eSports Week In Review | Biggest eSports On TV Weekend, Discord Valued At $700M+, Asia Beating US In Collegiate eSports

ESPORTS WEEK IN REVIEW | BIGGEST ESPORTS ON TV WEEKEND, DISCORD VALUED AT $700M+, ASIA BEATING US IN COLLEGIATE ESPORTS

eSports Week In Review (Photo: CC License)

eSports Week In Review (Photo: CC License)

TNL Take: I could probably leave this as the opening line to every Week In Review based on the current pace of eSports investment across the board "What a week."

This week we looked at Why Discord Is Valued At $700M+, 2 new Feature Writer's for The Next Level, the biggest weekend for eSports on TV and how Asian Collegiate eSports are dominating the US. 

 

MONDAY 07/17

Why Discord Was Able To Raise ~$50M At A $700M+ Valuation

Discord Raises ~$50M (Photo: Discord)

Discord Raises ~$50M (Photo: Discord)

The Next Level's New Feature Writers (Photo: The Next Level)

The Next Level's New Feature Writers (Photo: The Next Level)

EVO 2017 Finals (Photo: EVO, Robert Paul)

EVO 2017 Finals (Photo: EVO, Robert Paul)

Promotional Image for Tencent's 2015 Campus Series (Photo: Tencent)

Promotional Image for Tencent's 2015 Campus Series (Photo: Tencent)

 

Have a great weekend!

Asia Ahead of the US in Collegiate eSports

ASIA AHEAD OF THE US IN COLLEGIATE ESPORTS

Promotional Image for Tencent's 2015 Campus Series (Photo: Tencent)

Promotional Image for Tencent's 2015 Campus Series (Photo: Tencent)

Collegiate Feature Writer: James Kozachuk

Well, here’s that headline again.

Is it because Haikou College of Economics won the League of Legends International Collegiate Championship last Sunday? Or maybe that more and more Chinese universities are offering scholarships? Or perhaps that Tencent has begun to work directly with MIT to fund their research into collegiate eSports?

Those are all part of this narrative but it’s not the point I want to focus on today. The level of engagement in collegiate eSports in Asia, specifically China, is incredible. Before heading to China, let’s look at how other regions compare to established a baseline.

 

NORTH AMERICA

Teams Participating in the 2015 North American Championship Series (Photo: Riot Games)

Teams Participating in the 2015 North American Championship Series (Photo: Riot Games)

The United States is the undisputed leader in collegiate eSports, with competitions ranging back to at least 2009, 40+ schools giving scholarships worth millions of dollars, and one university crowned queen among the rest. 

  • American Video Game League (AVGL): AVGL published that their competitions attracted students from 1,100 different institutions. After running some math on the tournaments they ran, we can estimate around 5,000 students took part this season.
  • Collegiate Starleague (+ULOL qualifiers): CSL reports that 30,000 students from over 900 institutions took part in their competitions. The number of institutions taking part is lower for CSL as they have a strict “all players must attend the same institution” policy, whereas AVGL is more lax.
  • Tespa: Tespa doesn’t report their individual player or team counts, but a cursory estimate from their tournament portal is 25,000 students this year.

North America: 30,000 (CSL) + 25,000 (Tespa) + 5,000 (AVGL) = 60,000 students. There’s definitely a lot of overlap between the tournaments and within the tournaments themselves, however we have a target size for the current US market size.

 

EUROPE

University eSports Masters in 2017 (Photo: UEMasters)

University eSports Masters in 2017 (Photo: UEMasters)

Europe is known for their incredible collaboration between organizers. The University eSports Masters grew from six to eight organizers/nations almost immediately after the first article in this series. Each of these organizers have their own tournaments, and connect with a lot of local students:

 

 

Europe: 3,000 (UK) + 132 (Ireland) + 312 (Germany) + 264 (Netherlands) + 3,861 (Portugal) + 900 (France) + 1440 (Italy) = 9,909 students. With an educated guess to include Spain, that brings us to about 10,500 students. 

 

OCEANIA

Riot Oceania University Championship (Photo: Riot Games)

Riot Oceania University Championship (Photo: Riot Games)

There's eSports development happening in this region - PE firms buying teams, Australian Rules Football team buying teams and major CPG brands sponsoring teams - it's not fully there yet; but the groundwork is being laid. As mentioned in the first article in this series, the Australian Sports Commission has announced that League of Legends will be a sanctioned game at their Unigames competition.

 

Oceania: 150 (Australia) + 6,000 (Malaysia) = 6,150 students. The Australian Unigames national qualifier ended yesterday (July 17) and Queensland University of Technology will face the University of Canterbury at the official UniGames sometime between September 24-29. There’s also a Singapore Collegiate League, but it’s difficult to find data about the raw number of students they have participating and it's not nearly as big as it's Malaysian counterpart. 

 

CHINA AND TAIWAN

~6M Chinese Students Participate in Collegiate eSports (Tencent).

~6M Chinese Students Participate in Collegiate eSports (Tencent).

And now where's we get to some serious numbers.

 

“But James, China has a huge population compared to any of the other regions!”

 

Sure, but a higher percentage of the China and Taiwan population are engaged in competitive collegiate eSports.

So why is this?

It’s actually a really simple reason: Tencent and Garena use a different competitive and community-building system; they have created competitive ladders for collegiate eSports. Their methodology gets incredibly invasive, requiring every student to send Tencent (China) or Garena (Taiwan) a scanned copy of their student ID card, their major, and proof of enrollment. But in return students will be linked up with students from their school, and matches they play will be recorded as points for their institution.

That last point shouldn't be taken lightly. 

There’s a huge sense of national pride and the two Chinese eSports loving students I’ve talked to have said that they enjoy the collegiate ladder, although they recognize that their own schools will never win given that other universities like Minjiang University will more than likely consistently win.

For an unfortunate sports analogy, it's like still caring about the NCAA Tournament event though you go to a Division II school that has 0 chance of making the big dance.

This ladder system is a way to easily affiliate with one’s school and feel like your part of the community while contributing to your school’s competitive identify. You don’t have to be the best player, but you have to be an A player.

Such a system hasn’t been tested in North America or Europe, but could very well be a way to help grow collegiate eSports. The closest we’ve come is the Clubs system in League of Legends, but there are issues with that as well that I'll cover in a future article.

After University of Toronto got taken down 2-0 by China's Haikou College of Economics last week we're certainly going to need a boost in order to win next year. Whether that be a direct community integration into the game client, improvements in collegiate recruiting, or the creation and expansion of the best collegiate eSports programs in the world- we'll need something.

 

SO WHAT NOW?

 

Asia clearly has a dominant lead AND with Asian eSports investment easily exceeding $1B+ this year, the US has a lot of catching to do. With the rapid growth of US schools providing eSports scholarships and other initiatives, hopefully these are all good signs of starting, let alone improving the infrastructure.

Asia, Europe Ahead Of The US In Collegiate eSports - Part 1

ASIA, EUROPE AHEAD OF THE US IN COLLEGIATE ESPORTS

PART 1

League Of Legends International Collegiate Championship (Photo: Garena)

League Of Legends International Collegiate Championship (Photo: Garena)

TNL Infographic 015: 2017 Collegiate eSports Report (Infographic: 015)

TNL Infographic 015: 2017 Collegiate eSports Report (Infographic: 015)

While the year was ending with 15 confirmed schools giving out eSports scholarships via tuition assistance and/or room and board, the number is much higher now.

But you gotta wait for that report.

It may seem that the US is taking the lead but Asia has been driving down this path for a while now.


TNL Industry Guest Post 003: James Kozachuk has been building the collegiate eSports ecosystem since 2011, with key roles at the Collegiate Starleague and the High School Starleague. He is currently a researcher at the University of Central Florida, where he studies the effects of eSports programs on students. In addition, he works with Blizzard Entertainment's collegiate eSports division, Tespa and has provided his collegiate analytics and data services to multiple Fortune 500 companies. The article has been edited for length.


/01 COLLEGIATE ESPORTS IN ASIA

Campus League Event (Photo: Garena Malaysia/Singapore Facebook )

Campus League Event (Photo: Garena Malaysia/Singapore Facebook )

When anyone involved within the eSports scene hears the words "collegiate eSports," they immediately picture leagues like Riot Games' "ULOL Campus Series," Blizzard's "Heroes of the Dorm," or universities like UC Irvine and Robert Morris University creating arenas on their campuses. While North America has been building this scene for years, the Asian scene has been developing even more rapidly.

Hot off the success of the first ever developer run collegiate tournament (Garena, Riot Games' South East Asian distribution partner, called their "Inter-Varsity Tournament") in 2012, the world was introduced years later to the first "Campus Series" event. University students from Singapore and Malaysia participated in separate tournaments and crowned national winners.

By 2016, Campus Series events would be introduced to almost every major country in the region: China, The Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Thailand.

2016 ICC Championship In Taipei (Photo: YouTube)

2016 ICC Championship In Taipei (Photo: YouTube)

These tournaments even culminated in a grand-finals in Taiwan - moved originally from Thailand as a result of the Thai King's death in 2016.

There's also action on the international level.

A fight between the best Chinese and American universities was sponsored by DouyuTV - the Sequoia/Tencent backed version of China's Twitch - and organized by Tespa, Blizzard Entertainment’s collegiate eSports team.

China v. US Intercollegiate Competition (Photo: TeamLiquid.net)

China v. US Intercollegiate Competition (Photo: TeamLiquid.net)

/02 COLLEGIATE ESPORTS IN EUROPE

University eSports Masters European Series (Photo: University eSports Masters

University eSports Masters European Series (Photo: University eSports Masters

Europe's disadvantage in collegiate eSports is that their students do not share the same level of school pride in sport that we've got here in the good Ol' US of A. Most sports focus on city clubs, rather than schools - especially given how distributed European campuses are.

That is, except for the United Kingdom, the birthplace of school club sports.

The National University eSports League (NUEL) has been organizing collegiate esports competitions since 2010 and has partnered with Riot Games in some capacity since 2015. Almost 3,000 students from 96 institutions - 60%+ of all institutions in the UK - participated in this league.

That makes it the most densely populated collegiate league in the world.

NUEL: National University eSports League (Photo: NUEL)

NUEL: National University eSports League (Photo: NUEL)

While the United Kingdom may be ahead of the other European nations in terms of schools and players, various leagues have cropped across the continent: France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Germany.

Wait, is this starting to sound familiar?

Enter the University eSports Masters, a competition that brings the top teams from each nation together for a one-of-a-kind regional finals.  While there appeared to be no developer support during its first iteration in 2016, Twitch and their new Student initiative have begun their support in the league for the 2017 season.

While not part of the University eSports Masters, a special shoutout is needed for the Dutch Collegiate League. Two years running, the DCL was featured on their nation's FOX Sports channel in 2016, just as eSports has penetrated traditional sports TV channels here.

Also interesting is Riot Games’ recent hire of a Collegiate Esports Manager for CIS (Russian block) nations last year.

More collegiate esports on the horizon?

 

/03 COLLEGIATE ESPORTS IN OCEANIA

Australian Sports Commission (Photo: Government of Australia)

Australian Sports Commission (Photo: Government of Australia)

Wait, there's more?

There's more. Riot Games has been running their Oceanic University Championships since 2013, and ESL has partnered with the University eSports League, another Australian university competition.

In June 2016 it was announced that League of Legends would be the newest sport to be sanctioned by the Australian Sports Commission and the title would be played at the premiere university competition, the Regional and Australian University Games.  

Having an eSport title being officially sanctioned is a big deal as it cuts through a whole lot of bureaucracy needed to build the right infrastructure.

In addition to Riot Games hiring a CIS region Collegiate eSports Manager, they also hired a similar role in Oceania.

If it's not obvious, Riot is investing heavily in the future of international collegiate eSports and their place in it.

 

Part 2: High Schools, National Classes and Prepping eSports For The Future

The Indian eSports Opportunity Part 1

THE INDIAN ESPORTS OPPORTUNITY PART 1

The Indian eSports Opportunity (Graphic: The Next Level)

TNL TAKE: When I was a kid, I heard what became one of my favorite quotes:

"If you're one in a billion in China, there's a thousand people like you"

It didn't just mean that there were a lot of people in that country; you had to fight for a chance to stand out from the crowd.

You can say the same thing about India today.

With a population of 1.25 billion people currently, India is expected to surpass China by 2022 and hit 1.50 billion people by 2030. 

That's a lot of people....and wallets.

As eSports is like any industry with future potential, it will continually seek out new opportunities for growth. $63 million has been earmarked for eSports funding or prize pools in 2017 alone.

Here's a brief history of eSports in India over the past few years including the most recent investments.

ESL INDIA PREMIERSHIP

ESL India Premiership with NODWIN Gaming (Photo: ESL)

ESL in conjunction with NODWIN Gaming launched the ESL India Premiership eSports league in May of 2016. The ESL IP will hold 6 online cups and 3 events in the first year with a prize pool of $64,000.

The league will feature 4 titles: Dota 2, Counter-Strike, Hearthstone - and most interesting - will also include Just Dance, which is a rhythm dancing game.

NODWIN Gaming has several Brand partnerships with the usual suspects but also a Non-Endemic that hasn't yet invested in the US: Sprite.

NODWIN is also not new to eSports having hosted the regional portion for the Paris based ESWC tournament in 2015.

[The Indian eSports Opportunity Part 2 will feature an interview with NODWIN Gaming CEO Akshat Rathee]

 

FLIPKART GAMING ONLINE CHAMPIONSHIP

Flipkart Gaming Online Championship (Photo: Flipkart)

Flipkart is basically India's Amazon - until Amazon landed a few years ago and is currently ruling the market.

In June of 2016, Flipkart launched the Flipkart Gaming Online Championship (FGOC), which was a month long tournament across the country.  FGOC featured 4 games: FIFA, Counter Strike, League of Legends, and DotA 2 - while ironically being live streamed on Amazon-owned Twitch.

This makes complete sense for Flipkart as they see gaming as still a niche but a fast evolving segment and particularly in large cities. Flipkart garnered 50% growth in the Gaming category in the first 6 months of 2016.

 

EGAMERS ARENA SETS $28M ESPORTS PRIZE POOL

eGamers Arena and World Cyber Arena Partnership (Photo: WCA)

This is a perfect example of how quickly eSports has grown over the past year.

ESL's $64,000 Prize Pool for the Indian Premiership was massively dwarfed by the January agreement between India's eGamers Arena and China's World Cyber Arena to the tune of $28 million.

There will be championships held across the country and feature the expected games like DOTA2, League of Legends, CS:GO, but will also include Overwatch.

eGamer Arena's deal gives them the exclusive rights to host the national WCA qualifiers in India and the winners will be able to participate in WCA region qualifications. The qualifiers will also take place on eGamer Arena's eSports Tournament platform.

In addition to this deal, eGamers Arena also runs the Indian Gaming League.

[The Indian eSports Opportunity Part 2 will also feature an interview with eGamers Arena Founder and Chief Gamer Lokesh Suji]

 

INDIAN BILLIONAIRE INVESTS $15M IN ESPORTS LEAGUE

Indian eSports League UCypher (Photo: UCypher)

American billionaires aren't the only ones jumping into the eSports pool.

Indian businessman Ronnie Screwvala, who's net worth is just over $1 billion, will invest $15M into UCypher, another Indian eSports League. Screwvala owns a slew of companies including USports, which will broadcast the league to international audiences as well.

The key thing to note here is that UCypher is being developed for the TV audience - not live streaming. If anyone knows how to pull this off it's Screwvala who owns U Mumba, a Pro Kabaddi Sports team - I'm not even going to try to explain what it is, just watch this.

While that may look crazy, the inaugural season drew 435M viewers across India.  

Even taking Screwvala's expertise across sports, leagues, and broadcasting, it will be interesting to see the market appetite for Indian eSports outside of its home.

With the huge untapped mobile gaming audience, you can see a game like Clash Royale being included in UCypher.

 

MOBILE GAME PUBLISHER NAZARA GAMES INVESTS $20M IN ESPORTS LEAGUE

Manish Agarwal, CEO of Nazara Games (Photo: Nazara Games)

Starting to see a trend?

In a twist to the slew of eSports investments and potentially the first sign of a new market for the audience, Indian mobile game publisher Nazara Games plans to invest $20M over the next 5 years to develop a national eSports league.

Nazara games eSports strategy focuses on 3 main areas: league, content platform, and a Pro Teams "supported by the community and Nazara" - which I'm curious to hear more about.

The league will have 6 teams playing in 2 seasons of which only Valve titles have been confirmed so far: Counter-Strike and Dota 2. 

A lot of activity within Indian eSports in 2017.


That's where Indian eSports has progressed over the past few years but where is it going next? Tomorrow in Part 2, Ill look at the opportunities and challenges by speaking with Indian eSports Founder's from NODWIN Gaming and eSports Arena