Fnatic partners with AS Roma to manage club's new FIFA esports team

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Thumbnail image courtesy of Tony O'Brien / Action Images

Italian soccer club Associazione Sportiva Roma have made their entry to esports with a newly announced FIFA esports team and have partnered with Fnatic to launch the venture. Both the soccer club and Fnatic announced the news on their respective websites Tuesday.

The FIFA roster includes Aman “Aman” Seddiqi, Sam “Poacher” Carmody and Nicoló “Insa” Mirra while Colin Johnson will act as the team's manager.

The partnership will see Fnatic "manage the team and offer support for training, events and provide all esports-related logistical knowledge to nurture them," according to Fnatic's release. AS Roma wrote that the partnership will "give the club the best chance of success in the eSports arena."

Founded in 1927, AS Roma play in the Italian league Serie A, which represents the highest competitive level of Italian soccer. Team president Jim Pallotta said in the team's release that the continued growth in esports was a factor in their decision to form the team and enter the sector.

“With the tremendous growth of eSports and continued attention placed on games like FIFA, we’ve partnered with Fnatic, the world’s leading eSports organisation, to launch our eSports team," he said. "This joint venture will enable us to start building a strong legacy in eSports and engage our fans in exciting new ways.”

Aman, who hails from Atlanta, said that the signing was a big moment in his esports career.

“Roma is a huge team to represent,” said Aman. “It makes me proud to wear the shirt, and it's an honour to be the first American to be signed by a European club. It's incredibly humbling, and I can't wait to bring more trophies to Roma. I'm here to win.”

The announcement continues two trends. European soccer clubs have overtly shown interest in esports for over a year, and while some have entered more traditional esports titles — like FC Schalke's entry to League of Legends — many have chosen to enter the scene first with FIFA players.

However, the arrangement with Fnatic marks a more recent phenomenon: traditional sports franchises from all leagues have increasingly sought to enter esports with experts already on hand, to avoid potential pitfalls.

For example, when the Philadelphia 76ers purchased Team Dignitas and Apex, they kept the leadership to continue to run the newly-merged Dignitas. The Houston Rockets added Sebastian Park, formerly of Team Archon, to their front office as director of esports development, with the sole purpose of planning out the team's approach to esports.

Josh "Gauntlet" Bury is a news editor for theScore esports. You can find him on Twitter.

CW to air 6-part H1Z1 tournament documentary featuring Echo Fox and Panda Global

h1z1.com 20h ago

The first official team-based King of the Kill tournament is happening this spring! Find yourself a spot on a team or form your own and get ready to fight.

H1Z1: Fight for the Crown is a six-part esports docuseries coming this spring to The CW Network, with the finale featuring the first ever 5-man H1Z1: King of the Kill tournament! The 75-person tournament will feature 15 elite teams of five, including Echo Fox, Rogue Gaming, Panda Global and Denial Esports, all competing for their share of a $300,000 prize pool.

Click here for the full article via h1z1.com

Misfits acquire Vainglory team Fates Zero

by 2d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of Misfits

Misfits are the latest esports organization to delve into Vain Glory, as they've acquired the team Fates Zero, according to a press release on Tuesday.

"What attracted us to [Vainglory] was not only being on the frontier of mobile esports, but having the ability to closely work together with a forward-thinking game developer to really create a sustainable ecosystem for all stakeholders from the beginning," Misfits CEO Ben Spoont and Miami HEAT EVP/CMO Michael McCullough said in a joint statement in Super Evil Megacorp's press release. "Super Evil Megacorp is really committed to working together with orgs and players to accomplish this goal.”

RELATED: Miami Heat buy stake in Misfits

The acquisition closely follows the forays of Fnatic, Immortals and more into the mobile MOBA game on Feb. 9.

The team will debut under their Misfits banner at the Vainglory Preseason Invitational on Feb. 26 at San Mateo, CA.

Dennis "Tarmanydyn" Gonzales is a news editor for theScore esports who enjoys whiskey, D&D and first-picking Abaddon Slardar Clinkz Medusa Oracle a P90 my Souvenir Negev Discipline Priest Pharah. You can follow him on Twitter.

Peter Moore on EA's competitive gaming efforts and what TV can do for esports

by 4d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of Andrew Couldridge / Action Images

EA isn't new to what they call competitive gaming.

In 2004, the company ran the first FIFA Interactive World Cup and has been hosting tournaments for their sports games ever since.

The publisher opened their competitive gaming division in late 2015, putting a public focus on esports. But EA has a problem that most publishers with an esports title don't: How do you turn two of the most popular franchises in the world into something an esports audience will care about?

Perhaps surprisingly for a company as large as EA, the answer is to start small.

"We went in with a very clear strategy, and that's to make stars of all our players," EA executive vice president and chief competition officer of the company's competitive gaming division Peter Moore told theScore esports. "And that strategy means that we need to build community events, we need to focus very much on building a strong infrastructure that could manage massively scaled online tournaments."

Moore isn't new to the world of competitive gaming, as EA calls it. He headed up EA Sports from 2007, then was named chief operating officer in 2011 before his 2015 move to the competitive gaming division, and even worked on the FIFA Interactive World Cups while he was with Xbox before that. He believes that while the world of esports might not be the easiest to get into, EA's sports games can provide a different sort of window into the scene.

Leveraging traditional sports

Madden NFL 17 was the highest selling game in its launch month, while FIFA 17 outsold its 2016 predecessor by 18 percent when it launched. There's no denying that EA has some of the most popular games in the world, and Moore believes that the universality of those games and the sports they simulate gives EA a distinct advantage in the esports space: accessibility.

"Pretty much anybody, period, can watch a game of soccer or watch a game of American football and understand to a certain level what's going on and enjoy it," Moore said. "I'm not sure that's the case with a MOBA, and we have that advantage. It's eminently viewable and understandable from the get-go."

Moore notes that there is occasionally a disadvantage to that: the fact that EA's competitive gaming efforts are competing with the real thing. It's easy to think that someone would rather just watch a football or soccer game instead of watching a Madden or FIFA tournament, but Moore says it can be an advantage of its own.

This year, the annual Madden Bowl pre-Super Bowl event was a pro Madden player tournament, instead of a match between NFL athletes. EA ran it at the fan festival in Houston, where the Super Bowl was about to be held. Moore said the event got plenty of passersby interested, and that's what helps EA the most.

"You've got a captive audience of 100 percent committed NFL fans and you're trying to show them the power of competitive gaming," Moore said. "So from that perspective, I think that tying it to traditional events is classic marketing of fish where the fish are.

"What we're seeing is they sit down and they think they're going to watch for 30 seconds and half an hour later they're still entranced. They go home and then they see it on streaming, or on traditional media and they become fans."

The value of television

That traditional media is a core part of EA's strategy as well. The FIFA Ultimate Team Championship Series is being broadcast on various ESPN channels, while Univision aired the Madden Bowl. There are more broadcast deals on the way, all to try and hit a consumer outside the standard esports audience.

Esports viewership is entirely internet-based right now, and despite several TV deals popping up over the past year or so, it doesn't seem to be changing anytime soon. But, according to Moore, putting it on TV isn't for that audience, the one that already knows about your game, it's about those passersby at the Super Bowl fan fest, the ones that don't know about it yet.

"I want to watch my soccer team live in England, so I get up at 4 AM. I don't watch the highlights, I get up at 4 AM because I want to see it live," Moore said. "Those people in our core community, they want to see Serious Moe play Skimbo live. Now, there's also an audience that enjoys seeing it packaged up for television broadcast, 24, 48, 72 hours later. I think it's a less core audience, but it's a very important audience, it's the next tipping point of the demographic to be lowered in. They watch it packaged up nicely the next day on ESPN, and then next time they see us live on Twitch they'll sit and consume it live."

Of course, there's no guarantee that will work. There isn't much that proves that being on TV will increase Twitch viewership, but again, Madden and FIFA do have a power that League of Legends and CS:GO don't — more people understand what they're looking at on screen.

Focusing on the individual

There are other challenges. Most popular esport titles are team-based, while EA's competitive formats are for individual players. Moore says that it's something they've looked at, and could consider changing in the future since both games do allow for team-based play, it just doesn't flow as well for competitive play. Essentially, everyone wants to be the quarterback, which isn't exactly feasible. For now though, the individual player scene does fall in line with fighting games and StarCraft's focus on player personalities over team identities.

Still, EA is working on Battlefield's competitive scene for later this year, which will be team based. The game has to change a little — tighter maps, clearer objectives — but so will all of EA's competitive games over time.

"When we think about how we embrace and scale the ability for us to be able to continue to package up our traditional sports franchises into more consumable competitive games, there are things like spectator mode," Moore said. "Things we know we need to do and there's a development road map in place for both our Madden franchise, our FIFA franchise, that he teams in Orlando and Vancouver respectively are all working towards."

For the forseeable future, EA's competitive gaming efforts will be iterative; there's no need to reinvent football just yet. The sports game's aren't the most popular esport viewing experiences, but having some of the most popular games in the world gives them a good launching platform to possibly get there. But beyond the infrastructural investments EA has to make to to get their foot in the door, Moore says that the company has to keep their focus on that strength they have — their enormous player base. From the casual players to the pros who made it to Sunday's FIFA regional final in Miami

"We're about engagement, and again, we're about making stars of all our players," Moore said. "Our focus may be a little different than the other players in the space, but we're as interested in the two young guys who started playing against each other in school on the couch and really aspired to be here in Miami. And yes, it's about the top players this weekend, but our eye is always on the base of the pyramid, and how we can build aspiration models to allow people to continue to play at whatever level they feel is appropriate."

Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

Super Channel COO on launching a 24-hour esports channel and what TV can offer that Twitch can't

by 6d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of GINX TV

Super Channel, a Canadian premium cable network with four channels, will be dedicating one of them to 24-hour esports content thanks to a deal with the U.K.-based GINX eSportsTV, according to an announcement Wednesday.

The news that a movie channel was going all-in on esports coverage was unexpected, but Super Channel chief operating officer Don McDonald says they've been interested in the scene since the company restructured in May.

Looking for a way to differentiate themselves from competitors, they came in contact with GINX, who were looking for a way into the Canadian market.

"So, [recognizing] that esports is becoming huge, we want to expand our demographic," McDonald told theScore esports. "Currently Super Channel has primarily a demographic of 45 and over, and we're looking for content that's going to have entertainment value for the whole family." McDonald said they're hoping to appeal to both Millennials and their parents.

"There's a lot of Millennials now who are still living at home and having a channel — an all esports channel — that is on a linear service that you can watch on your big screen TV with broadcast quality 24-hours a day, including all types of live gaming events and interesting esports-related content so that is going to be of great interest to the Millennials and certainly to the 35-45 year-olds."

GINX TV: Canada in the cross hairs

Originally a more traditional television channel, GINX TV shifted its focus to esports in June as part of a partnership with SKY and ITV. Since adopting esports, they broadcast to 36 million households in 41 territories. In addition to coverage of tournaments and leagues like the Esports Championship Series, Ginx also has original programming including shows like Videogame Nation and eSports Explained.

According to Ginx's CEO, Michiel Bakker, the Great White North is a growing esports market that they've had their eye one for some time.

"Canada has long been in our sights," he said in a statement. "It consistently represents a global top 10 eSports nation and is home to great eSports competitions and competitors. We are over the moon to soon be able to reach out to them."

McDonald agrees esports is an untapped market in Canada, with great potential for growth outside the traditional male, Millennial demographic.

Going beyond the young male demographic

"Esports is more male skewing, but certainly, I am a big fan of wanting to introduce diversity into our programming and such and I think this is a great opportunity," he continued. "So I think, you know, there's a lot of great female gamers out there and through Super Channel perhaps we can be able to develop some content to help motivate that."

While the idea that 35-45 year-olds would be interested in an esports channel might go against conventional wisdom, McDonald says Super Channel's research showed some surprising results from that demographic.

"As we were doing our esports analysis, well you know something, this phenomenon is not restricted to the young. There's a lot of old people that are gamers," he said.

Made-in-Canada

While GINX will be taking care of most of the channel's programming, including broadcast rights for tournaments and events, Canadian content requirements require a certain amount of the channel's content to be Made-in-Canada.

McDonald says Super Channel is dedicated to developing a slew of original, Canadian programming that they hope will be successful in GINX's international markets, including, perhaps, a reality show.

"We'll be going into development mode, going out to the production community, and wanting to develop esports-related content. That could lead to documentaries, it could be featuring Canadian gamers, profiles and things of that sort. Maybe even a reality series."

Rather than developing content purely to meet the requirements, McDonald says this initiative provides an opportunity for the Canadian esports community to share their work with the world.

"We shouldn't produce it just because we have to, we need to produce great content, great stories that we can tell and export around the world. And this is what I'm hoping we can do with this," he said.

Esports on TV: A question mark

While video game-related TV has proved a risky proposition in the past with the dissolution of G4 in 2014 and less-than-stellar ratings in esports events broadcast on TV, McDonald says the success of ELEAGUE on Turner Broadcasting inspired Super Channel to take things a step further.

"They have their Friday night esports night and to bring a channel that's totally 24/7, it was certainly helped inspire us to look in that regard," McDonald said.

"Because, the thing is, we wanted to be something totally unique and distinct that will set Super Channel apart from the rest of the channel offerings in this field."

However, on the topic of whether there's an appetite for esports TV instead of Twitch viewing, McDonald says some people might prefer more polished content than the live-stream experience.

"Well, as you know, Twitch is, I want to refer to it as — and I hope I don't offend anyone at Twitch — as the wild, wild west of esports. Because, you can get a lot of content on there, there's streaming for hours and things of that sort," he said.

"GINX will have rights for certain sports and they will package that in with announcers and game analysis and maybe they take a two or three day event and package that into really good packaged content that an esports fan will enjoy."

While no exact date was given, GINX is set to launch in Canada in either the spring or summer.

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Plays.tv receives investment from Jeremy Lin, fund associated with San Francisco 49ers owners and execs

by 6d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of Nicole Sweet / USA Today Sports

Plays.tv, the game recording and replay platform has received a $15 million investment round financed by a fund "associated with the owners and executives" of the San Francisco 49ers, basketball player Jeremy Lin and several other venture capital firms.

"Plays.tv grew very quickly since its launch and our community really embraced the platform not just for the social sharing but for replaying and improving as players,” Plays.tv founder Dennis "Thresh" Fong said in a press release. “With Shasta and our other investors, we are in a great position to make Plays.tv the most personal and relevant source of gameplay content, and the de facto platform to replay and share videos to get better at your game.”

It is unclear exactly how related the fund associated with 49ers owners and executives is to the 49ers organization itself, though Perkovich is also the managing director or Aurum Partners LLC, the investment arm of the owners of the 49ers.

“Plays.tv is as essential to gamers as reviewing tape is to NFL coaches,” Brano Perkovich, Chief Investment Officer of the San Francisco 49ers, said in a press release. “We believe Plays.tv can become a tool that PC gamers can’t live without.”

In addition to the two sports investors, the most recent investment round also features a host of technology investors. The financing was led by Shasta Ventures, which has invested in Mint.com and Nest Labs, and included Accel Partners, which was an early investor in Facebook, Tenaya Capital (formerly Lehman Bros. Venture Partners), DAG Ventures and Founder's Fund. Founder's Fund is a venture capital firm that is notable for being founded in part by PayPal founder Peter Thiel and having been an early investor in Facebook and SpaceX.

Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

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