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Fortnite’s mystery ‘superstar’ virtual music tour kicks off next week

Epic Games is teasing the biggest in-game event since Travis Scott psychedelically stomped through Fortnite’s virtual meadows.
The mysterious new event, which Fortnite-maker Epic is calling the “Rift Tour,” will kick off on Friday, August 6 and run through Sunday, August 8. In the teaser announcement, Epic invites players to “take a musical journey into magical new realities where Fortnite and a record-breaking superstar collide.”

In-game events building up to the mystery show series will run from July 29 through August 8, so players can hop into Fortnite to check out new Rift Tour-themed quests and rewards now. The cotton-candy-colored event will offer …

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Electronic Arts buys mobile game studio Playdemic for $1.4 billion

Video game giant Electronic Arts is continuing to make M&A moves as it looks to bulk up its presence in the mobile gaming world.
Fresh off the $2.4 billion acquisition of Glu Mobile this past April, their biggest purchase to date, Electronic Arts announced Wednesday that they are buying Warner Bros. Games’ mobile gaming studio Playdemic for $1.4 billion in an all-cash deal. The Manchester studio is best known for its release “Golf Clash” which the studio boasts has more than 80 million downloads globally.
The rather ominously-named startup is being jettisoned to its new home ahead of the $43 billion WarnerMedia-Discovery deal …

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Twitch introduces Animated Emotes for their 10th anniversary

Twitch announced today that they will release major updates to their Emotes this month to celebrate their 10th anniversary. These new features will include Animated Emotes, Follower Emotes, and a Library for Emotes. 
Since the origin of the live streaming platform for gamers, Emotes – Twitch’s version of emojis – have been a key component of Twitch culture. They’re micro memes, and images like Kappa, TriHard, and PogChamp have come to carry meaning in the greater gaming world, even off the Twitch platform. 
“Emotes are a language that transcends countries,” said Ivan Santana, Senior Director of Community Product at Twitch. “ …

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The gaming industry needs more than just coders

Josh Vesely
Contributor

While the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on countless businesses across the globe, the $118 billion gaming industry not only survived, it thrived, with 55% of American consumers turning to gaming for entertainment, stress relief, relaxation and a connection to the outside world amid lockdowns.
This drove a 20% boost in gaming sales globally and created nearly 20,000 jobs in 2020 alone. And it’s not expected to stop any time soon: According to research company IBISWorld, the industry is set to grow again in 2021, adding to the year-over-year growth the industry has seen in the preceding half-decade.
This is …

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Niantic announces partnership with Nintendo on new augmented reality ‘Pikmin’ title

Nearly five years after the launch of Pokémon Go, Niantic announced Monday that they are partnering with Nintendo to co-develop a new title based on the company’s Pikmin franchise.
Niantic says the app is being developed in their Tokyo office and will launch later this year.
“The app will include gameplay activities to encourage walking and make walking more delightful,” a press release from Niantic reads. The company notably specifies that the title will make use of their augmented reality platform to integrate the real world into the app’s experiences.
Pokémon Go has fallen out of headlines but …

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How Roblox’s creator accelerator helps the gaming giant build new platform opportunities

As Roblox eyes what could be a historic debut on public markets in the coming months, investors who have valued the company at $29.5 billion are certainly eyeing the gaming company’s dedicated and youthful user base — but it’s the 7 million active creators and developers on the Roblox platform that they are likely most impressed by. 
Since 2015, Roblox has been running an accelerator program focused on enabling the next generation of game developers to be successful on its platform. Over the years, the program has expanded from one annual class to now three, each with around 40 developers participating. That means …

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Chinese esports player VSPN closes $60M Series B+ round to boost its international strategy

Esports “total solutions provider” VSPN (Versus Programming Network) has closed a $60 million Series B+ funding round, joined by Prospect Avenue Capital (PAC), Guotai Junan International and Nan Fung Group.
VSPN facilitates esports competitions in China, which is a massive industry and has expanded into related areas such as esports venues. It is the principal tournament organizer and broadcaster for a number of top competitions, partnering with more than 70% of China’s esports tournaments.
The “B+” funding round comes only three months after the company raised around $100 million in a Series B funding round, led by Tencent Holdings.
This funding round …

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How Niantic evolved Pokémon GO for the year no one could go anywhere

Pokémon GO was created to encourage players to explore the world while coordinating impromptu large group gatherings — activities we’ve all been encouraged to avoid since the pandemic began.
And yet, analysts estimate that 2020 was Pokémon GO’s highest-earning year yet.

By twisting some knobs and tweaking variables, Pokémon GO became much easier to play without leaving the house.

Niantic’s approach to 2020 was full of carefully considered changes, and I’ve highlighted many of their key decisions below.
Consider this something of an addendum to the Niantic EC-1 I wrote last year, where I outlined things like the company’ …

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Tencent leads $100M Series B funding round into China-based esport provider VSPN

Further confirmation that the esports market is booming amid the pandemic comes today with the news that esports ‘total solutions provider’ VSPN (Versus Programming Network) has raised what it describes as ‘close to’ $100 million in a Series B funding round, led by Tencent Holdings . Other investors that participated in the round include Tiantu Capital, SIG (Susquehanna International Group), and Kuaishou. The funding round will go towards improving esports products and its ecosystem in China and across Asia.

Founded in 2016 and headquartered in Shanghai, VSPN was one of the early pioneers in esports tournament organization and content creation out of Asia. It has since expanded into other businesses including offline venue operation.

In a statement, Dino Ying, CEO of VSPN (see also our exclusive interview) said: “We are delighted to announce this latest round of funding. Thanks to policies supporting Shanghai as the global center for esports, and with Beijing, Chengdu, and Xi’an expressing confidence in the development of esports, VSPN has grown rapidly in recent years. After this funding round, we look forward to building an esports research institute, an esports culture park, and further expanding globally. VSPN has a long-term vision and is dedicated to the sustainable development of the global esports ecosystem.”

Dino Ying, VSPN CEO

Mars Hou, general manager of Tencent Esports, commented: “VSPN’s long-term company vision and leading position in esports production are vital for Tencent to optimize the layout of the esports industry’s development.”

We had a hint that Tencent might invest in VSPN when, in March this year, Mark Ren, COO of Tencent Holdings, made a public statement that Tencent would provide more high-quality esports competitions in conjunction with tournament organizers like VSPN.

As we observed in August, Tencent, already the world’s biggest games publisher, that it would consolidate Douyu and Huya, the previously competing live-streaming sites focused on video games.

In other words, Tencent’s investment into VSPN shows it is once again doubling-down on the esports market.

This Series B funding round comes four years after VSPN’s 2016 Series A funding round, which was led by Focus Media Network, joined by China Jianteng Sports Industry Fund, Guangdian Capital, and Averest Capital.

Now, VSPN has become the principal tournament organizer and broadcaster for PUBG MOBILE international competitions, and China’s top competitions for Honor of Kings, PUBG, Peacekeeper Elite, CrossFire, FIFA, QQ Speed, and Clash Royale. This will tally-up 12,000 hours of original content. The company has partnered with over 70% of China’s esports tournaments.

In March, another huge esports player, ESL, joined forces with Tencent to become a part of the PUBG Mobile esports circuit for 2020.

In addition to its core esports tournament and content production business, VSPN has branded esports venues in Chengdu, Xi’an, and Shanghai. In May, VSPN launched its first overseas venue, V. SPACE in Seoul, South Korea.

And even offline events are coming back. VSPN hosted the first large-scale esport event with offline audiences in August this year. And the LOL S10 event will open 6,000 tickets. However, all tournaments will operate under strict COVID-19 prevention measures and approval processes by the Chinese government, and not all esports events are allowing offline audiences. In the main, only high-level ones are approved.

VSPN said it will continue to focus on building an esports short-form video ecosystem, improving the quality of esports content creation, and reaching more users via different channels. VSPN currently houses more than 1,000 employees in five business divisions.

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Cloud9 adds the MAJKL Valorant roster to create Cloud9 White as its first women’s esports team

Cloud9 has brought on the all-women MAJKL Valorant squad to become its first women’s esports team.

Moving forward the team of Alexis “alexis” Guarrasi, Annie “Annie” Roberts, Jasmine “Jazzyk1ns” Manankil, Katsumi, and Melanie “meL”Capone will compete as Cloud9 White in competition for Riot Games’ Valorant league.

The new team is sponsored by AT&T.

As MAJKL, the team has already won first place in the FTW Summer Showdown tournament — a part of the Valorant Ignition Series. That $25,000 prize put the team as the sixth highest paid team on the competitive circuit.

“What stood out to me about MAJKL is that they had to work hard to perfect their play, find each other, and then compete as a unit,” said Gaylen Malone, Senior General Manager of Cloud9, in a statement. “They are a talented group of women who came together with the goal of being the best at the game and were committed to doing what it took to get there, and watching their improvement over just the past few months has been incredible.”

Competitive esports should be one place where women and men can compete on equal footing, but the league is still subject to the same problems that beset other competitive events. Few women are members of the elite teams in eSports. Competitors like FaZe Clan (which is sponsored by TechCrunch’s parent company’s parent company, Verizon) only has one girl on their Fortnite roster.

“Our goal is to not only provide value to gamers with AT&T’s products and services, but to also contribute to real, meaningful change in the industry by giving this powerhouse team and other talented women what they need to succeed,” said Shiz Suzuki, associate vice president, sponsorships & experiential marketing, AT&T, in a statement. “We can’t wait to tell their stories and see the best of the best represent Cloud9 and AT&T on some of the world’s largest stages.”

Female gamers experience the same kind of harassment and unequal treatment that women in other sports are subjected to.

“A lot of female gamers get driven away, and they don’t want to be seen as gamers,” Madison “Maddiesuun” Mann told the online publication ShondaLand. “I remember in high school, I was pretty insecure about it. I didn’t tell anybody I played video games until I graduated — it’s just that weird insecurity.”

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