SKY and ITV team up with GINX to launch 24/7 esports TV channel in the UK

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Thumbnail image courtesy of GINX TV

Two major television networks are partnering with GINX TV to create the first 24/7 esports TV channel in the United Kingdom and Ireland, which will air live broadcasts of top international leagues like ELEAGUE, The International and FACEIT's Esports Championship Series.

GINX, an existing UK TV channel with 37 million subscribers, previously focused on general video game content. According to the company's announcement, the newly rebranded GINX eSports TV will shift its focus to esports, airing a blend of major international esports tournaments and independent programming focused on competitive gaming.

Ginx TV Ltd. CEO Michiel Bakker said in the release that GINX eSports TV would be focused on "complementing online streaming, with an entertainment-led approach." GINX's original content will be key to competing with highly successful online livestreams of top esports events.

"The launch on Sky and the rebrand across all our 37 million households allows us to help new audiences discover eSports and hopefully gives core fans a fresh perspective," Ginx TV Ltd. CEO Michiel Bakker wrote in the press release.

As well as committing to broadcasting ELEAGUE and The International, the release lists Riot Games, Gfinity, Activision and EGL as content partners.

Josh "Gauntlet" Bury can gaze into the FaZe. You can find him on Twitter.

Norm Kelly on esports: 'It's a sport in my eyes. So I admire the guys that do it well, just as I admire guys that play football well or hockey'

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Thumbnail image courtesy of Lucas Oleniuk / Toronto Star / Getty

Toronto city councillor Norm Kelly has built a sizeable Twitter following thanks to his love of hip-hop and pop culture, but the 75-year-old politician inadvertently dipped his toes into esports when he shared an image of a FaZe Clan fan messaging him "FaZe Up" on a frequent basis.

Though Kelly may not be familiar with FaZe's quick-scoping montages, he says that esports has enormous potential in Toronto. As a member of the city's Economic Development Committee, he told theScore esports he would ask staff to look into ways they can help promote esports.

"Everything at city hall starts with a reports staff, so I'm gonna ask them to do the research and come back to committee to tell us how we can play a role in growing the sport here in the city," he said.

"I mean, this is the fourth largest city in North America. And so when you're that big, when you're that important, I think it's critical that the city engage itself in trends that are beginning to emerge. We gotta be, if you can't be at the head of the curve you gotta be as close to it as possible."

Though not a city typically associated with esports, the 2016 NA LCS summer finals in Toronto managed to sell out the Air Canada Centre, home arena of the Toronto Maple Leafs, in August. Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment is reportedly looking to double down on esports, with the company's COO Dave Hopkinson recently telling SportTechie that the Toronto Raptors are eager to field a team in the upcoming NBA 2K eLeague.

RELATED: NBA and Take-Two Interactive Software to launch NBA 2K eLeague

"I think that it's really important for the city government to understand what's going on out there in the field of sports and entertainment and do its best to reinforce it and help grow it. I think the Raptors initiative is fabulous," Kelly said of the report.

Though not a gamer himself, Kelly says he has great respect for how the medium has grown, as well as for the athletes who are currently competing in esports.

"When I grew up in Toronto, it was all outdoor sports. We played baseball in the summer, football in the fall, hockey in the winter. But when I became a parent, the electronic revolution was just taking off and today, all the games that one can play electronically are amazing," he said.

"I understand what it takes to focus, to participate successfully, it's a sport in my eyes. So I admire the guys that do it well, just as I admire guys that play football well or hockey. [They've] got super talent, so I not only admire them, I'm jealous! I wish I had it too."

While he says he hasn't had the time to try his at hand at first-person shooters, the Scarborough—Agincourt councillor warns that he could be quite handy with an AWP if given the chance.

"My dad was in the RCAF during the second World War and he taught air crews how to handle small weapons, so the guys in my family have a good eye," Kelly said. "And man, I wish I had the time to participate in some of the war games, because frankly I think I would do pretty well."

No doubt, Marcelo "coldzera" David and Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev had best watch their backs.

Sasha Erfanian is running through the 6ix with his woes. Follow him on Twitter.

Gerard Piqué announces new esports project

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Thumbnail image courtesy of REUTERS/Susan Vera / Action Images

Spanish footballer Gerard Piqué is entering the world of esports with a new project that looks to combine esports and football called eFootball.Pro, Piqué announced Tuesday.

Few details regarding the project have been revealed, though its website states Piqué is hiring a variety of people to "create the future of football in eSports," with open positions for competition, content creation and marketing, business and event management listed.

Piqué currently plays for FC Barcelona as a centre-back, alongside the Spanish national team.

Preston Dozsa is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

Esports Arena to debut mobile esports truck

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Thumbnail image courtesy of ELC Gaming

Esports will be hitting North American roads this summer with Esports Arena Drive, a 53-foot customized truck that can transform into an esports stage in a few hours, Esports Arena announced Wednesday.

The truck, called Esports Arena Drive, will transform into an esports stage and studio in less than two hours and will include a competition stage, production facilities and a lounge, among other features.

“Esports Arena Drive will be able to connect our existing [arenas] to all regions across the country, launch nationwide tours, amplify existing esports events, and even bring esports to non-gaming events in one streamlined operation,” Paul Ward, co-founder and CEO of Esports Arena, said in a statement. “Esports Arena Drive will provide a new and unique experience to the North American esports industry.”

Ward confirmed to theScore esports that there will be no title limitations for Esports Arena Drive. Event dates and locations will be announced at a later date.

The North American truck is modeled after Big Betty, a similar truck operated in Europe by Esports Arena's sister-company ELC Gaming. That truck made its debut at gamescom 2016. The rig hosted the $25,000 Euro Esports Superstars Hearthstone tournament in December, which was won by Thijs "Thijs" Molendijk.

Preston Dozsa is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

Cosplayer of the Week: Yaya Han

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Thumbnail image courtesy of Kyle Nishioka / Flickr

In 1999, Anime Expo unwittingly played host to a future star of the cosplay industry. Of course, at the time, there was no way of knowing that 17-year-old Yaya Han would go on to become one of the industry's most iconic figures nearly two decades later.

Focusing on fun and creativity, Yaya pays homage to her favorite characters in every cosplay she creates.

Otakon

In 2005, Yaya took the plunge and jumped into the world of cosplay full-time, transitioning from casual cosplayer to costume commissioner as her sole source of income.

"My business has slowly, painfully, amazingly developed into a variety of branches," Yaya told Nerd Bastard's Luke Gallagher in 2014. She went on to explain how she felt uncomfortable with calling herself a "professional cosplayer" but expressed pride in how the cosplay scene had grown into an economic industry.

A post shared by Yaya Han (@yayahan) on

It's undeniable that Yaya's brand has sprouted off in many directions. With a branding deal with Jo-Ann Fabrics, her own line of accessories and a comic book series based on Yaya's electricity-manipulating original character, there is seemingly no area within cosplay that Yaya will not explore. She has also starred in several shows including Syfy's Heroes of Cosplay, and was brought on as a guest judge for season two of TBS's competition show King of the Nerds.

Junko Enoshima - #DanganRonpa Costume made by @yayahan Photo by Iconiq #cosplay #junkoenoshima #yayahan

A post shared by Yaya Han (@yayahan) on

Like many other prominent cosplayers, Yaya has often received flak for being a "sexy cosplayer". In 2014, she admitted the growth of the cosplay community has likely allowed for more criticisms and body shaming but, in an interview with Playboy in 2015, explained that she feels confidence is key to soaring above the negativity.

"I think it is very empowering for women to be confident. I don’t believe showing skin or being sexy is objectifying a woman, I think it’s actually the opposite," Yaya told Playboy.

"That’s why I’ve never felt the need to do a gender bend, to change a male character into a female. I’m always about representing strong female characters."

Yaya's confidence shines through in every cosplay she presents. Whether it's a body-armored Batgirl or a skin-tight Psylocke, the pride she takes in her cosplays is obvious, lending an attitude that is uniquely Yaya to each of her characters.

A post shared by Yaya Han (@yayahan) on

Sometimes that confidence in her designs comes at a cost: time. In her interview with Nerd Bastards, Yaya expressed the extra difficulties in cosplays like as her Dark Elf, Banshee Queen Enira, Batgirl, Carmilla and Oruha.

"All of them had challenges such as fussy materials to sew, weird props, weird wigs, weird wings, new techniques to be learned," said Yaya, "and for all of them, I pulled multiple all-nighters to finish the project."

A post shared by Yaya Han (@yayahan) on

On her Facebook page, Yaya states that she believes cosplay is "the ultimate form of Creativity, and a sincere form of expression for fans and artists alike." Her appearances at major conventions as a featured guest and willingness to take on projects like creating an accessories line have been criticized as money-grabbing, but that is far from the truth.

Yaya speaks about her passion and love of cosplay every chance she gets. She doesn't shy away from opportunities to better the community or expand its reach, and always creates her cosplays with dedication and love of the character in mind.

A post shared by Yaya Han (@yayahan) on

One of her most recent projects allowed her to find a middle ground between her love of anime and video games: Camilla from Fire Emblem: Heroes. While her early cosplays are focused on anime and manga, where her cosplay roots lay, Yaya has switched gears and taken on more video game and comic book characters in recent years.

A post shared by Yaya Han (@yayahan) on

League of Legends has inspired several cosplays for Yaya. In her own words, Ashe's Heartseeker skin "won [her] over the minute it came out!" In 60 hours, she created everything down to the gold trimming on the costume, with help from Kamui Cosplay on the bow.

Since debuting Heartseeker Ashe in 2014, she has re-worn the cosplay several times at major conventions. Her Warring Kingdoms Katarina and Arcade Miss Fortune cosplays have also received praise and accolades.

A post shared by Yaya Han (@yayahan) on

"Cosplay is an art form, a dedicated passionate unique art form and it requires so much focus and dedication," Yaya said in her final statement to Playboy.

"I really wish people would understand that aspect more."

Today's mood. (Photo by @awesomebenny)

A post shared by Yaya Han (@yayahan) on

If you want to follow Yaya as she carves a new path for cosplay, check out her social media here:

Kristine "Vaalia" Hutter is a news editor and resident cosplay geek at theScore esports. You can find her on Twitter.

World of Warcraft Arena Championship to feature larger prize pool, more teams in 2017

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Thumbnail image courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

The World of Warcraft Arena Championship will feature a larger prize pool and add more teams to the game's world championship finals, Blizzard announced Thursday.

Blizzard officially revealed the 2017 plans for the MMO's official esports competition on their livestream with WoW esports manager Jeramy McIntyre. WoW launched its most recent expansion, Legion, in August 2016. Last year's iteration of the Arena Championship ended at BlizzCon and spanned two expansions, with Splyce defeating Method NA.

In 2017, there will be 12 teams at the world championship finals — four from North America, four from Europe, one from Latin America, two from China and a single Asia-Pacific team (which comprises Australia/New Zealand, Korea and Taiwan). They will battle for a prize pool of $280,000.

NA and EU teams will earn points to qualify for regionals through both online arena cups and approved community events. The cups are slated to begin in April.

McIntyre said on the stream that the aim was to see teams compete on a more consistent basis, rather than disappearing from the public eye until regionals after qualifying. The official Blizzard cups will also have $6,000 prize pools, giving more opportunities for players to earn income throughout the year.

With the release of Legion, World of Warcraft has received renewed interest. In Activision Blizzard's Q4 2016 earnings report, WoW's monthly active users were reported as being up 10 percent in 2016. Additionally, the report noted that WoW play time in Q4 was higher than Q3 — when Legion launched — as well as higher than any non-launch quarter in four years.

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

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