Hello everyone! This week we saw Los Angeles-based 100 Thieves make a rather interesting announcement. The company which has various rosters compete in major esports titles such asLeague of Legends, Valorant, Fortnite, and even for the audience in the livestreaming community, is entering a whole new realm.
100 Thieves is now going to be competing against video game makers with its very own title currently codenamed “Project X.” Thanks to the announcement from CEO Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag, we know that it is going to be a title influenced by Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Gears of War, and Halo. Former Telltale Games CEO Pete Hawley has been hired as the chief product officer of the title. Other than these scant details, we know almost nothing about 100 Thieves' first game development project.
I am intrigued by Project X in part because it will be one of the first titles (the other being Dr DisRespect’s game project), to be influenced by esports organizations, players, content creators, and the community. This is going to be a very interesting experiment to see just how much the community knows what it wants. Ultimately, it could reshape the relationship between esports organizations and video game studios if it succeeds.
— Vignesh Raghuram, Supervising Editor, AFK Gaming
Match-fixing scandals in League of Legends and CS:GO surface
The Chinese League of Legends esports scene is under the microscope after two men from Australia were charged with match-fixing offenses related to the League of Legends Pro League (LPL), China’s top-flight competition. According to a release from the Victoria Police in Australia, the Sporting Integrity Intelligence Unit (SIIU) acted on information obtained from a betting agency and discovered that the two suspects "were arranging to throw matches," affecting several games in the LPL in June 2021.
One of the accused faces charges related to the use of corrupt conduct information for betting purposes, while the other faces charges related to "engaging in conduct that corrupts or would corrupt a betting outcome of a game or event." The two accused will be produced in front of the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on Sept. 26, and could be sentenced to upto ten years of imprisonment, if they’re found to be guilty of enabling match-fixing.
CS:GO was also rocked by match-fixing allegations after former CS:GO player Rustam “5TRYK#R” Älımqūlov alleged that his former team engaged in match-fixing in 2015. According to a Richard Lewis report on Dexerto, Älımqūlov and the rest of his former teammates from a sponsorless team named “PARTY” engaged in spot-fixing—where players fix a specific outcome within a game, not related to the final match result.
Most notably current Cloud9 player and Major winner Abay “HObbit” Khasenov was implicated in this incident, which allegedly took place at the StarLadder Regional Minor Championship CIS closed qualifier in 2015. As evidence, 5TRYK#R shared conversation logs involving Hobbit and him, a TeamSpeak recording of the team, screenshots of the bookmaker's website, and perhaps most damning, audio recordings of the team arguing about their match fixing activities.
Following this, HObbit released a statement denying the allegations. “I have never been involved in match-fixing,” and added that he was fully prepared to assist in the Esports Integrity Commission’s investigation of the matter. Cloud9 is also conducting a separate internal investigation, according to Dexerto.
Key Takeaway: The specter of cheating and match fixing will always loom over early esports. The industry grew quickly with limited oversight. Today, with initiatives such as the Esports Integrity Commission, the industry as a whole has placed a far greater emphasis on rooting out match fixing and cheating in all forms. However, we’ve also entered a new era of online competition due to the COVID pandemic which presents new challenges in maintaining competitive integrity. As more sponsors join the space, esports betting continues to grow, and salaries and prize pools skyrocket, preventing match fixing is more important than ever.
Riot acquires minority stake in Aim Lab maker
Riot Games announced that it has acquired a minority ownership stake in coaching and training platform Aim Lab’s developer Statespace. Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.
The move sees Aim Lab become the official training platform for Valorant, integrating the game’s in-game physics, maps, and weapons to the training app. However, despite Riot’s investment, in an interview with the Washington Post, Statespace CEO Wayne Mackey stated that there are no plans for Aim Lab to be directly integrated into the Valorant client.
In its release, the company also revealed its intentions of incorporating Aim Lab into its MOBA titles League of Legends and League of Legends: Wild Rift in the future. Mackey also confirmed that a mobile version of Aim Lab is on the way, and even showed his phone running the app. “We launch Aim Lab mobile next month. It’s ready to go,” he said.
Prior to the investment, Aim Lab has partnered with Riot Games for numerous events in the Valorant space, including the Valorant Challengers North America, EMEA, LATAM, Game Changers, and Valorant Champions Tour. Both companies also teamed up to promote Riot's animated series Arcane by creating a shooting gallery set in the Netflix series’ universe.
Key Takeaway: Esports training programs are already the norm in more developed gaming regions such as South Korea where aspiring to become a pro gamer is culturally accepted. Riot has recognized the importance of ongoing player development and the importance aspiring players place on having clear ways to improve their play. Aim Lab has already served as an integral part of the Valorant esports ecosystem, quickly growing into one of the most important esports in the world, and there’s no doubt Riot will take those learnings and expand them into the other two games it has identified as its clear esports priorities.
Valve has announced that The International 2022 Dota 2 Championships will take place in Singapore in October 2022. This is the first time that the event will take place in the Southeast Asian region.
Version1 has signed the U.S. dairy industry’s initiative, Undeniably Dairy, as the official nutrition partner for its Rocket League team. The deal will see Version1’s Rocket League team sport the Undeniably Dairy brand on its jerseys, during broadcasts, and social media assets. One of the team’s players, Robert “Comm” Kyser, will also develop a video series that highlights his passion and expertise as a hobby chef which will be released on its YouTube channel.
OG Esports has signed a partnership with bookmaker 1xBet that will allow the former to ‘develop high-end video content.’ In return, the 1xBet brand will be featured on the jerseys and jackets of OG’s CS:GO and Dota 2 teams.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has bought a 5.01% stake in Nintendo, making it the company’s fifth-largest shareholder. Last year, the PIF made similar investments in Capcom, EA, Take-Two, and Activision, along with securing almost complete ownership of SNK. Bloomberg Tokyo’s Gearoid Reidy noted that the deal is worth around $3B USD.
Mad Lions, Toronto Ultras and Toronto Defiant owner OverActive Media has reported that it generated $1.64M in revenue during the first quarter of 2022, up 62% from $1.01M it generated in the first quarter of 2021. This increase in revenue was attributed to an increase in sponsorship revenue mainly stemming from its multi year partnership with multiverse platform Zilliqa.
Brazilian ecommerce brand Submarino will sponsor the 2022 Valorant Champions Tour (VCT) Brazil and the VCT Game Changers. Submarino had previously partnered with Brazilian esports organization LOUD in 2021, ahead of its runner-up finish at the Valorant Masters Reykjavík 2022.
NYXL, best known for its Overwatch League team of the same name, has partnered with sports and esports agency SPORTFIVE. As part of the deal, SPORTFIVE will become NYXL's exclusive worldwide commercial sales agency and support the commercial development of the organization's esports and gaming efforts by bolstering revenue generation, business development, and sponsorship integration.
Team Vitality has signed a partnership deal with JBL that will see the tech company equip Vitality's players, teams, and training facilities with the latest JBL speakers and headsets. The two parties will also collaborate to research and develop new gaming headphones.
EA has suspended over 150 competitive FIFA players from its FIFA Global Series competition for 365 days for violating the official rules and code of conduct by engaging in a range of offenses that include hate speech, match-fixing, and account trading.