Raptr: Most Played Games August 2013

Call of Duty: Black Ops II was the #1 game played for August. However, Raptr’s focus on this month’s review is about DOTA2 and LoL. For me, I really only cared about RIFT and the fact that their F2P subscription model continues to impress. Oddly, they did not reveal top PC, Xbox 360, and PS3 titles as they’ve done the past few months.

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RAPTR’S MOST PLAYED GAMES: AUGUST 2013 — DOTA 2 TOPS LEAGUE OF LEGENDS

A new champion has taken the field. And we’re not talking about Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, which is once again in at the top slot overall.

No, the big news is that after a few brief shots at the crown, Valve’s DOTA 2 surpassed Riot Games’ smash-hit League of Legends in both total players and total playtime for the month of August based on gameplay data from Raptr’s 18 million members.

Italicize that last part in your mind if you need to — Raptr’s membership skews more North America-centric than the total gaming audience, so we aren’t saying categorically that more people spent more time playing DOTA 2 than LoL. But among Raptr members, they definitely did, although it was close. Also, this list includes PC and Xbox 360 games only — Sony and Nintendo don’t let players share gameplay data publicly.

LoL vs. DOTA 2 Analysis

League of Legends shot to the top of our playtime charts due in part to its wildly popular spectator modes, tournament livestreams, and world championships. DOTA 2 officially launched (after an extended beta) on July 9 and just concluded its own livestreamed championship event, The International, which ran August 7-11.

No doubt that had a strong effect on DOTA 2′s numbers. LoL’s Season 3 World Championships just finished up last week, giving Riot a big opportunity to recoup.

But Valve’s challenger has nipped at LoL’s heels for months now. DOTA 2 first passed LoL in total players on March 3 — coincidentally, right when LoL servers went down (possibly due to a denial-of-service attack). That gave DOTA 2 a free shot at taking the lead for a day. A few isolated days followed where DOTA 2 came within a few hundred players of LoL’s total…or leapfrogged it by six or seven thousand without warning.

Those events occasionally coincided with Riot releasing major patches — typically a source of downtime for online games. But even with servers up and running at capacity, Riot’s numbers have taken a substantial hit of late. Total LoL playtime hours have dropped 13% in the last 30 days. New members in that same timeframe are up a healthy 27%, but overall unique active members are down 6%.

That suggests older, established players are drifting away, and the new players coming in aren’t engaging as deeply.

LoLvsDOTA2_playtime_may-aug copy

By contrast, in the same 30-day window, DOTA 2 saw an 11% increase in unique active members while new signups were down 3%. It’s the exact opposite of LoL’s problem…players are engaging long term, but the influx of new blood is starting to dip.

Pushing into the first week of September, it looks so far like a fairly even split between days favoring League of Legends and those carried by DOTA 2. With the glow of The International pretty much faded and LoL’s incredibly popular World Championships happening last week, it’s likely LoL’s numbers will angle straight up again in the middle of the month. But the recent erosion of its player base should be a serious cause for concern if the trend continues after the World Championships. And DOTA 2′s numbers prove that if Riot Games opens the door, Valve’s increasingly popular MOBA will walk right on through.

PAX Prime 2013 Hosts $1+ Million eSports Prizes (GameSpot.com)

Though these prize amounts don’t begin to rival DOTA 2’s nearly $3 million in total cash awards, if Major League Gaming has it’s way, they soon will. Several games, including Guild Wars 2’s PVP tournament, will find either their national or international championship bouts fought at PAX Prime this year. At first glance, it seems PAX is ready to see over $1 million dished out to deserving teams.

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Halo 4, League of Legends Championships lead eSports at PAX

$300,000 on the line for Halo’s first-ever Global Championship, with $200,000 going to the winners.

The Halo 4 Global Championships, League of Legends Season 3 North American Playoffs, World of Tanks International World Finals, MLG Call of Duty Invitational, and Smite North American Invitational will all be held at PAX Prime this weekend.

Several former Major League Gaming Halo champions are competing, including Michael “StrongSide” Cavanaugh, Eric “Snip3down” Wrona, and Faisal “Goofy” Khan. A schedule and live stream information can be found on the official official 343 site. An interview with Frank O’Connor, Development Director for the Halo franchise at 343 Industries will be available this weekend.$300,000 is on the line for Halo’s first-ever Global Championship, with $200,000 going to the winners. The tournament will be held at Benaroya Hall in Seattle, the same location Valve used for the Dota 2 International Championships.

Last week at Gamescom, three European teams–Fnatic, Lemondogs, and Gambit Gaming–qualified for the League of Legends World Championships in October.

Now another $100,000 is on the line and four spots for the North American teams to the World Championships. With North America’s win over Europe at the All-Star game, the region gets an additional spot at the Finals.

Teams Cloud 9 and Vulcun wait in the wings, as fan-favorites Team SoloMid, Counter Logic Gaming, Curse, and Dignitas battle it out in the opening rounds. A schedule and live stream information can be found on the official Riot eSports site.

Major League Gaming and Turtle Beach are hosting an 8-team $10,000 Call of Duty Invitational featuring Anaheim Champions Complexity, EnvyUs, Impact, Unite, Kaliber, Soar, Faze, and Bad History.

Teams were invited based on their 2013 Call of Duty Championship and MLG Pro Circuit performances and the MLG Pro Points Rankings. The broadcast schedule can be found onMLG’s site, and the stream can be watched on MLG TV.

The world finals of the World of Tanks Open tournament will be on display, with $100,000 up for grabs for the best teams from North America, Russia, Europe, China, South East Asia, and South America. Twitch.tv will be broadcasting the tournament on Sunday, September 1 at Showbox SoDo in Seattle.

American Express + League of Legends = Prepaid AmEx Card

In an odd, but interesting development yesterday, American Express has teamed up with League of Legends to offer a prepaid debit card with LoL graphics and that rewards cardholders with Riot Points to more quickly afford upgrades in-game.

Looking at how AmEx has presented itself via TV commercials, it’s always occurred for me as a card used by the white and rich and middle-aged or order. This is a pretty sizeable leap into a completely different 18-25 year old demographic. Plus, since it’s a prepaid card, folks developing their own personal policies about spending and credit can’t get into financial debt by racking up a huge credit card bill. That’s smart. If this partnership goes well, I wonder how quickly we’ll be seeing similar things for World of Warcraft, Elder Scrolls Online, or even games like Dota 2?

In doing a little Google-fu, I found an article from 2006 where the author said “It’s only a matter of time” before credit card companies reach out to tap the online games industry players to expand their brands. I guess that time is now.

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American Express Serve Becomes Prepaid Account Partner for League of Legends; World’s Most Played GameNew RP+ Rewards Program Helps Players Earn Riot Points for Everyday Spend

American Express today announced a new strategic partnership with Riot Games to bring in-game rewards to League of Legends players through everyday spend with the American Express Serve® Prepaid Account. (1) 

The American Express Serve Prepaid Account enhances the League of Legendsexperience by integrating a reward-based system called RP+. The RP+ program gives gamers Riot Points (RP), the virtual currency used to purchase in-game items like extra customization or boosts, not only for signing up, but for every qualifying purchase made with the Card.

League of Legends, which now has more than 32 million active monthly players worldwide who log more than one billion hours of gameplay a month, also boasts some of the world’s most passionate and dedicated players. Gamers who sign up for RP+ from American Express Serve have the option to receive a customized League of Legends Card with their choice of  four popular Champions and original art from the game itself, giving players the opportunity to take a piece of the game they love with them everywhere they go.

The American Express Serve Prepaid Account allows Cardmembers to transfer money seamlessly between their fellow players who also have a Serve Account, free of charge. Players can also benefit from the money management features of the account, such as direct deposit, bill pay and free cash withdrawals at MoneyPass® ATMs. To sign up there are no credit checks, no hidden fees, and no minimum balance requirements to maintain.

“Riot Games is passionate about serving their players and giving them avenues for enhancing their gaming experience” said Stefan Happ, SVP, US Payment Options for American Express. “Together we’ve been able to create a great co-branded product with a unique rewards program that will help League of Legends players earn Riot Points whenever they use their Card to make qualifying purchases.”

With RP+ from American Express Serve, players can earn Riot Points in a number of ways:

  • +1,000 RP with complete registration — no credit check, no activation fee, no minimum balance
  • +1,000 RP the first time you load $20 to your Account
  • +10,000 RP the first time you use Direct Deposit to add $20 or more to your Account
  • +1,000 RP for your first 10 purchases with your Card

League of Legends players can use their American Express Serve Prepaid Card virtually anywhere American Express® Cards are accepted worldwide, as well as enjoy access to American Express benefits like Purchase Protection, Roadside Assistance, Entertainment Access and more.

Players can choose a personalized Card with Teemo, Vi, Lux, Twisted Fate, the Summoner’s Cup or the League of Legends logo.

American Express has also become an official payment partner for the League Championship Series (LCS) and the official partner for World Championship, the premiere events for League of Legends professional esports.

About American Express
American Express is a global services company, providing customers with access to products, insights and experiences that enrich lives and build business success. Learn more at americanexpress.com and connect with us on facebook.com/americanexpressfoursquare.com/americanexpress,
linkedin.com/companies/american-expresstwitter.com/americanexpress, and youtube.com/americanexpress.

Key links to products and services: charge and credit cardsbusiness credit cards,travel servicesgift cardsprepaid cardsmerchant servicesbusiness travel, and corporate card.

About Riot Games
Riot Games was established in 2006 by entrepreneurial gamers who believe that player-focused game development can result in great games. In 2009, Riot released its debut title League of Legends to critical and player acclaim. Over 32 million play every month. Players form the foundation of our community and it’s for them that we continue to evolve and improve the League of Legends experience.

Upcoming eSports Competitions For 2013 (DigitalTrends.com)

I’m not sure this is “all” the upcoming trends, given the author didn’t include the ArenaNet Guild Wars 2 $10K Invitational, the finals of which will play out at PAX Prime, but it is a rather astounding list if you weren’t closely tracking the eSports industry.

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Gamers compete at the recent MLG championships

It’s not easy keeping up with the competitive world of eSports. There are several tournaments held throughout the year, and many of them are unique to one game. More are introduced as the demand requires, and others are simply parts of bigger events.

To help remedy that Digital Trends has compiled this list of all the major eSports events remaining this year and into the beginning of next, from League of Legends to World of Tanks to Call of Duty: Black Ops II and more. It’s by no means comprehensive, but it’s close. If there’s anything important missing make sure to say so in the comments, and it will be added.

MLG PCs

League of Legends

Hot6 League of Legends Champions Summer 2013 Grand Finals

  • South Korea Aug 28 – 31
  • League of Legends

Riot Games League of Legends Championship Series Season 3 World Championship

  • TBA
  • League of Legends

Garena Premier League 2013 Playoffs

  • TBA
  • League of Legends

StarCraft II

Dreamhack Open Valencia ’13

  • Valencia, Spain July 18 – 21
  • StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm

Major League Gaming Summer Invite

  • New York July 20 – 28
  • StarCraft II

MLG watching

Red Bull Training Grounds Orlando

  • Orlando, FL July 26 – 28
  • StarCraft II

ASUS Republic of Gamers Assembly Summer 2013

  • Helsinki, Finland Aug. 1 – 3
  • StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm

North American Star League StarCraft II World Championship Series America Season 2 League Finals

  • Santa Monica, CA Aug. 10 – 11
  • StarCraft II

Dreamhack Open Bucharest ’13

  • Bucharest, Romania Sept. 14 – 15
  • Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm

Dreamhack Open Winter ’13

  • Jönköping, Sweden Nov. 28 – 30
  • StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm

MLG Announcers

League of Legends and Starcraft

Electronic Sports League Intel Extreme Masters Season 8 New York Comic-Con

  • New York Oct. 10 – 13
  • League of Legends, StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm

Electronic Sports League Intel Extreme Masters Season 8 Singapore

  • Singapore November
  • League of Legends, StaCraft II: Heart of the Swarm

Electronic Sports League Intel Extreme Masters Season 8 Sao Paulo

  • Sao Paulo, Brazil Feb. 2014
  • League of Legends, StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm

Electronic Sports League Intel Extreme Masters Season 8 World Finals

  • Katowice, Poland March 14 – 16 2014
  • League of Legends, StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm

World of Tanks

Wargaming.net League North America Season 1 Finals

MLG crowd

  • Las Vegas August 17 – 18
  • World of Tanks

Wargaming.net 2013 TanksAsia Season 1 Finals

  • Sept. 7
  • World of Tanks

DOTA 2

Valve’s The International 3 Finals

  • Seattle Aug. 7 – 11
  • DOTA 2

Multiple Games

 UMG Atlanta / Arena Gaming League 9

  • Atlanta, GA Aug. 9 – 11
  • Halo 4, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2

MLG Audience

European Gaming League EGL 10

  • Sheffield, England Aug. 10 – 11
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, FIFA 13, Halo 4

Electronic Sports World Cup

  • Paris Oct. 30 – Nov. 3
  • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, DOTA 2, Shootmania, Trackmania 2 Stadium, FIFA 14

Major League Gaming 2013 Championship

  • Columbus, Ohio Nov. 22 – 24
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, StarCraft II, League of Legends

World Cyber Games 2013 Grand Final

  • Kunshan, China Nov. 28 – Dec. 1
  • Cross Fire, FIFA 14, League of Legends, StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition, Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne, World of Tanks

The Rise of eSports in America (IGN.com)

Leah Jackson over at IGN has written an excellent article discussing the past 15 years of eSports history, the influential companies and tournaments over the past decade-and-a-half, and what the current landscape for the professional game looks like. If you have no clue what an eSport is (or why the US Government approved an online game as a “professional sport”), or you’re a rabid enthusiast who can’t wait for the Guild Wars 2 and LOL tournaments this year, the article is definitely worth the read.

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A look at how strategy games, MOBAs, and fighters have become a legitimate sport in America.

Anyone with their fingers even remotely close to the pulse of gaming knows that eSports have blown up in popularity in the United States over the past few years. With thousands of gamers competing and millions watching, the phenomenon has come a long way in a very short period of time. Now more than ever, players are considering pro-gaming as a valid career, especially in the U.S.

Professional gaming isn’t exactly new. Gamers have been making a living off their skills since the late ’90s. But it was when developer Blizzard Entertainment released StarCraft II in 2010 that eSports in America really seemed to blossom in to the wildly successful spectator sport it has become today.

Major League Gaming, or MLG, has become one of the most prestigious eSports organizations in the world, and is one of the true pioneers of eSports in the United States. “When we started MLG in 2002 our goal was to provide those with an appetite for video game competition the ability to both participate and spectate,” explained Sundance DiGiovanni, Co-Founder and CEO of Major League Gaming. “I think we have laid the groundwork for a consistent and stable competitive platform and truly helped eSports in the U.S. become what it is today.”

Over 10 years later, MLG is still thriving, offering hundreds of thousands of dollars in prizes to professional gamers via online and live events. According to MLG, more than 11.7 million unique viewers tuned in to watch the four 2012 MLG Pro Circuit Championship events online, compared to 3.5 million viewers in 2011. An impressive 334% increase.

The rapid rise in viewers is pretty astonishing, but MLG isn’t the only organization getting in on the action. Other large leagues and tournaments have begun popping up stateside as well.

The Evolution Championship Series, or EVO, is the most prominent fighting game tournament in the world. This year the event was put on by Shoryuken.com and was held in the U.S. in Las Vegas, drawing a record-breaking 1.7 million unique online viewers. Professional players from around the world competed at the event, which was attended by thousands.

Not only are large organizations like MLG and EVO putting on these events in America, but the developers of these eSports titles have begun hosting their own massive tournaments and leagues in the states as well.

Blizzard hosts the StarCraft II World Championship Series, or WCS, a $1.6 million series of events spread throughout 13 events. While the tournament does include players from all around the world, this year the Championships are being held in California during BlizzCon.

Riot Games, developer of the massively popular free-to-play MOBA League of Legends, also hosts their own tournament league, The League Championship Series, or LCS. Riot takes particularly good care of the gamers good enough to qualify for the LCS, offering a salary to each team. The salary helps them cover travel and housing, and is meant to help the players alleviate any financial stress so that they can focus on gaming.

Riot Games recently made huge strides for eSports as a whole in the U.S., going through a lengthy process to prove that League of Legends is a legitimate sport to the U.S. government. Thanks to the developer, the United States government now recognizes pro LoL players as professional athletes, and will award them visas to work in the U.S. under that title.

This year, the LCS Championship is also being held in the United States. Players from around the world will travel to the Staples Center in Los Angeles to compete for millions in prizes.

Valve, the developer of the hugely successful free-to-play MOBA, Dota 2, is also hosting a tournament in the states this year, The International 3. The International 3 already touts the largest prize pool in eSports history, coming in at around $2.6 million. The event will take place in Seattle, Washington and will host players from all around the world.

While these developer tournaments are generally held near the developer’s headquarters, it’s still important that they’re in the United States at all. Other countries have been hosting these large events for years, and it’s nice to see that instead of all the action being held overseas, more people get to see what the states have to offer too.

Aside from tournaments, there are a few other factors that have played important roles in the growth of eSports in the United States as well. Probably the most important being the rise of Twitch.TV. Twitch.TV, which is based in the U.S., is a free live streaming platform that launched in 2011. Nowadays, over 35 million viewers watch gaming-related content broadcasted over Twitch.TV every month. And most, if not all, of the large tournaments mentioned in this article are broadcasted on Twitch.

There’s also been a rise of eSports commentators, or casters, in the U.S. thanks to Twitch.TV. These people, much like professional sports broadcasters, are filled with deep knowledge about particular eSports titles, and they guide viewers through games and offer in-depth analysis. Some of the more popular broadcasters can bring in thousands of people to their Twitch.TV stream every time they turn it on. Since Twitch is free and easy to use, professional players, casters, and anyone else who wants to give streaming a try can do so. Twitch even offers broadcasters who bring in enough viewers the chance to earn some money by signing up for their Partner Program.

Another big factor that’s helping eSports grow in the U.S. is the recent Team House trend. Team Houses, which are already very popular in South Korea, have started sprouting up in the U.S., offering professional teams a place to use as their own personal training facilities.

According to Cody “Evoli” Conners, General Manager of Team Evil Geniuses, his players benefit from their Team House by having other talented players around to bounce ideas off of and practice with. Not only is the practice environment great, but it’s really beneficial to have all of his players in one place. “If a sponsor reaches out to us and wants something filmed or some content created, we have the benefit of having ten of our star players in the same house.”

He also explains why Team Houses are important for the growing popularity of eSports in the United States. “I think it would be difficult to argue that any organization that has had a house is worse off for their efforts,” he said. “It shows that they’re taking eSports seriously and I think it helps the fans realize that.”

The eSports community in general has also played an extremely significant role in the growth of professional gaming in the U.S. In addition to the countless websites dedicated to all sorts of eSports, a few devoted fans have even started an organization that could potentially become the most important factor in growing eSports in the U.S. in the future.

The eSports Association, or TeSPA, (formerly the Texas eSports Association) is a network of gaming-community organizers at college campuses. They work together to promote competitive gaming by building communities, hosting events, and developing themselves into the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders. Their goal is to see the continual growth of eSports, and what better way to do so than by establishing a baseline of different freshmen every year? It wasn’t too long ago that American football made its debut on college campuses, so it’s not that far-fetched that we could be seeing an emergence of pro-gamers at various U.S. colleges in the future.

Yet even though professional gaming in the U.S. has come a long way and has the potential to be a valid profession for some Americans, other countries, like Sweden and South Korea, are already broadcasting eSports events on national television. The 2012 Dreamhack Winter tournament was even televised on Sveriges Television (SVT), the Swedish public service station. Luckily for those in the U.S., MLG’s Sundance DiGiovanni has been in touch with CBS Interactive and is now making a case to get live eSports games on television here in the U.S.

At the end of the day, eSports has taken off so rapidly in America because of the growing popularity of competitive games and the desire that gamers have to watch competition at its highest level. While it may sound like a dream profession to some, professional gaming is a fiercely competitive business to get into. Players must spend countless hours perfecting strategies, communication, and teamwork to merely have a chance at competing with the best.

Whether you’re a player or caster (or even a journalist covering eSports), you have to work very hard and stay on top of everything. You have to live and breathe your game, and only the very best will ever make a name for themselves, in America or anywhere else. It takes drive, determination, and some very thick skin to make it as a pro gamer or caster, but if you can work your way into the club, it’s a fun ride that isn’t stopping anytime soon.

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