I had never been more excited to work in esports than at the start of this year. I was able to attend both the Rainbow Six Siege Six Invitational and the opening weekend of the Call of Duty League in person it was set to be the most traveling Id ever done for esports coverage in a single year. On top of that, a group of tournament organizers announced a Super Smash Bros. World Tour, which would have meant getting to cover a full infrastructure for my favorite esport all year long.
Of course, none of those things happened. The COVID-19 pandemic devastated the fighting game community and brought all tournaments to a screeching halt. I have not traveled for work since that February weekend in Minneapolis.
Still, it has been an absolutely incredible year for esports. Between new releases, advances in diversity, and getting to write about chess and World of Warcraft far more than anyone would think reasonable, there have been plenty of fascinating developments to cover. Here are some of my highlights:
As Im writing this, Complexity-Limit is currently leading the first World of Warcraft Race to World First of the Shadowlands expansion. Each time the RWF comes around theres something new to write about as the numbers, brand partnerships, and esports teams involved all continue to grow. There is nothing in esports like the RWF, its a unique spectator experience and the open, community-driven nature of the event is becoming increasingly rare.
Earlier this month I wrote an opinion piece outlining why the race should be intriguing for brands and what makes this event so special. I also spoke with Complexitys COO about the organizations interest in supporting the event. World of Warcraft is in the midst of a renaissance that shows no signs of slowing any time soon. There will certainly be more RWF coverage coming in the new year.
Thanks to a natural translation of skillset, Valorant was able to come right out of the gate, building upon the robust womens esports ecosystem established in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Building upon the work that came before, two exciting developments made Valorant the spearhead for what I hope will become a rapid advancement of women in esports in the coming year.
First, Spectacor Gamings womens initiative FTW broke new ground when its women-only tournament was supported by Riot Games as an official Ignition Series event. I spoke with the co-founders of that initiative about what it meant for Riot to recognize their work to that degree, and what the future holds for FTW in esports.
The added prestige of that tournament put a greater spotlight on its eventual champion, MAJKL. With their newly elevated position as an Ignition Series champion, and buzz surrounding the team potentially being able to contend with the male-dominated pro teams, MAJKL was soon signed by Cloud9.
While there have been womens teams signed to esports organizations before, it was clear from interviewing C9s general manager that the organization and these players had aspirations beyond the women-only tournament scene. Cloud9 would treat the newly minted Cloud9 White as a true sister team to its other pro roster possibly eventually swapping players between the two squads.
Co-ed esports teams are obviously the eventual goal for esports as a whole, and Cloud9 White is an important step on that journey. Ill be keeping a close eye on how this team performs in the 2021 tournament scene.
Esports is still a very young industry compared to other entertainment categories. Organizations are still learning what types of merchandise work for their audience, and there just arent merchandisers with decades of experience available for each team to recruit.
While any company being forced to lay off employees is obviously terrible, the pandemics impact on live entertainment did bring Cirque Du Soleil merchandise veteran Terry Turner into the job seeker pool at the same time that Panda Global was looking for someone to lead its merchandising strategy. After interviewing Turner, it was clear to me just how much untapped potential is still left in the esports merchandise space for teams to explore.
Panda Global is a uniquely focused organization, participating only in 1v1 titles (primarily fighting games). That unique focus is ideal from a merchandise and branding perspective. Having recently unveiled a full brand update, Panda Global and its new merchandising lead have a fresh canvas on which to create new and innovative products for fans to consume. What they develop could lead how this part of the industry develops in the coming years.
One of my favorite things to read on Twitter is Rod Slasher Breslaus collection of angry tweets from people upset whenever ESPN shows esports on TV. I take a similar sort of joy in seeing people try to argue about whether or not chess should count as an esport. For the purposes of The Esports Observer, frankly, the conversation is irrelevant. Esports teams have signed players, the game is played digitally and consumed in high volumes on streaming platforms it belongs in our sphere of coverage whether or not some people dont want to give it some specific label.
To many, the rise of chess on Twitch this year came out of nowhere. A popular streamer played against a Grandmaster, and suddenly theres a massive influencer tournament and all anyone is talking about for weeks midsummer is this ancient board game.
However, after digging deeper into the trend and speaking to various figures at the company behind Pogchamps, Chess.com, it struck me how very intentional this all was on their part. Chess.com identified streaming as a growth vector early on, and took specific, strategic steps to grow its presence on Twitch. That preparation allowed the company to move quickly when the trend suddenly spiked, and has carried on into a new level of awareness and engagement for chess as a whole. Digital chess is here to stay and I will keep covering it, esport or no.
The shutdown of Mixer wasnt much of a surprise, but it was disappointing. By all accounts many streamers were happy with the service, and competition in the streaming space is always a good thing. However, one important lesson that should have come out of that entire saga was that no streamer is worth $30M USD by themselves.
Streaming is an a la carte viewing experience. Even the biggest names on any platform carry just a fraction of the total audience. Far more people are watching their favorite streamer who averages 2K viewers at most. Whats more, the viewers of those smaller streams are far more engaged and loyal than the average Tyler Ninja Blevins fan.
I was frustrated when reports of even larger deals for Blevins and Michael Shroud Grzesiek began to circulate following the end of Mixer, and so I outlined the issues with placing your hopes and resources in only the biggest names in an opinion piece.
The Call of Duty League season opener was an important moment for the esports industry. It represented the official kickoff of Activision Blizzards home event strategy. It represented a major shift in the CoD landscape, with effectively only 12 teams now competing in the game at the highest level.
With most live events eventually being canceled, this first CDL weekend took on even greater weight as one of the only in-person events held all year. Having been there in person, it was certainly an exciting kickoff to that potential home/away system. The Minnesota home team did a great job building up a rivalry for the north with the Toronto Ultra, that would have made for compelling content had the teams been able to face off more often in person.
After the event, I outlined many of the brand integrations and unique experiences at the venue. With the addition of the CoD Challengers open tournament taking place in the same location, the event had an interesting mix of modern esports extravaganza upstairs, and grassroots, watch-players-over-their-shoulder-mid-tournament feel of an old school event.
It remains to be seen when esports events will return to their in-person focus, but looking back on the CDL opener I know for certain that the future of esports is not an online-only structure. There is nothing quite like the roar of the crowd enthusiastically reacting to each moment in-game.
When the world opens up again, I look forward to attending another CDL event to see how things have progressed since those initial matches.
Read more from the original source:
- GM Levon Aronian to Participate in Grand Chess Tour - The Armenian Mirror-Spectator - January 25th, 2021
- Another weekend on-line chess tournament - Sunday Observer - January 25th, 2021
- The Chess Masters of New Orleans - WGNO - January 23rd, 2021
- Explained: Why UEFA is rattled over the latest European Super League plan - The Athletic - January 23rd, 2021
- Giving Tuesday | US Chess.org - uschess.org - January 23rd, 2021
- Quackity hits two massive milestones on two channels in the same day - Dexerto - January 23rd, 2021
- No women at Tata Steel chess this year, but game is growing in popularity - DutchNews.nl - January 20th, 2021
- MCCL to host 2021 All-Girls State Championship on Feb. 20 - The Madison Record - themadisonrecord.com - January 20th, 2021
- Yamagata: Discover snow monsters and a hidden mountain temple - Japan Today - January 20th, 2021
- 5 key concepts in poker and chess | chess24.com - chess24 - chess24 - January 20th, 2021
- Bryce Hall confronts creepy stalker invading their TikTok house - Dexerto - January 20th, 2021
- Twitch Chess GM Behind the PogChamps Event Makes Up With the Botez Sisters - EssentiallySports - January 15th, 2021
- Grand Chess Tour: Carlsen, Nakamura Only As Wildcards - Chess.com - January 15th, 2021
- 11 of the best musical soundtracks to test your speakers - What Hi-Fi? - January 15th, 2021
- Fiji Chess hopes to stage a tournament in the North - FBC News - January 15th, 2021
- The Voice Celebrates: Bar-Mitzvahs of Jake Stoopler and Jonah Kutikov - Jewish Community Voice - January 15th, 2021
- Wojtaszek: I'd like to get into the Top 10 - chess24 - January 15th, 2021
- The benefits of approaching this year like a total newbie - KDRV - January 13th, 2021
- World famous Hastings chess tournament takes place this weekend - Hastings Observer - January 9th, 2021
- Sailor Moon: 10 Fights That Are Better In The Anime | CBR - CBR - Comic Book Resources - January 9th, 2021
- Draft Results for the LCS Lock In Tournament Group Stage - The Game Haus - January 9th, 2021
- FIDE confirm postponement of Women's Grand Prix in Gibraltar - Insidethegames.biz - January 9th, 2021
- Learn The Queen's Gambit and More Chess Plays In This Bundle - IGN Southeast Asia - January 9th, 2021
- Rook No Further! Coral Springs Holds Open Play Chess and Tournament - Coral Springs Talk - Coral Springs Talk - January 6th, 2021
- Radjabov Wins Airthings Masters - Chess.com - January 6th, 2021
- Azeri-Jewish Chess Grandmaster Radjabov in tears after winning tournament - The Jerusalem Post - January 6th, 2021
- Yu Yangyi and Tan Zhongyi are the 2020 Chinese champions - Chessbase News - January 4th, 2021
- For Premium only: Who do you want in the next Champions Chess Tour event? - chess24 - January 4th, 2021
- Snow, Rambo and everything in between: Leon Mendonca is India's 67th GM - ESPN - January 4th, 2021
- Chess: Goas 14-year-old boy becomes Indias 67th GM - Star of Mysore - January 4th, 2021
- Kriti Kharbanda arrives in Lucknow for her next rom-com, '14 Phere', directed by Devanshu Singh - Knocksense - January 4th, 2021
- Quintessential grandmillennial: A show with all the right moves - Irish Examiner - January 4th, 2021
- Final chess tournament for the year on today - Stabroek News - December 31st, 2020
- Monsters of 2020: The Queen's Gambit - Mother Jones - December 31st, 2020
- Chess: Goa's 14-Year-Old Leon Mendonca Becomes India's 67th Grandmaster - Outlook India - December 31st, 2020
- Why Chess is thriving in Kenya despite Covid-19 pandemic - The Standard - December 31st, 2020
- Wilton Bulletin Board: Meditation, cooking, stream cameras - The Wilton Bulletin - December 31st, 2020
- Not particularly fusced: reflections on a first term - Cherwell Online - December 31st, 2020
- Frontline workers owed 'debt of gratitude,' GG says in year-end message - Yahoo News Canada - December 31st, 2020
- Meet Norfolk's own queen of the chessboard - Eastern Daily Press - December 29th, 2020
- The Queen's Gambit Does a Lot Well. Portraying Being a Woman in Chess Isn't One of Them. - Ms. Magazine - December 27th, 2020
- What the Hell Is Quantum Chess? | IE - Interesting Engineering - December 27th, 2020
- Explore the History of Chess From Ancient India to the Cold War Rivalries - My Modern Met - December 27th, 2020
- 2020 year of power struggle in AICF, players keep the flag flying - DTNext - December 27th, 2020
- Online tournaments have strengthened local players - Stabroek News - December 27th, 2020
- Year in Review 2020, Biggest Sports Stories: After t..issues, India declared joint-winners of Chess Olympiad - Firstpost - December 27th, 2020
- Christmas puzzles: Add-a-king, and take that back! - Chessbase News - December 27th, 2020
- Chess and horse sport share one common element: The expensive part - Horsetalk - December 27th, 2020
- GM Zavokhir of Uzbekistan crowned champion at Liberation Cup - Oherald - December 27th, 2020
- I was 13 and suddenly winning everything - India Today - December 27th, 2020
- What Are You Paying For in a $300 Chess Set? Mostly the Knights - The New York Times - December 26th, 2020
- The 5 biggest moments in streaming from 2020 - Dot Esports - December 26th, 2020
- WCM Magpily eyes another title in Balinas-Pichay Cup - manilastandard.net - December 26th, 2020
- NASCAR Team up with the World Poker Tour while Artificial Intelligence Breaks New Barriers - HighstakesDB - December 26th, 2020
- Live chess tournament broadcasts | chess24.com - December 18th, 2020
- Welcome | US Chess.org - December 18th, 2020
- IM Martin Neubauer on Simon Williams' Budapest Gambit - Chessbase News - December 18th, 2020
- Chess: 'Game of the Year' decides title as Covid-19 hits Russian championship - The Guardian - December 18th, 2020
- The Creative's Gambit - Creative Review - December 18th, 2020
- 4 tips on how to stay focused, from a chess grandmaster - CNBC - December 16th, 2020
- Next Chess Olympiad In 2022; Budapest Wins Bid For 2024 - Chess.com - December 16th, 2020
- Superbet Foundation Becomes Principal Partner of Grand Chess Tour 2021 - European Gaming Industry News - December 16th, 2020
- Superfinals: Nepomniachtchi and Karjakin still tied on top - Chessbase News - December 16th, 2020
- Beccacece and a chess tournament with the Racing kids - Inspired Traveler - December 16th, 2020
- The reign of 1990s star vintage as over-the-board chess resumes in Moscow - Financial Times - December 16th, 2020
- M'sian Parents Are Sending Their Kids For Chess Classes Because Of 'The Queen's Gambit' - SAYS - December 16th, 2020
- Russian Superfinals 9-10: Title race goes down to the last round - chess24 - December 16th, 2020
- 2020 Speed Chess Championship: All The Information - Chess.com - December 13th, 2020
- The Grand Chess Tour Returns In 2021 - Chessbase News - December 11th, 2020
- Autumn Series on Playchess # 8 - Play and win prizes - Chessbase News - December 11th, 2020
- From Our Archives: Here's a look back at this week in 1976 - McDowell News - December 11th, 2020
- International squad beats Spain in training match - Chessbase News - December 11th, 2020
- Chess: Polina Shuvalova shines as over-the-board play resumes in Moscow - The Guardian - December 11th, 2020
- Grandmaster Sam Shankland '14 on The Queen's Gambit and Chess Today | Alumni Stories | Alumni, Friends and Families | Brandeis University - Brandeis... - December 11th, 2020
- Moscow will host the Chess Olympiad 2022, Budapest will host the Chess Olympiad 2024 - Chessbase News - December 11th, 2020
- How The Queens Gambit Is Inspiring Women to Take Up Chess - The New York Times - December 11th, 2020
- Young Chess Stars Meet in a Winner Take All Tournament Checkmate! - The Zebra - December 9th, 2020
- The real-life Beth Harmon trounced men before 'The Queen's Gambit' - Insider - INSIDER - December 9th, 2020
- Think you know the US map by heart? Take our quiz to know for sure - Film Daily - December 9th, 2020
- Pegasystems' Trefler on leadership and strategy - learned from chess - Yahoo Finance - December 8th, 2020