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03/02/23: The Guard lays off most of staff; Elden Ring announces DLC; Beyond the Summit shuttering

Medias First Morning Read
Thursday March 2, 2023

Good morning! It’s Thursday and this is your early morning Esports and gaming brief.
Kroenke Sports and Entertainment-backed esports organization The Guard has laid off the majority of its staff, with only a skeleton crew remaining to support its competitive programs.

The Guard was founded in 2021 as KSE, a holding company for billionaire Stan Kroenke’s sports and entertainment ventures, expanded beyond its existing Overwatch League (Los Angeles Gladiators) and Call of Duty League (Los Angeles Guerrillas) esports teams. The organization supported VALORANT and Apex Legends programs under its The Guard banner, and those teams will continue to compete through 2023, according to a report from The Esports Advocate.

The Guard’s social media channels remain active, and KSE and the organization have not commented nor released additional information about the future of its teams or remaining staff. The organization joins a handful of other high-profile organizations that have conducted layoffs in 2023, with 100 Thieves and FaZe Clan also among those looking to cut back despite large-scale investors.


This year’s Pokémon World Championships will take place in Yokohama, Japan. The event will take place Aug. 11-13 and include trading card game and Pokémon Scarlet and Violet video game competitions, alongside championships in the competitive multiplayer element of Pokémon GO and Nintendo multiplayer online battle arena title Pokémon UNITE.

The ESL Pro Tour will bring StarCraft II competition to two DreamHack events this year, according to parent company ESL FACEIT Group. The ESL StarCraft II Masters will take place at DreamHack Summer in June in Jönköping, Sweden, and DreamHack Atlanta in December. The two-session season will bring its finals to both events, with a $200,000 prize pool on the line.

The Women’s Car Ball League, a Rocket League circuit, will continue, thanks to acquisition of the property by Gamers First. G1 purchased Women’s Car Ball from Kansas City Pioneers, which had suspended operation of the league in January due to a lack of sponsorship or investment funds. G1’s first action, the organization said, will be to pay off debts and prize money owed from when KC Pioneers owned the league. Women’s Car Ball is scheduled to start up again March 18.

Longtime endemic tournament organizer Beyond the Summit is shuttering, co-founder David “LD” Gorman announced. BTS has put on esports events for 11 years, starting with Dota 2 competitions and expanding into fighting games and other titles while becoming a household name in those communities. “We’ve been through tough times before, so we had high hopes that we could withstand this recession,” LD said in a statement. “Over the last year, as economic conditions have worsened across the industry, we have been working hard to build a pipeline of business to weather the storm. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, things haven’t broken our way.”

How CS:GO Continues to Attract Players and Break Records

On February 11th, Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) reached a peak of 1.320M players on Steam, breaking its previous record of 1.308M players set in 2020. Just 8 days later, the FPS broke its Steam record again with 1.324M concurrent players.

How does an 11-year-old game continue to break records and gain popularity? Looking at live streaming can help us understand some possible answers to that question.
From 2017 to 2022, the game’s average Steam player count and total hours watched both grew by approximately 63%, and saw similar peaks and valleys along the way. Keeping fans interested with content updates, DLC, and item drops, as well as supporting a healthy esports ecosystem has helped the game steadily grow in popularity over the years.

Read more on Stream Hatchet’s blog.


Streaming sensation Tyler “Ninja” Blevins has signed on with GameSquare as its Chief Innovation Officer. Ninja, who built his streaming empire off Fortnite activations with pro athletes, rapper Drake, and others, will help GameSquare launch Ninja Labs, an incubator for development of youth culture-focused products and content. “I want to build the next big thing in gaming, and I found that in GameSquare,” Ninja said. “[GameSquare CEO] Justin [Kenna] and the team have put together a world-class platform that will help me innovate and create engaging experiences to inspire the next generation of streamers and leave a lasting impact on the industry.”

Team Liquid is expanding its roots in Brazil through a partnership with esports betting platform unikrn. The deal lets Team Liquid lean into an entity with deep ties to the region: Brazil is one of unikrn’s primary places of business; it also does business in Canada but is currently unavailable in the U.S. The partnership will also include an activation in São Paulo, with Team Liquid and unikrn bringing in Liquid content creators and players to compete against and interact with Brazilian fans.

Guild Esports is hoping an expansion into content services might help its business, with the organization announcing the launch of Guild Studios, a content production company. Guild, which is dealing with financial hurdles amid a tough market in 2023, also recently appointed a new CFO and COO and is looking for ways to diversify its revenue streams. “Guild Studios enables us to monetize our vast in-house expertise in esports by supporting brand owners and sponsors with innovative campaigns, branded content and advertising to a range of companies looking to grow their engagement,” CEO Jasmine Skee said in a statement.

Chipotle is now a presenting partner for international fighting game tournament Evo, and preparation for the 2023 edition of the tournament is underway. Also known as the Evolution Championship Series, Evo brings thousands of fighting game fans from around the world to Las Vegas each year and is known for creating some of the best moments in the history of the fighting game community and esports as a whole. The event will take place Aug. 4-6 with eight games as part of the program: Street Fighter VI, Guilty Gear -Strive-, Mortal Kombat 11: Ultimate, TEKKEN 7, The King of Fighter XV, Melty Blood: Type Lumina, Dragon Ball FighterZ, and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3.

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How do gamers find out about new titles?

Word of mouth marketing is still among the most powerful tools in the world of gaming, with a third of American gamers saying they learn about new titles from friends (34%). A similar proportion of gamers find out about new games from online shops (34%), followed by gaming websites (29%), gaming personalities (28%) and browsing in a game shop (25%).


Team Dignitas has signed former Fortnite World Cup champion Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf. Bugha, who was previously with Sentinels before the org cut its competitive Fortnite program, is known for winning the inaugural Fortnite World Cup at 16 years old and claiming the $3 million prize that went with the title. The 20-year-old is now a three-time Fortnite Champion Series title winner as well. “I’m excited to represent one of the best teams in esports who believes in me and in the future of Fortnite,” Bugha said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to competing with my new teammates, winning championships, and making a positive impact on the gaming industry together.”

Esports org TENSTAR has ceased operations, according to a statement from the company Friday. TENSTAR sponsored teams in VALORANT and Rainbow Six: Siege but struggled to find additional investment as a smaller org with little opportunity for venture backing. “Both of these titles have recently ring-fenced Tier 1, making Tier 2 competition unattractive,” TENSTAR said in a statement. “Winning a [VALORANT Challengers League title] will barely generate enough revenue to pay one player, for one month [it’s] completely unsustainable without considerable third-party investment.” The organization said it still owes money to players and is working to meet those obligations.

OverActive Media president and CEO Chris Overholt is leaving his post to pursue other opportunities, according to a report from The Canadian Press. OverActive co-founder and chief strategy officer Adam Adamou will step into an interim CEO role after a 30-day transition period, the company said. “Under Chris’ leadership, OverActive has emerged as one of the world’s leading esports organizations,” OverActive chair Sheldon Pollack said in a statement. “His experience, passion, and vision for our potential has established a strong foundation on which we will continue building our business.”

Moist Esports co-owner and popular streamer Ludwig “Ludwig” Ahgren announced the addition of a VALORANT team for the organization he recently invested in. Moist, which was founded by fellow content creator Charles “MoistCr1TiKaL” White Jr., spent $500,000 on the North American VALORANT Challengers roster, according to a tweet from Ludwig. That roster, formerly known as BreakThru, will compete as Moist Moguls going forward, a combination of the organization name and Ludwig’s Mogul Moves brand. Moist Moguls debuted under its new banner with a 2-0 loss during group stage competition Tuesday.


ESL FACEIT Group has acquired esports production and data analytics company Vindex, the organizations announced. Belong Gaming Arenas, previously a Vindex organization, will not be part of the acquisition, according to a statement from the companies. The acquisition brings together some of the most formidable forces in esports tournament organization, with Vindex vertical Esports Engine, a tournament production company, complementing both ESL and competition platform FACEIT. “The combination with Vindex brings together the power of our brands with a new scale in infrastructure and production capabilities,” EFG co-CEO Craig Levine said. “As one, this will help serve new communities of gamers and accelerate gaming culture globally.”

Massively popular role-playing game Elden Ring is getting an expansion, developer FromSoftware announced, sparking renewed interest in a title widely considered the best game of 2022. There are few details on the expansion, titled “Shadow of the Erdtree,” beyond that FromSoftware has confirmed that it’is in development. The announcement comes a week after publisher Bandai Namco announced Elden Ring had sold more than 20 million units ahead of the Feb. 25 one-year anniversary of its launch.

EA has cut about 200 employees from its quality assurance workforce, according to a report from Kotaku. The employees were all focused on battle royale title Apex Legends, which is developed by Respawn Entertainment but published by EA. The work done at the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, office will be delegated out to a global team of remote playtesters, EA said in a statement.

Ampere Analysis reports that global console spending fell in 2022, with supply chain issues affecting Sony and Microsoft as a catalyst for the 7.8% year-over-year decrease in spending to $56.2 billion, according to a report from Nintendo products were included in the analysis, though a lack of hardware updates beyond introducing an OLED version of the Nintendo Switch in late 2021 made little impact on the downswing in spending. According to the report, however, Microsoft holds the smallest share of console market spending, with 27.3% of revenue going toward Xbox products. Nintendo is second at 27.7%, while Sony owns 45% of the market.

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