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10/05/23: Overwatch League shutters; Epic lays off 870; BLAST raises $13.4M

Medias First Morning Read

Thursday October 5, 2023

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

The Overwatch League is all but over following its 2023 Grand Finals, as Overwatch 2 publisher Activision-Blizzard seeks new avenues for a “revitalized esports program” for the team-based first-person shooter.

The OWL was announced to industry-wide fanfare and team franchise slots costing tens of millions of dollars in 2016. The league’s city-based team model, which felt more familiar to non-endemic brands, drew investment from noteworthy sports franchise owners like Robert Kraft and Stan Kroenke, linear and cable TV deals, and dollars from brands like Coca Cola, Bud Light, Toyota, Spotify and more.

What once was touted as the biggest step toward bridging digital and traditional sports audiences ended after just six seasons, amidst cooling in esports investment and a yearslong dip in interest in the game itself. Activision-Blizzard, which laid off 50 employees including a good chunk of its esports staff in July, left the door open for third-party Overwatch esports operation and said on the Overwatch League’s X (formerly Twitter) account that details of what’s next for Overwatch are still being finalized.

With institutions like the OWL struggling, it’s more important than ever to be in the know on industry trends and understand how your business can be impacted – and how it can thrive despite uncertainty. Join us at the Esports & Gaming Business Summit from Oct. 20-22 at MGM Grand in Las Vegas to get in on some must-have conversations about the present, and future, of these ecosystems. Get your tickets HERE.


The Overwatch League did end on a high note, with the Florida Mayhem winning their first-ever championship in a 4-0 sweep of the Houston Outlaws. While the match wasn’t all that intriguing, the Mayhem, who were a middling team at best throughout their time in the OWL, pulled together a contender in what is presumably the league’s final year to go out with a bang. Along the way, teams like the Hangzhou Spark thrilled en route to the semis on Sept. 28 in Toronto, and if the crowd at the Mattamy Athletic Centre was anything to go by, this game still has an audience to build behind.

MOUZ won what could be the final Counter-Strike: Global Offensive LAN trophy with a sweep of Natus Vincere in the ESL Pro League Season 18 final over the weekend. MOUZ’s victory netted it a spot at IEM Katowice 2024, the upcoming BLAST World Final in December and $200,000 of the event’s $850K prize purse. Next up for many of the world’s best Counter-Strike teams: IEM Sydney, which will play out on the newly released Counter-Strike 2 from Oct. 16-22 in Australia.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III put out its first multiplayer gameplay trailer on Tuesday, with an initial beta for the game set to launch Friday. The new title and transition will be an interesting one for publisher Activision, with weapon blueprints, cosmetics and other in-game items moving forward from Modern Warfare II to the impending release. Modern Warfare III is set to release Nov. 10.

Epic Games is beginning the process of adding age ratings to all in-game experiences, including user-generated content built in Fortnite Creative mode. The decision should help protect young users and promote overall player safety but will result in a little more work for creators: Upon finishing their creations, developers will have to fill out an International Age Rating Coalition questionnaire, which will then be reviewed by Epic prior to publishing, in order for the company to issue an age rating.


Team Vitality and French soccer club Lille Olympique Sporting Club will maintain their partnership and join forces to compete in the newly released EA SPORTS FC Pro esports ecosystem. The announcement included the news that the team has signed Ilian Bouchi as its FC Pro competitor for the upcoming circuit and Johann “Maniika” Simon as coach.

Esports tournament organizer BLAST announced an additional $13.4 million in funding to support expansion of its production and competition slate, the company announced. The Export and Investment Fund of Denmark led the round, according to a statement from BLAST, along with several other “internal investors” that were not named. BLAST produces competitions for publishers including Epic Games (Fortnite Championship Series), Ubisoft (Rainbow Six: Siege), Valve (Counter-Strike) and others.

TSM is introducing a collaboration with anime program Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood featuring co-branded clothing and gaming peripherals. The collaboration, known as Chapter 1, will hope to capitalize on the cross-section of gaming and anime fans, with a mix of Fullmetal Alchemist iconography and TSM’s color palette.

Riot Games’ latest League of Legends World Championship anthem is now available on major music streaming platforms following its global debut Oct. 3. Performed by K-pop group NewJeans, the Worlds 2023 song “GODS” features Dplus KIA bot laner Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu, a star South Korean player who won the 2022 world championship alongside DRX. This year’s tournament will return to South Korea for the first time since 2018 and run from Oct. 10-Nov. 19.

The sixth annual Tempest Awards finalists have been selected, with winners set to be announced at the in-person ceremony on October 23 at the HyperX Arena in Las Vegas, held in conjunction with Cynopsis’ Esports & Gaming Business Summit. With marquee brands such as State Farm, Red Bull, P&G, Twitch, Xfinity, the NFL and more in the running, it’ll be a must-see show. Get your tickets for Tempest and EBS HERE.

Cynopsis Events


It’s a busy month, with events including Cynopsis’ Top Women in Media Awards NEXT WEEK, and the Esports and Gaming Business Summit on Oct. 22-24.
Ready to rock?



Social media product reviews key to reaching gamersFor brands looking to reach gamers across a variety of industry categories, building a strategy around encouraging influencers to post social media reviews of their products might be an important play. A fifth of American gamers say they watch video game reviews on platforms like YouTube, TikTok and Instagram (21%). Gamers are also drawn towards reviews of tech products, five percentage points clear of the overall American population (17% vs 12%). Food, clothing and shoes, and tools are other well-patronized product categories among gamers on video sharing platforms.


Cloud9 mid laner Jang “EMENES” Min-soo has been fined by Riot Games for using derogatory language toward another player via in-game chat during solo ranked play. EMENES was fined $15,000 for statements made in a Sept. 15 game separate from his play and practice with Cloud9. EMENES will also be required to complete a Riot-approved training module “that provides guidance for appropriate behavior in a professional context” before the start of the 2024 season.

Full Squad Gaming has brought on two high-profile creators as the organization continues to grow, with Brandon “Avalanche” Thomas and Yan “Classify” Shalomov joining its talent roster. The additions were made alongside an announcement of the organization’s new president, Hung Tran.

FlyQuest is parting with AD carry Lee “Prince” Chae-hwan after an up-and-down season for the former Liiv SANDBOX standout. Prince, a South Korea native, was brought in to help the North American squad turn a strong offseason into a Worlds 2023 appearance. That dream was crushed, however, following a hot start to the year and third-place finish in the League Championship Series Spring Playoffs; FlyQuest finished ninth out of 10 teams in the Summer Split with a 6-12 record, which has since led to an overhaul for the team’s international roster slots.


Fortnite maker Epic Games announced it is laying off 16% of its workforce, or 870 people, marking the latest significant cuts among major game publishers this year. “For a while now, we’ve been spending way more money than we earn,” Chief Executive Officer Tim Sweeney said in an employee memo. “I had long been optimistic that we could power through this transition without layoffs, but in retrospect I see this was unrealistic.” Sweeney said that as Epic transitions from a revenue stream primarily driven by in-game purchases and first-party content to one centered on user-generated content, it has to adjust its staffing as well to better accommodate a “lower margin business.”

PlayStation and Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO and president Jim Ryan is retiring, he announced, with a regime change set to begin with his departure in March 2024. Ryan, who has been with the company for around 30 years, has been in the lead role since 2019. The U.K. native cited the difficulty of living in Europe and working in North America as a reason for his decision. Sony Group COO, CFO, and president Hiroki Totoki will take on the interim role.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is continuing its attempts to block Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision-Blizzard following a suspension of its initial challenge against the $68.7 billion deal. Microsoft said in a statement that it is not concerned about hitting the current Oct. 18 deadline for closure of its deal with Activision-Blizzard despite the proceedings, which will go on despite a failed attempt by the FTC to challenge the deal over the summer.

GameStop has hired a new CEO in Chewy founder Ryan Cohen as the gaming retail company continues to grapple with what its future looks like post-meme stock surge and failed NFT marketplace push. Cohen, GameStop said in a statement, will not receive compensation for his role, which was opened following the ouster of former CEO Matt Furlong in June.

Cynopsis – Reaching Audience in 2024 – Virtual Event – December 7th

Join us at this virtual event showcasing the must-have targeting tools Buyers & Sellers need to optimize ad strategy.

Connect with 400+ industry leaders and elevate your brand in 2024 by positioning yourself among top experts in the space.

Limited sponsorships available – contact Albert Nassour, Executive Director of Sales today.


Which internationally renowned musical group is making its mark as the first residency at The Sphere in Las Vegas? (Email [email protected] with your answer, and be sure to include your name, company and city).Answer to Our Last Trivia Question
Which superstar artist is Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce now allegedly dating? Answer: Taylor Swift. Kudos: Jilliann Parraguirre and Kari Jaspersohn | R&R Partners, Las Vegas; Benjamin (B.J.) Robinson | D50 Media, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts; Creed Heilskov | ImOn Communications, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Jim Himmel | TCB Media, San Clemente, California; David Hauptman, Denver; Michelle Bergmann | Mediassociates, Sandy Hook, Connecticut; Travis Wacker | Good Karma Brands/ESPN Chicago; Barb Throm | Stealth Creative, St. Louis, Missouri; Michael Goodman | Radio One Atlanta; Tom Moore | Kalt Productions, Los Angeles; David Westberg | SAG•AFTRA Federal Credit Union, Burbank, California

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