AFK Weekly: Esports Industry Expresses Solidarity With Ukraine
Hello everyone! Like every industry, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also affected esports, causing multiple tournament organizers to postpone their events indefinitely until the conflict between the two eastern European countries is resolved. Yet, the esports community showed their solidarity for the Ukrainian people with esports teams, tournament organizers, and numerous players and personalities uniting together to rally for peace in the region.
The world does not need wars and the devastation it causes to innocent bystanders, so here’s hoping the crisis in Ukraine is resolved quickly and as peacefully as possible.
- Vignesh Raghuram, Supervising Editor, AFK Gaming
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine forces Riot and EA to suspend tournaments
Riot Games announced that it has postponed all the matches of the Valorant Champions Tour (VCT) 2022 Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) Stage 1 Challengers Week 3 that were scheduled to take place this weekend, due to the ongoing Ukrainian conflict. There are several Russian and Ukrainian players among the teams competing in the tournament.
In a release, Riot stated that its community’s welfare was integral to it and that it was prioritizing supporting the players, casters, staff and fans affected by the escalating military conflict in Ukraine. The company also said that it would provide an update on the new schedule as soon as it could.
The League of Legends Continental League 2022 Spring Season has also been postponed by Riot indefinitely. In addition, the League of Legends European Championship will have no Russian broadcast this week.
The Apex Legends Global Series also announced that it was pausing the tournament until further notice. This announcement came after Norwegian player Martin “Pjeh” Aamyri said that the community of EMEA Apex pros decided to postpone everything competitive including practice. “Hopefully the people in charge of the ALGS will realize that we will not play during these times,” he said.
Finally, the spring season of PUBG Mobile Pro League CIS 2022 has also been postponed by Tencent in light of events in Ukraine.
However, IEM Katowice 2022 continues to take place as scheduled. On the main broadcast of the tournament, Ukrainian player Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev called for unity among the esports community. He said that esports was outside of politics, that the players didn’t have anything to do with government decisions, and that esports should provide an environment that brings people together. "Right now, I stand with my real friends. We win together and we lose together. All of us want peace for Ukraine and for [the] whole world. All of us [are] scared," he added.
Other players and organizations have also expressed solidarity with the Ukrainian victims and called for peace; esports organization Natus Vincere said that there are hostilities that are taking lives and destroying destinies in Ukraine. “It is impossible that during this war we pretend everything is okay, it is not. We are devastated. Our main goal right now is to try and stay calm and take care of ourselves, our loved ones, and those who need help,” it added.
Others including Fnatic, Astralis, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Fnatic, and G2 Esports changed their logos temporarily to show solidarity with Ukraine. Team Liquid Co-Founder Victor Goossens is even opening up the team’s Netherlands apartments for a non-Liquid player stuck in another country. He also revealed that the team was willing to help others facing similar circumstances with accommodation amidst the crisis.
Key Takeaway: Esports at its core is a global business. Global politics and conflict will always have far-reaching impacts on every facet of the industry. Already Riot Games has postponed its European Valorant competition, and pressure is mounting for other events to follow suit.
Ubisoft relocated Rainbow Six Major after community backlash
Ubisoft has announced that the Rainbow Six Major 2022, which was scheduled to take place in the United Arab Emirates in August, would be relocated to ‘another Rainbow Six Esports region’ after heavy criticism from the community.
The company originally announced that the tournament would take place in the UAE on Feb. 20, however the the Rainbow Six community including several notable esports casters expressed concerns about the UAE’s stance on the LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender) community. A petition on Change.org calling for the tournament to be moved to a different location garnered over 13K signatures before Ubisoft agreed to change the location.
In a post announcing the relocation, Ubisoft defended its decision to hold the event in the UAE, saying it was made following “extensive discussions” with its local teams in the region, the government, and its local esports partner. “All involved parties had committed to ensuring that "anyone, of all gender identities, sexual orientations, cultural backgrounds, or other individual traits, would be included and welcomed," it stated.
Additionally, the company said it will continue to develop Rainbow Six esports events in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, since it is "fast evolving into a key videogame hub in the world."
Key Takeaway: The Middle East is growing rapidly as an esports region and capital is already pouring into the industry from Saudi Arabia and other stakeholders. Every esports publisher and organizer is going to have the opportunity to take sponsorships, investment, and event opportunities in the region. The esports audience has made it clear it will push back on these advancements, so publishers and organizers must all have a plan in place to deal with the inevitable blowback.
ESPAT TV signs image licensing deal with ESL
ESPAT TV announced that it has signed an image licensing partnership with ESL Gaming, giving the company the rights to Intel Extreme Masters and ESL Pro League, starting with #IEM Katowice 2022.
7-Eleven to Sponsor NA RLCS
7-Eleven has partnered with Psyonix to become an official sponsor of the North American Rocket League Championship Series (RLCS), which will now be named the “7-Eleven Slurpee Cup.” Rocket League will also add exclusive in-game 7-Eleven-themed customization items as part of the deal.
Riot Games to Open Offices in India, Philippines and Other APAC Countries
Riot Games announced that it is expanding its Southeast Asia (SEA) business to Asia Pacific (APAC) and Japan. The publisher will now be opening new offices in India, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. Previously, Riot had run its business in the region through its Singapore hub office.
South Korea will reportedly host 2022 League of Legends MSI
According to Dot Esports, the 2022 Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) for League of Legends (LoL) will be held in South Korea. This will be the first LoL international tournament taking place in South Korea since 2018.
Call of Duty could reportedly be skipping a 2023 release
According to Bloomberg, Activision Blizzard is delaying the annual Call of Duty title that was scheduled to release in 2023 after last year’s Call of Duty: Vanguard didn’t meet expectations. However, the report was later updated to include a statement from Activision that while not outright denying the claim, mentioned that it was working on an “exciting slate of premium and free-to-play Call of Duty experiences for this year, next year, and beyond”.
Riot Games partners with VeraEsports for VCT Challengers: APAC 2022
Riot Games has appointed esports streaming platform VeraEsports as an official esports partner and exclusive content platform for the VALORANT Champions Tour (VCT) Asia-Pacific (APAC), Southeast Asia, Challengers 2022.
People on the Move
It was a relatively tame week for personnel changes in the esports and gaming industry as we say goodbye to February and limp into March. Here are a few of the more notable moves this week:
Riot Games Co-Founder Marc Merril was recently named president of games.
Joel Guzman has been appointed country manager of Riot Games in the Philippines.
Former FaZe Clan VP of Content Oluwafemi “Femi” Okusanya will lead GameSquare's freshly-launched Fourth Frame Studios.
Former Dignitas Talent Influencer Lead Mellina Kong is named TikTok's influencer operations manager, games.
Gaming veteran Christopher Bergstresser joins Esports Mogul’s board of directors.
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