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03/09/23: Former Riot execs launch game studio; Microsoft nears acquisition approval in EU; CS:GO 2 reportedly coming soon

Medias First Morning Read
Thursday March 9, 2023

Good morning! It’s Thursday and this is your early morning Esports and gaming brief.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is getting a sequel more than 10 years after release of the current version of the game, according to a report from esports reporter Richard Lewis. CS:GO launched in 2012 after multiple iterations of the original game, which has been played competitively since the early 2000s.

Developer Valve, which is traditionally tight-lipped about current projects, let alone upcoming titles, is reportedly developing the CS:GO sequel on Source 2, Valve’s in-house game engine. A beta is reportedly scheduled later this month, and an eventual release could have ramifications on ongoing esports operations in CS:GO.

It’ll be interesting to see what material changes, if any, are made to Counter-Strike in its next edition. With Riot Games’ rival tactical first-person shooter VALORANT picking up steam, improvements in CS:GO’s graphical fidelity and performance via Source 2 could be a boon. Fans are also awaiting word on what will happen to a decade of in-game cosmetics, which are frequently traded among players for real-world money (cosmetic items like gun skins typically don’t transition from previous titles to the next generation of games).

A new release also offers the opportunity to open the game up and revisit its “terrorist” and “counter-terrorist” taglines for offensive and defensive teams. Those side monikers have been a hindrance in bringing the game into broader circles such as scholastic esports, and if there was ever a time to change the game’s cosmetic titles for which side of the map a player starts on, this is it.


The VALORANT LOCK//IN tournament became the second-most viewed VALORANT Champions Tour event of all time with more than 1 million peak viewers, according to data from Esports Charts. The final of the LOCK//IN event, which took place from Feb. 13-March 4 in São Paulo featured a hometown team in Brazilian organization LOUD and Fnatic, a European org that’s been close to several event titles but seen them slip away. The marquee matchup hit nearly 1.45 million peak viewers, with the event averaging more than 432,000 viewers throughout. Only last year’s VALORANT Champions final, the world championship for the esport, performed better in terms of peak viewership with just over 1.5 million.

Speaking of: VALORANT Champions is coming to Los Angeles in 2023, developer Riot Games announced. The August event will be the first VCT world championship hosted in North America; previous championships have taken place in Berlin (2021) and Istanbul (2022). The 6,300-seat Shrine Auditorium will host the tournament from Aug. 6-20, with the event moving to the 17,505-seat Kia Forum – the largest venue ever used for a VALORANT esports event – for the Aug. 26 final.

Saudi Arabia-backed esports event organizer Gamers8 is putting up a $45 million prize pool for its upcoming esports event in the country’s capital of Ridayh. The figure gives Gamers8 the largest prize pool in esports history, though the money will be split among multiple to-be-announced titles rather than centered on one esport like Dota 2’s The International (which previously held the record of $40 million). The event is part of the Saudi PIF’s ongoing investment in esports and gaming, which has been met with some resistance in the community due to government policies and stances on LGBTQ+ and women’s rights in the country.

The Call of Duty League Major III begins today, with teams competing for their share of a $500,000 prize pool and CDL points that factor into CDL Champs qualification later this year. Competition will take place from March 9-12. The Seattle Surge finished atop the Major III qualifier standings, but there’s a good amount of parity across teams in the top half of the bracket as teams gather in Arlington, Texas, for the coming weekend.



The top brand activations in live streaming last month were Hello Fresh, Turbotax, and Ebay.February’s top activation was between Hello Fresh and Twitch streamer Joueur_du_Grenier. This activation generated 56.1K hours watched and reached 16.6K peak viewers during the broadcast.

The audience within the live streaming and gaming communities have become a prime target audience for food delivery services like Hello Fresh, DoorDash, Uber Eats, and many others. Hello Fresh has continued to expand their reach into the live streaming space through their partnered activations with more and more influencers.

Read more on Stream Hatchet’s Blog


Two former Riot Games executives have launched a new game studio, The Believer Company, with $55 million in Series A backing. The studio is helmed by CEO Michael Chow, a former Riot vice president and executive producer for League of Legends: Wild Rift, and Chief Product Officer Steven Snow, who served as an executive producer for League of Legends and Legends of Runeterra during a six-year tenure at Riot. The Believer Company will focus on a cooperative open-world title as its first project, according to a statement. Lightspeed Venture Partners led the funding round, which also included investment from Riot, VC company Andreessen Horowitz, gaming-focused venture funds Bitkraft Ventures and 1Up Ventures, and other funds.

Mobile-only esports org Tribe Gaming’s partnership with Samsung continued with a live mobile gaming content creator competition in Las Vegas on Monday. The activation, known as Mission: Galaxy, brought together 10 creators to compete in Call of Duty: Mobile for a $15,000 prize. Along the way, the teams – with one coach and four competitors – got to try out the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, Samsung’s latest device, which was released Feb. 17. The event is part of an ongoing initiative from Samsung to position its devices as the platform of choice for high-quality gaming experiences, and the phone manufacturer has invested in several other pieces of the esports market as well.

Esports betting platform Rivalry is partnering with Grayhound Gaming to establish a foothold in the Australian market. Rivalry plans to work with Grayhound’s CS:GO team to amplify the org’s participation in upcoming events and will help facilitate local meet-and-greets for the Grayhound squad, according to a statement. The deal includes Rivalry placement on Grayhound’s jerseys and in-game naming rights: The team will appear as GRAYHOUND.Rivalry in events going forward.

TSM and subsidiary Blitz have partnered with blockchain platform Avalanche to bring the Blitz app onto the blockchain. The partnership will bring Avalanche branding to new tournament activations for TSM while giving the esports organization the opportunity to explore additional web3 integrations into their business.

Talon Esports’ run of partnership news continued this week with the announcement of Secretlab as its official chair partner. Talon, which has been in the news for several sponsorship deals the past few weeks, will see its VALORANT squad seated in Secretlab products during domestic competition this year, and the partners will also create content throughout the VALORANT Champions Tour circuit.

2023 Measurement & Data Conference

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Quality, not price, is the main consideration for purchase of gaming accessories.

Among gamers who are set to buy gaming accessories in the next six months, seven in ten say quality will be a key consideration when making their purchase (71%), but price comes in as a close second at 65%. Two-fifths of consumers will also have their decision determined by brand (40%), and a similar share will pay close attention to features and technical specifications (41%).


Cloud9 is exploring adjustments to its VALORANT roster following a second-round exit from the VALORANT LOCK//IN event in São Paulo, according to multiple reports. The team has already parted with Jaccob “yay” Whiteaker and is reportedly considering the release of in-game leader Anthony “vanity” Malaspina, who has been with the organization since August 2021.

One of the world’s most popular streamers, Félix “xQc” Lengyel, is debating starting an esports organization in a continuation of a trend among content creators with ties to competitive gaming. The launch of Moist Esports, founded by content creator Charles “MoistCr1TiKaL” Christopher White Jr. and co-owned by fellow streamer Ludwig “Ludwig” Ahgren, has inspired influencers like Jeremy “Disguised Toast” Wang and xQc to pursue teams of their own. While some question if these investments are flashes in a pan, the connection of these teams to prominent figures in gaming gives them immediate fan bases as well as access to leadership that is proficient in building the revenue streams that other esports orgs are scrambling for. “Esports orgs aren’t profitable,” xQc tweeted last week. “Creator-backed teams are.”

The Overwatch League’s reigning champions are switching divisions amid “a lot of uncertainty” about the OWL going into 2023. The Dallas Fuel, who had already made roster changes despite a championship run in 2022, would have had to “completely rebuild” if they did not switch from the West to the East region, Fuel co-owner Mike “hastr0” Rufail said. The core of the Dallas roster is native to South Korea, and the incentive of playing close to home factored into negotiations in a competitive free agency market. “Like many other organizations, we had to make some tough decisions,” hastr0 said. “Things aren’t ideal for the esports industry this year, but let’s make the best of it.”

VALORANT pro and ??Hunter “SicK” Mims was arrested Saturday in Texas on charges of criminal trespassing. The Sentinels player, who is a substitute for the team, posted videos and images over the weekend of him getting into a conflict with employees at a Ferrari dealership. The player is dealing with “personal issues,” according to Dot Esports. Mims’ charge, a Class B Misdemeanor, carries a maximum of 180 days in jail and/or a $2,000 fine.


A qualitative study commissioned by the Interactive Advertising Bureau argues brands’ perceptions of in-game advertising are largely misguided. The research, which was conducted by advertising and consumer media research lab MediaScience, included 60- to 90-interviews with 40 Director- through CEO-level personnel across multiple industry verticals. The results, IAB said, show brands typically overestimate the cost of entering the in-game advertising market; underestimate the reach and quality of in-game ads; underestimate how effective these ads can be as purchase-driving tools; overestimate the complexity of measuring success with in-game ads; and overestimate the risks to the brand and in-game advertising’s effect on brand safety.

Microsoft might have won its hard-fought battle to win European Union approval for its $69 billion acquisition of Activision-Blizzard, according to a report from Reuters. Although the company continues to face antitrust scrutiny in other countries, including the United Kingdom, EU approval could cascade into additional victories for the Xbox creator. Meanwhile, Microsoft continued to make its case in the U.K., with the company disputing claims from Sony that there is strong incentive for Microsoft to make Activision title Call of Duty exclusive to Xbox in an effort to stifle PlayStation. According to Axios, Microsoft shared commissioned research from YouGov that shows only 3% of PlayStation Call of Duty players would switch to Xbox should Microsoft decide to make CoD exclusive. That margin, Microsoft said, would make the Xbox-only route a net loss for the company.

Riot Games executive producer Greg Street announced he is leaving his role as the EP of Riot’s massively multiplayer online game project. Street, whose career includes being the Lead Systems Designer for Blizzard’s World of Warcraft prior to joining Riot, said his decision was based on both “personal and professional considerations” following deaths in his family. Riot’s MMO project, Street said, is still well on its way. “??The most important job I could do as part of that was to build an amazing team,” he said on Twitter. “The MMO is in good hands and it’s the right time to hand over the [reins] for the next phase. I plan to stay in game development and I have had a number of exciting opportunities presented to me already. And I will be with you all playing the Riot MMO when it comes out.”

Mobile card game title Marvel Snap has hit 18 million downloads and $50 million in revenue since its Oct. 18 launch date, according to a report from The quick matches, random elements of the game and breadth of strategies in Snap made it a hit with casual and competitive players alike, with the game systems rewarding both types of play through both a robust ranked play system and consistent in-game rewards alongside microtransaction options.

Cynopsis Measure Up! Awards

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…for your strategic and tactical accomplishments in currency, attribution, Connected TV, and more across 19 different categories. Enter today for “Outstanding Advancement in Data Quality/Integrity,” recognizing excellence in data accuracy. To view the full list of categories, click below:


What is the nickname for the NCAA basketball tournament taking place this month? (Email [email protected] with your answer, and be sure to include your name, company and city).

Answer to Our Last Trivia Question
Remember: March is ____ History Month. Answer: Women’s History Month. Kudos: Michael Goodman | Radio One Atlanta, Atlanta; Tom Moore | Kalt Productions, Los Angeles; Barb Throm | Stealth Media, St. Louis, Missouri; Matt Deprey | C-SPAN, Washington, D.C.; David Westberg | SAG•AFTRA Federal Credit Union, Burbank, California; Phyllis McQuillan | MSG Networks, New York

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