Nintendo Switch Online App Launches

Nintendo have launched their official Nintendo Switch Online App, a smartphone app that brings online features and voice chat to the Switch though your mobile.

The brand new app launches today on iOS and Android, but it won’t actually be any use to you until we get some games that support it. The first of these will be Splatoon 2, which is released on Friday 21st July, and many more games are set to make use of the app’s networking functions going forward.

22049-26222-170719-Nintendo-l

The app itself is free to download and the service is completely free for the rest of the year, with Nintendo looking to charge an annual subscription charge of $19.99 from 2018. That fee includes access to online multiplayer, voice chat and free classic Nintendo games, with a model similar to PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live Gold.

We’ll know more about how well the app works with the launch of Splatoon 2 on Friday, but already there are some concerns. The most significant drawback is the revelation that the app will only function if it is open, meaning voice chat and other functions will stop completely if the phone is locked or if you need to access other apps. There is also the issue of headset use, whereby traditionally online multiplayer gamers would expect to receive both gameplay and chat audio through their headset. The reality with Nintendo is currently flawed, without any clear way to compound audio from your mobile and Switch console without looking to third party dongles.

If you’re curious about the new features, the new app is available to download now and there will be plenty of opportunity to test it with Splatoon 2 released at the end of the week.

Advertisements

The Future of eSports Culture

The cultural significance of sports and their heritage is well recognised almost everywhere. Coming from Manchester, where football is weaved just as much into the character of our city as our music or industrial history, I understand what sport can mean to people. It’s a community, it’s tribal and it’s beloved.

When you appreciate the way sport can make people feel, it’s easy to understand how a passionate community has risen up around competitive gaming in recent years. The budding industry is increasingly popular, with annual revenues that reportedly now exceed $500 million, a 25% year on year rise.

Far from nipping around to your friend’s house with an extra controller, eSports is a fully fledged, commercially viable industry with a bright future, and yet it still faces somewhat of a stigma.

26793_20150426_heroes_of_the_dorm_471f.jpg

Just two years ago ESPN radio host Colin Cowherd encapsulated the kind of attitude that follows the sport, with some derogatory and controversial comments.

“If I am ever forced to cover guys playing video games, I will retire and move to a rural fishing village and sell bait,” the ESPN pundit told his audience, on air, following a Heroes of the Storm broadcast event on ESPN2. “Somebody lock the basement door at mom’s house, and don’t let ’em out.”

Cowherd no longer works for the sports broadcast giant, though it’s doubtful his comments influenced his departure. The idea that eSports is reserved for basement dwelling youths is still prevalent, but as the sport develops and its audience grows, this kind of attitude is increasingly out-dated.

Just last week eSports took another major step towards securing global recognition as a mainstream sport, as the National Basketball Association confirmed their new pro eSports league. Launching in collaboration with 2k publishers Take-Two Interactive, this marks the biggest match-up between an established major league sport and the video game industry.

dims.jpg

The NBA announced the move back in February of this year, and they have now confirmed seventeen of their thirty teams will participate in the 2018 league, including globally recognised franchises like the New York Knicks and Miami Heat.

“This is the first step in what promises to be an extraordinary league, bringing together the world’s best gamers and showcasing elite competition on an international stage,” said the league’s Managing Director Brendan Donohue in a statement.

This is the largest deal of its kind to date, but it isn’t the first time an established pro-sports brand has made the leap to eSports. Here in the UK we’ve already seen Premiere League teams taking their first steps into the electronic sphere, with West Ham becoming the first professional team in the UK to sign an eSports player. Sean Allen, a professional eSports competitor, was put on the pay roll to represent the club at FIFA tournaments.

It’s becoming more common for sporting institutions to recognise the commercial opportunities of competitive gaming, and because of this they are beginning to take them seriously.

In Asia, where eSports boasts some of its largest audiences, elite players can now bring home medals for their country with inclusion to the 2022 Asian Games in China.

d31204c5-0b4c-478a-a633-eb570206d9b7_16x9_788x442

The Olympic Council of Asia cited the “rapid development and popularity” of eSports amongst the younger generation as a leading factor in their decision to recognise it as a medal sport. To see players counted amongst Asia’s greatest athletes in what has been recognised as one of the largest multi-sport events second only to the Olympics, is a fascinating insight into the growing affirmation of eSports as a respected part of Asian culture.

This recognition of achievement within competitive gaming is an important part of releasing the stigma that follows it. Just last year, London hosted the first ever eSports Industry Awards. The ceremony recognised excellence within the industry and was streamed live to an audience of over 40,000 Twitch viewers. The event acknowledged success across the community from game developers to professional players. It not only recognised their contributions, but celebrated them in style.

So whilst eSports continues to occasionally face somewhat negative attitudes, its cultural significance is being gradually recognised and celebrated both within sports and the games industry.

More interestingly, this recognition will soon extend into mainstream media in a big way. Legendary Pictures announced last year that eSports will be the focus of their upcoming comedy which stars Will Ferrell as an aging professional gamer.

“Although its audience primarily still exists on sites like Twitch and Youtube, eSports are now being covered on networks like ESPN, Fox Sports, and TBS with more than 200 million viewers for the events this year,” say Legendary in a statement about the upcoming film, “The 2016 prize pool for the game DOTA’s championship was over $20 million, and last year’s League of Legends finals had more viewers than the World Series or NBA Finals.”

jjlnwqqrquqywtx1l0xz_ferrell_16x9

According to the statement, the film’s jokes come from Will Ferrell’s inability to survive in a competitive sphere dominated by younger players with superior hand-eye co-ordination. So whilst the film might playfully poke fun of the industry, it isn’t pitching eSports as the punchline. That’s important to note.

With blockbuster movies, mainstream pro-sports teams and inclusion in major multi-sport tournaments, eSports will have more exposure than ever. When you pair that with the desire of commercial sponsors and organisers to improve the industry’s image and develop its audience, you can understand why growth estimates are so optimistic.

A Global eSports report from market intelligence specialists Newzoo predicts brand investment will double by 2020, reaching $1.5 billion. That indicates not only the growth in casual and enthusiast audiences, but also the emergence of eSports as a more valuable, investable brand.

As the next five years unfold and we experience greater exposure to competitive gaming across mainstream media, popular opinion of the sport may well evolve more positively.

NBA eSports league to launch in 2018

The National Basketball Association will create a US eSports league in collaboration with 2k publishers Take-Two Interactive.

The two have worked together since 1999, selling over 65 million copies of their NBA 2K game series.

maxresdefault

“We look forward to combining our best-in-class NBA sports team operators with Take-Two’s competitive gaming expertise to create a brand new league experience,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.

The league, named the NBA 2k ELeauge, will launch in 2018, with a five month season in line with the traditional NBA league. For now just a select few teams will be chosen to compete, but eventually all 30 of the association’s teams will have their own e-sports division.

Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick has said they are looking to make the league feel as real as possible, with a traditional 82-game season that will see winner progress to play-offs. The champion will receive a grand prize of $250,000.

Zelnick said, “With this new venture, Take-Two and the NBA aim to fuel the accelerating growth of e-sports and take the thrill of competition to exciting new heights.”

Competitive eSports is increasingly popular, with annual revenues that reportedly now exceed $500 million, a 25% year on year rise according to a 2016 Deloitte report.

_89622034_allen_whufc

Here in the UK we’ve already seen premiere league teams taking their first steps into e-sports, with West Ham becoming the first UK to sign an e-sports player. Sean Allen, a professional e-sports competitor, was put on the pay roll to represent the club at FIFA tournaments.

The new league marks the biggest match-up between established major league sport and the video game industry.

Will Ferrell to star in an Esports comedy movie

An eSports comedy film is in the works, starring Will Ferrell as an aging professional gamer.

Legendary Pictures confirmed the project was under way, with Mosaic and Gary Sanchez are producing and Patrick Connelly and John Beach of Gravity Squared co-producing, based on a script by Michael Kvamme and Jordan Dunn (SpongeBob SquarePants 3).

The film will no doubt hold a similar tone to Ferrell’s previous sport movies, including ice-skating spoof Blades of Glory and NASCAR comedy Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.

6L3wsJtZ58OZfruJDzMfiOI1udz.jpg

The movie will poke fun at the idea of Ferrell, 49, continuing pursue an eSports career in an industry dominated by players as young as 15, where “players usually retire in their 20s due to slowing hand-eye coordination.”

The idea of a big comedy released based on the world of competitive gaming is a testament to the growth of eSports in recent years.

“Although its audience primarily still exists on sites like Twitch and Youtube, eSports are now being covered on networks like ESPN, Fox Sports, and TBS with more than 200 million viewers for the events this year,” say Legendary, “The 2016 prize pool for the game DOTA’s championship was over $20 million, and last year’s League of Legends finals had more viewers than the World Series or NBA Finals.”

It will be interesting to see more information on this project, and which games will be played within the film, but so far we do know that leading eSport teams Evil Geniuses and Fnatic will feature in some capacity.

Read more at Legendary.com

eSports Industry Awards: Here’s the Full List of Winners

E-sports history was made last night with the first ever eSports Industry Awards.

The first of its kind, the event awarded international achievements across the industry, from teams and streamers to the technology that makes it all possible. 18 awards were presented in total, each acknowledging excellence in a specific area, including eSports game of the year and awards for journalism and media coverage.

The ceremony was hosted by Julia Hardy of BBC Radio 1 and the Gadget Show’s Jason Bradbury at The Brewery in central London, and streamed live to an audience of over 40,000 Twitch viewers.

57ee3ce1c2f7ee3887a7920a_0_0_1475231172133.png

The passionate audience of eSports has proved appealing to advertisers and sponsors, whose revenues make up the vast majority of the industry’s finances. The attention the awards show received through Twitch and social media platforms marks the rising popularity of eSports globally and the event celebrated the commercial growth of an industry with annual revenues that now exceed $500 million, a 25% year on year rise according to a report from Deloitte earlier this year.

There were 18 categories in total, here is the complete list of the night’s winners;

  1. eSports Journalist of the Year – Richard Lewis
  2. eSports Photographer of the Year – Robert Paul
  3. Best eSports Coverage Website – theScore eSports
  4. UK eSports Player of the Year – Callum “Swanny” Swan
  5. Best Hardware Provider – Scuf Gaming
  6. New eSports Game of the Year – Overwatch
  7. eSports Rookie of the Year – Amer “Miracle-” al-Barqawi
  8. eSports Broadcaster of the Year – Auguste “Semmler” Massonnat
  9. eSports Live Event of the Year – The International 6
  10. eSports Team of the Year – Team EnVyUs
  11. eSports Commercial Partner of the Year – Monster
  12. Best Streaming Platform – Twitch
  13. Console Player of the Year – Seth “Scump” Abner
  14. PC Player of the Year – Marcelo “Coldzera” David
  15. eSports Publisher of the Year – Valve
  16. Streamer of the Year – Michael “Imaqtpie” Santana
  17. eSports Game of the Year – Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
  18. eSports Personality of the Year – Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo