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Luxury Fashion Brands Get Into Gaming And Play It Right

At first thought, fashion and gaming may seem like an unlikely duo. But if the fashion industry were to ensure it continues to be accessible and relevant in every way possible, it would seem almost ignorant to cash in on the gaming trend as esports becomes more mainstream. 

The COVID-19 lockdown has led to an acceleration of various trends. And perhaps this is why the convergence of both industries may not come as a surprise, as more and more major fashion houses and fast-fashion giants want in on a piece of that gaming pie. Besides, with thousands of gamers in the virtual world, what better place than that to reach out to potential customers. If you can’t flaunt it in real life, you do so online by dressing your avatar in new skins, clothing, and accessories from various brands. What’s more, these fashion brands would also be able to reach out to a much younger audience, a group that is relatively harder to get to. 

But before we get into the subject itself, let’s have a look at the numbers. According to research firm Newzoo, the online gaming industry generated approximately US$138.7 billion in sales last year, and is most likely to rake in US$159.3 billion this year — that’s about a 10% growth! And by next year, this is likely to exceed US$180 billion. Now here’s something more interesting. If you were expecting teen boys to constitute the bulk of mobile game users, you’re sorely mistaken. Because 63 per cent of them are women. That’s right. And according to a marketing report by Liftoff, female gamers are 79 per cent more likely to make an in-app purchase than their male counterparts. A research from Mindshare has also shown that over half of esports fans are millennials, a generation that is reaching their prime spending years. So whether it’s a small in-game purchase or for the whole gaming experience, the esports industry has definitely proven to be a viable avenue for fashion brands to get to potential customers, and convert them into loyal clients.

In all honesty, you would probably have seen this coming. Some 20 years ago, fashion brands were already making their foray into the gaming industry, and exploring this territory by venturing into games like ‘The Sims’. Or just like how Moschino and Diesel opened virtual boutiques in ‘Second life’ in the early 2000s.

Louis Vuitton recently entered a partnership with US-based developer Riot Games, the business behind the famous ‘League of Legends’ online championship which saw 100 million global e-spectators watch its finale last November. All it took for the French fashion house to ensure maximum visibility was for its Creative Director, Nicolas Ghesquière, to design an outfit for one of the characters in the game during the finale.

And most recently, on March 20 in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Japan’s Nintendo launched ‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons’, a social simulation game that invites its players to control digital avatars live on paradise islands and indulge in various sorts of peaceful activities including gardening, DIY, fishing, and even having picnics with neighbours. In just a span of a few weeks, it sold over 10 million units and became the star game of the lockdown.

With increased possibilities for customisation and dressing up your avatar, it certainly didn’t take much to lure fashion brands to Animal Crossing. It’s in-game ‘Pro Designs’ function allows users to make their own outfits by reproducing the trendiest pieces from brands like Prada, Gucci, Chanel, Dior, and even streetwear labels like Stüssy and Supreme.

This surge in creativity spilled over to social media, with players creating dedicated profiles just to share their outfits. One such example that capitalised on this want for fashion-savvy avatars is Nook Street Market, recreating looks from luxury labels like Chanel, Off-White, Vivienne Westwood, and Fendi. This buzz prompted brands including Valentino, Marc Jacobs, and many others to offer their own designs to Animal Crossing players — offering them the ability to access virtual clothing and accessories for free via special codes which can be obtained from Instagram stories.

And it doesn’t really matter that the in-game outfits are simplified, and without details. Perhaps what’s fascinating is how these luxury labels are still able to command desirability even in the virtual world, making the gaming industry a viable way for brands to reach out to a new clientele, and even strengthen relationships with their pre-existing fans.

In recent years, designer labels like Burberry and Gucci have even created their own games. Similarly, Italy’s LUISAVIAROMA has also just launched the ‘Mod4’ application, which gamifies the shopping experience. ‘Client players’ are invited to create their own avatar, browse items offered by the store, and take part in contests with other players.

Perhaps this is part of the new normal, an increasingly virtual world that has forced fashion to switch from e-commerce, digital showrooms, and even online fashion weeks, to the gaming industry, a new territory with immense potential for its businesses to diversify.

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Culture Games

For ****’s Sake, Call of Duty League, Stop Fining Players

Call of Duty League’s recent clampdowns on so-called profanities violate the very conventions of free speech.

Censorship within games is not unheard of. From time to time, both casual and professional gamers are banned from in-game chats for cursing excessively. But censorship that extends to and infringes on personal vocalisations are justifiably rare.

Therefore, it comes as a surprise to find out that Call of Duty League (CDL) has been imposing fines on players who spoke out harshly against Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.

As a former Modern Warfare player myself, I am not convinced by these accusations. I first started playing the game on my Mac desktop in late 2011 when my father bought it as my birthday present. The online multiplayer community was thoroughly wholesome and generally innocuous during typed or voice chats. Even when there were vulgarities, they were few and far between the usual banter. Compared to games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, and DotA 2, Call of Duty has a decently clean track record of swear words.

Maybe I’m just liberal. But terms like “trash” and “one of the worst CoDs ever made” barely constitute anything remotely vulgar. If Seth ‘Scump’ Abner, who has the second most major tournament wins in the history of Call of Duty and has competed professionally in other Call of Duty franchise installments (Ghosts, Advanced Warfare, etc.) wants to voice his opinions candidly in a livestream, it’s ultimately his right to do so. Why should CDL fine him for it? After all, it could have at least tried to be a little humbler by seriously considering his genuine (albeit extremely forthcoming) feedback.

Let’s backtrack to early October last year. Call of Duty: Mobile had just been released when Reddit users brought to light the game’s profanity filter. They reported “blocking of all words related to war”. Under this filter, words such as “boom”, “sniper”, “Jesus”, and “kill” were blocked from chat. Ironically, expletives were, at most, only partially censored.

Call of Duty’s mindset can be summed up in one word: hypocritical. Yes, the game’s developers are hypocrites who plan to water down a violent game into a Fortnite-esque one aimed at children aged around 12, while secretly using their conservative, kid-friendly stance to suppress dissent. Violence is violence and gore is gore. And where there is blood, there is bound to be blood-pumping rage and anger-fuelled vulgarities. This is the target audience of all Call of Duty games. Pretending that this hasn’t always been the case and penalising players for ‘profanities’ is akin to playing Silent Hill and bitterly suing its developers for its graphic scenes and immensely terrifying monsters: you should have known what you were getting into in the first place.

Besides, those accused of obscenities were actually giving relevant feedback on in-game issues like “confusing Modern Warfare spawns” and being “kicked out from the game” after changing class.

Call of Duty League’s inaugural season was only launched at the start of this year in late January and has, within the span of only five months, already gone on a fining spree of its top participants. But despite its widespread efforts to silence its dissenters, some of them have chosen to continue speaking out against it until the aforementioned issues are rectified. In a reply to Scump, Sam ‘Octane’ Larew, a fellow competitor from Seattle Surge, stubbornly affirmed that he would “pay to speak” his “mind” because CDL had robbed him of a year’s worth of money.

So far, neither the affected players nor CDL has disclosed the amounts of the imposed fines.

Free speech is an essential civil liberty that applies to the citizens of the esports world. As such, CDL was absolutely wrong to punish players for speaking out against it in secular settings (i.e., in non-competitive environments). The same couldn’t be said if such comments had been made during live matches, though. But whatever the case, I am strongly in favour of those who have been persecuted and silenced into oblivion (players like Octane and Skrapz have since deleted their offending tweets) and feel that CDL’s militant approach will only steer serious players away from participating in its future competitive seasons.

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Culture Events

Enthusiast Gaming Acquires Omnia Media, Increasing Its Total Reach To 300 Million Gamers

Enthusiast Gaming Holdings Inc. announced on Thursday, 6 August 2020, that it has
acquired Los Angeles based Omnia Media for approximately CAD $45 million in both cash and stock. The new agreement will bring Enthusiast Gaming’s total monthly reach to 300 million video games and esports fans as they expect to close the transaction during the third quarter of 2020.

The company has entered a binding share purchase agreement to acquire 100% of the issued and outstanding shares of Omnia Media from Blue Ant Media Solutions. The deal consists of a purchase price of CAD $11 million in cash, 18.25 million shares of Enthusiast Gaming, and a vendor-take-back note with a value of CAD $5.75 million.

The deal is said to be a bargain find for Enthusiast Gaming, which has previously taken up 12 gaming companies in the past 3 years. The organisation paid US $20 million to acquire The Sims Resource which is infamous for being one of the largest female gaming destinations around the world.

Omnia Media is a YouTube gaming network that shares premium, original content to its followers. Its platform is one of the most highly visited and subscribed-to channels for video game related content. The network produces over 30 weekly shows and represents more than 500 gaming influences.

The organisation reaches over 90 million unique viewers and boasts a significant U.S market inventory that consists of over 1,000 channels, 500 million subscribers and 3.2 billion monthly total video views. It saw an approximate revenue of $60 million for a one year period that started from August 2018.

In an interview with Forbes, Adrian Montgomery – CEO of Enthusiast gaming – mentioned that “gaming is the new social network”. The newly signed deal will breathe life into a new platform that will have more touch points with its audiences than any other gaming company which is active in North America.

Additionally, this arrangement positions Enthusiast Gaming as an industry leader towards advertising agencies and popular brands that are looking to target the Gen Z and millennial generations.

It has been reported that the company has been operating at a loss as records show a
long-term debt of CAD $20.6 million, a quarterly loss of CAD $5.6 million and a cumulative deficit of CAD $84.5 million. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has also caused the entire industry to take a huge hit revenue wise, due to cancelled spectator events this year. The effects are anticipated to negatively impact the industry’s expected earnings of 2021 as well.

Despite all these events, Enthusiast Gaming is positive in its spirits. In fact, the organisation has future acquisitions in the pipeline too. They attributed the reason to having seen a 30% increase in users across its platforms since the unexpected hit by the pandemic.

CEO of Blue Ant, Michael MacMilllan, commented “We are delighted to share that Omnia Media will be joining Enthusiast Gaming, a move that will solidify Omnia’s bright future with the scale and access Enthusiast provides as a publicly traded company. This transaction is an exciting, new way for Blue Ant to continue its investment in the esports market”.

As a result of the arrangement, Blue Ant is expected to own about 18% of Enthusiast
Gaming upon its completion. Blue Ant will also be entitled to nominate a director to the board of directors of Enthusiast Gaming. As per the conditions, Blue Ant’s ability to resell the other party’s shares will be restricted for one year too.

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Culture Games

Dethroning Twitch: How an Eminent Streamer Defied the Status Quo

Dr Disrespect has wooed many fans with his sleek moustache and over-the-top taunts.

“I’m the two-time, back-to-back — 1993, 1994 — Blockbuster Video Game champion.” were the words of a man who was once the Face of Twitch. However, ever since his June 26 ban, Herschel “Guy” Beahm, or more famously known through his online persona, Dr Disrespect, has been looking elsewhere to conduct his livestreams.

His fan base has stayed on firmly by his side notwithstanding. In fact, his Youtube stream, which had gone live at around 4.30 am SGT on August 7, amassed an audience of over 340,000 active viewers within an hour of “going live”. To put this into perspective, within just 1 hour, the number of views his livestream garnered was approximately 16.6% of his Youtube channel’s total subscriber count.

His fans are surely excited about his long-awaited comeback after he finally broke his silence earlier last month. Times are definitely changing and even Twitch cannot deny this.

Rumour has it that Dr Disrespect will be making Youtube his mainstay for streaming. And there is some weight to this hefty claim. After all, he isn’t the first to depart from Twitch. According to Quartz, two of Twitch’s “top streamers”, “Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins” and “Michael ‘Shroud’ Grzesiek”, “left Twitch for Mixer” in 2019.

As of now, Dr Disrespect’s options are wide open and there is no telling where he might end up for good. For all we know, Youtube might very well be merely an interim solution to the sudden void caused by his loss of partnership with Twitch, especially since he has a huge following on the video-sharing platform.

Meanwhile, streamers such as Tyler “Tyler1” Steinkamp and Timothy “TimTheTatman” John Betar — the former being Dr Disrespect’s main rival while the latter being his former Twitch-streaming buddy — were among the top 10 streamers that captivated the masses in July.

The status quo for Twitch has always been ‘for the streamers, by the streamers’ — at least since late last year when it underwent a major reformation.

Rebranding

In September 2019, Twitch redrew and optimized its extruded logo at the pixel level and developed it into a “new, two-tone” one “designed for co-branding with their streamers”. The development of its new logo culminated in “a three-tone animated rainbow gradient” which symbolises “Twitch and everyone who is part of it”. As an added gesture, “each streamer” would be allowed to “choose their own color scheme” on the “landing page”.

If you were to visit its official brand website, you would notice something fascinating at once: you are guided along a scroll path that explains to you why it decided to undergo its rebranding process, eventually ending at a video which explains to you its mission.

Marketing and Outreach Campaigns

Apart from being the home of esports, Twitch has “recently hired former Spotify exec Sunita Kaur as its managing director for APAC” and improved “its sales teams” for both “South East Asia” as well as “the Oceanic region”.

Moreover, the company strives to become synonymous with a “live, interactive, personality and content-based, community-driven video platform where anyone can play a role in creating the moment”, by “working with brands” in “the APAC region” to ensure “the experience lands in an authentic and meaningful way to Twitch’s communities”.

Lastly, with the occurrence of the COVID-19 “pandemic”, Twitch has found relief in that “new artists are turning to” it “to find community now that touring has paused”.

What will Twitch’s Q3 2020 look like — will Facebook Gaming and Youtube Gaming Live steal the show?

Will Twitch’s aforementioned efforts prove sufficient to cement its edge over Facebook Gaming and Youtube Gaming Live in Q3 2020?

Highly likely — provided its shortcomings do not get the better of it.

Despite its total streaming hours rising sharply by “58.7%” from Q1 to Q2 (2020), it has also been set back by a slew of copyright infringement “takedown notices”, “allegations of gender-based discrimination, harassment and sexual assault”, and its poor “ad revenue” generation.

Simultaneously, Facebook Gaming has been given a fortuitous leg up by Microsoft Mixer’s planned transition of existing “partners and streamers” to the former streaming platform.

But this also implies a potential positive externality, albeit to a smaller extent, of both streamers and viewers migrating to Youtube and Twitch as well.

The fact remains that Twitch still dominates the leaderboard with a 67.6% market share and is therefore unlikely to be dethroned anytime soon. But then again, partnerships can crumble as easily as streamers migrating from one streaming platform to another. And history has taught us that crowds follow wherever their leaders go.

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Culture Games International

Chess as an Esport: Conservatism Versus Progression

Chess Grandmaster, Hikaru Nakamura, has finally opened the floodgates to the online streaming community.

The Controversy

Chess has always been a tabletop board game. From Bobby Fischer’s “The Game of the Century” to Garry Kasparov’s historic defeat by IBM supercomputer, Deep Blue, it has stood its ground against the digitalisation of board games competitions.

However, just three months ago, Hikaru Nakamura, currently in 18th place in the Fédération Internationale des Échecs (FIDE) August 2020 list of top 100 players, stirred up a controversy with a fellow chess streamer by the name of Ben Finegold.

Previously, Hikaru had decided to reach out to popular gaming streamers like BoxBox and xQc to teach them and, hopefully, rekindle an interest in chess among the younger generations. But Ben, who is also a chess Grandmaster, conducted a live stream, two weeks later, in which he openly criticised Hikaru’s decision to expose chess to “negative talent”.

And how did Hikaru respond to this?

Just three days later, he tweeted to publicly thank all the streamers who had been receptive to his attempt to teach them chess.

Then, moistcr1tikal, better known as penguinz0 on Youtube, issued a video on this whole saga in which he denounced Ben’s attitude as a form of “elitism” and “gatekeeping”. In fact, to show his support for Hikaru’s cause, he even decided to let Hikaru coach him in chess.

Chess.com soon jumped onto the bandwagon and organised PogChamps, a two-week chess competition from June 5 to June 19, which invited 16 top Twitch streamers to “compete for their share of a $50,000 prize fund”. Of course, Hikaru was chosen to be the commentator throughout the entire competition.

What are the Experts’ Take on Promoting Chess to Online Streamers?

FIDE Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, David Llada, echoed penguinz0’s sentiment by stating that the chess world lives in “perpetual endogamy” and that there has been very little effort to reach out to “new audiences”. Hence, he suggested that PogChamps would be a great “initiative” to send “a message to a huge audience, showing how easy it is to learn the game, but how difficult it is to master it”.

Furthermore, he added that there was a need for “more PogChamps” and “celebrity tournaments”.

However, Stefan Löffler, the features editor of ChessTech, strongly disagreed with David, firmly stating, “Letting beginners play for an audience is something one should never do.” He also likened PogChamps to a “trash” reality TV show and accused it of allowing its participants to join solely “for attention, publicity and a handful of cash”.

According to Stefan, “chess” is a game that “takes years of play and study” in order to “occasionally produce a game that is worth seeing”. In other words, he was suggesting that “Chess.com” should have reformatted PogChamps to develop its participants’ critical-thinking skills and problem-solving abilities through “mini games” and “Puzzle Rush exercises of the simpler variety”, before finally progressing to the final stage of a “normal chess game” to be played “in a cool, gamified display as gamers and their fan audience are used to”.

A Precedent Has Been Set and There is No Turning Back Now

In late July, Chess.com announced that it would be hosting yet another online chess tournament, PogChamps 2, from August 21 to September 6. The released lineup includes former PogChamps contestant, xQc, as well as famous Icelandic strongman and Game of Thrones actor, Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson.

Like the first PogChamps, its sequel will involve participants “competing” for a total of “$50,000 in prizes”.

Hikaru recently tweeted this in expectance of PogChamps 2:

From the looks of it, the digitalisation of chess tournaments is quickly gaining traction despite the lingering hate from chess gatekeepers and traditionalists alike — a new age of chess is in the making and we are all bearing witness to it right now.

Categories
Culture People

Chennai’s Teen Racing Dream Kickstarted From Esports

Pexels

The global pandemic has certainly been quite a journey for everyone around the world. But, just with everything else, there is always a silver lining to the whole situation. If you take a step back and look at it from a wider perspective, there might be some good in it.  For 16 years old, Amith Kutti, this is definitely the case.

The unprecedented lockdown has given him the big break he needed in the gaming industry — something that might not have happened if lockdown did not take place.

The youngster from Chennai is not only making a name for himself in the virtual world but is also finally realising his dreams of becoming a professional real-life racer.

His unmatched skills have already gotten the like and approval from Narain Karthikeyan, India’s first F1 driver. The keen youngster will also be testing for NK Racing Academy, which has recently secured a deal with Ultimate E.

The collaboration between Ultimate E and NK Racing Academy will create a pathway for the best Esports-racing driver to break into a career in motorsports.

Founder of NK Racing Academy, Mr Karthikeyan said, “In the first edition of this collaboration, we have decided to sign up Amith Kutti who has excelled in multiple Esports league and has easily come on top as the fastest gamer in India.”

At just 16 years old, Amith currently holds the title of defending champion in Mumbai Falcons’ Indian eRacing Championship. On 28 July 2020, the schoolboy dominated the competition, winning both the Pro races.

The Chennai boy fell in love with racing when he attended the Indian Grand Prix in Great Noida in 2012.

“When my dad took me to the race track, I was so fascinated watching the cars speed fast. I couldn’t stop talking about my experience to my friends, ” he explained.

After listening to his stories, one of his friends introduced him to Codemasters, a 2012 F1 video game. Since then, there was no looking back for the rising star that goes by the name ‘ImAMyth’ in the virtual world.

Just like any other parents, Amith’s parents wanted him to focus on his studies. But, lucky for him, his parents were open to the idea after he successfully convinced them.

In an interview done with Deccan Chronicle, he said: “I am lucky to have supportive parents. At first, they were not too happy with me but they saw my passion and their view started to change. They now see it as a sport instead of a hobby.”

Though new to the industry, Amith has created quite a buzz. He has been recognised as the fastest racer after clinching the win in the Speed Runs Championship held in Sri Lanka.

Early this year, the youngster took part in the Ultimate E’s all-star race, which has impressed Narain Karthikeyan and Arjun Maini, a 22-year-old race driver in India.

Amith, who is a fan of Sebastian Vettel said that the lockdown have given him the opportunity to train and race with a lot of experienced drivers.

Apart from racing, Amith also has a strong interest in aeronautical engineering and would be keen to pursue it, if the racing world doesn’t workout for him.

But by the looks of it, it will not be too long before the esports athlete takes on the racetrack and compete with top world athlete.