinder’s premium subscription customers.

“We know that gaming is a passion among many of our users all over the world, and we are excited to be the first dating app to enter the Esports space with Immortals as our partner,” said Levi Nitzberg, Director of Global Business Development for Tinder. “Tinder’s global presence and highly engaged user base provides us with a unique platform which, just like Esports, brings millions of people together to connect over shared interests.”

Also in the mix as one of MIBR’s partners is Betway, an online sports betting operator, which also happens to be a founding sponsor of Immortals. The online betting service provider will receive among many other things prominent placement in all the MIBR jerseys.

“Betway is delighted to support the revival of MIBR and we couldn’t be more excited to be working with them in bringing CS:GO fans closer to the team through exclusive content,” said Anthony Werkman, the Betway chief executive officer.

Disney and Nintendo Partner for Esports Competition

Reading Time: 2 minutes

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.

Kevin Pahl Set to Represent Global Poker at the WSOP

Reading Time: 2 minutes

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.”

MSI Final Becomes the Most Watched Esports Match in History

Reading Time: 2 minutes

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.”