Speedrun: Issue 2 | Google Stadia, Arcade, GameStop’s Resurgence, Automakers and More!
In case you missed the last edition of the Speedrun, you can read up on the MLB’s entry into esports, Gillette’s influencer play, OpTic’s collab with Champion and more here. This week, we’ll keep things a bit more high-level as we discuss massive non-endemic sponsorships, OWL updates, GameStop’s attempt to become relevant in an industry they have been slipping in and the tech giant gaming grab.
Automakers roll into the industry in a big way — with Cloud9, OpTic Gaming and FaZe Clan.
Over the last 2 weeks, there have been a handful of large-scale partnerships announced within esports. More specifically, Cloud9 brought both AT&T and BMW onto their roster. While AT&T will produce and distribute a new digital series called “The Nines” highlighting the organization’s various teams, sponsor their “communications hub” in the Cloud9 HQ and slap a logo on both the back and sleeve of the team’s jerseys, the details of the BMW deal are a bit more scarce.
They revealed the partnership via Twitter with an image that showed six Cloud9 personalities posing in front of a BMW with the phrase “it’s character that drives performance.” CEO Jack Entienne announced, in a parallel tweet from his personal account, that the group had shot a series of commercials for the automaker.
It seems that the vague nature of these automaker sponsorships has become commonplace for now. Take Nissan — Nissan’s deal with OpTic Gaming and FaZe Clan feels very similar. A press release from Nissan North America on March 21 does a fantastic job of explaining the WHY but not necessarily the WHAT.
Nissan is entering the world of competitive esports and video game streaming by becoming the first automaker to partner with two of the biggest teams in the space – FaZe Clan and OpTic Gaming.
"For any company trying to reach the Gen Z and millennial-minded audience, streaming and esports is an enormous opportunity," said Robert Cross, director, media and activation, Nissan North America, Inc. "We believe this partnership presents a new approach in introducing ourselves and connecting with millions of fans through their favorite gamers."
According to Newzoo’s 2019 Global esports Market Report, the global esports audience will grow to 453.8 million worldwide in 2019. Additionally, in 2018, the YouTube and Twitch audience for esports was larger than the viewership of HBO, Netflix and ESPN combined.
However when they got to how the partnership would be executed, they noted logo placement on competition jerseys but just that FaZe and OpTic would “have access to Nissan vehicles to integrate into social and digital content. Vehicles involved will include the Nissan Armada, Altima, Kicks and the all-electric Nissan LEAF.”
With audiences rivaling those of more traditional sports stars, this kind of relationship will undoubtedly put a “cooler” finish on the brand as it appears in front of millions on a global scale, but the effort to continue to define ROI on these types of deals will only escalate.
Overwatch League will adopt home and away schedule for 2020, while the Philadelphia Fusion will play in a state-of-the-art $50M facility (possibly) by 2021.
Commissioner Nate Nanzer announced via Twitter that OWL will fulfill Blizzard’s original vision for the league in 2020, including home stops for all teams spanning 3 continents. Last year, the entire inaugural regular season took place at the Blizzard Arena in LA (arguably an unfair advantage for the Gladiators and Valiant... though they didn’t perform up to snuff in the long run), while the post-season took place at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn.
This season, OWL expands their footprint with competition in additional venues in Dallas, Atlanta and LA outside of the Blizzard Arena.
However, the biggest news may come in the form of the Philadelphia Fusion and their esports-dedicated arena coming in 2021. According to Engadget, “The 3,500 seat arena will be notable as it's the first dedicated stadium for esports in the Western Hemisphere. Comcast, which owns the Philadelphia Fusion, plans to break ground on the 47-acre site this summer. The Fusion Arena will be located in the South Philadelphia Sports Complex, which is already home to the city's NFL, NBA, NHL, and NCAA teams.
The 60,000 square foot building will house a training facility, broadcast studio, and Philadelphia Fusion team offices. It will feature two balcony bars, club seats with USB ports, flexible loge boxes, and exclusive seats. Such added perks are already commonplace in Asia and will put the West's first esports arena in a similar league. Players for the first time will be able to benefit from training opportunities and other experiences in their own dedicated esports arena.”
Speaking of training facilities and new sponsorship opportunities... GameStop just announced an entire slate of strategic alliances with groups like compLexity Gaming.
GameStop will serve as the title sponsor of the team’s new HQ at The Star in Frisco, TX. The first piece of this relationship will include the opening of the GameStop Performance Center - a 11,000 square foot center which will include an area for the public to participate.
“The opening of the GameStop Performance Center represents compLexity’s vision to further professionalize the esports industry and leverage the learnings from the Dallas Cowboys who also call The Star home,” said Jason Lake, CEO of compLexity Gaming, in a statement. “We are creating a world-class facility that will engage fans both in person and online and positively impact the entire industry for decades to come.”
Among the most notable of GameStop’s other declarations?
A series of educational clinics and tournaments where amateur players will learn from the pros
A partnership with Matcherino, a crowd-funding resource for organizers and streamers, to engage and “incentivize” fans with “targeted offers” and “hundreds of matches.”
A partnership with the Collegiate Star League (CSL) to activate collegiate esport tournaments throughout the region
Immersive experiences coming to OWL major markets, providing exclusive content, events and merchandise for Overwatch audiences
Gaming goes SaaS. Google and Apple throw their hats into the ring with nothing to lose, muddying the future of what we know as “gaming” while still managing to excite everyone.
I’ll do my best to stick to the highlights, for the sake of brevity — this one is already longer than anticipated... but I waited almost a month for the second issue, so what did we think was going to happen? 🤷♂️
Description: The actual technology behind Google’s offering is a bit more complex than console or PC options, so I’ll let Digital Trends put it into Lamen’s terms for you — “If all goes to plan, it will render everything about the game in its global datacenters on high-end PC components, before sending a cleverly compressed video of gameplay to the gamer via the Chrome browser. They then input their commands on a Stadia (or other) controller, which are then sent over the internet back to the datacenter. All of this should happen in the blink of an eye, making the experience analogous to traditional local gaming on console or PC.”
Titles: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, only because we’ve seen it live.
Other titles mentioned: Trials Rising, Skull and Bones, Anno 1800. Rumors suggest that Google is placing a lot of eggs in this basket and that nearly 100 developers have been enticed to create titles for Stadia due to some of the really smart tech behind the platform like Google Style’s Transfer ML (machine learning) which can smartly alter visuals in the game to help retrofit or adjust titles-in-progress to be supported by Stadia.
Cool Features: Deeeeep YouTube integration and Google Assistant accessible through Stadia controllers. Assistant will be able to identify where you are in a game and serve up YouTube content that will help get you through, but that’s not the extent of YT’s use - there will be a designated Share button on each controller that will allow quick and smooth uploads or broadcasting but this next bit? This is where it gets wild. Imagine watching one of your favorites stream and being able to jump into not only the same title, but the EXACT SAME POINT IN THE GAME. I’m very excited to see where this goes and I’m HOPING it works as well as it has been advertised...
Timing: TBA - likely second half of 2019 or Q4, near holiday
Price: TBA - the jury is still out on whether this will be a “Netflix of games,” or an infrastructure where each title will be purchased and played like current consoles.
Description: Let’s just pull words straight from the Apple Event and then unpack them — “The App Store is the world’s biggest and most successful game platform. Now we are going to take games even further with Apple Arcade, the first game subscription service for mobile, desktop and the living room,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “We are working with some of the most innovative game developers in the world to create over 100 new and exclusive games to play across iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple TV. Apple Arcade games will be great for families, respect user privacy and will not have ads or require any additional purchases. We think players of all ages are going to love Apple Arcade.”
Titles: The elevator pitch is all fine and dandy but the true mission lies in the core of the idea: indie developers who truly craft critically-acclaimed experiences, enhanced by beautiful visuals and enchanting soundtracks often can’t compete on the larger stage with free-to-play blockbusters like Fortnite and PUBG. Apple took that idea and over-commercialized it to round out a catalog of hand-picked titles that now includes major studios like Cartoon Network, SEGA, LEGO, Konami and more.
The result will be a very interesting mix of “big guys” and “small guys” laced with exclusives like Sonic Racing by SEGA and LEGO Brawlers.
Cool Features: The entire catalog will include full game experiences... so no more Mario Run bullshit (or maybe there will be, but outside of the Arcade environment) and all future additions to the titles will be included in the price of the subscription. Every game will be available to play offline (also a massive pain point for me - I’ve deleted countless titles because I pulled out my phone to play in-flight and needed to buy WiFi to access anything) and cross-device: iPhone, iPad, Mac and tv. Pick up right where you left off, purely by accessing the title through the Arcade portal. Lastly, Arcade will have controller support... so it’ll be interesting to see what third-party providers develop exclusive remotes for these types of games.
Timing: Fall 2019
Price: Where this will unapologetically be a “Netflix of games,” we still have no hint of what this will set you back on a monthly basis.
Questions, concerns, happy thoughts? Would be happy to entertain any discussion in the comments below.