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Is “Region-Locking” Really The Best Path Forward For Professional eSports?

George Miller

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Is ‘Region-Locking’ Really The Best Path Forward For Professional Esports?
Reading Time: 3 minutes

While eSports has become an increasingly global affair, a looming debate over the mandate to “region-lock” teams continues to raise the question of whether this practice still belongs in the modern era.

 

Region-locking has created some controversy — appearing in many forms across multiple eSport titles. To League of Legends Championship Series participants, it means restricting the regional movement of players between teams.

In the Halo Championship Series, we recently saw NA players being denied access to HCS London. This was an event exclusive to only European teams, a first for the 17-year old competitive Halo franchise.

Why region-lock for esports?

Region-locking was first introduced in Blizzard’s StarCraft 2 World Championship Series. Players needed to be legal residents of a country in the qualifying region to participate in the WCS.

The largely Korean-dominated-scene first prompted the concept of region-locking as a way to avoid predictable tournament results against the all-Korean teams and an attempt to lessen the occurrence of seemingly stale events.

Other regions had begun tapping into Korean talent pools and importing their players, essentially uncoupling teams from their local flavor. In fear of harming local followings, other leagues allow a limited amount of ‘imports’ to be drafted. This attempts to avoid teams converting to entirely culturally foreign rosters.

Building local pro-gaming scenes

Regional restrictions are seen as a way to build upon local gaming communities by leveling contests when competing locally.

Fan engagement is a critical part of this conversation. Why? Esports has the advantage of a relatively small barrier between fans and the players. Fans have the ability to watch their favorite players practice and scrimmage while also communicating through Twitch.

Importing foreign players with a significant language barrier is essentially creating a barrier for the primarily English-speaking fan base.

 

Improving fandom and making eSports generational

Advocates of regional restrictions sustain a focal point revolving around the development of a sustainable ecosystem for pro-gaming leagues.

Many believe facilitating a healthy global system is the key to maintaining a generational fandom.

The way you do that is by creating narratives and story-lines of players that people want to follow,” Immortals CEO Noah Whinston said during a round-table discussion on region-locking. Whinston added to his argument by insisting that players who share similar cultural backgrounds would be more approachable and personable to fans.

In theory, enlisting casual fans to follow esports could be unaccommodating if a sizable cultural disconnect between the spectators and the players flares up. Region-locking could promote the health of esports holistically. But the argument against the restriction focuses more on the competition itself.

Improving regional skill

In esports, we see fascinating skill gaps between specific regions closely resembling the same abstraction in traditional sports. Just as Europeans remain well ahead of North America in soccer, Korean digital athletes are chiefly more skilled than the rest of their international competition in StarCraft.

StarCraft is not on an island either. We see similar differences in technical savviness across the varying regions in other games, such as League of Legends.

Although Koreans dominate a majority of League’s landscape as well, Europe has also been able to produce very capable mid-laners. In Halo, we see a pro-league commanded by NA players with consistent and unchallenging victories against the European squads.

With such pronounced supremacy in esport titles, wanting to know what characteristics allow a region to easily trump another is a common inquiry.

Infrastructure facilitating artistry

One of most common references for Korean players sustaining an extensive distance ahead of their international competition was that the existing infrastructure in Korea was so sophisticated that it produced and facilitated an ultimate competition. The advanced competition offered in Korea was available only to Korean players or those that took the leap of relocating to Korea to train, creating a sizable skill difference in international bouts.

In the case of the 17-year old Halo franchise, its competitive roots came in North America. That happened independently at first, and finally legitimized early on by Major League Gaming. The organized structure that MLG brought to Halo’s competitive scene encouraged and provided the top players the opportunity to significantly improve their skill sets.

An elevated contest of Halo in North America fostered professional players to play at a higher level. This movement allowed the players to compete in the MLG Pro Circuit — granting a heavy advantage when challenging other teams that lacked the same top-tier exposure.

George Miller started his career in content marketing and has started working as an Editor/Content Manager for our company in 2016. George has acquired many experiences when it comes to interviews and newsworthy content becoming Head of Content in 2017. He is responsible for the news being shared on multiple websites that are part of the European Gaming Media Network.

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GRID Becomes the Official esports Data Partner of Pinnacle

Niji Narayan

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GRID Becomes the Official esports Data Partner of Pinnacle
Reading Time: 1 minute

 

Pinnacle.com has announced GRID as its official esports data partner. The deal was officially announced by Pinnacle Trading Director Marco Blume and GRID CEO Moritz Maurer.

The deal grants Pinnacle the rights to access GRID’s esports data to enhance its esports betting products. In addition to providing data, GRID will also act as a B2B partner through the promotion of Pinnacle Solution to its betting product clientele.

“We’ve gone from being one of the only bookmakers offering esports to having all the big names posting markets across different titles in the last few years. There’s no question that the quality of our product is head and shoulders above anything else out there but we know we can’t stand still and we have to work hard to stay at the top. This deal with GRID is an important part of the esports evolution at Pinnacle. We have a reputation to maintain and thanks to the quality of data that GRID can provide, we’re only going to keep improving,” Marco Blume, Trading Director of Pinnacle said.

“There is no secret as to Pinnacle’s expertise across traditional sports and track record as a pioneer in esports betting. To align ourselves with such a powerful and well respected brand pays tribute to the work we have carried out to date in executing on GRID’s vision of building a scalable data infrastructure across the most relevant esports titles whilst hitting the mark in regards to the quality of the data solutions we provide. Combining an unrivalled market share in official data assets with Pinnacle’s trading powerhouse is an exciting proposition to bring to the market,” Moritz Maurer, CEO of GRID said.

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VENN-The New Home For Gaming, Esports And Pop Culture Entertainment

George Miller

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VENN-The New Home For Gaming, Esports And Pop Culture Entertainment
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

Gaming industry visionaries Ariel Horn, the four-time Emmy winning producer that pioneered esports broadcast production at Riot Games and Blizzard Entertainment, and Ben Kusin, seasoned entrepreneur and former Global Director of New Media at Vivendi Games, announced the creation of VENN – a new network launching in 2020 with live studios in New York and Los Angeles, aimed at gaming, esports and entertainment audiences. With $17 million in seed round funding from investors spanning multiple industries, this new post cable TV network will cater to the $150 billion global gaming industry and live at the intersection of entertainment and gaming cultures.

“Video games continue to define the culture of today’s youth. Streamers, casters, content creators, esports athletes – these are our new celebrities,” said Ben Kusin, Co-CEO of VENN. “VENN is giving this generation an overdue home and a heartbeat, with bi-coastal broadcast studios incorporating live audiences, premium production values, a 24/7 linear offering, and engaging and innovative formats that elevate and promote a culture traditionally overlooked by broadcast media.”

“We’ve been polishing our craft on global stages for years while dreaming up new ways to create memorable esports broadcast experiences,” said Ariel Horn, Co-CEO. “VENN will bring together the best and brightest talent to apply the same creativity and big-picture thinking to greater gaming and entertainment content, building a bridge from our industry into the world that surrounds it.”

The investment round is co-led by BITKRAFT, the first esports investment fund in the world with a diverse global portfolio of more than 35 companies across its two fund generations.

“It’s about time we significantly raise the bar for video content in gaming and esports. We need to elevate the stars and stories in our community and provide a better and larger opportunity for brands to reach gamers. We have no doubt that Ariel and Ben are the guys to get this job done and are incredibly excited for a new level of entertainment value in gaming and esports,” said Jens Hilgers, Founding Partner of BITKRAFT.

Additionally, VENN brings together an elite consortium of investors spanning the worlds of gaming, sports, entertainment, culture and business. Included in this group are:

–  Marc Merrill, co-founder of Riot Games
–  Mike Morhaime, co-founder of Blizzard Entertainment
–  Amy Morhaime, former head of global esports, Blizzard Entertainment
–  Kevin Lin, co-founder of Twitch
–  aXiomatic Gaming, a premiere esports investment group with holdings in gaming and esports properties including Team Liquid, Niantic and Epic Games
–  BDMI, a corporate venture capital arm of Bertelsmann, the global media, services, and education company
–  YuChiang Cheng, co-founder of World Golf Tour and President of Topgolf Media
–  Lifeline Financial Group, a full-service multi-family office based in Beverly Hills, representing high profile clients across sports and entertainment
–  Reimagined Ventures, the private capital group of Alec Litowitz, founder of Magnetar Capital and Cloud9 investor

“The exciting thing about VENN is its potential to expose what is so compelling about gaming culture to a wider audience,” said Marc Merrill, Co-Founder, Riot Games. “I look forward to seeing the content they create and the opportunities they’re going to open up for players everywhere.”

Designed for fans across all platforms, VENN was created as a singular media brand to unite a fragmented media marketplace. Its content will span multiple categories of entertainment, with original programming produced both in-house and with some of the biggest names and creators in gaming, entertainment, streaming, and esports.

“I’m proud to support the team at VENN on an exciting new milestone for digital entertainment,” said Mike Morhaime, Co-Founder, Blizzard Entertainment. “Having a central location for high quality content from across the industry is an important foundational step for gaming communities.”

“The explosion in gamer-driven digital entertainment over the past decade has shown that traditional models must evolve to keep up with this new audience,” said Keith Titan, Partner at BDMI. “We believe that Ben and Ariel bring the passion, experience, and authenticity critical to creating content that serves, engages and challenges the digital audience. We’re thrilled to be part of their support network as they put this bold new vision into action.”

“VENN will be everywhere the gaming audience consumes content: Streaming platforms, VOD, 24/7 linear and social networks,” said Ariel Horn. “Pioneering a truly interactive broadcast network will enable the kind of experiences these audiences demand.”

More information on VENN will be released in the coming months and you can learn more by visiting the company’s website – www.venn.tv and following VENN on social media @watchvenn.

 

About VENN:

VENN is a new 24/7 post-cable TV network aimed at gaming, esports and entertainment audiences. Launching in 2020 and broadcasting live from studios in New York and Los Angeles, VENN will be distributed across a broad range of media platforms and offer original programming produced in-house and in partnership with some of the biggest names and creators across industries.

Source: VENN

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eSports

ESIC Announces Rebrand From “Coalition” To “Commission”

George Miller

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ESIC Announces Rebrand From “Coalition” To “Commission”
Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

ESIC announces a rebrand from Esports Integrity Coalition to Esports Integrity Commission. This change comes as ESIC refines its operational strategy to more meaningfully target the integrity needs of the international esports industry.

ESIC was founded in 2015 by key esports stakeholders and operated as a ‘Coalition’ of members. Since then, ESIC has delivered a steady stream of integrity outcomes for the esports industry including an Anti-Corruption Program, Anti-Doping Program, Player Codes of Conduct, and several other best practice standard schemes. The implementation of these best practice Codes by leading esports stakeholders such as ESL, Dreamhack, and many others has allowed ESIC to make tangible contributions to the industry, in the form of sanctions against individuals who attempt to use esports as a vehicle for fraud. Most recently, ESIC cooperated with the Victorian Police in Australia in an investigation leading to the arrests of six individuals allegedly fixing esports matches for profit.

The Esports Integrity Commission will continue to serve the industry in dispensing its integrity function to a variety of esports stakeholders internationally. With a proven track record in delivering results as an integrity body commissioned by its members, for the benefit of its members and industry at large – ESIC is poised to take on a significantly more ambitious mandate, filled with new initiatives.

In light of this refined approach, ESIC has put a call out for the buy-in of industry stakeholders seeking to contribute to the overall sustainability of the industry in order to work together for the continual growth of esports internationally.

Ian Smith, Commissioner of the Esports Integrity Commission: “I am really proud that we have reached the point where a rebrand helps us evolve at the same speed as the esports industry is evolving. We have been around for four years and the growth in the industry has been phenomenal and I am pleased that it has been the same with us. I look forward to the increased professionalisation of both ESIC and the esports industry. I am particularly looking forward to announcing our new chairman in the coming weeks.”

Stephen Hanna, Director of Global Strategy and Partnerships at the Esports Integrity Commission said: “As the foremost integrity body in esports, it is the responsibility of ESIC to deliver integrity beyond its initial coalition of members and to the broader esports industry. This move reinforces ESIC’s desire to serve the broader industry’s changing needs. Alongside this rebrand, we will be announcing several new initiatives which will bring integrity to a variety of new esports stakeholders.”

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