May 15 2014 - 1:04 pm

Why today's ruling on net neutrality could decide the future of esports

Professional gaming needs net neutrality
Patrick Howell O'Neill
Dot Esports

Professional gaming needs net neutrality.

Somewhere in the bowels of Washington D.C., a cadre of telecom lobbyists, revolving-door bureaucrats, and tech-illiterate politicians are aiming to fundamentally change the way the Internet works. For the worse.

Telecom companies, like Comcast and Verizon, argue that you should have to pay extra fees to transmit more data over broadband networks.

The ongoing battle to ensure that all data, sites, and services on the Internet are treated equally will decide, in a very real way, how humanity communicates about everything from politics and business to war and peace. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) called it the “free speech issue of our time.” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) believes that “the genius of the Internet is that it is truly a neutral platform.”

The stakes are high—especially for new and thriving industries like professional gaming, usually referred to as esports, that have been built and maintained by startups and grassroots groups that rely on an equal Internet.

Without a past of net neutrality, esports would probably not exist. Without a future of net neutrality, experts say, pro gaming’s next era looks stagnant and bleak.

“New policies that could throttle bandwidth speeds for gamers will lead to diminished game play and viewing experiences,” said Craig Levine, the vice president at Turtle Entertainment in America told the Daily Dot. Levine's group runs the Electronic Sports League, the largest pro gaming league in Europe, as well as the online, esports focused video channel ESL TV.

The entire gaming and esports industries have thrived in part because there is an open platform for innovation for game developers and content delivery networks.”

Twitch, the video streaming giant that many credit with launching modern esports to new heights, would have died a premature death on an unequal Internet.

The site began as a camera strapped over the right ear of 23-year-old Justin Kan. Kan was filming the world’s first 24-hour reality show on Justin.tv, the site that would eventually become Twitch. The video stream ate up massive bandwidth from the start.

If that group of recent college grads had been forced to pay extra just for decent speeds, the chances the company would have survived and conquered the world of streaming are slim to nil.

In a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), a group of more than 100 of the largest venture capitalists—the people who give money to gaming startups—warned that eliminating net neutrality’s non-discrimination principles would severely handicap startups of all kinds.

“If established companies are able to pay for better access speeds or lower latency, the Internet will no longer be a level playing field,” the letter reads. “Startups with applications that are advantaged by speed (such as games, video, or payment systems) will be unlikely to overcome that deficit no matter how innovative their service.”

Today, Twitch streams 12 billion minutes of high quality video to 45 million users around the world. Net neutrality is the reason the site now sucks up more peak hour bandwidth than Hulu, HBO Go, or Facebook. If a small startup like Twitch had to pay to play with the big boys, history would have forgotten about those optimistic San Francisco gamers a long time ago.

While Twitch representatives declined to comment for this article, industry experts agree: Net neutrality is key to esports.

“The startup costs for new businesses might be higher without net neutrality,” Internet lawyer and fighting game commentator David Graham told the Daily Dot in an email.

So, for example, maybe Blizzard could pay Comcast to prioritize Battle.net because it's been big for 20 years, but maybe Riot wouldn't have been able to do the same when it was starting up. And with less competition comes worse Internet speeds, so who knows if the online-heavy gaming world we have today would have been possible without net neutrality.”

These days, companies like Riot Games don’t need net neutrality like they once did. The League of Legends publishers have the advantages of massive worldwide popularity—about 70 million players per month—and a Chinese parent company worth $150 billion. If Internet service providers started charging extra to provide decent speed, Riot could surely afford it.

But the next Riot, or Twitch, couldn't. For esports fans, it's almost impossible to imagine the current esports industry without those two companies, or companies doing something very similar. The industry, which is still relatively young, changes rapidly—if the next great esports companies all die young, the future won’t be pretty.

“Killing net neutrality is bad for America's economy,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said. “Start-ups who cannot afford to pay the toll for acceptable Internet speeds will never leave the garage. If they try to go to court for a ‘fairer’ price for accessible speeds, they'll be crushed under an army of Comcast's or Verizon's lawyers.”

The technology behind the Internet, and the networks that maintain it, were conceived and built by public investment. Internet service providers use public lands and benefit from government-sanctioned monopolies.

But a two-tiered Internet offers no public benefit. Instead, it endangers both free speech and the economy.

“I don't think the pro gaming community, or the gaming community in general, or to be honest most people in general, understand how important net neutrality is,” Graham continued.

It's the difference between a strong, fast, competitive internet that's friendly to new businesses and ideas and where the best tech and ideas win, and a slower, monopolistic internet that allows for less free speech and less innovation, and where being entrenched is more important than new ideas and new technology. That's a world that sucks for everyone except those entrenched businesses and the corrupt politicians they support.”

Photo via photosteve101/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Jan 23 2017 - 11:31 pm

15 celebrities and sports pros that stream on Twitch

Want to chat with T-Pain or Freddie Prinze Jr.? Head over to their Twitch chat.
Nicole Carpenter
Dot Esports
Photo via Basheer Tome/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Celebrities are just like us. They play video games, too. Streaming on Twitch lets us connect with celebrities and athletes in ways previously unavailable to both sides. And that says something about Twitch itself—its massive success is drawing in even the biggest celebrities and athletes.

Twitch puts viewers face to face with streamers, allowing each side to interact with each other in real time. This kind of access is unparalleled: Even Twitter and Facebook lack the kind of communication that Twitch puts in a streamer’s hands. More than two million streamers take to Twitch each month, according to Twitch. The audience, as you may expect, is even larger—close to 10 million people tune in each day. And that leads to even us regular folks getting ridiculously popular on Twitch—even considered celebrities, sometimes.

Interested in checking out the celebrities and athletes streaming on Twitch? We’ve compiled a list of the most active celebrity streamers trying to make their name in a new field. One of these 15 people is bound to be live at any particular time, if you’re looking for something to watch.

Kyle Long

Screengrab via Twitch

Chicago Bears guard Kyle Long comes from a long line of football professionals: His dad is Football Hall of Fame defensive end Howie Long, and his big brother is New England Patriots’ defensive end Chris Long. Football is certainly a staple in his life, but it’s not his only passion. Long is also a passionate gamer. One of Twitch’s more regular celebrity streamers, Long plays lots of different games—Overwatch, H1Z1, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, DayZ, and Rocket League included. There aren’t many rules on Long’s Twitch channel, except that excessive football talk is not allowed.

Steve Aoki

Screengrab via Twitch

When electronic music producer Steve Aoki isn’t on tour—and even likely when he is—the musician is playing videogames or streaming music live on Twitch. He’s easily one of the most recognizable names in electronic music, selling out shows all over the world. But he’s looking to take over the esports industry, too. In October, Aoki bought a majority stake in esports organization Rogue, which fields both CS:GO and Overwatch teams.

Jessamyn Duke

Screengrab via Twitch

Jessamyn Duke can kick our butts in real life and in videogames. Her four-year long career as an Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter isn’t her only passion. Gaming is too. In fact, she hopes to stream full-time on Twitch one day. Duke streams regularly (almost every day) and plays a variety of games, including Overwatch, Astroneer, Rimworld, Dark Souls 3, and more.

deadmau5

Screengrab via Twitch

Twitch isn’t only for videogames, but creative endeavors, too. So when electronic music producer deadmau5 signs online, it’s not only to play Rocket League or CS:GO. He uses his Twitch channel to pull back the curtain on his creative process, broadcasting live when he’s working on new music.

T-Pain

A rapper, singer, and songwriter, T-Pain is a man with many talentsincluding being a ridiculously entertaining Twitch streamer. He plays plenty of shooter games like Battlefield 1 and Overwatch, which he apparently calls WonderSnatch. Probably one of the most beloved celebrity Twitch streamers, T-Pain is—thankfully—online a bunch.

Trevor May

Screengrab via Twitch

Minnesota Twins pitcher Trevor May is just like us: He, too, plays a lot of Overwatch. He’s not slinging baseballs on stream, but he’s certainly not giving his mouse hand a rest. And here’s the best part—May is a pretty dedicated support player. With lots of giveaways, too, May’s stream is not one to miss.

Jerome-Max Holloway

Screengrab via Twitch

This featherweight mixed martial arts fighter, who holds the interim UFC Featherweight Championship, has a really varied Twitch channel. He does it all: vlogs, cooking videos, and videogames. You’ll find mostly shooting games like Rainbow Six and Call of Duty on Holloway’s channel, but he’s known to throw in some UFC, too. And that’s fun.

Quentin Jackson

Screengrab via Twitch

Quentin Jackson says he’s not the best videogame player, but he sure is entertaining. He’s got a storied career as a fighter, winning the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship belt in 2007. He’s retired and returned quite a few times, but he’s still at it. When he’s not in the ring, he’s playing Overwatch and H1Z1 on his Twitch channel.

Sam Witwer

Screengrab via Twitch

Sam Witwer’s Twitch stream is no surprise, really. The actor has dabbled in nerd stuff throughout his whole career, with plenty of credits on sci-fi shows like Battlestar Galactica and Smallville. Star Wars is big for him, too. He’s voiced plenty of characters across multiple media genres. His Twitch channel is varied, but his devotion to Star Wars is noticeable through the games he chooses to play, like Star Wars Battlefront.

Jerry Ferrara

Screengrab via Twitch

Jerry Ferrara made his name as Turtle on HBO’s award winning Hollywood comedy-drama Entourage. Now he’s dabbling in internet culture. Sure, he still acts—he has a recurring role on Starz drama Power—but he’s also got a podcast and a Twitch stream where he plays game like Call of Duty and The Division.

Demetrius Johnson

Screengrab via Twitch

Mixed martial arts are still Demetrius Johnson’s main focus, but he’s setting himself up for success on Twitch when he’s ready to retire from fighting, not that it’ll necessarily happen anytime soon. Johnson is still amassing championships in the UFC Flyweight division. A lifelong gamer, Johnson is seriously dedicated to his stream. Amid his intense training schedule for fighting, he still manages to get in ample hours in games like H1Z1 and World of Warcraft.

Freddie Prinze Jr.

Screengrab via Twitch

Freddie Prinze Jr. is the face of film in the ‘90s, with credits for I Know What You Did Last Summer and She’s All That to his name. He’s no stranger to videogames, though: He’s voiced characters in Mass Effect 3, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and Disney Infinity 3.0. His Twitch stream is not limited to just those, though. You’ll see Uncharted 4, Call of Duty, and Gears of War, among other games.

Thomas Middleditch

Screengrab via Twitch

It’s no surprise to see Thomas Middleditch on this list, is it? Known for his role as the nerdy Richard Hendricks on HBO’s tech-inspired comedy Silicon Valley, Middleditch plays games like Ark, Sniper Elite, and XCOM 2 on his stream.

Wil Wheaton

Screengrab via Twitch

Actor and writer Wil Wheaton isn’t playing videogames on Twitch. Instead, he’s showcasing his storytelling skills to connect with viewers. Storytime with Wil is a new thing for him, and we love his experiment with interactive storytelling. Wheaton made a name for himself as Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation—a roll that’s influenced the direction of his career since then. He’s remained a staple figure in internet culture for years, and his Twitch stream is certain to add to that.

Hunter Pence

Screengrab via Twitch

The San Francisco Giants pitcher loves card games like Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering. That’s mainly what you’ll find him playing on his Twitch stream. Pence is a pretty regular streamer in the baseball offseason, and we hope he’ll continue that regular schedule into the summer.

Today - 9:14 pm

ELEAGUE’s sponsorship pricing stays at $2 million for 2017

Turner Sports’ esports league sold marketing partnerships for $2 million each last year.
Thiemo Brautigam
Dot Esports
Photo via Turner Sports

ELEAGUE, Turner Sports’ ambitious televised esports experiment, is one of the most attractive destinations for big-name sponsors in esports. So it’s a little surprising that Turner is keeping sponsorship prices for ELEAGUE “about the same” as last year, as Seth Ladetsky, senior vice president of sales, recently told SportsBusiness Daily.

For season one and two of the CS:GO league, which started in May 2016, Turner secured six sponsors, each paying $2 million for an advertising package that included media exclusivity on the broadcasts with logo appearances, product placements, and other forms of sponsor integration.

For 2017, Turner hopes to renew the inaugural-year deals with Buffalo Wild Wings, Arby’s, Domino’s, Snickers, HyperX, and Credit Karma. It’s also looking for new advertisers from branches such as beverages, mortgage, insurance, and telecommunication.

The first new partner for 2017 is DELL, which will promote its Alienware gaming hardware in all ELEAGUE competitions throughout the year. On Jan. 20, Turner also revealed a naming rights deal with G Fuel for its Atlanta-based studio and arena.

Season one of Turner’s CS:GO ELEAGUE averaged about 250,000 TV viewers and, despite a slight increase in the Fall, the linear viewership was far from mind-blowing throughout the year. Apparently, some sponsors were unsatisfied with the ratings and received redress, Ladetsky told SBD.

Ladetsky, Turner’s senior vice president of sales, still believes that the launch year was a success. “We’re pretty happy with our overall audience as a whole,” he told SBD. “We do think the IP rights, the marks and rights, have increased in value, for sure, because it’s more established now. But in general, we’re still in a launch year.”

Turner’s ELEAGUE opened the esports market to more non-endemic brands. Beside the huge appeal of esports, many advertisers are still wary. A rapidly changing industry like esports can be risky territory.

“It’s very hard to do multiyear deals in this space because games change and schedules are so fluid,” Ladetsky explained.

Nonetheless, esports is among the most attractive industries for advertisers and sponsors in 2017. SK Gaming’s deal with VISA and Astralis’ partnership with Audi show the growing interest of big brands in esports.