Amazon's GameOn Service Could Be Game Changing

TNL Take: Developers want to concentrate on one thing: making good games. However a slew of services need to be incorporated to make really great games. This could be anything from multiplayer functionality, leaderboards and tournaments to rewarding the top players - anything that drives game engagement and retention.

Amazon announced on Monday, Amazon GameOn, a cross-platform, competitive gaming service for developers. With GameOn, developers can easily integrate competitions natively into their games on mobile, PC, and console through a set of flexible APIs which is built on AWS cloud infrastructure. 

Here's what stands out about GameOn:



GameOn currently supports leaderboards, leagues, and multi-round competitions - but most importantly gives developers - or anyone really -  the flexibility to create custom events. These tournaments can also be geo-targeted to allow for specific groups of players to take part. This could anywhere from countries and states to just your local McDonald's, which opens up a multitude of brand opportunities.

Developers can also enable players and streamers to create their own user-generated competitions and invite participants. Just imagine Twitch phenom Ninja running a Fortnite tournament for his massive viewing audience while doling out prizes to the winners - more on that shortly.

Further, all of these components are integral to creating a great esports experience outside the core component of the game itself.

Currently, Amazon GameOn is being used by 13 developers including nWay, Game Insight, Millennial Esports’ Eden Games and others.




his is where it gets really interesting. In game rewards as well as watch-to-earn rewards have been around for a while and implemented in almost every mobile game. However implementing real-world rewards is a challenge. During my time at Kiip, one of the companies that pioneered rewards for games, we needed to collect email addresses in order to achieve fulfillment.

With Amazon GameOn, you simply sign into your Amazon account - and at this point who doesn't have one in the US - and the item is automatically shipped to you with no additional work for the developer or the customer. 

Another scenario: you're playing a geo-located tournament in Madden Mobile and the Top 10 winners all receive the team's jersey for placing. The cost of the jerseys could either be looked as a marketing expense or even better - have them brought to you by a brand.



What's this all cost? Developers can use GameOn APIs for free until May 1, 2018. After that date, the first 35,000 plays per month are free for a limited time, then developers will pay $0.003 per play. 

Running simple math, if your game is doing 1M plays per day, that's almost $100,000 per month which may become cost prohibitive unless the ROI is there for developers that don't have any of the services integrated.

EA Madden, NFL, Amazon, Mobile and eSports


EA Madden, NFL, Amazon, Mobile and eSports (Graphic: The Next Level)

EA Madden, NFL, Amazon, Mobile and eSports (Graphic: The Next Level)

EA Madden NFL Year over Year Comparison (Infographic: The Next Level)

EA Madden NFL Year over Year Comparison (Infographic: The Next Level)

This is one of three big changes to EA's Club Series with NFL pro teams. While last year started with 8 - Bills, Jaguars, Chiefs, Vikings, Patriots, Eagles, Steelers and the 49ers - this year, it expands to all 32 NFL teams.



EA 2017 Club Series Champion Prize (Photo: EA Sports)

EA 2017 Club Series Champion Prize (Photo: EA Sports)

The second big change is the amount of money on the line. Last year's 8 total events were for $10K each along with the Club Finals with a $50K prize pool, bringing 2017's total to ~$130K.

Madden 18's Club Championship total prize pool of $400K+ more than triples last year's total...with a catch.



In addition to the Club Series Finals being held at Pro Bowl Experience in Orlando, the winner will also receive 2 tickets to Super Bowl LII - another sign of the NFL's involvement.




Now is where things start to get really fun.

This past Saturday morning  I found something very interesting posted and tweeted the following:

EA Madden NFL 18 and Twitch Prime Integration (Photo: LinkedIn)

EA Madden NFL 18 and Twitch Prime Integration (Photo: LinkedIn)

The reception from the community was overwhelmingly positive and a YouTube video made just around my Tweet has 20,000+ views currently:

Mr.GoldenMut YouTube Video (Photo: YouTube)

Mr.GoldenMut YouTube Video (Photo: YouTube)

Twitch Prime and EA Madden NFL 18 Promotion (Photo: Twitch)

Twitch Prime and EA Madden NFL 18 Promotion (Photo: Twitch)

I've talked plenty about how Twitch Prime is genius and the ability to lure in publishers is so critical and this is another example.



The Patriots Winning Another Super Bowl (Photo: USA Today. Mark J. Rebilas)

The Patriots Winning Another Super Bowl (Photo: USA Today. Mark J. Rebilas)

In April, Twitch owner Amazon signed a partnership with the NFL for $50M to stream 10 Thursday night games to Amazon Prime members.

Everything is about selling Amazon Prime. Everything is about selling Amazon Prime. Everything is about selling Amazon Prime.

If 500K people sign up for Amazon Prime to get access to the NFL content, Amazon breaks even on the media rights. Even if they don't, it's more marketing and programming for their content chest.



EA Madden NFL Mobile (Photo: EA Sports)

EA Madden NFL Mobile (Photo: EA Sports)

One of the least publicized success stories in the mobile gaming space is Madden Mobile. During the NFL season the game is consistently in the Top 10 grossing on the App Store.

Go ahead and check where it is right now.

Amazon has invested greatly with Vainglory and mobile eSports and there's further opportunity here as well.



I covered this last week with Amazon's potential disruption of another industry - ticketing - and the huge eSports opportunity that it holds.

Now add NFL ticket purchases and all the additional value provided with the points above.



Don't discount the NFL finally getting into eSports and putting their name, marketing and executives behind this initiative.

The NFL is the 800-pound gorilla on top of the media and sports food chain.




It's great to see the largest and most popular US sports league jump into the eSports pool.

Now add in cross promotion between EA Madden, watching Thursday NFL games on Amazon, Twitch Prime integration, Mobile, the NFL's marketing machine and the vision starts to emerge.


But here's the reality.


/01 It’s nowhere close to what Activision-Blizzard is building with their Overwatch League, Riot Games’ North American League of Legends League or the upcoming NBA 2K ELEAGUE with more than half of the pro teams included.

For both the NFL and EA to emulate OWL, LOL, and NBA2KELEAGUE in such a short amount of time would have been a herculean task.  The information for the Madden 18 competitive season was released less than a week before the game launches.


/02 The total EA Madden NFL 18 prize pool increased from $1.000M to just $1.153M. EA should clear $750M+ in Ultimate Team earnings from primarily FIFA and Madden this year with continued growth.

Even the Club Series total while seeming high at $400K is the total for 32 teams - when looked at on an individual basis it's also a slight increase over last years $10K prize pool each.

A slight prize pool increase and fewer Athletes being flown out to events - while Ultimate Team dollars continue to flow in.


/03 No details were revealed around either Digital or TV distribution but I'd be shocked if the Madden 18 Championships were not either on a Disney platform or The NFL Network.


04/ Brands - where are they?

While last years Club Series did have brands present like Gillette and the Patriots, these deals were either added value or for very little revenue.


/05 This is the biggest difference between the 3 major upcoming eSports leagues and what European soccer teams are doing with their investment.

While the winners get a much larger prize pool, entry to the Madden 18 Championships and a slew of benefits, what happens with “NFL Club Winner” after this?

This program isn’t like being officially sponsored by a Paris St. Germain, which has many FIFA Athletes represent the club and provide the “3 M’s Of Why Pro Sports Teams Invest In eSports”™ - Marketing, Merchandising and Monetization.


Whichever NFL pro team does decide to become the innovator and begin emulating their European counterparts will start seeing the ROI with real investment in the eSports space much  more quickly than the next teams that will quickly follow suit.

Disney's eSports Opportunity: 1 Year Later


Disney's eSports Opportunity: 1 Year Later (Photo: Time)

Disney's eSports Opportunity: 1 Year Later (Photo: Time)

TNL Take: Yesterday alone, there was an eSports news flurry:

And we end the day with this tiny news.

August 8, 2017: Variety: ob Iger: Disney Sets ‘Extremely Important Strategic Shift’ With Movie, ESPN Streaming Launches

August 30, 2016: The Next Level: Sports Media Evolution: Disney's Opportunity

Almost 1 year ago I looked at the various opportunities that Disney had across their wide media and distribution network.

Here is last year's article unedited now updated with what Disney has done within eSports across 8 different areas:



ESPN eSports (Photo: ESPN)

ESPN eSports (Photo: ESPN)

When it comes to Disney and eSports we have to naturally start with ESPN.  When ESPN and eSports gets mentioned it's usually with two quotes:

ESPN President John Skipper said in 2014 after Amazon bought Twitch for $1B what he thought of eSports:

“It’s not a sport — it’s a competition. Chess is a competition. Checkers is a competition. Mostly, I’m interested in doing real sports.”

ESPN host Colin Cowherd said in 2015 that "he would retire if was forced to cover eSports":

Both of those sound anachronistic in less than two years but the truth is ESPN has changed their messaging - and so has Colin Cowherd.

Since 2014, ESPN has aired 300+ hours of eSports programming and dedicated a whole Sunday in July airing 18 hours across ESPN2 and ESPNU.

ESPN has also run three eSports programs this year and compared against E LEAGUE has performed fairly well; with EA Madden even beating E LEAGUE's Finals in the 18-49 Demo - usual qualifying statement on what analysis of early data means.

ESPN2 vs. E LEAGUE (Infographic: The Next Level)

ESPN2 vs. E LEAGUE (Infographic: The Next Level)

That’s only on the TV side.

ESPN has also done a good job on the content side with ESPN eSports and I’d even put them ahead of Turner’s Bleacher Report.

However with Yahoo eSports recent deal with ESL, which will bring actual live content, exclusive tournaments and new integrated Brand opportunities to Verizon’s properties; ESPN eSports is behind…for now.



What's ESPN eSports done?

We know what happened with Yahoo eSports.

ESPN eSports has been the leader in reporting and especially breaking news. Definitely an uptick in amount of content as well.

Here's where it gets really interesting.

Last year, they had 3 eSports events on ESPN2. The total is now 16 to date across ESPN's flagship channel, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN Deportes and DisneyXD  - with a huge new Sunday programming slate.


TNL Infographic 054: eSports On ESPN Networks and DisneyXD (Infographic: The Next Level)

TNL Infographic 054: eSports On ESPN Networks and DisneyXD (Infographic: The Next Level)


/02 VICE

Vice Gaming (Photo: Vice)

Vice Gaming (Photo: Vice)

I’m a huge fan of Vice.

Sure I miss some of their edgier magazine content but I’m still amazed at how these guys are worth $5B after watching them party across from my Brooklyn apartment in 2002.

Vice has clearly grown up but there still isn’t one content company which nails youth programming like these guys.

That’s why I’ve said repeatedly that someone is going to create the Vice for eSports – and it may even be Vice themselves after hiring Giant Bomb Editor Austin Walker.

Vice launched their Gaming vertical over a year ago and I was shocked at how much eSports content they covered. They’ve also naturally made one of the better eSports documentaries:

When Vice's new Gaming vertical launches, I'd expect even more eSports content. 

Disney's relationship is their $400M investment in Vice.

Disney, just go ahead and buy Vice.



What's Vice done?

Just launch a dedicated Gaming/eSports website and content called Waypoint.

Waypoint: Vice's Gaming and eSports Site (Photo: Vice)

Waypoint: Vice's Gaming and eSports Site (Photo: Vice)

Oh that last line about "Disney just go ahead and buy Vice".

Vice Valued At $5.7B (Photo: Hollywood Reporter/Getty/Bobby Bank)

Vice Valued At $5.7B (Photo: Hollywood Reporter/Getty/Bobby Bank)

$SNAP Snapping (Photo: Google Finance)

$SNAP Snapping (Photo: Google Finance)

Dear Bob Iger, as a world leader in content, Vice is the world leader in millennial focused content. You're launching an OTT network, Vice is perfect for digital. 

Assuming current valuation, Vice for 1/3 of Snapchat? That's an easy decision.



/03 BAMTech

MLBAM (Photo: MLB)

MLBAM (Photo: MLB)

Amazon has Twitch.

Activision-Blizzard has MLG.

Turner has NBATV.

Microsoft has Beam.

Owning both distribution and content is the quest everyone is after.

Now Disney has the same with their recent $1B investment into BAMTech, a tech company spun off from MLB Advanced Media - also huge kudos to the platform they've built.

Disney will use this BAMtech to create a standalone, cable-free digital streaming service without current linear ESPN content.

Now what type of content grew up on and is perfectly suited for this new platform?



What's BAMTech done?

An Exclusive $300M deal with Riot Games for League of Legends.

Disney now also has majority ownership of BAMTech, which will be the core driver for the future OTT/Digital platform.



/04 Disney Kids

Disney XD (Photo: Disney)

Disney XD (Photo: Disney)

I've spoken about my son's obsession with Minecraft and where Gaming and eSports will play a greater role in our education system.

There's a ripe opportunity to produce content at this early age. That may sound crazy but Disney actually did it already.


Disney XD teamed with Nintendo last year to produce Clash of Karts: Mario Kart 8, one-hour show that put four teams of kids coached by YouTube influencers in a Mario Kart tournament.

YouTube influencers and kids....

Previously, Disney XD aired a one-hour special based on the Nintendo World Championships 2015, based of the earliest eSports events - when it wasn't even called eSports - back in 1990.

Nintendo, absolutely bring Nintendo World Championships back bigger.



What's DisneyXD done?

Launch a Sunday Gaming/eSports programming slate starting with the 2017 EVO Finals featuring Street Fighter.

The Next Level is working on something special on DisneyXD and will dive deeper into that.

You can also hear ESL North American CEO, Craig Levine talk about the partnership on The Next Level eSports Guest Podcast




Disney's Upcoming Star Wars Theme Park (Photo: Disney)

Disney's Upcoming Star Wars Theme Park (Photo: Disney)

There have already been many eSports events in both California and Orlando, with Activision's huge Call of Duty XP event happening this weekend. 

Disney launched a program called Early Magic which lets guests into the Parks earlier with breakfast and other goodies. 

Just replicate the same type of thing for eSports.



What's Disney Parks done?

Considering holding eSports events at their 8,000 seat venue.

There's also a massive opportunity with EA's next Star Wars title.




Disney Shanghai (Photo: Disney)

Disney Shanghai (Photo: Disney)

Out of all the potential upside, this maybe the most difficult.

I've had an unabashed love of China and eSports over the past year and believe there's a huge market there.

While there's Disney Shanghai I'm not sure if they have deeper Chinese investment.

And there's that thing of China's richest man saying "I'll see your $5B bet and raise you another $5B".



What's Disney done in China?

As I mentioned, this would be the hardest one. The Next Level will also have some special news on China tomorrow.



It's a shame that Disney shut down their Gaming division earlier this year. I felt that the Disney Infinity hardware/software bundle that Activision's Skylanders pulled off was a good product.

There's an obvious eSports connection here if Disney still had their old studio. I won't go deeper into why they shuttered that division as Jess Conduit already did a great overview



What's Disney Gaming done?

While not specific to Disney Gaming, Disney launched an accelerator program that includes axiomatic and Epic Games, publisher of Lawbreakers and one of the first to integrate with Discord.




Marvel and Lucasfilm (Photo: WDParkhoppers)

Marvel and Lucasfilm (Photo: WDParkhoppers)

Disney's purchase of both Marvel and Lucasfilm for a combined $8B is going to go down as one of the smartest bets on content ever.

Spotify is valued at $8B - which would you rather have?

Disney has the license to two solid eSports titles: EA's Stars Wars Battlefront and Marvel's Contest of Champions Mobile game.

Again the notion of calling something "eSports" is still debatable but in this case it's pure revenue sourced from internal sources or licenses.



What's Disney done with Lucasfilm and Marvel?

Take back the content from Netflix of which will definitely be included in the OTT/Digital service.  While nothing specific on the eSports side, the potential for both titles and content is endless.




I can't stop focusing on the whole idea of IP, Brand and Content. Not only from a Media perspective but from just a personal/business perspective as well.

Everyone today is - or should be - a Media Brand.

While Disney has a lot of core assets where eSports can provide accretive value, it's missing one huge piece:


There was that ridiculous previous rumor of Disney spending $500M to license Riot's League of Legends. - which I think is crazy.

Anyone want to buy some Olympics TV content?

While that price tag is high, Ill go ahead and say this:

Disney is going to make a large eSports content deal in the next 6 months.



So what's Disney done?

They signed the $300M BAMTech deal 4 months after the article. Content continues to remain king. Now Disney adds their own distribution. Increase and investment in 7 out of 8 is pretty good.


Well done Disney and ESPN team. 

eSports Week In Review | Brand Investment On Pace To Double, US Investment Hits ~$100M, Tencent's Kids Gaming Limits


eSports Week In Review. That's A Xbox Controller (Photo: Xbox)

eSports Week In Review. That's A Xbox Controller (Photo: Xbox)

TNL Take: What a week for eSports. The biggest news being finally some release of information on Activision-Blizzard's upcoming Overwatch League which The Next Level will cover next week and look at two areas that I don't believe have been fully analyzed yet.

This week, 2017 US eSports investment is almost $100M, 60+ brands sponsored eSports in the first of 2017 - which is on pace to double 2016 and China's Tencent's limitations on kids mobile gaming.



MONDAY 07/10


TNL eSports Startups 010: Super League Gaming Gets $15M From Media, Sports And Entertainment

TNL eSports Startups 010: Super League Gaming (Graphic: The Next Level)

TNL eSports Startups 010: Super League Gaming (Graphic: The Next Level)

AEG Invests In eSports Team Immortals (Graphic: The Next Level)

AEG Invests In eSports Team Immortals (Graphic: The Next Level)

Matcherino Raises $1.5M (Photo: Matcherino)

Matcherino Raises $1.5M (Photo: Matcherino)

TNL Infographic 050: 2017 eSports Brand Investment (Graphic: Jordan Fragen)

TNL Infographic 050: 2017 eSports Brand Investment (Graphic: Jordan Fragen)

Note: CenturyLink and SFR will be moved to Telco



China's Tencent Imposes Limits On Kid's Mobile Gaming

Talking Tencent On China Global Television Network (Photo: CGTN)

Talking Tencent On China Global Television Network (Photo: CGTN)


Have a great weekend!