2019 saw more money flowing around esports than ever before. From eight-figure funding rounds to multi-year partnerships with Fortune 500 companies, keeping up with the biggest moves in esports is a challenge. This weekly series gives you the five most important deals in one place, helping you stay on top of the ever-changing esports industry.
1. Riot Games Pays out $10 Million in Class Action Lawsuit
Riot Games, the developer of League of Legends, has settled a lawsuit filed by two female employees who alleged gender discrimination in the workplace. After nearly a year of legal negotiations, the final settlement – pending court approval – will see $10 million distributed out to nearly 1,000 female employees who have worked at the company since 2014.
This lawsuit came about in large part because of a Kotaku report titled “Inside the Culture of Sexism at Riot Games.” Some of the women featured in that article then put forth a lawsuit and were awarded this settlement.
Lawsuits like this one actually changed California law. Last Spring, Riot attempted to force this lawsuit to go to arbitration, a process that often favors the company. Riot employees staged a walkout and the company dialed back the efforts. In October, California governor Gavin Newsom signed a new bill that made it illegal for companies to force new hires to sign an arbitration agreement. That bill will go into effect in 2020.
2. Call of Duty Goes Bowling
The US Army is embracing esports. It makes sense. Esports are most popular in the 18-34 demo but spending ten seconds in a Call of Duty voice chat lobby will show plenty of underage players as well. That’s the demo the US Army – and all militaries – target for recruitment.
The Call of Duty Endowment is a non-profit that helps veterans find work. Co-founded by Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, the Call of Duty endowment has now partnered with US Army Esports to host the CODE Bowl.
Eight of the biggest streamers in the world including Shroud, Summit1G and Dr. Disrespect will compete in a charity competition. Each streamer will be playing alongside a member of the US Armed Forces. ‘
🏆CODE Bowl Is Coming 🏆
8 teams featuring your favorite streamers and members of @USArmyesports.
— Call of Duty (@CallofDuty) December 5, 2019
Call of Duty’s partnership with the US Army has also caused controversy. In the new Modern Warfare, the story appears to rewrite history as the campaign travels to the Middle East to depict the Gulf War.
3. Dr. Disrespect To the Big Screen
One of the main streamers from the CODE Bowl had another big piece of news this week. Guy “Dr. Disrespect” Beahm has signed a deal with Skybound Entertainment for a new TV show. Production will begin on a new animated series focused on his persona he has developed on stream.
Dr. Disrespect, more than any other major streamer, plays a character on his channel. By wearing a black wig and a deeper-than-normal voice, his stream is a combination of performance art and high-quality FPS gameplay.
Still, that performance has gotten him into trouble. Last summer, he was live streaming E3 and went inside a bathroom with his stream still running. This is illegal under California’s Right to Privacy Act because no one using a urinal should be shown to tens of thousands of viewers. Duh.
The streamer apologized in a rare glimpse under the Dr Disrespect mask, and clearly that misstep hasn’t hurt his standing among his community.
4. Epic Games Opening the Vault Again
Much of the Fortnite storyline revolves around a mysterious vault in the center of the map, but the vault for this story is the one in the Raleigh offices of Epic Games.
Epic made headlines in July when the Fortnite World Cup put down $30 million in total prizes over two competitions in one weekend. Now Epic is back again, this time with a $15 million event in December. This event will be spread out over three separate competitions, each with $5 million in prizes.
These events will immediately become some of the biggest prize pools ever awarded in esports.
5. PUBG Mobile is Ascending as an Esport
While the first year of PUBG esports saw plenty of bumps, Tencent is doubling down on the mobile version of the game. The Chinese mega company has pledged $5 million in total prizes for PUBG Mobile events in 2020.
As one of the most popular games in Asia, PUBG Mobile is poised to become a dominant mobile esport in the coming years. According to The Verge, players are spending $140 million a month on the game and PUBG Mobile was the first mobile esport to cross $1 billion in revenue.
The rise of mobile esports is something to keep an eye on in 2020. These leagues will steadily rise the ranks of the biggest esports in the world in the coming years, it seems PUBG Mobile may even be on pace to outshine the PC counterpart.
Written by Mitch Reames
Feature Image Credit: Riot Games