Weekly Business Report: Nexon’s Internal Restructuring, Ninja’s Leaving Twitch, and More

MMOGames Business Weekly Report is back to take a look at mobile gamer preferences for free to play games in China, the latest news from Nexon, Ninja leaving Twitch, and a few other topics relevant to the business side of making online games.

 

Automaton Games Shuts Down

Mavericks: Proving Grounds

Automaton Games, the folks who were behind the unreleased 1,000 man Battle Royale Mavericks: Proving Grounds, has shut down and in the process the game has died. In the announcement on their website, they cited a lack of funding as the reason for their sudden closure. Thankfully Improbable, the makers of SpatialOS, have said they will be trying to find places for Automaton employees in their company. Mavericks: Proving Grounds is actually the second SpatialOS game to meet its end in recent months leaving some to speculate that SpatialOS falling out with Unity earlier this year may have played a role. If that’s true, this might only be the beginning of SpatialOS related sunsets. MMOGames staff will be watching and will continue to bring updates in our weekly business report.

 

Source: MMOGames

 

Chinese Consumer Preferences

According to recently released research, over half of Chinese consumers prefer free to play or ad monetized games over premium titles. In fact, the research found that 61% of people prefer non-premium games. 85% reported they spend money on mobile games with 3% spending more than $50 (¥330) a month. In contrast, the average spending is just $5.80 a month. Those interviewed between the ages of 26 and 30 had the highest average spending at $10 a month.

The research also showed there is a high level of brand loyalty. 92% of respondents said they stick with a game for more than a week and 87% say they’ve played fewer than 5 different games in the previous month.

One challenge that developers face is how well divided the market’s stores are. In China, 30% of the market is using the App Store, 29% are using Tencent’s MyApp, and 26% use the Huawei app store. In the West we really only have Google Play or the App Store for mobile games.

It would be really interesting to see this same research completed in a few different Western countries to see how our views differ. I would personally much prefer to pay for a game or even pay a subscription for a game over being nickel and dimed to death by an in-game shop.

 

Source: Games Industry

 

Nexon Internal Merger Incoming

The last few months have been a wild ride for Nexon. First, their founder and CEO was putting the family’s stake in the business up for sale, worth between 9 to 11 billion dollars. After months of speculation that everyone from Disney to EA were interested in buying, it seems Kim Jung-ju may have simply decided not to sell. Of course, I’m sure a decision like that wasn’t made lightly. Following the release of this rumor, Nexon’s stock dropped resulting in a loss of up to 5%. Now we know that Nexon is reorganizing and merging their two core business units. No jobs are going to be lost in this internal restructuring, but the company is looking at getting rid of projects with low commercial value. They also hope that the restructuring will improve the company’s operating profits and increase its stock value. News of this restructuring started out as a rumor but was quickly confirmed by Nexon. It is set to take place sometime in August.

 

Source: MMOCulture

 

Ninja Leaves Twitch for Mixer

Ninja Fortnite

Ninja has announced that he will no longer be streaming on Twitch and is instead switching over to Microsoft’s Mixer platform. The specifics on this particular deal haven’t been released but last year he was making $500,000 a month streaming Fortnite on Twitch and a paid promotion deal with EA for Apex Legends got him $1 million, so it is safe to assume he got a pretty sweet deal. This marks a major shift for Twitch which has been seeing its growth slow over the last year.

Mixer has always been playing third fiddle to Twitch and Youtube but has also seen consistent growth. Last quarter it saw 119 million hours watched, an increase of 37% year on year. Ninja’s move to Mixer might be exactly the sort of push the platform needs to catch up to its two bigger competitors. However, Fortnite’s popularity, especially in streaming, has been on the decline. It is also possible that many of Ninja’s fans wont follow him to this different platform because they prefer Twitch. We can see an example of this in the industry already looking at people who refuse to play a game that hasn’t been released on Steam. Only time will tell how this transition actually goes.

 

Source: Games Industry

 

 

Zynga Eyes China

At one point in time just a few years ago Zynga was dominating the games industry. They were all we ever talked about it seemed like. Of course the days of Facebook games are long gone now, but that doesn’t mean Zynga is gone or that they’ve even slowed down. Zynga has been transitioning to a mobile game developer and having great success with it. They recently released Empires and Puzzles in Japan and Korea, the beginning of their strategy for expansion into the Asian market. Now they’re eyeing China.

In a call with GamesIndustry.biz Zynga COO Matt Bromberg said, “We are beginning to look at China for Empires & Puzzles as well, and as our portfolio continues to develop we have both Star Wars and the Harry Potter game on our slate for the future. When there are big global pieces of IP like that, which we think will resonate across Asia, we’re hopeful that will also help us expand there. We’re trying to take a measured approach to it, and learn as we go and make sure we have the right match of game and personnel on the ground and marketing strategy. When you get those lined up it can be terrific, but it is a complicated market and we’re still in learning mode.”

A complicated market is putting it lightly. Still, if they are successful in their push into China, they’ll be tapping into a mobile games industry with an estimated 586 million gamers.

 

Source: Games Industry

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Twitch Bought Bebo

Most of us remember Bebo as that other social media platform you were on besides Myspace and Facebook, back in the days before Twitter. It turns out they’re still kicking, much to everyone in this office’s surprise when we saw the news that Twitch bought Bebo.

What interest does Twitch have in a third rate social media platform? None at all actually. Bebo stopped being about social media after bankruptcy and has shifted its focus to being a High School esports company. After the bankruptcy, they rebranded to be a streaming service provider similar to Xsplit, but for esports and they currently, host a High School Fortnite league.

So it is really no wonder, now that you know all the details why Twitch took an interest in Bebo. The acquisition reported cost under $25 million and Discord was also bidding on the company. Based on Linkedin profiles of ex-Bebo employees it looks like all of this took place sometime this month. You can see the former CEO of Bebo now lists his job as Senior Director of Product, Esports at Twitch. With the acquisition Twitch picked up the 10 person staff that make up Bebo as well as the IP of Bebo, the social network company turned esports streaming company.

So, what is next for Bebo’s team and the Bebo platform? Only time will tell for sure, but right now it looks like they’re going to be working together on Twitch Rivals. As the company prepares to face competition from other streaming services in the near future.

 

Source: TechCrunch

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E3 2019: Dr Disrespect has Been Banned from E3 for Streaming in the Bathroom

In news that will make you ask WTF was he thinking, Dr. Disrespect has been banned from E3 for streaming in the bathroom. Not only has he been banned from E3 his Twitch account has vanished as well. Though it hasn’t been confirmed yet if he’s been banned from the platform. Ninja’s wife and manager Jessica Blevins tweeted without context “Doc’s channel got banned.” So while it hasn’t been confirmed, it seems pretty likely this is the case as he quite clearly violated Twitch’s rules. Oh, and he broke California law by live streaming in the bathroom. In California, cameras are illegal in the bathroom as they’re considered an invasion of privacy.

In the live stream, you could quite clearly see men and minors using urinals, completely oblivious to the fact that they’re being recorded. We won’t be linking to that or including any images for obvious reasons. At the time he entered the bathroom 60,000 people were watching his stream. Oh and because the internet the place that the internet is, there are people who don’t think it was a big deal and have started a hashtag in his honor, which again, we won’t be sharing.

Since this all took place yesterday Dr. Disrespect hasn’t been seen online. His twitter account hasn’t had any new activity on it and he hasn’t responded to any media requests. Today is a new day however so it is likely we will hear from him soon. When we do we will update this page with any new information.

For now though, the important things to know are that Dr. Disrespect live-streamed, illegally, in the bathroom at E3. The ESA has confirmed that his access to E3 has been revoked, just as E3 is properly getting started. Finally, his Twitch channel is no longer online and there has been no official word yet from Twitch.

 

Source: Kotaku, Twitter

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Apex Legends Beats Fortnite Viewership Record on Twitch

If you’ve been paying any attention to the gaming world for the last week you know that Apex Legends is the hot new thing. Well, when Apex Legends beats Fortnite for single-day viewership on Twitch then you know it’s worth taking a look at. This is exactly what happened on February 12th during the Twitch Rivals event. On that day Apex Legends was watched for 8.28 million hours. This beats Fortnite’s highest record by 1.2 million! Keep in mind, this happened just 8 days after Apex Legends launched.

To say that Apex Legends is a success would be a huge understatement. It only took the game 8 hours to get its first million unique players. By 72 hours old the game had more than 1 million concurrent players and 10 million lifetime players.

Apex Legends happened to come at exactly the right time. We’ve seen that Fortnite has been slowing down the last few months. There hasn’t been much growth month on month and there has been a lot of talk of boredom amongst players. So Apex Legends was a great place for those who weren’t entirely happy with Fortnite anymore. But, there is, of course, the question of if this kind of growth is sustainable or not. It’s all well and good to have 10 million lifetime players in the first week, but what is that number going to look like in a month? Two months? We’ll just have to wait and see.

In fact, since Apex Legends’ Valentine’s Day update which introduced some costly cosmetics, there have been a lot of voices of concern in the player base. Some of the weapon cosmetic items cost $10 which is quite high, too high for many people. Conversations are taking place across Twitter and Reddit expressing concern over the future of the game if cosmetics are going to continue to be so expensive. As a free to play game Apex Legends needs those sales, but they won’t get them if the price is too high. There’s also concern that ultimately Apex Legends is an EA game and EA doesn’t have a fantastic track record when it comes to monetization. For now, we can only hope that they realize the mistake quickly and fix it before it starts to damage the bottom line.

 

Source: Gamasutra, Kotaku

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Amazon Releases a GameOn Tournament Extension for Twitch

Watching people play games – multiplayer or otherwise – on Twitch is fun enough, but now there’s a little something from Amazon GameOn that hopes to bring viewers directly into the broadcast in a quick and easy way. The GameOn Tournament extension for Twitch lets broadcasters easily create live tournaments to bring folks into their livestreams in what could arguably be seen as a more meaningful way.

gameon tournament extension

The extension, specifically called GameOn Tournament Organizer, lets casters put together a live tournament in their chosen game with the selection of a few options and then open up said tournament to let viewers play along.

The extension currently only works on a select variety of GameOn-enabled titles, including battle royale title The Darwin Project and tactical RPG Tactical Monsters Rumble Arena among a few others. The extension should expand to other titles, with Devolver Digital’s survival MMO SCUM to next include integration of the Organizer.

The idea, according to the press release, is to drive up viewer engagement for the Twitch caster and ramp up impressions of participating games. “GameOn Tournament Organizer allows influencers and players to be more connected by actually playing the game together, which leads to more players downloading Tactical Monsters,” said Camex COO Michael Tseng. “With this extension, I will be able to keep a constant connection with my viewers,” reads FaZe Clan member Dirty’s testimonial.

Our Thoughts

The idea behind this particular extension is pretty interesting indeed, and having a way for streamers to fold their viewers into a live game definitely is a big draw. However, we would love to see this extension’s support grow to even bigger games. Ideally, work on that is being done to make that happen sooner rather than later.

Source: press release

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MMO Money: Guild Wars 2 Halts Belgium Gem Sale and China Blocks Twitch

Guild Wars 2 players in Belgium got quite a surprise this week as in-game purchases have been deactivated without warning. It isn’t clear yet if this was in error or not. China has continued their campaign against gaming this time blocking Twitch in most of the country. Finally, France has fined Steam and Uplay over their refund policies. Find all of that plus the UK’s gaming charts in this week’s MMO Money.

 

Guild Wars 2 In-Game Purchases Blocked in Belgium

Guild Wars 2 players from Belgium have been reporting both on the official forums and on Reddit that they are unable to buy gems to use in the in-game store. This prevents them from purchasing the keys required to open loot boxes but also prevents them from buying the latest armor, weapons, and mount skins. There are a few workarounds, however. The first is to purchase gems using in-game currency, and the other is to use a VPN to make it look like you’re in another country.

There was no official announcement from ArenaNet before this happened, but the community manager for Guild Wars 2 recently made this statement on the forums:

“In order to conform to changes in Belgian law, purchases of gems, the Ultimate Edition, and the Ultimate Edition upgrade have been disabled for residents of Belgium. We are continuing to investigate more flexible solutions. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause our players.”

Source: Guild Wars 2

 

Twitch Blocked in China

german twitch streamers

The crackdown on gaming by the Chinese government continues and this time it is Twitch who is feeling it head on. Twitch has been blocked in China, this coming after the streaming service saw a massive boost in watchers after the Asian Games last month. During that time it jumped up to the number 3 spot on the free apps charts. While no official statement has been made about the block it is assumed that this is either part of the crackdown on games or censorship of the app because anything could be seen on the service. There are still a few pockets of China where Twitch can be used but most of Mainland China cannot access the service. It isn’t clear why some areas still have access while others do not.

The block leaves Chinese audiences with few choices for watching gaming as Youtube, the second most popular game streaming service is blocked in all of China already. It would appear that for now at least, China is left without a place to watch gaming, which may be exactly what the government was hoping for. Twitch has confirmed that their service is blocked in China but in the statement offered no further information, including possible reasons why or if they’re attempting to work with the government to get it running again.

Source: Gamesindustry.biz

 

France Fines Valve and Ubisoft For Anti-Consumer Protection Practices

Valve and Ubisoft are both being fined by the French government because of their return policies on Steam and Uplay. Valve has spent the last few years in a similar battle in Australia, one which went all the way up to the highest court in the country. There, Valve was fined 3 million Australian dollars for failing to offer the legally required refunds. However, the fine in France is slightly different. In France, the services are allowed to deny refunds but consumers must be adequately informed beforehand; this is something that French officials believe isn’t happening. Valve will have to pay €147,000 while Ubisoft is being hit for €180,000. This is pocket change for both of these companies, but clearly not something they want to have happen again.

Both services now have an alert at the top of the page in France clearly outlining their return policies and citing the recent fine. From the consumer’s side of things, there will be no change to the services they’re used to getting. However, instead of having to dig through those massive terms of service to find the refund policy it is clearly laid out at the top of both sites. Though this is likely a temporary measure until both sites get something more permanent in place.

Source: PCGamesN

 

UK Game Charts

Last week The Elder Scrolls Online made a surprise appearance in the top 10 best selling games of that week. This week’s chart, however, shows that it has completely dropped out of the top 20. On the other hand, PUBG managed to push into the top 10, taking the number 9 slot. Much of the chart remains unchanged from last week. This includes Grand Theft Auto V which has been slowly dropping down the chart but remains at number 6 this week. Check out the full top 10, including Spider-Man’s continued domination of the charts below.

Source: GFK Chart-Track

 

Imperia Online Acquired by Stillfront Group

Belgian studio Imperia Online which owns and operates the game Imperia Online has been bought by Stillfront, a collection of independent developers, publishers, and distributors. The studio has developed 25 titles in all and is joining studios like Goodgame Studios and Coldwood Interactive. The acquisition is expected to be completed on October 11th for €10 million. This number could go as high as €27 million depending on how the studio performs over the next few years. Goodgame joined the Stillfront Group just 9 months ago.

Source: Gamesindustry.biz

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AI Bots Take Down Some of Dota 2’s Best Players

If you believe in the idea of the singularity, the news of a Dota 2 bot team that handily took down some of the MOBA’s stronger players might put you into a state of worry. That’s not our intention, though, and there are some things that to bear in mind in case you’re concerned.

dota 2 bot team

The bot team in question was put through their paces during the OpenAI Five Benchmark, which put a team of specially designed Dota 2 playing AI bots against 99.95th-percentile former champs of the MOBA, including William ‘Blitz’ Lee and Ben ‘Merlini’ Wu. The purpose of the event, according to OpenAI’s blog, was to see if their bot team could be tuned to square off against competitors at The International 2018 by the end of August.

The battle went down this past Sunday, August 5th and saw the OpenAI Five win 3-2 against the human team.

As mentioned earlier, there are a couple of caveats before you start welcoming your AI overlords. The build of Dota 2 being played only had 18 of the 115 heroes in the MOBA’s roster, and the third match was lost once the OpenAI devs agreed to let the broadcast’s chat room determine the bot team’s hero picks. Further analysis from the folks at Rock Paper Shotgun and AI researcher Mike Cook seems to suggest that the bot team were unable to adapt to situations outside of those they had previously practiced.

If you’re curious to see how the OpenAI Five performed, you can check out the VOD here.

Our Thoughts

Winning over former pros is certainly nothing to slouch at when it comes to bot AI in a game like a MOBA, but we suspect that ti’s going to take a lot more practicing, coding and tweaking before this team is ready to take on pros of The International’s caliber. That said, we’ve only just started the month of August, so perhaps there is time yet to see this bot team improve.

Source: Rock, Paper, Shotgun

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Watch TennoLive, Get a Free Ash Prime Warframe

One of the most baffling things I’ve ever encountered in Warframe is working out where to get materials to build a new Warframe. I mean, sure, the starter guys aren’t bad, but they’re no Primes, that’s for sure. So if you’ve had your eye on the Ash Prime Warframe but missed getting him before he went into the Vault, then getting him is really as simple as tuning in to a stream.

ash prime warframe

For those who are maybe unfamiliar, TennoLive is the finale event of TennoCon, the convention that happens on Saturday, July 7th. The TennoLive portion of the event will be happening that Saturday at 3pm PST/6pm EST.

For those who are interested in snagging themselves a free Prime Warframe, all you have to do is link your Warframe account to Twitch at this website and then watch the broadcast on Twitch for at least 30 minutes while signed in to their linked Twitch account.

Fans of Warframe are likely to learn something exciting coming to Warframe during TennoLive, as the TennoCon event was the venue that the popular Plains of Eidolon update was first announced, so why not get yourself a free robo suit in the process?

As for Warframe itself, console players of the action MMO can now get in on The Sacrifice update as of today, which features the new Umbra Warframe, UI adjustments, and new Tenno customizations.

Our Thoughts

Seriously, though, progressing through Warframe is just the most baffling thing. Or maybe I’m just daft. Anyway, the point is that getting a really neat Warframe for sitting around and watching a broadcast for 30 minutes is a pretty sweet deal compared to the hoops one normally would need to jump through to get a new Frame.

Source: press releases

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Play of the Fortnight: Success of the Overwatch BCRF Charity Event

As we mentioned earlier this week, Blizzard launched a charity event in honor of Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF.org). Players can pick up the Pink Mercy skin, and all proceeds go to charity. Blizzard also released a Pink Mercy t-shirt, and there are tons of sprays to unlock by participating in the event.

Overwatch BCRF Charity Event - Pink Mercy

In this Play of the Fortnight, we’re going to talk about the Overwatch BCRF charity event, and how successful it has been so far.

Charity Streamers Raise Awareness and Donations

Overwatch BCRF Charity Event - QueenE Stream

The first charity streamer for this event was Overwatch streamer QueenE. She’s a ranked player with a peak of 4211 (Grandmaster). QueenE is one of the streamers players can watch to earn their in-game sprays and player icon. She kicked off the stream on day one of the event, on Tuesday, May 8th, and streamed for eight hours raising funds for BCRF.

During this time, she went from averaging in the hundreds of viewers to over a whopping 50,000. Her goal was to raise around $500 for BCRF during her charity stream, but in total, donations and bits (which viewers on Twitch use to “cheer” for a streamer, giving them one US cent per bit) totaled over $20,000. This is a massive contribution from one streamer of many (and of course all of the community members who watched and chose to cheer or donate).

Overwatch BCRF Charity Event - QueenE Donations

There’s a running total on Reddit of how much streamers have raised. It’s being updated as quickly as possible, so if you’re interested, check out the thread by Redditor binhvinhmai.

Twitch is a Great Platform for Charity Engagement

Twitch is an excellent platform to expose online communities to charities. Streamers are incredibly effective influencers, and can spread a message to a wide audience. Bits are also a great engagement tool, as viewers can earn them for free from watching ads or completing surveys, and cheer small amounts that all add up to a large donation at the end of a charity stream.

Overwatch BCRF Charity Event - Pink Mercy

Blizzard, also, has taken a step towards exposing its huge community to an important charity. There will always be some people who will be reluctant to donate to a charity. However, a beautiful skin for a popular hero, plus exclusive, time-limited merchandise, goes a long way towards incentivizing charitable donations.

One Redditor, Acoustibot, picked up the skin for $18.99 (CAD). They admitted, “I can’t say with 100% certainty that I would have donated $18.99 if there was a ‘Donate $18.99 to Charity’ button without the Mercy skin as an incentive.” And this isn’t something people should feel bad about. Lots of people make their own donations to charities of their choice. The cost of the skin might have seemed high for “just” a charity donation, but with a memorable in-game item to go with it, it can justify the cost.

The Overwatch Community’s Thoughts

It’s not all been positive, of course. There are many players asking why BCRF was the specific charity chosen. This is a bit of a controversial topic, as some people feel that breast cancer gets an undue amount of attention from companies raising money for charity. This has generated some really positive discussions, however. The community has begun asking if there’s any way for the players to influence what charities are chosen, showing that they would be open to having an event like this happen in the future.

We would love to see Blizzard do an annual charity event. It’s probably not something they would do regularly, especially since they’ve pledged to donate a minimum of $250,000 to BCRF themselves. However, this event has proven that players are open to it, and there’s been an amazing amount of money raised already.

Overwatch BCRF Charity Event - Pink Mercy

Some players did think the skin was too expensive, regardless of the fact that the funds went to charity. One common concern raised was that if the skin was a little cheaper, more players would end up purchasing it, meaning more money would go to the good cause in the end. There’s definitely something to be said about price points in games like this. With microtransactions in general, lower prices often mean more people buying items. It’ll be interesting to see whether Blizzard changes this in the future. They’ll of course have to balance that with the community’s expectations. If the next charity skin is cheaper, will players ask if the charity is less valued?

How to Take Part and Unlock the Sprays

If you want to take part in the event, it’s really easy. You can buy the Pink Mercy skin for you or your friends (you must be on each other’s friends lists for seven days) any time between now and May 21st. You can also buy the exclusive Pink Mercy t-shirt on the Blizzard gear store between May 5th and May 21st. All proceeds from either of these purchases goes to BCRF.

Overwatch BCRF Charity Event - Sprays

There are several sprays and two player icons to unlock during the event as well. The first icon you can get by simply logging in before May 21st. There are then three additional tiers. The first tier, containing one spray, is unlocked after watching two cumulative hours of one of the participating streamers, at any time that they are streaming Overwatch. The next is after four, and includes the other player icon and a spray. The final tier includes the last two sprays, and is unlocked after watching six cumulative hours of any of the charity streamers.

Make sure you connect your Twitch account to your Blizzard account before watching the streamers. You can do so on your Twitch connections page. You can find a list of the participating streamers on Blizzard’s blog post.

Closing Thoughts

We’re really excited to see Blizzard doing such an engaging event for an amazing charity. It’s even more exciting that they’ve been so successful already, and that the community seems receptive to doing similar events in the future. Pink Mercy is also absolutely gorgeous, so that’s an added bonus.

The event has opened up some really constructive conversations in the community as well. Some players will always be unhappy with these kinds of events. For the most part, however, players have given suggestions on areas for Blizzard to improve. The fact that the community has opened discussions about what charities we could all support going forward is really great.

What other charities would you like to see Blizzard do events for in the future? Let us know in the comments, and feel free to suggest a skin that might go along with it!

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Overwatch League Lets Twitch Viewers Earn Overwatch Game Rewards

For those who are superfans of both Overwatch and the Overwatch League, things are about to get a lot more rewarding. As part of the partnership between the league and Twitch, new features are arriving with the start of Stage 2, including Overwatch League Cheering and the ability to earn in-game currency.

overwatch league cheering

Overwatch League Cheering will grant fans on Twitch who cheer their favorite team with Bits unique Overwatch rewards such as skins, exclusive Twitch emotes, and team-themed items. There will also be a Cheer leaderboard that tracks the top Cheerers for those who need to know that sort of thing.

If you’d rather not spend money on Bits for the purposes of Cheering, you can still get rewarded. By linking your Battle.net account to either Twitch, MLG.com or OverwatchLeague.com, fans can earn one League Token per live map finish, while a small percentage of fans will be randomly granted 100 League Tokens at the end of the final map – just enough to snap up one team skin from the Overwatch in-game store.

These are just the start of features due to arrive to Overwatch League fans. A VIP ticket is in the works that will grant more in-game items, access to exclusive behind-the-scenes videos, and more perks yet to be announced. More information about these benefits can be read at this site.

Our Thoughts

This is certainly a good way to make existing Overwatch fans feel more connected to the game and the event overall, but esports growth would be better served if it did more to make itself accessible to the more casual fan of a game or even the curious but otherwise ignorant outside observer. That said, this new reward system is most definitely intriguing.

Source: press release

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