An Overview Of Console Esports - Nintendo

Industry Guest Post: Jonathan Pan is an Esports Instructor at the University of California, Irvine. He has over 13 years of experience in management, strategy, or business development roles across companies small and large. After serving as a Product Manager at Riot Games, he co-founded and served as CEO of Ember, an esports team. He has also delivered one of the most viewed TEDx talks on esports. 

It seems like records are being broken every other day in esports and streaming. The International 2017 had a record $24.8 million dollars in prize pool. The ELEAGUE Major broke the peak concurrent users record on Twitch two years in a row, with a peak of 1.13 million users watching the final match. Most recently, the Ninja — Drake stream has brought all of these topics into the attention of mainstream media.

All of this record-breaking is happening with PC games and console makers — Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft — are looking to get a piece of the action too, each pursing a distinct strategy. Before we dive into each company’s strategy, we should take a look at what mobile esports has tried to do and is trying to do. It is arguable that mobile esports is the first non-PC platform to explore what esports means for their platform.

When I say mobile esports, I’m focusing on the big three — VaingloryClash Royale, and most recently Arena of Valor (the Western adaptation of Honor of Kings). Collectively, they’ve tried everything: pay esports teams to get involved, created leagues, hosted tournaments, created esports broadcasts, and more. Yet none of these efforts have gained as much traction as PC esports has.

And that’s okay, because the industry has yet to define what a successful “mobile esports” looks like. While I don’t have a definition, I offer the opinion that mobile esports is more suited as a participatory esport rather than a spectator esport. And as a participatory esport, mobile esports may be doing quite well. But it’ll probably never eclipse PC esports as a spectator esport.

Therefore, the biggest lesson learned that console esports can learn from mobile esports is to define it’s own success criteria.



Looking from the outside in, Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft’s esports strategies seem to focus on one to three of these areas: first-party/exclusive games, input devices, and platform services.

  1. Creating an esport requires esports potential, financial investment, developer buy-in, and most importantly, community buy-in. In total, it’s a big commitment and only makes sense for first-party and exclusive third-party games where the publisher has influence or control over these inputs.
  2. Another lesson learned from mobile esports is that input devices matter. High-level and professional players of mobile games use keyboard and mouse when available because it offers more precision and complexity than the touch screen. We’ve seen this in the past with Vainglory and more recently with mobile PUBG. That’s also why arcade sticks are used by most professional fighting game players.
  3. Platform services make participating and watching tournaments easier. Tournament participation has demonstrated increased retention and monetization for some companies. For example, players in World of Tanks who participate in esports tournaments have 3x longer lifespan and 3.5x higher spending. Meanwhile, gamers watching esports on consoles can help console makers prove the case that watching esports can lead to increased engagement.



Nintendo has taken an about face on esports. After years of actively suppressing the Super Smash Bros competitive community, most notably at Evo 2013, Nintendo recently announced hosting the first official Super Smash Bros tournament and the first Splatoon 2 World Championship tournament at E3 2018.

Nintendo’s esports strategy appears to be focused on growing their two first-party games, Smash and Splatoon 2, on the Switch. Smash already had a vibrant competitive community before Nintendo’s official involvement. If Smash represents Nintendo’s past, Splatoon 2 represents Nintendo’s future. The team-based, family-friendly, third-person shooter has a burgeoning competitive community with professional and amateur teams. The Switch trailer in October 2016 ends with two teams playing Splatoon 2 in front of a huge live audience.

The Switch is interesting as it seems to straddle the unique space between console and portable. If you recall the participatory esports distinction I made earlier, the Switch definitely enables participation as you can bring it to tournaments — enabling larger brackets. There’s much more friction in bringing a PS4 or Xbox One and their accessories around. Outside of being a unique input device, the Switch has been a major commercial success. Nintendo has sold 14.86 million units of the Switch in 2017 with 52.57 million units of software sold alongside the system. It broke the U.S. record for the fastest selling console ever, with 4.8 million units sold in just 10 months.


Tomorrow will continue with Sony's esports strategy.

Twitch Top 10 Week of Dec 4th: PUBG, Hearthstone and Call of Duty


Call of Duty World League in Dallas (Photo: MLG)

Call of Duty World League in Dallas (Photo: MLG)

By Feature Writer Jordan Fragen

TNL Take: Welcome back! This is The Next Level’s take behind the key storylines behind the Top 10 Games on Twitch. Last week, we looked at Fortnite’s trajectory in overcoming PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, predicted the imminent rise of Hearthstone and followed up on the lasting effects of the Overwatch League.

Now, let’s explore the top headlines from the week of December 4th through the 10th.

Twitch Top 10 Week of Dec 4th: PUBG, Hearthstone and Call of Duty (Chart: Waypoint Media)

Twitch Top 10 Week of Dec 4th: PUBG, Hearthstone and Call of Duty (Chart: Waypoint Media)

Thank you once again to our data partner, Waypoint Media. They are the leader in esports and gaming audience data. They support clients like Nielsen in their efforts to understand the esports audience. Reach them at

PUBG’s New Map is Luring Back Lapsed Viewers… Right?

Last week this column detailed the stagnation of PlayerUnknown’s Battleground’s viewership and subsequent rise of its rival Fortnite.

However, things have changed dramatically since then.

Following a surprise reveal at Friday’s Game Awards, PUBG’s new map dropped just a few hours after the first footage debuted.

Fans have since flocked back to the game to explore the new content. And of course, the viewership followed. PUBG saw a boost to every stat we track compared to last week. From a 28% rise in Total Hours Watched, a 29% increase in average concurrents, and a 23% increase in Unique Viewers, PUBG roared back to life in the last week.

However, not all of this should be attributed to the game’s new content. In fact, the largest boost to PUBG’s numbers this week was the official BlueHole and Twitch sponsored PUBG Winter Charity Invitational that featured teams of the game’s top streamers.

Perhaps most notable about this tournament is that fans elected to watch the personal feeds of their favorite personalities rather than the official tournament stream. Anecdotally, I tuned in to C9 Shroud’s stream (like most others considering his peak concurrents topped out at nearly 113K, the highest for a single channel this week) while listening to the caster audio from the official tournament stream.

To put this into perspective, the most recent major PUBG tournament was IEM Oakland. It’s peak concurrent viewership topped out just under 91K, 22K fewer than Shroud saw during this week’s tournament stream.

New Map? Who Cares? C9 Shroud’s Tournament Run Drove Similar Viewership (Photo: Shroud’s YouTube)

New Map? Who Cares? C9 Shroud’s Tournament Run Drove Similar Viewership (Photo: Shroud’s YouTube)

This is additional evidence that much of PUBG’s success is due to the personalities it has managed to attract.


Hearthstone’s Expansion Drives an 80% Increase in Viewership

Last week, we predicted an imminent surge in Hearthstone Viewership. And wow, we were right.

Compared to the previous week, Hearthstone saw:

  • 80% more Hours Watched
  • 38% more Hours Streamed
  • 81% increase in Average Concurrent Viewers
  • 154% increase in Peak Concurrent Viewers
  • 38% increase in Unique Viewers Reached
  • Nearly an extra hour watched per viewer

However, we can’t jump to conclusions too quickly. As we pointed out last week, Hearthstone’s popularity on Twitch is highly cyclical and generally concentrated around expansion releases.

So how did this expansion compare to the last?

When compared to the week of the Knights of the Frozen Throne release, Hearthstone saw:

  • 19% increase in Total Hours Watched
  • 15% more Hours Streamed
  • 3% more Average Concurrent Viewers
  • 14% increase in Unique Viewers Reached
  • 5% more time watched per viewer on average

Now that’s a big buff.

Add this to the ever expanding list of reasons to keep an eye on Blizzard’s stock in the coming month.


CWL Dallas Propels Call of Duty: WWII into 10th

Players and Crew Clearing the CWL Dallas Venue (Photo: MLG)

Players and Crew Clearing the CWL Dallas Venue (Photo: MLG)

As the first major tournament following Call of Duty: WWII’s release, fans were prepared for some chaos at CWL Dallas but nobody could have been prepared for everything that happened. After receiving a bomb threat early Friday, Dallas police rushed to evacuate the CWL venue in the middle of the tournament. After several hours of delays, matches were postponed until the following morning.

Somehow, MLG squeezed a massive 3 day affair into 2 and Team Kaliber walked away with the grand prize.

Despite the compressed stream, CWL managed to pull in enough viewers to secure the #10 spot on our list. Unlike the PUBG Winter Invitational, Call of Duty’s official tournament streams accounted for the vast majority of the viewership. 

CWL’s 3 channels accounted for over 80% of all hours spent watching Call of Duty: WWII in the last week. To put this into perspective, Riot’s official channel aired the League of Legends All Stars event this weekend and only captured a measly 14% of all League of Legends hours watched during the week. Note that this viewership doesn't include

That’s an insane level of engagement that only serves to show the dedication of the Call of Duty community.

Exclusive: Underworld eSports Raises $10M From Grizzlies Kaplan, Survivor's Dr. Zahalsky


Underworld eSports Raises $10M From Grizzlie's Kaplan, Survivor's Dr. Zahalsky (Photo: The Next Level)

Underworld eSports Raises $10M From Grizzlie's Kaplan, Survivor's Dr. Zahalsky (Photo: The Next Level)

TNL Take: Money continues to pour into eSports teams. 

The Next Level has learned that Memphis Grizzlies co-owner Jed Kaplan and current "Survivor" season member Dr. Mike Zahalsky have invested in Portland based Underworld eSports.  Kaplan is also an owner of Swansea City Football Club of the English Premier League.

While the overall investment total was not revealed, the rumored figure is as high as $10M - which is an extraordinary amount for a team which currently competes in four titles ranging from Call of Duty to Vainglory.

Two other interesting aspects of this investment.

First, we’re beginning to see the second wave of professional sports owners who are seeing big investment opportunities in eSports.  Stephen Kaplan, co-owner of the Memphis Grizzlies as well, previously invested in team Immortals back in November of 2015 via Oaktree Capital.

TNL Infographic 027: NBA eSport Investment (Infographic: Jordan Fragen)

TNL Infographic 027: NBA eSport Investment (Infographic: Jordan Fragen)

Second, as Pro Sports team owners continue their involvement within eSports, what's the new investment trend?

Athletes and celebrities.

From NRG's recent investment from both Marshawn Lynch and Jennifer Lopez, Underworld eSports investment also includes Dr. Mike Zahalsky from the current season of "Survivor".

The deal was brokered by Bill Yates of the Sports Advisory Group who has also been linked to other eSports team investments.