AFK Weekly: Halo Esports is Back With a Bang
Hello everyone! First and foremost, Happy holidays to all of our readers celebrating Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Christmas. As we wind down 2021 and look ahead to bigger stories in 2022, Esports Business Insights from AFK Gaming needs your input and feedback to help us grow and continue providing more exciting stories and insights on the biggest developments in the industry. Please fill out our reader feedback survey and let us know how we can best serve you in the new year.
With that out of the way, here’s a breakdown of this week’s most impactful and important esports business news and more in the latest edition of Esports Business Insights by AFK Gaming.
- Vignesh Raghuram, Supervising Editor, AFK Gaming
Opinion: Halo Esports is Back!
Anyone who paid even a little attention to the Halo Championship Series 2021: Kickoff Major over the past weekend would agree that Halo esports is back and it's a pretty big deal. After three days of high level competition before a live audience in Raleigh, North Carolina, Cloud9 was crowned the very first Halo Infinite Champion, taking home around $140K USD. By all accounts the first LAN event for 343 Industries' Halo Infinite was a smashing success, even though the first day was fraught with some technical difficulties. Even as those problems surfaced and were dealt with by esports production company Esports Engine on Friday, HCS viewership saw an average of 60 peak concurrent viewers. But as teams such as Cloud 9, G2 Esports, Optic Gaming, Kansas City Pioneers, FaZe Clan, Sentinels, eUnited, and others gave everything they had to make it to the final stage of the competition, peak concurrent viewership climbed to 250K, according to 343 Industries (and even more according to Esports Charts).
All of this is to say that Microsoft has a real opportunity here to turn Halo into a serious Tier 1 esport if it manages to do everything right throughout the remainder of the 2021-2022 season. The decision to make Halo Infinite multiplayer free-to-play laid the groundwork for this, but the real question is can Halo esports hold onto this early excitement until the end of 2022? Given that the game was just barely released, the buzz and hype for playing it and watching the best players in the world compete is at an all-time high right now. Halo is one of the biggest IPs in the world with an established fan base and has the ability out of the gate to pull in viewers who might not care about esports at all but are absolutely loyal to the series. More importantly, it's the kind of game that you watch and are inspired to play yourself (and maybe spend $60 on to get the single player experience).
So what can Microsoft/343 Industries do to accomplish this? The short answer is spend money on it, and find ways to enhance both the prize pools at these open qualifiers and Majors throughout the calendar and the revenue sharing that comes from the sale of in-game items with partnered teams. Microsoft has the money to burn if it believes in Halo esports; after all if it was willing to dump hundreds of millions of dollars to secure Ninja and other brand name streamers to join game streaming service Mixer only to abandon it altogether years later, then it should be willing to spend some capital to invest in something the community actually cares about. The first step to expand has already been announced - 343 plans to invite more major teams to the league beginning in February.
- James Fudge
Arena of Valor esports ups the ante in 2022 with $10M prize pool
Arena of Valor (AoV) announced its esports plans for 2022 on Sunday, revealing that the AoV 2022 World Cup would feature a $10M USD prize pool, making it the largest in mobile esports history. As a result, each team participating in the Arena of Valor World Cup is guaranteed $250K, with the winner taking home $3.5M in prize winnings.
TiMi Studios will also increase investment into the global esports ecosystem by adding new regional pro leagues to its esports circuit and revamping existing ones. In 2022, AoV esports will be split across five stages including open-for-all amateur tournaments, regional cups, pro leagues, the AoV International Championship, and the AoV World Cup.
The new structure will provide players and teams from various new regions (Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, North America, and South America) a path to professional play and the AoV World Cup. Content creators will also have a chance to compete in their own tournaments.
Garena, who runs the esports circuit of AoV in Southeast Asia, also revealed plans of “scaling up” its various pro leagues in 2022 with more teams being invited and higher prize pools.
Key Takeaway: AoV’s push to expand its esports scene comes at a time when its chief competitors Mobile Legends and Wild Rift are also aggressively growing their presence in the mobile esports market. The massive boost in prize pools and incentives for content creators could help the title establish itself as a significant presence in the market.
In the past, AoV did host esports tournaments in the west, but these were halted after the game failed to gather much attention with the game instead focusing its attention on its Chinese version of AoV, Honor of Kings (HoK). With Wild Rift and Pokemon Unite driving mobile MOBA adoption in the west, now could be the perfect time for AoV to try again.
HoK is one of the most successful esports titles in the world, operating a franchised league in China and generating $2.8B in global revenue, according to Sensor Tower. It will be interesting to see if this experience can help the publishers replicate HoK’s success in western markets.
Call of Duty studio responds to harassment problems at Activision Blizzard
Activision Blizzard development studio Treyarch is the latest to face allegations of sexual misconduct and discrimination against women. The Call of Duty developer issued a statement on Twitter Thursday promising that it will do better. "Our culture has no room for sexism, harrrasment, racism, bigotry, discrimination, or bullying," the statment said, in part, adding that the company will make a concerted effort to stamp out this kind of behavior and create a more inclusive enviornment for workers.
Orange Rock esports signs deal with Zebronics
Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI) esports organization OR Esports has signed a deal with Zebronics, naming the India-based gaming peripherals company as its official peripherals partner. OR will work with the company on marketing campaigns, social media initiatives, and other activations under the terms of the deal.
Bleed eSports raises $50.8M in new funding round
Singapore-based Bleed eSports announced that it has raised $50.8M from Asia Venture Capital in a new funding round. Under the terms of the deal Bleed (which competes primarily in Valorant) will give the investment firm the ability to pursue “direct-to-market” merchandise drops.
Immortals signs SPORTFIVE as exclusive global commercial sales agency
MiBR, Immortals Gaming Club, and Los Angeles Valiant owner Immortals has named marketing firm Sportfive its global commercial sales agency of record. The marketing firm, which in the past focused on partnerships with sports related properties, recently expanded its presence in North America and its focus on esports on the continent.
ESL announces Women’s CS:GO circuit with $500K Prize Pool
In 2022, ESL will host a new women's CS:GO circuit featuring a total prize pool of $500K. In addition to two online league seasons culminating in LAN finals, there will be several online cash cups, and a standalone tournament at DreamHack Valencia. ESL also announced a women players council and a female talent development program as part of this #GGFORALL initiative.
On the horizon
India finally has a significant title in the mobile MOBA space with the release of ‘Clash of Titans’ this week. The title, consisting of similarities to Arena of Valor’s artwork and gameplay, has the chance to claim a large portion of India’s mobile MOBA market with the absence of Mobile Legends (currently banned) and Wild Rift (unreleased) in it.
With BGMI tying in to PUBG Mobile’s esports circuit for the PUBG Mobile Global Championship, a precedent has already been established for Clash of Titans to tie into AoV’s expanding esports circuit in 2022. It will be interesting to see if India plays a pivotal role in AoV’s plan to disrupt the global mobile MOBA market.
People on the Move
As the esports industry settles in for a well-deserved holiday break, news related to hirings, promotions, and departures is pretty thin this week, but here is a rundown of the latest movements:
Longtime Blizzard veteran Martin Tegner has left the company after nearly 17 years. Tegner most recently served in the role of group product manager for Battle.net and online products.
RFRSH Entertainment and Astralis co-founder and CEO Nikolaj Nyholm is launching a new gaming company called Scattershot.
Alex Gonzalez has been promoted to the role of brand manager at gaming chair maker RESPAWN Products.
BLAST Senior Partnerships Manager Lewis Cardew has left the company and will join global gaming media company Kairos Group.
Mohammed Abdul Shukur has left esports production firm Todos Gamers to join Free Fire maker Garena as its new community engagement lead in India.
Ayoub Moumni announced that he has left his role at Moroccan esports organization Fox Gaming after nearly two years.
Chris Bergstresser has moved from being a non-executive director of tournament platform Mogul to an executive director role.
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