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02/23/23: Microsoft, Nintendo ink 10-year deal; Capcom puts up $2 million for SFVI esports; FaZe cuts 20% of staff

Medias First Morning Read
Thursday February 23, 2023

Good morning! It’s Thursday and this is your early morning Esports and gaming brief.
Microsoft has signed a 10-year deal to bring Xbox titles to Nintendo consoles, a move that could have repercussions for Microsoft’s ongoing bid to acquire Activision-Blizzard and bring games like Call of Duty to the Nintendo Switch.

Microsoft president Brad Smith announced the news on Twitter and underscored Call of Duty as a title that will be part of the agreement. No other games were mentioned, but the wording of Smith’s tweet opened the door to speculation that more games will be involved.

“We’ve now signed a binding 10-year contract to bring Xbox games to Nintendo’s gamers,” Smith said. “This is just part of our commitment to bring Xbox games and Activision titles like Call of Duty to more players on more platforms.”

Games will come to Nintendo products “the same day as Xbox, with full feature and content parity,” according to a statement from Microsoft. The deal could scuttle ongoing arguments from rival Sony and international regulators that Microsoft and Xbox could monopolize the games market if they complete their $69 billion acquisition of Activision-Blizzard. Among the primary talking points in those anti-monopoly debates has been the leverage ownership of premier titles like Call of Duty could give Microsoft.


Next year’s Capcom Cup will feature a $2 million world championship to celebrate the launch of Street Fighter VI and the 10th anniversary of the tournament, Capcom announced Monday. The winner of the next world championship will get $1 million of that pool, the developer said following the conclusion of Capcom Cup IX this weekend. The prize pool for Capcom Cup X is $1.7 million more than this weekend’s tournament, which shows the company is all-in on making Street Fighter VI a top esport in 2023.

G2 Esports won Rainbow Six Siege’s world championship behind the record-setting play of Benjamin “Benjamaster” Dereli at The Six Invitational in Montreal. G2 took down w7m Esports to win the title and $1 million of its $3 million prize pool Benjamaster set the all-time record for kills at The Six Invitational during the tournament with 290; meanwhile, developer Ubisoft announced it will host the next edition of The Six Invitational in Brazil.

Rio de Janeiro will play host to Intel Extreme Masters Brazil, tournament organizer ESL announced Friday. IEM Rio will bring the tentpole Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament series back to Rio after a noteworthy debut of in-person events in the country in October 2022. ESL had previously announced the tournament would return to Brazil but had not revealed the host city. IEM Rio 2023 is scheduled to take place April 17-23, with the winner earning $100,000 and qualification to IEM Cologne later in the year.

Close matchups abound at VALORANT Champions Tour LOCK//IN tournament, with 2022 world champion LOUD and South Korean powerhouse DRX set to face off March 2 in a semifinal that could really be the tournament final. Both teams took down North American standouts in NRG (LOUD won 2-1) and Cloud9 (DRX won 2-1) en route to the semifinal. The other half of the bracket has yet to begin play, but LOUD, in front of a Brazilian home crowd, should be the favorite going forward.


The top 10 esports organizations in live streaming leaderboard saw some big changes in January 2023. This month saw a significant increase in representation for mobile esports orgs total watchtime. Of the top 10 esports orgs, 4 of the 10 had little to no hours watched generated by content creators. On the other hand, the other 6 organizations saw the majority of their live streaming viewership coming from content creators (70-100%).

The biggest changeup in this month’s leaderboard is the drop of Luminosity from the top spot to the 9th most-watched esports organization. The major contributor to this decline in viewership was the departure of top live streaming creator xQc from the organization on January 13th.

Read more on Stream Hatchet’s Blog


Generation Esports and Nintendo have partnered to bring Mario Kart, Splatoon 3 and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate to the scholastic tournament organizer’s middle school competition. Generation Esports will add the three esports to its Middle School Esports League Spring Major on Feb. 27, and the organization is also providing Nintendo Switch consoles and software to “numerous” middle schools to promote competition. “Opportunities to create access and develop more paths to success for maturing middle school youths is at the core of this partnership,” Generation Esports CCO Jon Bukosky said in a statement. “We’re looking forward to nurturing the next generation of esports.”

Apex Legends plans to release a board game alongside tabletop studio Glass Cannon Unplugged, Apex developer Respawn and GCU announced. The board game will be funded via a Kickstarter that is set to launch on May 17. Apex Legends: The Board Game is designed for 2-4 players, according to the project’s Kickstarter page, but no other details have been shared.

VALORANT developer Riot Games and data analytics company GRID Esports have launched the VALORANT Data Portal, which will provide VALORANT Champions Tour teams with data from VCT matches and training. The VDP is part of GRID’s ongoing partnership with Riot that began in 2022, and the platform will provide a new tool for player and strategic analysis as organizations prepare for events beyond the ongoing VALORANT LOCK//IN tournament.

Hong Kong organization Talon Esports will continue to partner with GBeat, the companies announced. GBeat, an energy drink company that partnered with Talon’s Arena of Valor team in May 2022, will be the official energy drink sponsor for the Taiwanese esports program.

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Esports logs solid growth in popularity among young American men

The share of those following esports on a regular basis has risen from 8% in February 2020 to 14% in February 2023 among US men aged between 18-29. Within the same demographic, the popularity of America’s two most popular sports (football and basketball) has dipped noticeably over the same period.


Team Vitality has signed a women’s League of Legends team, the esports organization announced Friday. The team, known as the French Bees, is being sponsored by supermarket chain Aldi and will compete in French regional competitions to start, including the ??MasterCard Nexus Tour, an open tournament in the country.

FaZe Clan announced a 20% reduction in staff amid ongoing financial troubles, including a potential delisting from the Nasdaq, according to a report from Business Insider. FaZe stock hit an all-time low of $0.68 after the Feb. 16 announcement. “While changes like this are always difficult, I’m confident that this new structure, accompanied by much greater focus on financial discipline and the holistic strategy we described at the all-hands meeting will put the company in the best position for us to capitalize on the many opportunities ahead,” FaZe CEO Lee Trink said in a company memo filed to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Trink also said the company saw a 25% increase in revenue year-over-year, but FaZe continues to face challenges on the public market.

Invictus Gaming has decided to drop its Apex Legends roster, the China-based esports organization announced. IG, which competed in the Europe/Middle East/Africa region for Apex, is leaving the scene after signing a roster in 2022. “We have carefully considered our position and sustainability in the Apex Legends space and have come to the difficult conclusion to step away from the title,” the organization said in a statement. IG’s exit follows a handful of other departures from Apex Legends, including Spacestation Gaming cutting its roster last week.

The Overwatch League’s Houston Outlaws signed two-time OWL champion Park “Viol2t” Min-ki in one of the organization’s biggest gets of the offseason. The support player, who won back-to-back titles with the San Francisco Shock in 2019 and 2020, will hope to give the Outlaws similar results when the 2023 season starts April 27. Fans can get a sneak peek at what the league has in store during a March 23 pro-am event.


Saudi Arabian esports and gaming investment arm Savvy Games Group has made major moves in recent weeks, including increasing its investment in Nintendo and expanding into the Chinese market. Savvy is funded by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, an initiative sponsored by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman. It has most recently put $265 million into funding VSPO, a Chinese startup focused on esports tournament production that is also funded by global esports and gaming conglomerate Tencent. If Tencent sounds familiar, that’s because the company owns Riot Games, is considered the largest gaming company in the world and has recently been in the news as it looks to further expand its footprint outside of China. Ongoing market constrictions could provide further opportunity for Savvy and Tencent to grow their portfolios despite scrutiny for both companies because of their countries of origin – and, in Savvy’s case, ties to an authoritarian regime. Savvy and Tencent have their hands in a bit of everything in the gaming world, and as the last couple of weeks show, they’re not going away anytime soon.

The Chinese market spent $21 billion on esports in 2022, according to a report from The Esports Advocate off of the 2022 China Esports Annual Conference. Following a report on a decline in gaming spending in China in 2022 released a week earlier, the China Audio-video and Digital Publishing Association’s Electronic Sports Committee released a report showing a 14.01% decrease in “esports revenue” from 2021 to 2022. The overall games sector fell 10.33% in that same time period, reflecting similar struggles with pandemic regulations and governmental restrictions on intellectual property and time that children in the country can play games.

The PlayStation VR 2 launched Wednesday, with haptic feedback, eye-tracking and numerous features new to console-focused virtual reality experiences. The headset, which runs for $549, was dubbed “the first [console headset] to arguably offer PC-quality VR without a PC” by The Verge, though it faces a setback in only being able to play games compatible with PSVR 2. Other headsets, such as Meta’s Quest, can integrate with PC games and as such have a more expansive library – with a lower price tag at $399. That said, multiple other reviewers have cited the ease of setup, quality of visual experiences and ability to experience immersive VR without a high-quality gaming PC as reasons to check out PSVR 2.

Game developer Bungie won $4.3 million in arbitration against cheat software provider AimJunkies, according to a report from piracy and technology watchdog publication TorrentFreak. Bungie’s ongoing battle with AimJunkies stems from software developed to crack into Bungie’s flagship title, Destiny 2, with a variety of cheats.

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Speaking of Destiny 2: What is the name of the upcoming expansion for the game set to release next week? (Email [email protected] with your answer, and be sure to include your name, company and city).

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