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06/15/23: FTC challenges Microsoft; Twitch faces more creator backlash; Embracer Group preps for layoffs

Medias First Morning Read
Thursday June 15, 2023

Good morning! It’s Thursday and this is your early morning Esports and Gaming brief.
Following backlash from the streaming community, Twitch rolled back new guidelines for advertising and branded content. “Yesterday, we released new Branded Content Guidelines that impacted your ability to work with sponsors to increase your income from streaming,” Twitch said in a statement June 7. “These guidelines are bad for you and bad for Twitch, and we are removing them immediately. Sponsorships are critical to streamers’ growth and ability to earn income. We will not prevent your ability to enter into direct relationships with sponsors – you will continue to own and control your sponsorship business.”

The now-removed guidelines restricted the use of burned-in video and audio ads, the amount of space on-screen that burned-in advertising could take up, and display ads. These forms of programmatic revenue are the bread and butter of live streaming content creators, and while not the most lucrative deals are a form of passive income widely used by big and small creators alike.

The Amazon-owned company did not seek feedback from top streamers on the abrupt change to its guidelines, and multiple streamers such as Rachell “Valkyrae” Hofstetter and Tyler “Ninja” Blevins called out the platform as others prepared to flock to YouTube and other services. The backpedal from Twitch might have calmed nerves for now, but the nixed guideline changes are a knock against Twitch at a time when YouTube, with its Shorts platform, and new competitors like Kick, are already making moves to gain market share.


Ubisoft unveiled a slew of release dates and upcoming titles during Monday’s Ubisoft Forward, the developer’s virtual showcase. Among the highlights were gameplay and the reveal of a Dec. 7 release date for Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, a video game adaptation of the internationally popular film franchise; a more in-depth look at Assassin’s Creed Mirage, scheduled to release Oct. 12; and another look at 2024’s Star Wars Outlaws, which was revealed over the weekend during the Xbox Games Showcase. The developer also plans to release XDefiant, which made waves in the competitive gaming community as a potential rival to the Call of Duty franchise, this summer following an open beta June 21-23.

The League of Legends Championship Series Summer Split is underway following a player walkout and negotiations to settle disputes about changes to the Tier 2 affiliate of the LCS, the North American Challengers League. The LCS Players Association orchestrated the walkout following Riot’s decision to remove stipulations that LCS team owners also field an NACL roster – since then, only three of the 10 LCS teams have opted to support a Challengers program. As part of the deal to return to play, Riot agreed to provide $300,000 in additional support split between all Challengers teams and a 50% revenue share for all NACL sponsorship revenue with participating teams. Additional agreements include adding severance pay and healthcare options for players.

Heroic topped Team Vitality to win the BLAST Premier Spring Final and wrap up the final Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament before a schedule break. The June 11 final saw Heroic, which recently made it to the semifinals of IEM Dallas and the Paris Major, take down the world’s No. 1 team and earn a spot in the BLAST World Final. That event is scheduled for Dec. 12-17 in Abu Dhabi, but it will most likely be played on a new title, with Counter-Strike 2 expected to release this summer.

Riot Games is changing up its League of Legends ranked system with a new addition to the ladder designed to help separate out mid- to upper-tier players a bit more. Riot plans to add an Emerald ranking between its Platinum and Diamond ranks, which will add a buffer between those parts of the ladder and let Riot even out distributions of players across its lower ranks as well. Riot additionally will remove its promotional series, a set of games where players had to consistently win over a set number of matches to move up from one rank to another. The changes, which are expected to make ranked play more approachable and competitive within each part of the ladder, are scheduled to launch with Split 2 of the ranked season beginning July 18.


Psyonix is bringing Transformers content to Rocket League a week after the release of the latest addition to the franchise, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts. The activation will bring special “converting celebration animations” to Rocket League, with the Bumblebee Car (themed after the Transformers Autobot character) transitioning into its humanoid form post-match if the player’s team wins. The themed content will be available June 14-27.

Activision has removed two content creator-themed cosmetic bundles from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Warzone following allegedly anti-LGBTQ+ remarks from one of the creators and the second asking that his bundle be removed from the store as well. The controversy began over the weekend, when Nick “Nickmercs” Kolcheff posted on Twitter that pro-LGBTQ+ demonstrators at a California school board meeting should “leave little children alone,” echoing a recent talking point in conservative political spaces that suggests adding gender and sexuality discussions into school curriculum is an attempt at grooming children. Activision acted quickly and removed a cosmetic bundle dedicated to Kolcheff from its in-game store. Tim “TimTheTatman” John Betar, the other creator that was part of Activision’s first creator-inspired cosmetic bundles, then requested his bundle be removed from the in-game storefront as well, citing his friendship with Kolcheff and that both creators worked on building their in-game operators together. Activision complied with the request, and it’s fair to wonder whether we might see any similar collaborations in the future given the eventual crashing and burning of this one.

Luminosity Gaming has partnered with CTRL as the meal replacement business continues to grow its footprint in esports. CTRL, which markets its brand around providing quick options to “stop skipping meals, game for longer and get your protein up,” has previously partnered with FaZe Clan and Ghost Gaming in the competitive gaming space. CTRL will be Luminosity’s official partner for meal replacement products.

Kansas City Pioneers will work with the U.S. Army’s National Guard for an esports tournament series in the Midwest. The six-event circuit will begin with Midwest Fest from June 16-17 at the LEVELUP Arena in Kansas City, with tournaments in Rocket League, Apex Legends and Call of Duty alongside shoulder programming, giveaways, panels, meet-and-greets and more.

Gaming Showcase Viewership Increases by 144% in 2023

Historically video game showcases have been some of the most anticipated events in live-streaming. In the cessation of major gaming showcases like E3 ceasing operations, publisher centered showcases like Ubisoft Forward, Nintendo Direct, and Xbox Games Showcase have taken center stage.

When looking at five of the major showcases that kick off this summer, we saw a 144% increase in AMA compared to 2022. The Xbox Games Showcase and Ubisoft Forward generated the highest increases in average audience on the list. Xbox Games maintained the highest AMA of any showcase with over 2M average viewers, which was a 174% increase from 2022’s 740K average viewership. However Ubisoft generated the highest increase in viewership with 278% increase in viewership YoY from 2022 to 2023.

Read more on our blog

2023 Tempest Awards

The ROI of Recognition

-Over 80% of employees agree that recognition improves experience, relationship, engagement, and happiness..
-79% of employees who quit their jobs claim that a lack of appreciation was a major reason for leaving.

So, what are you waiting for?


Over a tenth of American gamblers place esports bets online

Among some key advanced economies across the world, gamblers in the US are among the most likely to report placing an esports bet online in the past 12 months (12%). Only Australian (14%) gamblers surpass their US counterparts in this regard. Gamblers in Canada, Germany and Portugal appear next on the list, but are just half as likely as US gamblers to have placed esports bets online.


Content creator Jeremy “Disguised Toast” Wang has opened a Patreon to fund his esports team following the organization, Disguised, being relegated to open play in VALORANT. Disguised was already set to cost Wang around $1 million in 2023, the streamer said, and he’s not alone: In a YouTube video Wang put out to promote the Patreon and explain Disguised’s struggles, Wang said “everyone is losing money” and “no org is safe right now.” He also relayed anecdotes of major brands he’d been in conversations with that are only invested in esports because of previous contractual obligations. All Patreon funds will go to players and staff, Wang said, with a $5 per month subscription as the only tier available. As part of launching the crowdfunding, Wang plans to make the organization’s operating budget public.

Former Sentinels VALORANT coach Don “SyykoNT” Muir has joined M80 as its Vice President of Esports, the organization announced. SyykoNT, who worked with M80 co-founder and CEO Marco Mereu at XSET as that team’s VALORANT coach, will oversee all of M80’s esports efforts and its plans to expand into additional titles. “M80 is approaching pivotal moments across its teams and my sights are set on nothing but setting our squads up for success,” SyykoNT said in a statement.

FENNEL Wild Rift coach James “Hamez” Santos has been fired following match-fixing allegations against Hamez that were confirmed by FENNEL. “‘Hamez’ personally instructed players to intentionally sabotage their teams for the purposes of profiting from online betting,” FENNEL said in a statement. “Additionally, he resorted to threats against players who refused to comply with his instructions (to match-fix).” FENNEL’s investigation followed a public admission from the 24-year-old on Facebook, which Hamez has since made private.


Layoffs are coming for Embracer Group, the owners of the Lord of the Rings IP, Crystal Dynamics, Tripwire Interactive, Eidos-Montréal and more in the gaming and entertainment spaces. Embracer, which revealed it missed out on a $2 billion deal earlier this year in the final hour post-negotiations, has since had to adjust its business projections considerably, and studio closures will be part of the fallout. Embracer, which employs 17,000 people, is in the process of determining how many cuts it needs to make, CEO Lars Wingefors said in an open letter.

Creator collective OTK Network is getting into game publishing with the launch of an indie studio, Mad Mushroom. OTK Network features popular streamers and content creators including Zack “Asmongold” Hoyt, Thomas “Sodapoppin” Morris, Emily “Emiru” Schunk, Emily “Extra Emily” Zhang and Esfand. OTK plans to work with industry veterans, including Mad Mushroom leading advisor Mike Silbowitz and former Blizzard game designer Chris Kaleiki, who recently founded Notorious Studios. Together, the creators, advisors and staff plan to “deliver a diverse portfolio of high-quality indie games across genres by offering gamers a direct, authentic pipeline to small studio releases and upcoming titles,” with a focus on leveraging OTK’s marketing prowess to make the most of high-quality releases.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has filed an injunction against Microsoft to block the company’s acquisition of game publisher Activision-Blizzard. While the FTC had previously sued to bring the $69 billion deal to court, the injunction serves to prevent the acquisition from closing before its termination deadline on July 18, at which point Microsoft will have to pay a $3 billion “breakup fee” to Activision-Blizzard while also requiring the parties to reapproach how to execute the deal. The injunction, however, also gives Microsoft a window to push the legal issue and potentially beat the clock. “We believe accelerating the legal process in the U.S. will ultimately bring more choice and competition to the market,” Microsoft president Brad Smith said in a statement.

GAMURS Group found itself in hot water with the rest of the journalism industry again following a job posting for an “AI Editor” that would produce “200 to 250 articles per week” with the help of generative AI software. Outside of asking for one article every 10 minutes for just $40,000-55,000 per year, the post also blindsided staffers doing original reporting for GAMURS’ suite of sites, which include Dot Esports, Destructoid, Prima Games and The Mary Sue, among others. GAMURS removed the job posting, and a related post for an SEO Strategist, following backlash Tuesday. The publication conglomerate was previously in the news this year following layoffs that affected at least 50 people across its sites.

Esports Gaming & Business Summit

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Find out at this year’s Esports & Gaming Business Summit, where we bring you real answers and opportunities, delivered straight from the industry leaders driving the competitive gaming industry into 2024. Have you registered yet?


The Denver Nuggets took down the Miami Heat on Monday to win the NBA title. How many championships had the Nuggets won prior to this one? (Email [email protected] with your answer, and be sure to include your name, company and city).

Answer to Our Last Trivia Question
Which two professional golf leagues merged last week? Answer: PGA and LIV. Kudos: Jermaine Davis | Trak Software; Jim Himmel | TCB Media, San Clemente, California; Scott Jenkins | Gracenote, Queensbury, New York; Barb Throm | Stealth Creative, St. Louis; Dory Petsrillo | CoxReps, Dallas; David Hauptman | Denver; Phyllis McQuillan | MSG Networks, New York; Creed Heilskov | ImOn Communications, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Tom Moore | Kalt Productions, Los Angeles; David Westberg | SAG•AFTRA Federal Credit Union, Burbank, California; Benjamin Robinson | D50 Media, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts

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BAHAKEL COMMUNICATIONS/CHARLOTTE NC: Develop and oversee the production of a daily or weekly national political show that covers the most important political news and events of the day. Develop and execute strategies to increase the show’s audience and engagement. At least 5 years of experience as an executive producer for a political show or similar program. Full info HERE

Oversee all editorial and entertainment content, news production and presentation. Responsible for day-to-day operations of the show: producing, writing, and guiding creative. Develop content for the News @ TEN, plan, assign and create production schedules. 7 years of experience as executive producer or show producer. Network experience preferred. Full info HERE

SHOUT! FACTORY/LOS ANGELES: P&L responsibility, ownership over all aspects of a project, standalone releases or a licensed library of titles. Works w/production, publicity, creative services, distribution/sales, digital, finance, legal, acquisitions & licensors to best position the project for success. 7+ yrs of exp. in marketing, business development, or product management. Full info HERE

SHOUT! FACTORY/LOS ANGELES: Prepare accurate reports using data from internal & external sources for sales planning & analysis. Communicate w/our distributor on a regular basis with an understanding of their systems & deadlines. Announce release date, pricing confirmation & metadata for staff & distributor. 3+Yrs exp. in Sales Planning & Analysis/Finance Administration. Full info HERE


Oversee video/creative production team thru ideation, production planning, crew/talent hiring, & budget/project management. Shepherd campaigns from development, pre-production, & production thru editing & delivery. Help w/shoots as well as postproduction team. 5+ yrs exp. spanning editorial, design, advertising agency, film, branded entertainment. Full info HERE


Respond to both RFPs and direct-to-client assignments from brands and agencies. Examine client brief and lead ideation or adapt pre-existing creative. Identify innovative storytelling and emerging video formats. Minimum of 7 yrs exp. producing compelling video, television and digital media content across multiple channels and platforms. Full info HERE

Responsible for creating, analyzing & communicating sales proposals to the Sales team for presentation to advertising agencies and/or clients. Collaborate w/all media platforms & departments to create proposals, execute campaigns, manage stewardship & pacing of linear & digital deals. Point of contact post sale & provide excellent client services. Full info HERE


Lead campaign planning & production oversight, ensuring best-in-class creative. Direct Campaign Planning rollouts & ensure production readiness of marketing initiatives. Oversee production on high-end graphics/design/editorial projects. 7+ yrs working in a fast-paced, highly collaborative team, with relevant work exp. in production management. Full info HERE

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NEWSMAX MEDIA INC/WASHINGTON DC: Works with Production management to maintains cast and crew lists and manages local rehearsal and show calendar. Oversee daily technical run-throughs directly prior to shows. Willing and able to work shifts between 12noon to 11pm and occasional Weekends and some longer hours during election and special events. Full info HERE

NEWSMAX MEDIA INC/WASHINGTON DC: Troubleshooting, repair, and preventative maintenance of television broadcast equipment, computers, and broadcast computer networks in a 24x7x365 environment. Serve as E.I.C. during live and taped shows. Electrical Engineering, or other technical degree preferred. 5+ yrs as broadcast engineer, or equivalent knowledge. 5+ yrs in live TV production. Full info HERE

NEWSMAX MEDIA INC/NEW YORK: Generate story ideas through research of news reports, social media, websites & contacts. Strong understanding of Newsmax brand & talent. Identify impactful news stories that result in provocative, compelling television. Delegate responsibilities as appropriate to associate producers, assignment editors & video editors. Bachelor’s degree preferred. Full info HERE

Leads the strategy, development & implementation of external communications to support PBS’s general audience content & provide support for PBS’s reputation & executive visibility. Manage relationships w/notable on-camera talent, producers – including partner agencies, managers, or agents supporting their programs. 8+ yrs of public relations exp. Full info HERE

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Work with account executives & sales planners utilizing internal computer system to fulfill sales orders through the execution of client schedules. Serve as the primary point of contact for ad agencies & TV One to resolve discrepancies, confirm schedule changes & distribute post & pre-logs. Bachelor’s degree or 2 yrs of exp. in advertising sales. Full info HERE


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Develop, cultivate, and socialize vision, mission, and strategy for Digital Business, Programming Visibility, Content Creation and Content Partnerships & Data Governance. Lead and facilitate cross-functional and cross-company project teams. 12 yrs in the media & emerging platform landscape with building digital platforms and vMVPD growth strategy. Full info HERE

NEWSMAX MEDIA, INC./NYC, NEW YORK: Oversee the planning, management, installation & maintenance of the networks technical infrastructure: studios, transmitters, digital production platforms & automated systems. Ability to deploy in the field to coordinate special events. 8+ yrs of broadcast troubleshooting in a television network environment, preferably in a network News environment. Full info HERE


Evaluate programming for our linear and FAST channel schedules to provide insights for content strategy and audience growth. Analyze & interpret media research for programming, ad sales, marketing, and affiliate sales. Research, & preferably Nielsen background is a strongly preferred. Media Research with linear, or similar platforms, is required. Full info HERE


Partner with the Programming Director to perform scheduling tasks for our Linear and FAST Channels. This includes data entry and distributing weekly schedules. Strong attention to detail and love for data entry/meta data is a plus. This role is ideal for someone looking to break into the media world. Full info HERE


Performing a variety of administrative tasks to provide support to the Traffic Department. The majority of this role will focus on metadata entry and must have strong attention to detail. This role will also assist team members with projects and serve as an idea source during team meetings. Full info HERE


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Being a Leader of the Sales Team and owning the position. Driving new business development. Managing inventory, rates, political sales processes & revenue forecasting. Developing and executing sales packages and projects to increase stations’ revenue. Performing other duties as assigned. Minimum five yrs experience in Television Station Management. Full info HERE

SILVER SPRING MD, Hybrid, Remote

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Mentor and provide feedback to internal and external artists to enhance their skills and help them reach their full potential.
Senior Outsource 3D Character Artist
Crystal Dynamics

Document and maintain a comprehensive inventory of all systems, infrastructure, and applications to be monitored.
Senior Cybersecurity Specialist
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Mentor and coach a team of engineers, making everyone around you better.
Lead Engineer
Epic Games
Boston MA

Clearly communicating feedback to the outsource partner, and ensuring those creative notes and goals are met.
OS Lead Concept
Epic Games
Cary NC

Contribute to the overall technical direction of the project by participating in architectural design sessions and code reviews.
Lead Audio Programmer
Gearbox Entertainment
Frisco TX

Evaluating, proposing, and deploying baseline security guardrails across dozens of cloud accounts.
Senior Cloud Security Engineer
Gearbox Entertainment
Frisco TX

Ensure alignment of goals and outcomes as the development of games and post-content releases are changed.
Senior Data Scientist, Player Experience
2K Games
Austin TX

Collaborate with Creative Directors, Designers, Engineers, Artists, Producers, and Animators to deliver world-class game systems.
Senior Systems Designer
Raven Software
Middleton WI

Research subject matter relating to objectives to ensure an authentic experience.
Senior Lead Environment Artist
Raven Software
Middleton WI

Lead a team of artists to create engaging, memorable, and high-quality art assets. Providing clear feedback to ensure visual targets are met and visually consistent.
Lead Artist
Kirkland WA

Work with a team of game developers to design, prototype, and implement new gameplay features.
Senior Gameplay Engineer
Kirkland WA

Conceptualization: Storyboarding, mood boards, mock designs/edits/pitches, etc.
Senior Social Content Designer
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Ensure that our systems can scale to meet the demands of a billion players, helping them find the right experiences and content on Roblox.
Senior Software Engineer
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Develop core libraries and infrastructure supporting high-quality, low-latency communications between hundreds of millions of users.
Senior Software Engineer, Audio/Video Products
San Francisco CA

Work with a team dedicated to building faster, reliable automations in CI pipelines, test frameworks, language tools and IDE integrations.
Senior Software Engineer
San Francisco CA