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02/16/23: EA close to $600M deal with Premier League; Overwolf makes mark in NA; Saudi Arabia ups investment in Nintendo

Medias First Morning Read
Thursday February 16, 2023

Good morning! It’s Thursday and this is your early morning Esports brief.
The English Premier League and Electronic Arts are nearing a $600 million deal that will see EA retain its status as the lead gaming partner for the Premier League, according to a report from Sky Sports. EA would retain its status as the league’s video game license-holder in what is slated to be a six-year partnership between the FIFA publisher and the 20 Premier League teams.

This is a blockbuster for EA, especially as the developer prepares to exit a 30-year relationship with FIFA as a licensee. Although EA will not be able to call its soccer title FIFA going forward, retaining licensing rights with top leagues will allow whatever future plans it has for the sport to keep the star power and likenesses that draw FIFA fans year after year.

The individual relationships EA is building will give it some leverage against any rival title from soccer’s international governing body as well. FIFA has said it plans to keep a version of the series going independently, but the organization has not announced any concrete plans for building a new franchise.


Counter-Strike: Global Offensive major IEM Katowice dipped in peak viewership year-over-year despite the game appearing to be more popular than ever in terms of total audience. As CS:GO recorded an all-time record in concurrent users on Steam with more than 1.3 million players logging into Valve’s first-person shooter earlier this week, IEM Katowice saw a more than 35% dip in peak viewership this year. The most-watched match, the tournament final between G2 and Heroic, drew more than 725,000 peak viewers, while last year’s final brought in 1.1 million peak viewers. Average viewership also fell from 328K in 2022 to 235K in 2023.

VALORANT LOCK//IN, the first major tournament of the year for Riot’s first-person shooter, is into its bracket stage as teams from around the world vie for $100,000 of the event’s $500,000 prize pool and an extra slot for their region at VALORANT Masters later this year. North American squad Cloud9 looks like one of the teams to beat at the event after taking down Asia-Pacific powerhouse Paper Rex behind the play of former CS:GO pro and VALORANT superstar Jaccob “yay” Whiteaker. LOCK//IN continues through March 4, with single-elimination bracket play continuing through the rest of the week followed by a break between the semifinals and final.

Street Fighter’s premier tournament, the Capcom Cup, is underway in Burbank, California, with 47 players facing off for the ninth edition of the game’s world championship. The event brings together top players from the Japan, U.S. and Europe circuits to compete for a $150,000 prize pool. The tournament’s group stage wraps up today, with the top 16 players facing off for the title on Sunday.

Two referees in South Korea’s premier League of Legends league have been suspended following a logistical issue with side selection between two teams. The assistant referees, League Champions Korea announced in a statement, will receive a 10-game suspension and training to avoid the issue in the future. The LCK said side selection, which can be a crucial part of game-planning for series and early game decisions in League of Legends, was disrupted when an assistant referee submitted the wrong sheet for competitor KT Rolster. The mix-up was caught before the match started, but due to a miscommunication between arena management and the officials, players were sent out to compete without side selection being resolved.


This week’s REV/XP features top Magic the Gathering (MTG) Creator Taalia Vess. Taalia shares how she taps into the passionate and engaged community around MTG through her work with brands such as Voodoo Ranger and Whatnot. REV/XP also debuts a ‘Data Nuggets’ section dropping fresh insights for brand marketers.


While Twitch is often thought of as a gaming-centric live streaming platform, the amount of non-gaming content is on the rise. As reported in our 2022 Live Streaming Trends Report, non-gaming content streamed on Twitch was up almost 6% in 2022, while gaming-specific content was down 8%.
While no channels on Twitch were licensed to live stream this year’s NFL Super Bowl, the platform was still host to many conversations about what viewers were watching on cable.

Super Bowl LVII was held this year in Arizona featuring the two best teams in football: the AFC’s Kansas City Chiefs versus the NFC’s Philadelphia Eagles. Kansas City ultimately came out victorious with a score of 38-35. The high-scoring affair sent Twitch chat into a frenzy, with viewers across the platform discussing the event.

Read more about our Twitch chat analysis on our blog


Overwolf, a game modification monetization platform, is expanding to North America, the company announced Tuesday. Overwolf hosts in-game mods and allows users and creators to download and sell their creations, and the Israeli company boasts 35 million monthly users. To facilitate its expansion into a new region, Overwolf has brought on two Directors of Brand Partnerships: Christina Grushkin, who previously worked for esports brand Complexity as its head of sales, and Matt Jablon, who was most recently the sales director for in-game advertising platform and the Esports Integrity Commission have partnered to create a content series that focuses on steering pro players away from betting on matches in their esport and others. The collaboration is aimed at combating match-fixing, which is an ongoing issue in several esports, though the announcement of a betting platform working with a watchdog organization was met with some scrutiny. The deal will last three years, ESIC director of global strategy and partnerships Stephen Hanna said in a statement.

Hong Kong-based esports org Talon Esports has partnered with AfreecaTV to make the streaming platform the official home for its VALORANT-related video content in 2023. Talon’s journey through the VALORANT Champions Tour as the league’s only Taiwanese team began Wednesday at VALORANT LOCK//IN with a matchup against Brazilian outfit MIBR.

ESL FACEIT Group and Gucci have partnered for a new docuseries releasing on the Gucci YouTube channel, the companies announced. The short-form activation aligns with several other projects Gucci is working on, including its “A Hero’s Journey” series made in partnership with GQ Sports. The Italian fashion company released the first episode of its EFG series, “GG Legends,” last Friday, with a focus on esports host Jorien “sheever” van der Heijden and her life since her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive star Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut and Minnesota Lynx forward and Team Liquid co-owner Aerial Powers will be featured in future episodes.

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Most considered beers of American esports followers

American esports followers are big fans of beer, being about a third likelier than Americans overall to call it their favorite alcoholic beverage. So what brands do they most consider when they’re at stores? YouGov BrandIndex has the answer, with Corona (35%) and Heineken (34%) in a tense battle for the No.1 spot.


G2 Esports will sponsor a Wild Rift team alongside Blacklist International, the esports organizations announced Wednesday. G2 Blacklist will operate out of the Philippines, where Blacklist International is based, and will leverage the popularity of mobile gaming in Southeast Asia and developer Riot Games’ commitment to sponsoring Wild Rift esports in the region. “I think this is a game-changer not just for Wild Rift esports, but for the industry as a whole,” said Tryke Gutierrez, the CEO of Blacklist International parent company Tier One Entertainment. “Alongside G2, we’re looking forward to bringing the Blacklist International brand to new audiences around the world.”

Spacestation Gaming announced Tuesday that it is cutting its Apex Legends program despite sentiment from executives that it is “one of the most entertaining esports.” Instability in the esports ecosystem overall and a lack of revenue sharing opportunities in the Apex Legends Global Series led to the decision, according to Spacestation co-founder and CEO Shawn Pellerin.

Brazilian esports organization FURIA is exiting Rainbow Six Siege, the team announced Monday. FURIA co-founder and co-CEO Jaime Padura confirmed the decision to cut the R6 program the team has had since 2020 in a statement on Twitter. Padua claimed a lack of monetization opportunities and support from developer Ubisoft were catalysts for the decision, a growing refrain across multiple game titles in 2023 – FURIA is also leaving mobile esport Free Fire’s Brazilian Free Fire League for similar reasons, according to The Esports Advocate.

Gfinity CEO John Clarke is leaving the esports organization, according to an update from the U.K.-based organization provided to the London Stock Exchange. The organization is looking to cut costs in the coming months and seeking investment partners to bolster capital and fund a restructuring of the company. Clarke had been with the company since 2018 in a variety of roles before becoming Gfinity’s CEO in 2020.


Saudi Arabia’s ownership stake in Nintendo increased to 7.08%, according to a report from Reuters TradingView. The investment comes via Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and follows a continued trend from the country of investing in esports and gaming. The country’s PIF initially purchased around a 5% stake in the company in May 2022 and increased its investment to just over 6% of Nintendo in January 2023. While Saudi Arabian funds have been a boon for multiple gaming organizations in the past few years, the country’s shoddy human rights record – which includes anti-LGBTQ legislation and concerns about worker’s rights, women’s rights, the country’s use of torture and more – is a concern in the gaming community.

A gaming industry report out of China indicates the country’s video game sales shrunk for the first time in nearly 20 years, according to a report from TechCrunch. Spending in the video game sector dipped more than 10% year-over-year, according to a report translated by TechCrunch, while users of video games went down by less than half a percent. While still drawing a sizable $39 billion in sales throughout the country, China’s ongoing regulation hurdles for video game developers and its government regulations that truncate video game usage for children seem to have had some effect on the market.

Games publisher Activision has asked employees to return to in-person work at least three days a week. The post-pandemic partial return, which will also include Blizzard employees starting this summer, is part of an ongoing transition of bringing teams back into the office, an Activision spokesperson told “Activision Blizzard has been returning teams to the office over the past year, and on February 13, we updated our future-of-work plans,” said the company spokesperson. “In close partnership with each leadership team, we crafted a plan that is customized based on what’s best for our business and our teams. We look forward to the increased real-time, in-person collaboration and opportunities this change will foster.”

Xbox’s Game Pass is having a negative effect on sales of its titles, according to a provisional report from the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority. In the report, which is part of an ongoing investigation by the government body into the potential impact of Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision-Blizzard, Microsoft claimed that putting games on its service – where they can be downloaded for free by paid subscribers – results in about a yearlong decline in sales of the base games that are part of Game Pass. The CMA had previously reported it expects the Microsoft-ATVI deal could lead to “harming UK gamers.” The governing body claims reduced competition between the Xbox and PlayStation in the UK caused by exclusive titles and the acquisition could negatively impact the market.

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