Twitch and NBA G League renew streaming partnership

TL;DR - Starting February 8 and running through the end of March, NBA G League matches will be broadcast live on Twitch every Friday and Saturday.  This season, every game will be eligible for co-streaming and all streamers can participate. The official G League extension received some love as well, with viewers now able to vote on an MVP for each match.

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Apex Legends posts exceptional viewership at launch

TL;DR - The latest hit battle royale title, published by Titanfall creator Respawn, peaked just shy of 500k viewers on Twitch this week.  While not quite putting up Fortnite numbers, it’s a strong opening for a new title in a very competitive genre. In the first 8 hours post-launch, the free-to-play game had already hit the 1 million unique player mark.  For perspective, just after its launch last October, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 peaked at nearly 450k viewers.

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China formally acknowledges esports as a profession

TL;DR - The country’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security has officially recognized “esports professional” and “esports operator” as professions within the country.  Aside from what you’d expect as a standard definition of these roles, the Ministry included account boosting in the job description for an esports professional - something many would take issue with.  It’s unclear why the Chinese government included boosting, but it’s official now!

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Twitch Rivals quick to embrace Apex Legends with new $200k competition

TL;DR - In a nod to how smoothly the release of Apex Legends has gone, Twitch announced its Twitch Rivals series will host a $200k tournament on Feb 12 and 19.  Sixteen squads of three players (48 in total) will compete to earn the most points over a 4-hour window. Match victories will result in five points, while kills will net players one point each.

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Epic extends Support-A-Creator program to full catalog

TL;DR - Epic’s wildly successful Support-A-Creator program has been extended to the company’s full catalog of games - no longer a Fortnite exclusive.  Any game in the Epic Games Store will be eligible, with would-be creators required to submit an application for review before being accepted. Epic is also giving developers an option to grant free licenses to creators as well as early access to upcoming titles.  Eligibility requires at least 1,000 followers “on any major social media platform” along with the above mentioned application.

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Layoffs may be coming to Activision Blizzard following Destiny loss

TL;DR - The poor performance of the Destiny 2 expansion, coupled with the company’s split with Bungie, has spooked investors so much that the company’s stock price has fallen by almost half since September of last year.  Amid this shake-up, there’s a restructuring rumored to be coming within the next 24 hours that may result in hundreds of layoffs. Contributing to the stock turmoil was the turnover of several senior leaders at Blizzard.  Meanwhile, most of their other titles are performing well enough, but there are no true standouts.

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In case you missed it…

It’s not news that going full-time with streaming means more than 40 hours per week like a “typical” 9-5 job.  There’s work to be done before stream and after stream - not to mention the hours that go into managing social media and content editing, etc.  It’s a lot. For those that compete at the pro level in esports, there’s that element to factor in as well.

Many former pro competitors have ditched the tournament circuit in favor of streaming for a myriad of reasons.  For one, the income can be more consistent. Another reason is the flexibility and control over one’s schedule. Not to mention there are only so many tournaments and only so much prize money.  With streaming, these same individuals can simply stream more hours if they want to go for more money. The only cost is their time.

A caveat to this that I’ve never seen anyone discuss is how that draw affects the pro scene.  As more pros realize they can parlay their fame and notoriety into a potentially successful streaming career, there’s a drain on the level of competitive talent available for tournaments.  And with Twitch (and others) getting more involved in their own esports, there’s little incentive for professional plays to seek events elsewhere.

The competitive Smash community is feeling this pain right now.  In an article written by Tim Masters at Luckbox, he explores how this trend is playing out for several pros in that scene.  The Smash community is a notoriously tight-knit group, but people need to make a living.  Incentives will naturally draw talent away and that’s something the community at large needs to address.  It’s not a big leap to say this could happen with any competitive title. Ninja was a former Halo professional and Shroud was a top tier Counter-Strike pro before retiring to stream full-time.

As we look at how streaming is disruptive across the board, it’s important to take note that it’s disruptive to some of the most foundational elements of gaming as well.  The solution isn’t clear right now, but we can’t put our heads in the sand either.