e-sports

Overwatch League gets ESPN and Disney XD television contract

Count this as a huge victory for Blizzard’s attempt to legitimize and popularize its fledgling Overwatch League.

The studio announced this week that it has signed a deal with both ESPN and Disney XD to exclusively televise Overwatch League games for the next two years. The coverage began yesterday with the League’s first season playoffs and will continue through the grand finals later this month. In fact, Blizzard is touting the fact that Overwatch will be the first e-sports championship broadcast ever on ABC.

“We are pleased to partner with Activision Blizzard to bring Overwatch e-sports to our audience,” said Disney XD Senior Vice President Marc Buhaj. “The Blizzard team has created a genre-leading esport and a premium professional franchise system in the Overwatch League. We are kicking off the agreement by showcasing the inaugural season playoffs and Grand Finals live across our linear footprint. Together with our telecast partners at ESPN, we look forward to growing a legion of new Overwatch fans across the next two years.”

Source: Press release

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Women In Games report suggests strategies to promote gender diversity in e-sports

The subject of gender imbalance in gaming, especially in professional e-sports, and how to rectify it has been a matter of debate within gaming communities for quite some time. A recent article by GamesIndustry.biz’s Haydn Taylor highlights a paper published by Women in Games that puts the spotlight on the topic, providing suggestions for ways to increase gender diversity in e-sports.

Drafted by leaders of women-in-games groups from the UK, France, Germany, and Italy as part of a discussion titled “Increasing female interest and participation in esports careers” held at the inaugural Global Esports Forum organized in conjunction with Intel and e-sport organizer ESL, the paper summarizes the current obstacles inhibiting female participation in e-sports and lays out 12 recommendations for remedying the situation.

The post on WomenInGames.org quotes five-time Counter-Strike and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive world champion Steph “missharvey” Harvey as saying she believes that the main reason the number of women in e-sports is so low — estimated at about 5% — is that women in gaming are “automatically judged for being different,” citing her own experiences of “extremely graphic” harassment about her gender. Women In Games seeks to eradicate this kind of toxic behavior and promote gender diversity in gaming and e-sports.

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The International Olympic Committee is hosting an e-sports discussion summit in July

Last summer the co-president of the Paris Olympic bid committee told the AP that it was considering bringing video gaming on board for the 2024 program in France. The International Olympic Committee followed that up with a statement saying that “competitive e-sports could be considered as a sporting activity, and the players involved prepare and train with an intensity which may be comparable to athletes in traditional sports,” suggesting that it might support the movement, provided that e-sports uphold Olympic values.

It appears the Olympic groups are continuing that push, as the AP reported this week that the IOC aims to host a forum on e-sports on July 21st in Lausanne, Switzerland.

“The forum, announced Tuesday, will bring together gaming executives, players, sponsors and event organizers with a goal of building relationships between Olympic leaders and the esports industry,” says the AP. It’s happening, people.

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One of the competitors in Dota 2’s championship is an AI team

Perhaps in the future, we’ll all be looking back at the time when e-sports were an actual thing played by humans rather than simply a competition between teams of AI. As the Dota 2 world championships take place this year, spectators will have one team to cheer for that’s definitely not on drugs and has never been suspended for inappropriate behavior, because the team consists of AI players working in harmony. Elon Musk’s OpenAI team is heading to the championships, and it’s not just doing so as a novelty; the team has already won its way in against a team of semipro players.

Of course, it’s an open question whether or not the AI players can match up against the best players in the world, but thus far results are encouraging, and even a hard-fought loss would indicate that the AI in question is approaching the upper limit of what humans are capable of. So keep your eyes peeled, as we may be looking at a line of competition that’s ending remarkably quickly; then we’ll just need an AI to beat the best humans at basketball.

Source: Wired; thanks to Sally for the tip!

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Overwatch: Another hacker sentenced, a new hero teased, and an algorithm patent sought

Way back in January, Blizzard Korea announced that it was working with Korea’s National Policy Agency cyber crime unit to track and arrest the perpetrators of Overwatch hacking and cheating crimes, following an investigation that lasted throughout most of 2017. Thirteen individuals were identified, and then the courts moved in. In May, one hacker received a suspended sentence, while another was fined $10,000. A third, Dot Esports reports this week, has now been sentenced: He’ll sit in prison for a whole year, apparently being more harshly punished due to his having made a truckton of money off his hack program.

In happier news, Blizzard released a brief teaser for what’s probably the game’s next hero, if player speculation holds. Seriously, people think the wrecking ball is actually the hero.

And that’s not even peak 2018. This is: A year and a half ago, Blizzard began trying to patent the algorithm that determines Overwatch’s plays of the game. And we’re just finding out about it this week.

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Leaderboard: What’s the ideal way for an MMO studio to handle toxicity?

MOP reader BulletTeeth pointed us to a piece on The Verge this week about an incident in online shooter Battalion 1944. A highly placed e-sports team member, SUSPC7, apparently went off on Discord about the studio’s slow rollout of skins meant as prizes, trollishly threatening to shoot up the studio. It got back to the devs, who decided to “teach [him] a lesson about comedy” by proposing to reskin his weapon, not with his earned prize but with a hand-drawn penis icon. Yeah, they pranked him.

“I thought you were kind of being a dick,” the studio rep tweeted, going on to tell the player he wanted him to become an “ambassador” for the game.

As The Verge writes, it’s an unusual tactic for a game studio to take against a toxic player in this day and age. While it might be nice to think that studio have the time and money and resources to hand-hold every lost boy and talk him down to being an ally, it’s not particularly realistic, and it creates a perverse incentive system whereby toxic players mop up studio attention that ought to go to non-toxic players.

I thought it would be interesting to reflect on what we think studios ought to do when disciplining players. Does this sort of reverse-prank actually work, or would it be better for companies to just boot the problem children and move on?

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APB Reloaded counters cheats, unifies versions, and rallies its community

Ever wonder if the developers behind APB Reloaded are looking at the current boom of battle royale-style games and kicking themselves for not having the foresight to get in on the craze? Always easier to direct things in hindsight.

At least there looks to be a path forward for the PvP title, what with the GamersFirst acquisition by Little Orbit. The dev team recently sat down to talk about the direction that the game is heading, including the decision to add Battleye to counter cheating, building up APB’s infrastructure, fixing mechanics, and unifying the console and PC versions.

This development will benefit the title, which is still sporting an active population no matter what you may assume. Rock Paper Shotgun sent a reporter in to talk to players about why they’re still engaging with APB with so many other options out there. One player said that he feels the title is “like a unicorn” with its unique features, such as the varied missions and creator.

APB has more of an e-sports like feel to it. But it also has its open world,” he noted.

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Worlds Adrift team recaps launch event in the sky and patch rollout

It was no e-sports bus, but Worlds Adrift really did send players, devs, and journalists skyward in a floating… well, it kinda looks like the bottom half of a shipping container suspended with a crane over London, but we’re sure it’s fine. The studio’s weekend video includes clips of the guests for some reason playing the game in that position instead of totally freaking out.

It also includes a recap of the game’s latest patch, which included 100 new islands and the Kioki region. Bossa Studios further teases a look at development over the next few months and gently reminds players to leave positive reviews if they actually like the game (recent reviews are still sitting in the “mixed” zone). The CMs don’t mention the ongoing discussion between the community and developers regarding the game’s unchecked griefing.

And no, in spite of the title, Prince Charles was not really at the event. But it’s amusing nonetheless.

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Leaderboard: How much time should you put in to become a great player in the typical MMO?

Earlier this week, GIbiz put out a piece on the Shanghai Dragons, the Overwatch League e-sports team representing China. In a letter to fans, the team appears to have inadvertently revealed that it’s grotesquely overworked; in bragging that the team has the “most intensive training scheme among all the teams,” the team manager admitted that the group trains 12 hours a day, six days a week. That’s 72 hours a week.

As GIbiz points out, not only does this “seem to fly in the face of Blizzard’s goals for a sustainable league that supports its players,” it also doesn’t seem to actually be working, as the Dragons haven’t won a single game in 32 matchups. It’s almost as if hustle/crunch culture exhausts and drains people rather than beefs them up!

Most of us are never going to be, or even aspire to be, professional e-sports gamers to the degree that someone will pay us thousands of dollars per year to train and play. But I bet most of us do aspire to be decent or even great at the games we invest the most time in. So for this week’s Leaderboard, I thought it would be fun to explore just how much time you think you need to put in to be a great player of the typical MMORPG?

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Data show that battle royale gamers tend to spend more money on games

So, how are battle royale fans different from any other sort of competitive gamer? A recent study put out by market intelligence firm Newzoo finds that they’re more dedicated. In basically every metric, too. Battle royale fans tend to be more likely to spend money over other competitive gamers (88 percent vs. 75 percent), more likely to invest over six hours of time in games a week (30 percent vs. 25 percent on console, 40 percent vs. 32 percent on PC), and more likely to watch several e-sports events per month (28 percent vs. 19 percent).

It also confirms once again that Fortnite is eating PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds players, but you already knew that.

Of course, this particular report uses the somewhat fuzzy metric of “competitive gamers,” which could mean a lot of different things. Still, it means that there’s definitely engagement and dedication on that side of the fence, something that does tend to justify the amount of money being poured into the subgenre. Check out the full report if you’re curious about the details of how running around and shooting people in a box stacks up compared to more traditional options.

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Jetpacks woosh into Fortnite, while Epic Games puts $100M toward tournaments

Players can take to the skies in Fortnite today, thanks to Patch 4.2 and the long-awaited introduction of jetpacks. Unsafe? Environmentally unsound? Chaotic? Probably — but most assuredly fun as well.

The patch notes give us some idea of how jetpacks will function:

“The Jetpack is the first of a new item type: Backpacks. Backpacks take an inventory slot (like weapons & consumables) and can be moved to different positions. Only one Backpack can be carried at a time. […] The Jetpack is engaged by jumping while in mid-air, providing additional mobility. While flying, there is a limited duration it can be used before it must charge again. Recharge begins when the Jetpack is not in use. You can not enter Targeting Mode while in the air. On controller, using the Targeting Mode input will trigger the Jetpack.”

It should also be noted that the jetpacks are being described as a “limited-time item,” although this may change on release.

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Expect e-sports betting to blossom thanks to new Supreme Court ruling

Gambling and gaming are two sides of the same coin. You guys wouldn’t believe how many gambling companies request to put ads on MOP every month (unsuccessfully!), so clearly advertisers believe there’s plenty of overlap in the groups. And the debate over gambling in video games – whether we’re talking about lockbox monetization schemes or watching bureaucrats home in on skin gambling – isn’t going away. In fact, it’s about to get much bigger as gamblers are walloped from still another direction.

This week the Supreme Court effectively overturned PASPA – the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act – in deciding Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association. The ruling hinged on the section of PASPA that basically barred local governments from licensing betting on sports games, reserving that power for the federal government. The act had been interpreted to include e-sports once e-sports became a thing as well. The state of New Jersey and the NCAA went to war over the statue, battling in court over the last seven years, and now, New Jersey, or at least the gambling institutions of New Jersey, has won.

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Capcom posts its best financial year ever thanks to Monster Hunter World

It must have been some time ago at Capcom’s business strategy meeting where the top executives were sitting around and talking in hushed tones about what the company’s development strategy would be. Of course, the whiteboard already had the obvious suggestions on it: a massively unpopular Street Fighter sequel that launched without features, a half-hearted Marvel vs. Capcom installment, pretending Mega Man didn’t exist, etc. And then one lone executive spoke up, saying, “What if we developed a game everyone wanted to play and then released it internationally, so American and Japanese players could both enjoy it?

Except he said it in Japanese, of course. Thus began the story of Monster Hunter World, which ends with Capcom experiencing its best financial year… ever. At any point in history.

More than that, MHW also managed to outsell every other game in the company’s history at 7.9 million copies sold worldwide. Understandably, next year will see a renewed push for live events for the title as its PC version launches later this year. The company is also planning a renewed e-sports push around that aforementioned Street Fighter sequel, because bad habits die hard.

Source: Eurogamer

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