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02/09/23: 100 Thieves faces controversy post-layoffs; Microsoft deal under more scrutiny; MSI heading to London

Medias First Morning Read
Thursday February 9, 2023

Good morning! It’s Thursday and this is your early morning Esports brief.
Recent layoffs at esports and lifestyle organization 100 Thieves are a symptom of larger problems within the company, according to a report from Digiday.

100 Thieves has undergone two rounds of layoffs since the middle of last year, with around 30 people being laid off in the most recent round in mid-January. Between Cash App canceling its sponsorship of the 15,000-square-foot 100 Thieves Compound last year and the staff cuts, the company, founded by former Call of Duty pro Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag, has become a victim of investors and sponsors cooling on the business.

“100 Thieves was Haag’s brainchild,” Digiday’s Alexander Lee wrote, “but his leadership style was flawed, according to former staffers, who told Digiday that Haag treated some coworkers rudely, prioritized his passion projects over 100 Thieves’ money-making partnership business and failed to professionally communicate the company’s business plans.”

The story is reminiscent of multiple other creator-founded organizations, including FaZe Clan, whose ongoing financial struggles on the public market we discussed last week. Layoffs at 100 Thieves have just about scuttled the content production part of its business, according to Digiday’s sources, and its “culture of confusion and executive mismanagement” is becoming an all-too-common problem in the industry.


Peyton “Dez” Tuma became the youngest-ever Madden world champion Monday with a win over Henry “Henry” Levette in the Ultimate Madden Bowl. Dez, 17, had previously won the Ultimate Madden Thanksgiving tournament and took down the player widely regarded as the GOAT of Madden in the $1 million Madden Championship Series finale. After taking home $250,000 of that prize pool, Dez increased his career winnings to $340,000 just three years after beginning to play Madden competitively.

The League of Legends Championship Series issued an apology for a segment during last week’s broadcast highlighting past conflict between former TSM bot laner Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng and TSM CEO Andy Dinh. Doublelift, who now plays for 100 Thieves, had a public feud with Dinh in late 2021, with Doublelift alleging Dinh was abusive toward employees. Those allegations resurfaced in mid-2022, with Dinh eventually being fined by LCS organizer and League developer Riot Games and placed on a two-year probation for allegedly bullying TSM employees. The segment appeared to jokingly address the controversy as Doublelift prepared for his first matchup against TSM since returning to pro play. “We hoped the piece would highlight a key narrative of the match … in an engaging way for fans,” the LCS said. “This was a miss from us, and moving forward, the LCS will apply a sharper filter to our editorial segments.”

The NBA 2K League’s offline events will take place in Washington, D.C., this season, the league announced. The LAN portions of the 2K League schedule will be put on in partnership with Monumental Sports & Entertainment, with 2023 season matches beginning March 8 and running through Aug. 5. The season will feature a $2.5 million prize pool across tournaments and two halves of the season: a 3v3 portion and 5v5 portion.

TSM took home the first Apex Legends Global Series major title of the year with a win at the ALGS Split 1 Playoffs in London. The team brought home $300,000 of the $1 million prize pool after three days of competition, which saw the squad hover near the top of the standings throughout. TSM also became the first Apex Legends program to reach more than $1 million in earnings, according to ALGS reporter Cutnoid.


In this week’s episode, REV/XP Senior Vice President Chris Mann is joined by Mykiah Bonhom, a senior from Shenandoah University. Mykiah is majoring in esports. Over the last year, Mykiah has dedicated his time to getting real industry experiences and provides unique insight from the key gaming demographic.

The Stream Hatchet 2022 Yearly Video Game Live Streaming Trends Report

We have dubbed 2022 “The Year of the Creator,” highlighting the rise in creator IP across live streaming platforms. While live streaming viewership has plateaued in 2022, individual creators like ibai, Ludwig, and others are driving viewership through their innovative and creative in-person and streamed events. Non-gaming live streams on Twitch were up 5.8% from 2021, indicating a potential shift in demand from viewers.

While live streaming as a whole is down 13.5%, or 4.5B hours watched from 2021, a majority of this decrease has come from Facebook Gaming’s decline last year. The platform’s viewership dropped 2.7B hours watched this year. Streamer burnout is also a factor, as the number of unique channels broadcasting content is also down about 14%. Viewership is still up 6% over 2020 numbers and 164% from 2018.

Ibai was able to break the all-time record for live streaming viewership with 3.3 million viewers during his influencer boxing event, La Velada Del Año II. In fact, 6 of the top 10 peak events in 2022 were non-gaming, creator-driven events like this one.

Additionally, female representation in live streaming seems to be on the rise. The number of female creators in the top 1,000 channels has increased 5.3% and 4.8% on YouTube Gaming and Facebook Gaming, respectively.

To get more insights, download the full report for free here.


Esports organization OpTic Gaming has signed a letter of intent to help create a betting company, NextGen Wagering, according to a report from esports betting newsletter Sharpr. OpTic will partner with RedZone Digital, a consultancy that operates in the esports and wagering spaces, to pursue the venture, according to Sharpr. OpTic will spearhead the content arm of NextGen, and the business also plans to operate a sportsbook, daily fantasy competitions, match prediction software and more.

Esports betting platform Rivalry has partnered with VALORANT pro Matthew “Wardell” Yu as the organization plans to deepen its ties to the game’s esports community. VALORANT betting increased 264% year-over-year on Rivalry’s platform and was the fourth-most bet-on sport on Rivalry, according to a statement from the company, and the partnership with Wardell is designed to engage with both his audience and the broader fan base for Riot’s tactical first-person shooter. “Wardell was a perfect fit as we looked for a partner that aligned with our brand values of inspiring the next generation to win,” Rivalry marketing director Britt Doll said in a statement. “We want to build the Red Bull of the internet, and that means partnering and working with individuals who are leaders in their respective games, communities and cultures, and Wardell fits that bill.”

ESL FACEIT Group has made data and analytics platform Bayes Esports its exclusive partner for providing match data through 2025. In an expansion of a previous agreement between EFG and Bayees, this deal will give Bayes rights to all ESL Pro Tour Counter-Strike: Global Offensive competitions; the ESL Impact and FACEIT Collegiate CS:GO events; and all of ESL FACEIT Group’s Dota 2 competitions. “Over the last couple of years, we were able to establish uniform industry standards for official data together with Bayes Esports,” said Bernhard Mogk, the EFG SVP of global business development and commercial strategy. “We are excited to continue our long-term strategic partnership and to keep on innovating in the area of data-driven content solutions.”

Xbox, ESPORTSU and Paidia Gaming are partnering to launch a new collegiate women’s VALORANT circuit. The companies will work together on three North American events “designed to spotlight collegiate women gamers,” they announced Tuesday, with competition ending at the Collegiate Esports Commissioner’s Cup Texas in May at Esports Stadium Arlington. The activation will also be a springboard for The Paidia Cup, a similar women’s VALORANT program, and “Cast This,” a content series focused on identifying and mentoring new broadcast talent for esports.

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Mercedes-Benz in top gear among LoL Worlds followers

Mercedes-Benz has been a key and a rather visible partner of League of Legends esports events since 2020. YouGov BrandIndex data shows that their activations focused around this partnership are yielding rewards.


FURIA Esports is broadening its horizons by launching FURIA Skate Club, a vertical focused on professional skateboarding and skateboarding culture in FURIA’s home country of Brazil. FURIA also announced the signing of pro skateboarder Lua Vicente, an 18-year-old competitor out of Sao Paulo, Brazil. FURIA’s activities in the space are expected to include additional player sponsorships, event organization, and community activations focused on the sport’s culture.

OG Esports CEO JMR Luna is stepping down from his post, the organization announced Saturday. Luna, who had worked as CEO for the European esports org since May 2020, made the decision ??“after many months of discussions and considerations from all parties,” according to OG. “We achieved a lot of growth and great objectives during the last 2.5+ years,” Luna said in a statement on Twitter, “and together we wrote another great chapter of this organization.”

Turkish VALORANT Game Changers player Gizem “Luie” Harmankaya died in the aftermath of earthquakes in the country on Monday that have killed more than 11,000 people as of Wednesday. Harmankaya, who played for Unknown Pros, was reportedly trapped beneath rubble from the 7.8 magnitude quake. Her team confirmed her death on social media Wednesday.

Retired Call of Duty world champion Ian “Crimsix” Porter is shifting to a very different game as a member of FaZe Clan. Crimsix, who has won three Call of Duty world titles and is widely considered one of, if not the, most successful CoD pros of all time, will compete for FaZe as a sim racer in ESL’s upcoming R1 racing league put on by Rennsport. Crimsix will get his first taste of pro sim racing competition soon, too, with an event coming up this weekend. Whether first-person shooter skills translate to racing prowess is debatable, but we’ll find out soon enough.


Tournament organizer Nerd Street Gamers is looking for funding amid financial struggles, according to a report from The Esports Advocate. The story follows previous reporting from TEA that Nerd Street had cut 25% of its staff and social media controversy where several players spoke up about Nerd Street not issuing payments for VALORANT tournaments it operated as Riot Games-sanctioned events. Nerd Street is looking for additional investors or acquisition, according to TEA’s James Fudge.

Activision-Blizzard will pay the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission $35 million to settle a dispute about its alleged violation of whistleblower laws and improper handling of workplace misconduct allegations. According to the SEC, Activision-Blizzard was “lacking controls and procedures among its separate business units designed to collect or analyze employee complaints of workplace misconduct. As a result, complaints related to workplace misconduct were not collected and analyzed for disclosure purposes.” In settling, Activision-Blizzard was able to avoid confirming or denying these allegations. “As the order recognizes, we have enhanced our disclosure processes with regard to workplace reporting and updated our separation contract language,” the company said in a statement to Ars Technica. “We did so as part of our continuing commitment to operational excellence and transparency. Activision Blizzard is confident in its workplace disclosures.”

Meanwhile, Microsoft, which is looking to purchase ATVI, is facing another challenge from a U.K. regulator. The country’s Competitions and Markets Authority revealed initial findings of an investigation Wednesday that indicated Microsoft’s nearly $69 billion acquisition could “reduce competition in gaming consoles to the detriment of gamers.” The primary issue in the provisional investigation was the Call of Duty franchise and the effect of it potentially becoming exclusive to Microsoft and Xbox. The latest scrutiny is part of ongoing review of the deal worldwide and its ramifications on the games industry, and it likely won’t stop anytime soon as more national agencies consider effects on consumers of a watershed moment in the industry.

The Copper Box Arena looks like it will be an esports hub in 2023 as, following the Apex Legends Global Series Split 1 Playoffs at Copper Box last weekend, Riot Games announced it will host its Mid-Season Invitational at the venue The international tournament is Riot’s second-biggest League of Legends event of the year and will take over the 7,500-seat arena for three weeks from May 2-21. Copper Box is the third-largest arena in London, and the city itself is quickly becoming a hub for international tournaments across multiple esports this year as well, with two more ALGS playoffs ahead and multiple other activations across leagues.

2023 Esports & Gaming Business Summit
Join us November 1-3, 2023!

Esports & Gaming Business Summit is the business intersection for all sectors of the esports ecosystem. To find out why you should attend this year’s program and to see highlights from our 2022 event, visit the link below:


With the Super Bowl ahead, it’s time for a gaming-related football question. 1987 release Tecmo Bowl was one of the first NFL-focused games, and one player rose above the rest in the game in terms of skill. Which running back is notorious for being unstoppable in Tecmo Bowl?

Answer to Our Last Trivia Question
Speaking of the Xbox Developer Direct, the publisher announced a surprise release that has become a smash hit during that event. What game did Xbox both announce and release during the Developer Direct on Jan. 25? Answer: Hi-Fi Rush Kudos: Amanda Brooks | Stream Hatchet, Burlington, Vermont; David Westberg | SAG•AFTRA Federal Credit Union, Burbank, California; Tom Moore | Kalt Productions, Los Angeles

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