/KOBE BRYANT AND DAUGHTER GIGI DIE IN HELICOPTER CRASH
It is with heavy hearts that we lead this issue with the news that legendary NBA player Kobe Bryant has died along with his daughter Gianna Maria (Gigi) and several others in a helicopter crash yesterday in Calabasas. The tragic incident occurred in foggy conditions Sunday morning, with reports stating that the craft slammed into the hillsides of the Los Angeles suburb leaving no survivors. Bryant was 41 years old, Gianna Maria 13. They leave behind wife and mother Vanessa Bryant, and the couple’s other three daughters.
Bryant played for the entirety of his 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers. The 6’6 small forward joined the NBA straight out of high school in 1996, becoming the youngest player in NBA history. He went on to win five NBA titles with the Lakers, and two Olympic gold medals representing the United States.
He also touted considerable new investments in esports. Along with partner Jeff Stibel, Bryant backed Epic Games for the use of Unreal Engine in Fortnite. He also had plans to develop esports training spaces at Mamba Sports Academy, a multisport facility he founded in 2018.
/OVERWATCH, HEARTHSTONE, AND CALL OF DUTY LEAGUES SIDE WITH YOUTUBE
YouTube is now the home to Blizzard and Activison’s most popular esports leagues starting this spring, according to a recent announcement by the game developers and Google. This moves exclusivity away from Twitch, which held the contract for the previous two seasons of the Overwatch League and cost them $90 million. The YouTube deal’s price remains undisclosed, though usurping Twitch means that Google likely paid a hefty sum to bring the titles over.
One of the draws to streaming on YouTube is the fact that the platform can boast a difference of 200 million users to Twitch’s 15 million. However, the Twitch viewer base is baked into streaming culture, while YouTube is still trying to get their users to gravitate more to the livestreaming side of their platform. It’s likely that Google found that a Blizzard-Activision partnership would help them achieve this goal, since esports revolves around streaming.
Google also tacked on another detail to the deal; Google Cloud will now exclusively host Blizzard games, which apparently will provide “premium network quality-of-service, including low latency and packet loss when playing high-fidelity games on any device.” This, along with more developments being teased, will make it a partnership to watch. And just how will Twitch respond?
/FORTNITE TO GET OFFICIAL HIGH SCHOOL AND COLLEGE LEAGUES
High school and college students can now tell their parents that they play Fortnite for scholarships thanks to Epic Games’ new partnership with PlaysVS. Announced Friday, this partnership will bring a structure similar to those seen in League of Legends and Overwatch on the collegiate level; high schools will also benefit from the official league as there are fewer options for well-organized esports on that level.
High schools that sign up for the new Fortnite tournament will be placed into regional conferences. These conferences will be determined by geographic locations, similar to the traditional sports approach, though information on how college conferences will work is unclear. Players are allowed to use any hardware they choose, meaning they can take advantage of cross-platform play.
PlaysVS will be acting in the role of tournament organizer as it also does for Rocket League. Blizzard and Riot Games both host their own collegiate leagues, but once used outside TOs to host leagues as well. The companies eventually brought in talent from these organizations to work for them. How Epic Games’ partnership with PlaysVS will develop remains to be seen.
/LEC CATCHES A BREAK WITH KIT KAT
Riot Games’ LEC now has another sponsor to brag about. Nestle’s Kit Kat will now be added to an already-impressive roster of brands supporting the European tournament circuit.
Head of Sponsorships & Business Development EU, Alban Dechelotte, said, “We’re thrilled to count among our partners a brand as culturally relevant as KitKat. It felt only natural to cooperate on having KitKat be the official Breaks & Pauses presenter of the LEC. Looking forward to an exciting split!”
LEC is also sponsored by brand Logitech G, Warner Music, AKRacing,
HUYA, Alienware, and Kia Motors, among others.
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/LPL WEEK 2 DELAYED BY CORONAVIRUS
More tournaments are being affected by the coronavirus; last week WESG APAC finals, this week, the LPL. Riot Games’ Chinese League of Legends pro league is now delayed due to the outbreak, leaving week two in limbo indefinitely. The league had gone on break after week 1 for Lunar New Year celebrations.
“We have decided to postpone week 2 of the LPL until we can ensure the safety and health of our players and fans,” said the LPL in a press release. “To our fans, we sincerely apologize that it has come to this and we will share any and all info as soon as we can.”
Stay tuned here for word on when the league gets back on track.
/SMASH LEGEND ZERO DISCUSSES MENTAL HEALTH
Having a legacy can be a stressful thing, as Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios reveled recently. One of the reasons the star Smash player retired from competitive gaming is the pressure that his previous accolades brought with them. When ZeRo switched from Melee and Brawl to Smash 4, he secured a 56-tournament win streak from November 2014 to October 2015, landing him a seat in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2017. Within the next two years, he gradually left competitions and secured a deal with Facebook to exclusively stream more casual Smash content. Money was less a factor than the anxiety that came along with reviewing his own highlight reel and competing against it.
“I had to let go a bit to change the switch to enjoy Smash again, but casually now,” he said. “This is why I disconnected myself from tournaments a lot more and you don’t see me attend or talk about them much. For me it’s a way of making sure I stay on track with doing other things and to also not have smash one my mind all day. That’s all.”
/MORE PLAYER NEWS
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