AFK Weekly: FaZe Reimagines Mickey Mouse with new Disney collaboration
Hello everyone! On the final day of the ESL One Stockholm Major 2022 last week, Valve revealed that The International 2022 will take place in Singapore this October. The reception to the announcement has largely been positive especially since this will be the first time that The International will take place in the Southeast Asia region, despite it possessing one of the largest and loudest fandoms for Dota 2.
Singapore is rapidly turning into a go-to destination for esports events. Recently, it was announced that the Free Fire World Series 2022 and the Wild Rift Icons Global Championship 2022— both boasting prize pools of $2M USD each, will also be taking place in Singapore. The country's relaxed visa policies, top-notch internet infrastructure, and an active esports community have elevated it to become a hotspot for many of the world’s biggest esports tournament organizers.
But it is not just Singapore that is receiving all the love from esports tournament organizers. In 2022; there is a noticeable trend of organizers shifting their focus from western countries, Korea and China to under-represented regions like South America, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. ESL just announced that it is going to be hosting the first-ever South American CS:GO Major in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, while Riot had also recently announced that it was going to be hosting the Valorant Champions 2022 in Istanbul, Turkey.
This decentralization of esports tournaments will allow the industry to continue its growth and reach new audiences, which in turn could increase its revenue streams by tapping into these new markets.
— Vignesh Raghuram, Supervising Editor, AFK Gaming
FaZe enters year-long partnership with Disney
FaZe Clan has entered a year-long partnership with Disney for a line of merchandise. The first of these will see Mickey Mouse getting a tech makeover, in a collection called “Mickey On The Grid.” It consists of t-shirts, sweatshirts and hats that include glow-in-the-dark embroidery, and will be available on May 28 - 29 at FaZe's pop-up store in Los Angeles—The Armory. The full merchandise line will be available online on the FaZe Shop beginning May 30, and is planned to be available through the end of the year.
Over the last 12 months, FaZe has significantly strengthened its position in the esports lifestyle segment, with this Disney deal being the latest announcement. The company previously partnered and successfully launched merchandise collaborations with sporting giants such as the Los Angeles Kings, Manchester City FC, keyboard company Ducky, and anime brand Naruto: Shippuden.
This is not Disney’s first foray into the lifestyle segment of the esports industry. Prior to this, Team Liquid had collaborated with Marvel for a series of superhero-themed apparel featuring major IPs such as Spideman, the Avengers, X-Men, and more. However, this is the first time that the iconic Mickey Mouse has found itself on a gaming organization’s merchandise.
Key Takeaway: Many of FaZe Clan’s recent headlines have been focused around various scandals and financial struggles, but the fact remains that the esports organization has penetrated popular culture at a scale no other brand in the industry can match. Disney has clearly placed a greater emphasis on gaming in recent years between its previous Evo coverage, gaming-focused cable shows, and much more. While it may seem shocking to some in the industry that pay more attention to Faze’s more controversial attributes, the appeal for Disney to leverage a brand popular with both kids and sports stars is quite clear.
ESL’s Snapdragon Pro Series makes its way into India
ESL’s Snapdragon Pro Series will debut in India, and feature Brawl Stars, Clash of Clans, and Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI) tournaments in its inaugural season. The mobile esports series will take place from May to October, according to Snapdragon Pro Series’ social media handles.
The series will kick off with a Clash of Clans tournament that is scheduled to take place from June to July, and features a $50K USD prize pool. It will take place in four phases— three online rounds followed by a LAN finals. Details about the BGMI and Brawl Stars tournaments are yet to be announced, but they’re expected to take place in July and October, respectively.
The featured titles for the Snapdragon Pro Series India are a little different from what we’ve seen in other regions. BGMI has replaced PUBG Mobile in India, since the latter is banned in the country. The reasons behind Free Fire’s exclusion is also relatively straightforward, since it has been banned within the country since February. League of Legends: Wild Rift remains unreleased in India, so that title is also excluded from Snapdragon Pro Series’ list of competitions.
Key Takeaway: Mobile gaming remains in a somewhat odd spot in the esports space. Despite its overwhelming popularity in many regions including India, much of the industry still regards the entirety of mobile as its own gaming genre rather than a complete ecosystem on par with PC esports. Although ESL’s new mobile initiative is built on some of that framework, the Snapdragon Pro Series clearly looks to invest in the regions that have already embraced mobile esports.
Free Fire parent SEA Games has declared its Q1 financial results for 2022. According to the company, it recorded a GAAP revenue of $1.1B for its digital entertainment unit, up 45.3% year-on-year. However, quarterly active users dropped to 615.9M from 648.8M for the first quarter of 2021.
Electronic Arts could be looking to sell or merge its company, according to subscription news service Puck. The Apex Legends and Madden NFL publisher recently sought to merge with NBCUniversal, but the deal fell apart over price. The company was also reportedly holding talks with potential buyers which include Disney, Apple, and Amazon.
Dota 2's The International 2021 has been awarded a Sports Emmy in the ‘Most Outstanding Esports Championship Coverage’ category. Prior to this, Riot Games won the past two iterations of this award for its League of Legends World Championships 2020 and 2019.
Chinese livestreaming platform Kuaishou has acquired the media rights for ESL’s CS:GO tournaments, which includes Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) Rio 2022, the next CS:GO major. According to Sports Business Journal’s sources, Kuaishou purchased the broadcasting rights of these events from Huya, so both Kuaishou and Huya can share the Chinese broadcasting rights.
Luxury apparel and accessories company Gucci has collaborated with esports platform FACEIT to launch the Gucci Gaming Academy, a new initiative that aims to scout, develop, and support up-and-coming players hand-picked from FACEIT Pro League. The World Health Organization is also involved and will be looking to lend its expertise to support gamers by improving their gameplay while prioritizing health and safety.
Excel has revamped its leadership structure by moving Esports Director Tim Reichert to the role of chief operating officer and Oskar Sisi from the role of creative director to the role of marketing and brand director going forward. The company has also launched a new 5,660 square foot gaming facility, dubbed the “XL HQ,” in central London.
Envy Gaming has signed Oakley as its exclusive eyewear partner and will be featured on its players’ gear during matches and streams. As a result, OpTic Halo, OpTic Valorant, and OpTic Texas—from the Call of Duty league, will all feature Oakley as a jersey sponsor.