AFK Weekly: Esports Tournament Organizers Ban/Restrict Russian Teams
Hello everyone! Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to trigger near-global condemnation with companies from various sectors across the world suspending their operations with the country. Several esports tournament organizers have also issued sanctions banning or restricting Russian teams and players from participating in their tournaments.
The apparent goal of these sanctions is to push Russian esports organizations and players to speak out to their fan bases, which in turn could prompt the local population to question the actions of their political leaders.
There is no doubt that these sanctions will at least temporarily hamper the development of the industry in Russia, but it is a price that the community must pay for the greater good.
- Vignesh Raghuram, Supervising Editor, AFK Gaming
Esports hits back at Russia: multiple sanctions for invasion of Ukraine
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted outrage and backlash in many parts of the world and every business sector is reacting– including esports. Numerous esports organizations have either completely cut ties with Russian teams and players from competition, or have imposed some sorts of restrictions against them. Belarus, which allowed Russia to use its territory to stage the invasion, has also faced some sanctions.
CS:GO tournament operator BLAST banned Russian teams from its events and canceled competitions in the CIS region. The company added that no Russian-based team would be invited to play in its events for the foreseeable future. Finnish esports operator Elisa Esports also suspended Russian-owned teams from playing in its CS:GO events.
ESL also decided to exclude teams with “apparent ties to the Russian government” from participating in its ESL Pro League CS:GO circuit. However, it also gave players from these Russian teams an opportunity to compete as long as they were willing to “compete under a neutral name, without representing their country, organization, or their teams’ sponsors on their clothing or otherwise."
Ukrainian tournament organizer, WePlay Holding terminated all partnership agreements with companies from Russia and Belarus. Following this, it barred Russian organization Virtus.Pro (VP) from competing in the Gamers Galaxy: Dota 2 Invitational Series Dubai 2022. VP alleged that the organization was told it had to make “a public statement regarding the situation in Ukraine or get dropped from the tournament.” An alternative suggestion that the team play without its tags, jerseys and “any affiliation to any particular club or country” was also allegedly presented to the players.
Electronic Arts removed all Russian and Belarusian leagues and national teams as playable entities from FIFA 22 and NHL 22 products, including mobile and online. Earlier last week, the company had suspended its Apex Legends Global Series in response to the Ukrainian conflict.
Brawl Stars has also put its Eastern European and Central Asia on hold until further notice. The company also announced that it is donating €1M ($1.09M USD) to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
In addition, several companies including Riot Games, Tencent, and Valve have suspended their Eastern European competitions in light of the invasion. Numerous players and teams have expressed their solidarity with the Ukrainian victims and called for peace over the duration of the conflict.
Key Takeaway: The esports industry continues to move back into more in-person, international events. Dota 2, CS:GO, and Valorant will all have top level players and teams impacted by both the events in Ukraine and the sanctions imposed on Russian teams. More publishers add to the list of restrictions each day. In particular, Gambit Esports and Virtus.pro will likely not be represented in any major esport event for the foreseeable future.
Nintendo withdraws Super Smash Bros. from EVO
Nintendo says an emphatic "no" to its games being played in competitions run by esports tournament organizer Evo. This would exclude Super Smash Bros. Melee and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate from all future Evo events.
Velan Studios makes Knockout City free-to-play
Knockout City will go free-to-play, opening the doors for esports competitions in the future–the game performed poorly as a premium product under the EA umbrella.
Galaxy Racer expands to North America
Dubai-based esports organization Galaxy Racer will expand into North America, launching the HER Galaxy brand for the region. The new brand aims to create an inclusive esports ecosystem for female-identifying gamers.
MAD Lions partners with Zilliqa to enter the Metaverse
MAD Lions has inked a multi-year partnership with blockchain and metaverse company Zilliqa. The latter's branding will appear on social media content and the jerseys of MAD Lions’ players and content creators under the new deal.
IEM Katowice final peaks with 1.1M concurrent viewers
The IEM Katowice 2022 final between FaZe Clan and G2 Esports on Sunday peaked at 1.1M concurrent viewers, according to Esports Charts. The tournament had an average viewership of around 328K with G2 Esports being the most popular team at the event securing an average viewership of 475.85K.
Capcom forced to reevaluate Street Fighter esports guidelines after fan backlash
Capcom released a new “Community License Agreement” that would require tournament organizers to adhere to revised community event guidelines or purchase an esports license to receive permission to host Street Fighter V: Champion Edition events. However, after facing substantial backlash from the community, Capcom stated that it was reviewing these guidelines.
Dota 2 fans are the most likely to buy Crypto
According to data from Internet market research firm YouGov, U.S.-based fans of Dota 2 esports have the most intent to buy cryptocurrency with 26% of the respondents indicating that they would like to purchase crypto by the end of the year. Valorant and Call of Duty fans are the second and third most likely to buy crypto before the end of the year, with 24% and 23% respectively.
People on the move
Games industry-related job opportunities grew 5% in 2021, according to new data from Hitmarker. Ubisoft hired the most with 1.87% year-on-year growth, according to the data. Also of note, 86% of gaming-related roles in 2021 were full-time offerings.Here are this week’s movers and shakers in the world of gaming and esports:
Kevin Chan leaves Wave Sports + Entertainment to join Riot Games as a brand manager for Valorant.
Saud Alwahhabi joins soon-to-be BLAST! and ESL Gaming owner Savvy Gaming Group as arena manager & esports.
Holly Crook leaves BLAST! to join MKTG Sport + Entertainment as a senior client director.
Thomas Bourus leaves Riot Games to become executive producer at Odyssey Interactive.
Chris Suh takes on the role of chief financial officer at Electronic Arts.
Joshy Sutherland tackles a new community and marketing role at DuskBreakers after leaving G FUEL.
Jody Hahn has been promoted to chief operations officer at Wisdom Gaming.
Alex LiDonni joins Loaded as VP, business development & brand consulting.
Gui Barbosa leaves TikTok LATAM to join BAYZ as the new managing director.
Craig Winfield joins EPIC Global as commercial esports manager.
Chris Cocks has left Wizards of the Coast to join parent company Hasbro as its new CEO.
Jason Wilson joins Sports Business Journal as its new esports editor.
Justin Jacobson will take on the role of esports instructor at Post University.
Chris Brown leaves Creative Assembly to join Biborg as director of business development.
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