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01/05/23: Pay transparency law reveals discrepancies among game devs; Mobile game nears record viewership to start 2023; Overwatch League’s Philadelphia Fusion rebrands and relocates

Medias First Morning Read
Thursday January 5, 2023

Good morning! It’s Thursday and this is your early morning Esports brief.
New pay transparency regulations are revealing rates for prominent game companies and publishers and highlighting discrepancies between pay at multiple large-scale operations. Kevin O’Brien, a quality assurance manager at Theorycraft and former QA manager for Riot Games’ VALORANT division, pointed out on Twitter the stark differences between Riot, Bungie and Blizzard for the same level of position.

Riot was the top-paying organization for a QA lead position with between $98,000-$138,000 in Los Angeles, based on experience level, while Bungie offers $86K-$108K for work in Washington state, where the company is based. Blizzard, meanwhile, expects to pay $49.6K-$91.7K for placement in Irvine, California, or Austin, Texas.

Former World of Warcraft Senior Software Engineer Valentine Powell, who helped spearhead the “A Better ATVI” employee advocate group during his time at the company, said the situation is worse for employees outside of California. “I heard many first-hand accounts of devs who moved to TX who suddenly stopped getting raises because they were now above the hit end of their new salary band there,” he said on Twitter.

“It’s the same story with Community roles as well,” another user replied. “After Blizzard laid me off, EA offered me almost double what I was making at Blizzard in 2019. Same level role, lower cost of living area, and it was still almost double.”

While anecdotal, it’s likely these conversations will continue, particularly with the disjointed nature of gaming pay and the concentration of development and publishing companies in California.


Mobile Legends: Bang Bang kicked off 2023 with more standout mobile viewership, according to Esports Charts. The esport’s M4 World Championship has drawn nearly 1.7 million peak viewers and 14.1 million hours watched in just four days of competition. The event runs from Jan. 1-15 and is averaging around 480,000 viewers thus far. The event would have finished fifth on the list of top peak viewership in 2022 behind four other MLBB tournaments, according to Esports Charts.

The ESL Pro League has reformatted its Counter-Strike: Global Offensive competition format and expanded its team pool for the 2023 season. According to organizer ESL FACEIT Group, the EPL will expand to 32 teams and have multiple elimination rounds in group stages during Season 17. The eight new teams will lead to a break of four groups of eight for group stages with a double-elimination round-robin approach. The teams that advance out of each group will then compete in a single-elimination playoff for the tournament title. ESL Pro League will run from Feb. 22 to March 26.

Former Pokémon world champion Wolfe “Wolfey” Glick will host the Wolfe Glick Pokémon Scarlet & Violet Invitational featuring top content creators such as Ludwig “Ludwig” Ahgren, Lily “LilyPichu” Ki and others. The event will also include top Pokémon casting talent, including competitive Pokémon players Aaron “Unreality” Traylor and Aaron “Cybertron” Zheng, and Rosemary “Nekkra” Kelley, who also works for the Overwatch League. The content creators will be assisted by coaches to prep for the tournament, which will take place Jan. 28 on Wolfey’s YouTube channel. He is still looking for one more invitational participant.

The most-watched battle royale esports title of the year was a mobile game, which showcases the ongoing rise of mobile titles in the esports space beyond their international popularity. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Mobile nearly doubled the watch hours of any other battle royale title in the world, according to Esports Charts, with 112.09 million hours watched of PUBG Mobile competition. PUBG Mobile’s desktop competitor finished fifth in the rankings with 29.63 million watch hours. Another mobile title, Free Fire, which is wildly popular in Latin America, drew the most peak viewers of any battle royale title in the top 10 with 1.48 million peak viewers for Free Fire World Series 2022 Sentosa. The international relevance of mobile esports continues to place these titles in the upper echelons of viewership, and with a lower barrier to entry than traditional esports, there might be a bump in participation and viewership coming despite a tough esports market in 2023.

AURORA Concert Boosts Sky: Children of Light Live Streaming Viewership Some of the most popular video game events in recent years have included metaverse-like experiences, the newest craze in the gaming technology sphere. Virtual concerts in multiplayer social games like Fortnite and Roblox have brought millions of players into the game to watch their favorite artists perform.

Ariana Grande, Travis Scott and Lil Nas X are some of the most notable names in the music industry bringing their talents to the gaming metaverse and, in turn, boost excitement around the game and increase live streaming viewership on Twitch and YouTube.

Virtual concerts can also boost interest for smaller games, like Sky: Children of Light, an open world indie game developed by Thatgamecompany. Their latest virtual concert by Norwegian singer-songwriter AURORA saw 1.6 million viewers during its first showing, and the game hit 160 million total downloads. During the month of December when the concert first aired, the live streaming viewership of Sky across major live streaming platforms increased 457% to just under 100K hours watched.

Read more on Stream Hatchet’s blog.


Betting platform and esports tournament platform Epulze are the latest companies to reach a betting and tournament integration deal, according to an announcement Wednesday. The “exclusive esports data rights partnership” will provide Oddin access to official data from the Dota 2 Pro Circuit in Southeast Asia, which Epulze operates along with the Esports Business Network. “Data and engagement are the backbones of this relationship,” Oddin co-founder and managing director of partnerships Marek Suchar said in a statement, “and we are excited to be able to contribute directly to the esports scene.”

ASUS Republic of Gamers plans to release a number of performance-focused peripherals and laptops, the company announced at CES on Tuesday. The releases include laptops that run the GeForce RTX 40 series, bringing the high-powered but large graphics processors to a smaller portable device. ASUS also plans to release a suite including keyboards, controllers, chairs, desktops and “the world’s first quad-band WiFi 7 gaming router,” which is expected to produce network bandwidth of up to 25,000 megabits per second. ASUS also revealed a 540 Hz display monitor, another first-of-its-kind piece of tech.

Gfinity and Playgendary have entered a one-year agreement to bring Gfinity’s Athlos tournament platform to the mobile game company. Playgendary will provide a monthly fee to Athlos based on active users of the platform, according to a statement from the companies. Playgendary’s 14 titles include Bowmasters, which boasts 8.3 million monthly active users, and the Kick the Buddy series, which totals nearly 1 billion total installs across two titles.

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American esports followers are a captive audience for sponsorship messages.

YouGov Profiles data reveals American esports followers are nearly four times as likely as the average U.S. adult to visit the social media profile of a sponsor in response to noticing a sponsorship. They are also significantly more likely to discuss sponsors and buy their products.


The Overwatch League’s Philadelphia Fusion are rebranding as the Seoul Infernal and permanently moving all operations to South Korea, the team announced. The organization has operated out of South Korea for the past two years as part of their participation in the Asia-Pacific-centric region of the Overwatch League. The team kept up its relocation as COVID-19 protocols inhibited the league’s chances to make a more fluid international competition system. “As we gear up for next season, we’ve been evaluating how we can best compete at a consistent, championship level, and we’ve realized that our franchise will be best positioned to succeed in Seoul,” said Dave Scott, President and CEO of Comcast Spectacor, which owns the Infernal franchise. “We’re excited to begin this next chapter as the Seoul Infernal, and our team is proud to represent our current and future fans on the global stage.”

League of Legends Champions Korea team Liiv SANDBOX announced the signing of Jeon “DangMoo” Su-jin, who has become the first-ever woman to compete in the LCK Challenger League. The LCK has not had a woman enter its ranks, nor had the Tier 2 league associated with it until Liiv SANDBOX’s Dec. 28 announcement. It is the first pro team stop for DangMoo, who plays support.

Former Fortnite World Cup champion Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf is looking for a new org after Sentinels, his longtime sponsor, decided to exit Fortnite esports. Bugha, who won the $3 million solo event at 16 years old in 2019, left Sentinels along with Fortnite pros Nick “Aspect” McGuire and Brian “Zyfa” Wielgolaski. The decision centered on Fortnite’s passive approach to esports and a lack of monetization opportunities outside of competitions and individuals streaming, CEO Rob Moore said in a statement. “As our organization maps out the future, our strategy is to focus on games that provide the opportunity to activate for our sponsors or offer team-branded in-game content,” Moore said.

The Overwatch League champion Dallas Fuel has re-signed the majority of its 2022 roster as the team hopes to become the second-ever back-to-back champ in Blizzard’s first-person shooter title. The Fuel announced the return of tank Choi “Hanbin” Han-been, DPS Kim “Sp9rk1e” Yeong-han and DPS Kim “Edison” Tae-Hoon as well as head coach Yun “RUSH” Hee-won. Dallas also revealed the additions of two supports in former Hangzhou Spark and Boston Uprising player Lee “MCD” Jeong-ho and Kim “Bliss” So-myung, an Overwatch Contenders Korea standout for O2 Blast.


Felix “xQc” Lengyel is the most-watched Twitch streamer of the year for the third consecutive year, according to data from Stream Charts. With 221.43 million hours watched, the Canada native was the only streamer to break 200 million watch hours. The list featured many international talents, including No. 2 Alexandre “Gaules” Borba (Brazil), Nos. 3 and 4 Ibai “ibai” Llanos and Raul “auronplay” Alvarez (Spain), and No. 5 Hasan “HasanAbi” Piker (U.S.). fps_shaka of Japan and U.S. creators Asmongold, Tyler “trainwreckstv” Faraz Niknam, Tar?k “tarik” Çelik, and Jaryd “summit1g” Lazar rounded out the top-10 list.

XSET Chief Experience Officer and co-owner Rob Martin has left the company he helped create in 2020. Martin did not elaborate on the reason for his exit but became the second executive to leave XSET in the past six months, with fellow co-founder Marco Mereu departing in August 2022. Mereu went on to launch M80, a new esports organization, in December after officially announcing he had left the company in November. XSET has also made a recent hire in Amy Fair Roberts, a former account coordinator for Hunt & Gather, as XSET’s director of public relations. Roberts began work in the role on Tuesday.

The Indian government has officially recognized esports as part of its traditional sports competitions under the “multi-sports events” category. The decision is the latest step in governing bodies and international sports entities recognizing esports as a part of national sports competition offerings or events such as the Asian Games and the Olympics. “We welcome this announcement by our government, which will open new avenues to pour in more investment opportunities in this booming industry,” Lokesh Suji, the director of the Esports Federation of India and vice-president of Asian Esports Federation, said in a report from The Economic Times, an Indian publication. “From now onwards, we will have to build proper infrastructure, training facilities and coaching for our young esports athletes.”

The Chinese government also helped move some esports forward last week by approving VALORANT play in the country. China’s strict regulations on media often lead to a bottleneck of things such as movies, video games and other forms of entertainment requiring approval before being released to the public. The decision opens the door for Chinese teams to begin competition in Riot’s first-person shooter in earnest, though several teams such as China’s EDward Gaming have competed internationally already. China is already one of the preeminent regions in one of Riot’s other games, League of Legends, and the country is an esports powerhouse in multiple other titles as well.

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Happy new year, and welcome to your weekly 2023 trivia! Here’s the first question of the year: According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2023 is the year of what animal? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city).

Answer to Our Last Trivia Question
Based on its time zone, which island in the Pacific Ocean will be the first populated area to celebrate the new year? Answer: Kiribati. Seems like everyone who celebrates New Year’s got this right.

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