HWC 2017: UGC St. Louis Preview and Predictions

The first event of the 2017 Halo World Championship season is this weekend, January 20th-22nd! UGC St. Louis, while not awarding spots for the HWC Finals, will still be important to teams, as it serves as seeding and LAN practice for HCS Las Vegas, which will award HWC spots. Let’s take a look at my predictions for what the top eight teams will be come Sunday!

#8. Luminosity gaming

Roster: Visal “eL TowN” Mohanan, Cameron “Victory X” Thorlakson, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, Joe “TriPPPeY” Taylor

Victory X. Courtesy of ESL.

Luminosity’s first dive into Halo ended with a 5th place finish in the Fall Season. Their new squad, while not necessarily worse, has much more fearsome competition to contend with. With eL TowN and Victory X bringing excellent support and objective work to the roster, their main concern will be slaying power. TriPPPey has proven himself to be very competent in this area, but his performance against higher-seeded pro teams remains unproven. This team should be able to dispatch teams outside of the top eight with relative ease. If Ninja can step up and be the jaw-dropping slayer we all know he can be, this squad can easily do even better. But with a 0-8 scrim record against other teams on this list, I’m not sure this LG squad can pull it off.

This tournament will serve as practice more than anything for Luminosity. They need to learn how to work together well and build a camaraderie outside the game. I fully expect their scrim scores to improve following this event, but I’m not sure I see them breaking into the top six before HWC Las Vegas.

 

#7. Str8 Rippin

Roster: Aaron “Ace” Elam, Bradley “APG” Laws, Richie “Heinz” Heinz, Jonathan “Renegade” Willette

I have a hard time saying that Renegade is an upgrade from Kevin “Eco” Smith. Both are great power slayers, but I feel Eco just slightly ekes out Renegade in most if not all categories. The advantage that Str8 has however, is that this team already has some previously built-up chemistry. Renegade played with Str8 before they were able to pick up Eco over the transfer period. Even with this, the team is not necessarily worse, but the competition has far improved from last season.

When it comes to scrims, Str8 has beaten Luminosity by only one game. However, the reason I put Str8 above LG on this list is because they have consistently done better against other rosters than LG. For example, both teams have scrimmaged the new Team Allegiance: Str8 lost the scrim 8-5, while Luminosity lost it 11-2. This sort of scenario has repeated itself multiple times with several different teams, and in most, Str8 comes out better than LG. UGC to this team will be about continuing to build their chemistry and seeing where they truly stack up against other top contenders.

 

#6. Team Allegiance

Roster: Tyler “Spartan” Ganza, Dan “Danoxide” Terlizzi, Hamza “Commonly” Abbaali, Ayden “Suspector” Hill

This is where things start to get especially close. The new Allegiance roster will have to fight through the open bracket, but once in the champ bracket, they’re sure to start making it farther down the rankings. This squad has three top-tier slayers and an excellent objective player.

Commonly

Commonly, also lovingly nicknamed “The Problem.” Courtesy of ESL.

This squad can very quickly switch places with any team in the 3rd-6th spots. In scrims, this team has lost to OpTic Gaming by only one game, and has also split scrims with both Team EnvyUs and Team Liquid. While LAN results may differ, this team could be without a doubt a top four contender, assuming Spartan kicks up his game to a near-insane levels like he did at the Fall Finals. UGC will provide solid practice to see if this new roster can play well together and to see if their online results translate over to LAN.

 

#5. Evil Geniuses

Roster: Justin “Roy” Brown, Jason “Lunchbox” Brown, Cody “ContrA” Szczodrowski, Devon “PreDevoNatoR” Layton

ContrA. Courtesy of ESL.

Now, to be clear, if this was an online qualifier, EG would most likely be in 7th or 8th place. But this is LAN. It has been proven time and again over the past decade that the the Brown twins are not to be tested at a live event. Throw in ContrA and PreDevoNatoR, another two players who have proven to be far superior on LAN to online. With a similar mix of play-styles to the EG team that dominated Halo 2: Anniversary, the potential of this squad is through the roof.

Despite this, numbers don’t lie. EG has lost all but one scrim out of the nine they’ve played. Despite this, they’ve taken a fair amount of games from both OpTic, EnvyUs, and Liquid. However, LAN EG is a completely different beast. During HCS Las Vegas last season, EG was able to take EnvyUs to a game five, pushing what virtually all view as a top two team to their absolute limits; and I’d say this squad is stronger. All of these players on LAN can far outdo themselves online, and as a fan of EG since they returned to Halo in 2014, I can’t wait to see what this team can do. UGC will serve as excellent practice for this squad, as they have not played on LAN since that Vegas event. However, teams that are absolutely brimming with talent are what is holding this team from joining the top four.

 

#4. Inconceivable

Roster: Jesse “Bubu Dubu” Moeller, Ryan “Shooter” Sondhi, Michael “Falcated” Garcia, “Shotzzy” (Full name unknown)

Be sure to give Bubu your Dubu this weekend, because he and Shooter are not going to be playing nice at this event. After being (for lack of a better word) screwed out of a Pro Bracket spot by their former teammate, these players are going to be hungry. Most of the attention is going to young-gun “Shotzzy,” a player who is so new and unknown that I can’t, for the life of me, find his actual name. He formed a duo with another young player to win several Team Beyond 2v2 tournaments, which included knocking out some pros. His movement and slaying power is already up there with the best, and he doesn’t even have a driver’s license yet. This team also won the NA placement cup prior to UGC and is in prime position to get into the top four. This squad has insane slaying power, led by Bubu’s clutch plays and top-tier objective work.

Scrims have gone very well for this new squad, including a 12-1 victory over Luminosity. They have also split games with both Liquid and Envy. However, the one thing holding them back from top three, is ironically Shotzzy. As far as I know, he has not played at any LAN events. This lack of experience can be detrimental to the squad, as his performance under pressure has not yet been tested. If Shotzzy holds up, this team is right up there with OpTic and Envy. Shotzzy’s performance will no doubt be a focal point for all teams this weekend at UGC. With this is the ongoing situation with this squad and the Pnda Gaming squad. If these two meet, I can only hope for the following scenario to be true:

t5evHFs.jpg

Bubu Dubu knocking out Carlos “Cratos” Ayala. Courtesy of “Craneteam,” from the Team Beyond Forums.

 

#3. Team Liquid

Roster: Timothy “Rayne” Tinkler, Zane “Penguin” Hearon, Braedon “StelluR” Boettcher, Kevin “Eco” Smith

If you asked me to throw together the most talented pro players who were not on Envy or OpTic, this is probably the squad I would come up with. A squad of all relative newcomers. Rayne and Penguin have been an amazing duo since first seen on LAN at NA Regionals last year. Rayne provides excellent support play, StelluR is one of the best main-slayers in the league, and both Penguin and Eco have proven themselves as excellent power-slayers.

This team has split games with Envy in scrims and even won a scrim against OpTic by one game. This team has also traded scrims with Inconceivable, but as I said, I believe Shotzzy’s lack of LAN experience will separate these two. I am sure this team will be top four, but UGC will decide if they can join Envy and OpTic in being a step above other teams in the league.

 

#2. Team EnvyUs

Roster: Austin “Mikwen” McCleary, Justin “iGotUrPistola” Deese (Wizard), Eric “Snip3down” Wrona, Cuyler “Huke” Garland

Pistola, the resident Wizard of Halo. Courtesy of ESL.

The Fall Champions. The King-slayers. The only team to ever beat OpTic on LAN. With a star-studded arrangement of amazing slayers, this squad has done what many thought would have been impossible. With Ola and Mikwen not even making Worlds last year, this battle will be especially personal for them. In scrims, they have won all except for one tie with Inconceivable. They defeated the Pnda squad 12-1. To say the least, this team is dominating.

And yet, I have them at #2.

OpTic may have fallen, but I don’t think they are defeated yet. In fact, as I have said earlier, I think Envy have awakened a sleeping dragon. However, their previous win at Fall Finals may also further motivate Envy to continue their win-streak all the way to being the 2017 World Champions. But to do this, one squad stands in their way.

 

#1. OpTic Gaming

Roster: Paul “SnakeBite” Duarte, Mathew “Royal2” Fiorante, Bradley “Frosty” Bergstrom, Tony “LethuL” Campbell

This squad needs no introduction. There’s a reason that I have OpTic winning UGC this weekend despite performing worse in scrims than Envy. LAN OpTic, in a similar fashion to EG, is a whole different beast. Losing at X-Games one year ago motivated the squad to become the first ever Halo World Champions. I’m betting that losing at Fall Finals will do the same. However, I don’t think OpTic will dominate as they have previously. At Fall Finals, OpTic was able to 4-1 Envy in the Winner’s Finals. Envy will surely take games. But I don’t think the #Greenwall is ready to go quietly quite yet. These two teams will be battling back and forth for the foreseeable future, but I think OpTic is going to be the defending world champs for yet another year.

OpTic wins HCS Orange County. Courtesy of ESL.

 

Do you agree with my placings? Be sure to let me know! Be sure to tune in to UGC St. Louis this weekend at: https://www.twitch.tv/halo

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and eSports articles from other great TGH writers along with Devin! Get in touch with Devin personally to talk more HCS and see more articles by following him on Twitter @Frostbite_XV2!

 

HWC 2017 Rostermania: Teams and Thoughts

With the conclusion of the Fall Season Pro League, many Halo teams have made some huge roster changes, and as usual, some drama has followed. With OpTic Gaming and Team EnvyUs retaining their previous rosters, let’s take a look at how the other teams are shaping up going into the 2017 World Championship season.

 

Courtesy of Tyler “Ninja” Blevins

Luminosity Gaming

Luminosity Gaming ended their first stint in professional Halo in 5th place, just barely being knocked out of the Fall Season Finals by Str8 Rippin’s miracle run through the last half of the season. In preparation for HWC, LG has released fan-favorite player, Brett “Naded” Leonard as well as Dan “Danoxide” Terlizzi. In their place, they have scooped up another fan favorite, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, as well as Joe “TriPPPeY” Taylor, a player who made it to the Fall Season Relegations. The full LG squad heading into the HWC 2017 Season is now Ninja, TriPPPeY, Cameron “Victory X” Thorlakson, and Visal “eL TowN” Mohanan.

The success of this team lies with the consistency of Ninja. When he catches fire, he can consistently match teams such as OpTic and NV, possibly even beat them. The only issue here, is that Ninja can’t pull off these kinds of performances on a consistent basis. He’s always been an aggressive, high-risk, high-reward sort of power slayer. The issue with this is that it’s been more risk than reward as of late, leading to some low-damage and high death games. With Victory X and eL TowN bringing a proper objective focus to this squad, as well as TriPPPey’s consistent slaying power, this should allow room for Ninja to do what he needs to do. If he shows up, then this squad can definitely break into the top 4.

Evil Geniuses

Being an EG fan has hurt, ever since NA Regionals last February. The twins, Jason “Lunchbox,” and Justin “Roy” Brown have just not been able to catch a break. Not because Roy and Lunchbox (collectively known as “Roybox”) are no longer able to compete, but instead because they have not been able to find players that can match their play styles. Even with this, the twins along with their teammates always managed to place well on LAN. This might just be what brings EG back into the winner’s circle.

Enter Cody “ContrA” Szczodrowski and Devon “PreDevoNatoR” Layton. These two are now joining Roybox and coach Ryan “Towey” after the release of Ninja and Braedon “StelluR” Boettcher. ContrA brings excellent slaying power, with arguably one of the best magnum shots in the league. PreDevoNatoR rounds out the squad with a solid flex role, being able to slay and do objective work. The reason this is important, is because this is a similar combination of play styles that EG had when they were dominating Halo 2: Anniversary. While all players have a spotty record when it comes to online play, both RoyBox as well as ContrA and PreDevoNatoR have done far better when it comes to LAN play. They are likely to also break into the top 4. Make no mistake. This team is a threat and has the potential to be as much of a contender as NV or OpTic.

 

Team Liquid

Team Liquid ended the Fall Season with a 3rd place finish. Looking to improve, Tyler “Spartan” Ganza and Hamza “Commonly” Abbaali have been released. In an attempt to push to the same level as OpTic and NV, they have scooped up Stellur and Kevin “Eco” Smith to join Zane “Penguin” Hearon and Tim “Rayne” Tinkler.

Courtesy of ESL

This new Team Liquid is the most likely to catch up to NV and OpTic. Penguin and Rayne have already proven themselves to be a top duo with a top 4 finish at HWC 2016 and at both Pro League seasons. Combined with Stellur and Eco, this team has a scary amount of slaying power. These two have teamed along with Team Liquid previously in the Summer Season, and despite their poor overall placing, they looked like a team that could have made Finals in the final weeks of the season.

*Note: Team Liquid has not yet officially stated that this is their roster, but it is very likely. Regardless, this team will hold the Liquid seed.

 

Str8 Rippin

This is a roster switch that many didn’t see coming. Most, (including me) had hoped that Str8 would stick with their roster of Aaron “Ace” Elam, Bradley “APG” Laws, Richie “Heinz” Heinz and Eco, especially after the roller coaster they had been on, which concluded with their miracle run to the Fall Finals. Unfortunately, this was not the case, as Eco left the team for Team Liquid. In his place, Str8 has acquired a previous amateur player,

This is not the first time that Jonathan “Renegade” Willette has played with Ace and crew. After Nick “Maniac” Kershner’s retirement, the team picked up their first victory in the Fall season with Renegade. He fills a similar role to Eco, being a great power slayer. Whether this will make Str8 stronger or weaker, remains to be seen.

 

Pnda gaming

Made up of Carlos “Cratos” Ayala, Cory “Str8 Sick” Sloss, Brett “Naded” Leonard, and Kyle “Nemassist” Kubina, this roster’s legitimacy of holding a pro seed is questionable at best. Through unfair bending of the rules and usage of loopholes, Cratos and his squad have managed to hold the former Enigma 6 seed instead of the squad made by Jesse “Bubu Dubu” Moeller and Ryan “Shooter” Sondhi, much to the anger of the HCS community. While the ESL rules state that a team must have two members of it’s previous team to retain a seed (Which Bubu’s squad does and Cratos’ does not), Cratos still managed to snag the seed.

Nevertheless, they hold the seed. However, this squad has weakened from what it once was. Already being forced to Fall Relegations, the loss of Bubu Dubu and Shooter, two players who arguably carried the team through relegations, will hurt the team. With several other team’s looking to snatch one of the seven NA spots at Worlds, it is very possible that this team will not even make it to Worlds, at least as they are now.

 

Team Allegiance

Despite not holding a pro seed, this team will likely breeze into the top 6. Allegiance dissolved their seed from the Fall season to acquire a new roster of Tyler “Spartan” Ganza, Hamza “Commonly” Abbaali, Ayden “Suspector” Hill, and Dan “Danoxide” Terlizzi. This roster is going to be scary. Spartan, Suspector, and Danoxide are all excellent slayers and can go toe-to-toe with anyone in the league. All this slaying power leaves Commonly free to run objectives however he sees fit and to be a general annoyance for the opposing team.

Spartan, team captain of the new ALG squad. Courtesy of Tyler Ganza

Spartan will be either the catalyst or the anchor for this team’s success. He has consistently been an emotional player who can either carry his squad with jaw-dropping plays, or just be completely shut down and become a detriment. Throughout the Summer Season, he was unfortunately the latter. However, during the Fall Season, this was not so. Spartan was consistently leading his team in slays, and at the Fall Finals, rocketed his team through a game seven Rig Slayer to reverse-sweep Str8 Rippin. Despite not having a pro seed going into UGC St. Louis, this team is likely a top three contender.

Many story lines are taking shape on the road to the 2017 Halo World Championship. The personal battle between Bubu Dubu’s now amateur team and Cratos as well as the ever present OpTic vs. NV rivalry, many questions will be answered this weekend. Come back later this week for a preview and predictions for UGC St. Louis!

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and eSports articles from other great TGH writers along with Devin! Get in touch with Devin personally to talk more HCS and see more articles by following him on Twitter @Frostbite_XV2!

 

Awesome Games Done Quick 2017: Does Speedrunning Have a Place in Esports?

Image via http://core0.staticworld.net/images/article/2015/01/gamesdonequick-100538610-large.png

Awesome Games Done Quick has transformed from a small, fairly unknown event, to the gaming industry’s leading charity event. It has attracted attention from industry giants, as well as the general gaming fan who peruses Twitch. It’s not only meant for Speed runners any longer, as the wide scope of the event has reached an entirely new level. But does it have a place in esports?

The event, if you’ve never heard of Games Done Quick, is centered around a week-long marathon where some of the most well-known and best speed runners of various games from around the world show up to show off their specific speed run. In the last three years, the event has completely exploded in popularity. The average number of viewers, attendees, and most importantly, donations, have sky rocketed in recent years.

I talked briefly to Mike Uyama, the creator of Games Done Quick, about the events history and future: “Our first marathon was Classic Games Done Quick in January 2010, which was inspired by The Speed Gamers. Long story short, the marathon ended up taking place in my mom’s basement and raised 11,000 dollars for international aid organization CARE,” said Uyama.

Since 2015, Games Done Quick has raised over $1 million in donations at each of the last four events (including Summer Games Done Quick). To put that into perspective, the NFL raises $3 million on average for charity. A niche community has nearly matched one of the worlds business juggernauts in the National Football League in terms of donation totals. That’s simply incredible and shows the power of speed running.

Speed running isn’t a new idea, people have been beating video games as fast as possible before the internet age.  It’s now just coming to light the sheer entertainment value of speed running. The skill and time dedicated to improving and optimizing these runs is incredible. Most of the top speed runners are often extremely talented gamers in general, and the skill sets transfer over to other aspects of gaming.

Here’s Dram55, one of the most talented speedrunners in the community, playing Joe And Mac 2 yesterday at AGDQ 2017:

Speed Running’s Place in Esports

Esports is a new, growing idea that’s just now starting to take on massive investors. It’s centered around competitive gaming and has formed an entirely new industry. Speed running started basically the same way as competitive gaming. It wasn’t started as a business venture, but to see if you were the best player at your favorite game.

Now, speed running, thanks to the invention of Twitch and Games Done Quick, has shown there’s plenty of interest in this niche hobby. Enough interest to the point where teams and investors might see the speed running community as a place to get exposure and make money. Runners like Mychal “TriHex” Jefferson, Clint Stevens, and Caleb Hart are just a few examples of players with massive online followings.

I don’t want to give the wrong idea here. The speed running community isn’t asking to be included in esports. Frankly, most speed runners could care less as that’s not the goal of speed running. But inherently, a community based around skill in video games and entertainment through someone else playing a game should probably be included in the esports side. It should be considered in the same vein as other competitive games.

“Speedrunning in five years might have tournaments, even more of it will be streamed, and maybe giant races will be broadcast.” Said Uyama

Speed Runs Live is a site that started as a platform to connect speed runners looking to race other speed runners. In this respect, Speed Runs Live applies directly to esports, and as Mike Uyama stated, races and tournaments could become a more prevalent part of the community. It’s unlikely the racing side becomes as popular as just the standard speed run, but it’s a sub-section of the speed running community that can’t be ignored.

Awesome Games Done Quick 2017 is currently taking place this week so make sure to watch and donate. As the industry grows, expect more emphasis to be placed on speed running. It’s an untapped market that has potential to grow. Its place in esports is unclear now, but the more research and eyes on the community will push future investors towards speed running.

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OGRE 2’s Return to Halo

The man, the myth, the legend. The greatest of all time. Tom “OGRE 2” Ryan is a legend not only in the Halo community, but the esports community in general. He has won four 1v1 / FFA events, seven 2v2 events, and 40 4v4 events. This all adds up to a jaw-dropping, grand total of 51 tournament victories.

36 of these victories had Ogre 2 alongside his twin brother, Dan “OGRE 1” Ryan. 35 had Ogre 2 play with what came to be known as Halo’s first dynasty, the Final Boss squad, whose logo holds the coveted spot of my phone background. Not to mention being a five-time MLG National Champion across four different Halo titles. All the more impressive when considering there were only eight total MLG National Championships.

Courtesy of Major League Gaming.

Chargers los angeles rams coaches carmelo anthony airball

OGRE 2 competing at his last event before retirement, the HCS Pro League Summer Qualifier. Courtesy of ESL.

Ogre 2 originally played under Counter Logic Gaming at the start of the 2016 World Championship. He was later dropped following the acquisition of Tony “Lethul” Campbell. This event was frequently referred to as “Hurricane Lethul” for the abundance of surprising roster changes that followed.

After being dropped from CLG, Ogre 2 joined Team EnvyUs for a short time. Unfortunately, they did not qualify for the 2016 World Championship at NA Regionals.

Later, following his loss at the HCS Pro League Summer Qualifiers, Ogre 2 chose not to participate in the last chance qualifier. He later announced his retirement from competing. However, this may not be Ogre 2’s final tale.

Ogre 2 announced earlier this week that he would be attending the qualifiers for the 2017 Halo World Championship with amateur players, most notably HCS Fall Relegations player Tom “Saiyan” Wilson. This team scrimmaged a new roster of all HCS Pro League players, including Jesse “Bubu Dubu” Moeller, and Ryan “Shooter” Sondhi.

The scrimmage ended with an 8-5 score in favor of Ogre 2’s new squad. While this “Bubu-Shooter” squad had lost a scrimmage playing Ogre 2, this result is notable nevertheless.

It is very possible that Ogre 2’s team could break into the much sought-after top eight in the qualifiers and that this team could progress into the HCS Pro League season after the 2017 World Championship.

Ogre 2 has stated that he does not plan to compete past Worlds. However, good results could change his mind. After retiring, Ogre 2 has been streaming Halo 5 consistently. He is now far superior to his former self, and can go toe-to-toe with any pro. Should he make the top eight, and be able to find success after, he may choose to remain. However, with roster swaps abound for amateur and pro teams alike, this could threaten his chances. Ogre 2 carries many fans with him, and his return to Halo has the capacity to bring back many nostalgic fans from the days of Final Boss.

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Pokésports pokemon sports crest

Pokésports III: Pokémon Look to Sports, Turn to Teams

Pikachu and The Patriots

Pikachu and other Pokémon huddle during sports.

Everybody has heard of Pokémon. This single fact cannot be understated. Creating a cultural brand is something that requires time, hard work, and a lot of luck. Once a brand becomes a part of a culture though, its impact can be hard to measure. Think Coca-Cola, Google, and the major sports leagues. One thing these brands have in common is they all command tremendous strength in their respective markets.

The NFL, NBA, and other sports leagues are so successful due to the fact that they have managed to become ingrained into society. Kids play sports for their schools team, get scholarships to go to college, and eventually go to the pros. Billions of dollars in TV contracts and merchandising, as well as fans young and old chanting the names of local teams. This is the phenomenon of a cultural brand, and this is the exact thing Pokémon has at its disposal.

 

Money Money Money

Team Rocket's James pets a Persian while sitting surrounded by money.Sports are serious business. Year after year, the NFL Super Bowl brings in over 100,000 viewers, counting only home viewership, and in 2016 charged $5,000,000 per 30 second ad. In addition, the NFL’s 2015 revenue was 11.8 billion dollars, while the NBA’s was 4.7 billion dollars. Compare that to Pokémon’s 2015 revenue of 2.1 billion dollars. Using the sport model, TPCI could supercharge their money making potential and change generations to come.

A majority of sports revenue comes from TV contracts. Just look at the NFL, it is by far the most lucrative sports league in the world. Almost two thirds of its over 10 billion dollar income comes from TV revenue. That is around seven billion dollars from TV alone. Earning the rest from a variety of things, such as merchandising, ticket sales, and sponsorship deals. Pokémon’s TV show, on the other hand, has been falling in popularity. Like all markets, competition eventually comes along, and in the case of Pokémon, Yokai Watch has begun to slowly unravel its brand.

Unlike Pokémon, Yokai Watch has not established itself as a cultural brand. Pokémon can use this advantage. If it can pivot into eSports, TPCI could aim to achieve monetization similar to the NFL. Though unlike the NFL, Pokémon would be able to work on a global scale. Assuming Pokémon could achieve success as an eSport, it is safe to assume TV revenue alone would surpass anything TPCI has ever seen. Just imagine families across the world sitting down throughout the week to watch their favorite Trainers battle it out.

 

Generation Game

Think about it, a child throwing a baseball with their father, and that same family playing Pokémon GO together are practically interchangeable today. This is why Pokémon’s transition into a major eSport is a serious proposition. Just like traditional sports, parents are passing down a passion for Pokémon to their children. Due to the multi-generational connection of the brand, there are plenty of potential fans worldwide. A proverbial fire is ready to be started.

The spark that sets the blaze just needs to be created by TPCI. Between changes to gameplay and tournament structure, along with rethinking broadcasting and viewability, TPCI has some work to do in order to make Pokémon a successful eSport. However, Pokémon could achieve unparalleled competitive market advantage if they are up to the challenge. Memorable Pokémon and awesome Trainers won’t be enough though, one key component is needed to help turn Pokémon into an eSports success: Teams.

Pokémon Team Skull posing together

Pokémon could benefit from teams in a plethora of ways. Teams offer better opportunities for sponsorships, and visibility at professional events. Teams can also practice together and help each other get stronger. When 5 people enter a tournament as a team, if one of them wins, the team wins. This mentality could change the scope of competitive Pokémon. More buy-in could be expected from both players and sponsors. Hobby shops could set up competitive teams and act as local anchors of fandom. Maybe one day even schools and universities could employ their own competitive Pokémon Trainers.

There Can Only Be One

Pokémon Machoke and his Trainer practice together.

At the end of the day, as the eSports market grows, one or two brands will stand above the rest. Pokémon could be that brand. TPCI just needs to refine Pokémon’s model, while at the same time exploiting its place as a cultural brand. Many of the eSports brands, such as League, DOTA, and CS:GO, have a lot brand awareness building to do, but they are growing fast. TPCI does not have forever to act. Should Pokémon not make the move, it may slowly start to cede its market share to competitors such as Yokai Watch.

Pokémon could potentially become not only the most successful eSport, but the most successful sport in the world. Many of the factors needed for such a success are in Pokémon’s favor. The eSports market has many new brands blooming and Pokémon must be poised for battle, or be prepared for mediocrity.

 

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Team Rocket blasting off again.

All images courtesy of Game Freak

 

Echo Fox’s Mega Deal Will Start New Era of Fighting Game Player Acquisitions

Photo via https://twitter.com/echofoxgg

A super team in the fighting game community has been formed and signed by former NBA champion Rick Fox’s Esports team Echo Fox. Echo Fox acquired Justin Wong, Yusuke Momochi, Yuko “Chocoblanka” Momochi, Hajime “Tokido” Taniguchi, Leonardo “MK Leo” Lopez Perez, Dominque “SonicFox” McLean, and Brad “Scar” Vaughn, bringing their total fighting game division up to nine players. What does this mean for the rest of the fighting game community?

Echo Fox already sponsors Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman and Julio Fuentas, two well-established players, and now add seven more players to their arsenal. Echo Fox meticulously selected these players, nearing the end of their contracts, to represent the Echo Fox name. They add three top-20 players in Street Fighter V, the best Mortal Kombat X player, and a rising Smash 4 star.

Additionally, Echo Fox was created as a League of Legends team, but the team funded by Rick Fox and managed by his son have now invested heavily in fighting games. Nine players under contract make Echo Fox the team with the largest fighting game department. It’s the single, most lucrative, contract negotiation a fighting game team has ever signed.

Fighting Game Community Will Benefit

Photo via https://twitter.com/echofoxgg/status/817145836916252673

The insurgence of wealthy investors into the fighting game scene is a welcomed sight. If a team can pay many top-players more than market-value, which in turn will help more players get paid, then the scene will grow. Echo Fox is the first team to ever make a bulk signing of this many quality players. Expect more deals like this from larger organizations in the future.

From here on, players’ value will only continue to rise as more money will be available in esports. The value in return for teams is great exposure on a burgeoning scene. The signing of players from three separate teams indicated Echo Fox believes in the fighting game community. It also shows this team is here to win.

Look at Kennth “Kbrad” Bradley, one of the few players still under contract at Evil Geniuses, who called out Justin Wong last week. The formation of this super team created rivals and players looking to topple the Echo Fox empire. It provides extra story lines and adds jealousy and anger to the equation.  Echo Fox poaching players from Evil Geniuses absolutely ignited a fire to the remaining EG players.

With NBA teams getting involved with Esports, teams with the capital will target players for similar bulk deals. This could be the start of a business trend. Other teams should sign more players just to compete with Echo Fox. It should start off a chain reaction.

Overall, these signings give Echo Fox the best chance to win tournaments; that’s the most important factor, all things considered. Contract details haven’t been made public as of yet.

 

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and eSports articles from other great TGH writers along with Blake

Pokesports II competitive Pokemon logo

Pokésports II: Not Quite There, Not Farfetch’d

Segue, I Choose You

Last time we established the impressive growth of eSports along with the power of the Pokémon brand. This time we will cover what competitive Pokémon entails and how that translates into a successful eSports brand. Or does it?

Pokemon "Psyduck" holds heads in hands and shrugs.

Image courtesy of Game Freak

Pikachu, Team Rocket, and Ash’s inability to win anything of significance are common Pokémon themes. These themes however, have little in common with the world of Competitive Pokémon Battling. Trainers in the real world spend hours developing tricks and strategies using the hundreds of available Pokémon. Forming teams of six to compete in varying levels of Tournaments. From local Premier Challenges, to massive International Championships, Trainers battle each other for a chance to compete at the annual World Championship.

A Wild Pokémon Appears

Before a Trainer can even think about battling, they must decide which six Pokémon will be on their team. Teambuilding involves deciding stat spreads, natures, and abilities for each Pokémon along with the four attacks to be used in battle. This process is crucial to success as a Trainer. Once a match begins, the choices made during Teambuilding will effect the Trainers options in battle and can have a major impact on matchups.

Pokemon and Construction Workers gather together and grimace.

Image courtesy of Game Freak

While a critical part of competitive play, Teambuilding can also be long and tedious, involving countless in-game hours breeding Pokémon and practicing with different strategies. The tedious time investment Teambuilding requires is often cited as a major reason aspiring Trainers abandon Competitive Pokémon. Worst yet, Teambuilding provides no actual benefit to spectators since it all happens behind the scenes. In the end, many Trainers come away feeling the many hours spent breeding and leveling Pokémon is a needless time sink that prevents access to high level competitive play.

In all fairness, TPCI has slowly worked to make it easier to train competitive teams; slowly is the key word. Streamlining Teambuilding, or creating an independent system for tournament play is truly needed to help grow the competitive scene.

 

Double, What’s Doubles!?

Zebstrika smashes head into wall.

Image courtesy of Tumblr

While playing the games or watching the anime, you might think Pokémon battles were one on one matches. You would be wrong. All officially sanctioned Pokémon matches are in the Doubles format. A Trainer brings a team of six Pokémon and picks four at the start of each match. Each Trainer then sends two Pokémon at a time on to the field. For many fans this is a major shock compared to what they know and love from the series.

While this disconnect from the traditional series can be startling, it is not without it’s benefits. Double Battles provide a fast-paced style of gameplay compared to Singles matches. Many new strategies also become viable when there are two Pokémon on the field together. These factors help keep matches fresh and moving swiftly. Working to build awareness of just what Doubles is could help build fan acceptance through further ingraining them into the soul of the brand.

Another interesting change that could take place in competitive Doubles is the introduction of two Trainer teams. As it stands now, one Trainer controls both Pokémon on their side of the field. If, however, TPCI incorporated teams of two Trainers, each controlling their own Pokémon, we could see some new and interesting dynamics appear.

 

See You at VGC

Play Pokemon banner

Image courtesy of Play Pokemon

TPCI sanctioned Pokémon tournaments are referred to collectively as VGC. Given Pokémon’s place as a global brand, it is a surprise how few people are actually aware VGC exists. During the VGC season, Trainers collect points at Premier Challenges, Midseason Showdowns, Regional Championships, and International Championships. Collect 400 of these points by the end of the season and you will be invited to compete at the World Championship. The tournament structure is rather straightforward, but not without its flaws.

Tournaments can be plagued with poor organization and rule enforcement. Matches involve two Trainers sitting on either side of a table in front of their respective 3DS’s with a judge off to one side. Gameplay is then streamed from one of the Trainers so that spectators can join in on the action. As you can imagine, many of these things do not make for exciting television. Revamping how Pokémon tournaments work and what they have to offer is an absolute must. Especially considering the most successful sport in the world, the NFL, makes the majority of its revenue through TV and TV related contracts.

Team Rocket's James being showered in Gold Coins

Image courtesy of Game Freak

Worst yet is what is at stake for each Trainer. The prize money awarded at the end of each tournament is a sad fraction of what it should be. In an effort to grow the competitive side of the Pokémon franchise, wealth needs to be shared with Professional Trainers. If TPCI showed the willingness to invest into its own competitive scene, sponsors would react in kind. Regardless, $5,000 and $10,000 first place prizes for major international tournaments is really a shame. You can do better TPCI.

 

What You See is What You Get

Viewership, it all boils down to viewership. Sports and eSports live and die by the viewership numbers they bring in. This is a place where Pokémon has a built in advantage. Its exposure around the world and ability to resonate with all age ranges is a huge boon as an aspiring eSport. Combine that with Pokémon’s ability to merchandise means some serious revenue potential.

While Pokémon is not lacking fans, viewership is one of the weaker aspects of the competitive Pokémon scene. There is only one thing responsible for the lack of competitive viewership, get ready for it. Competitive Pokémon is boring to watch. That’s right, I love you TPCI but this is the major hurdle that stands between the niche that competitive Pokémon maintains, and the runaway success it could be. That is not to say boring matches can’t be fixed.

Changes to the way matches work, such as two Trainer teams and shorter turn timers, could serve to alter match dynamics. Ultimately though, new approaches to broadcasting the matches are needed most. Being a Turn-based Strategy Game at its core, creative methods for animating action between turns and capturing that with exciting camera angles and transitions would serve to keep momentum building throughout matches. Add on exciting commentary to complete the package.

Pokemon battle in an arena between Bisharp and Emboar.

Image courtesy of Bulbagarden

Ultimately TPCI should work to make watching a Pokémon match more like sitting in an arena and watching powerful monsters battle, and less like watching two Trainers take turns picking what to do from one trainers perspective. If a dynamic, and exciting broadcast of exciting Pokémon matches can be achieved, fans will watch. The rest will be history.

 

Wrap It Up Will You

A massive fanbase and established competitive scene puts Pokémon in a great position as a potential eSport. The ability to attract young new fans, as well as merchandise, invites lucrative sponsorship potential. With these things in mind, TPCI must make some changes.

Making these changes could lead to a formula of success only seen in the traditional sports world though. Capitalize on this, TPCI, and you could redefine sports for generations.

Until next time Trainers.

 

Missed the first issue? Check it out! Pokesports: Power of a Brand and One Fans Plea

 

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles written by other great TGH writers like Drew!

“From Our Haus to Yours”

Gary Oak driving away.

Image courtesy of Game Freak

OpTic or EnvyUs? Who is the Best Team After Fall Season?

Throughout the majority of competitive Halo history, two teams usually stood above the rest, and were the only expected championship contenders; First it was Final Boss and Carbon, then Str8 Rippin and Triggers Down, and later Instinct and Status Quo. In the modern era, it seems that this trend is continued, as eSports giants OpTic Gaming and Team EnvyUs clash yet again. However, are the king-slayers Team EnvyUs truly ready to outright dominate the HCS as OpTic has done since HWC Regionals?

Team EnvyUs:

NV as an org has had a roller coaster of a ride in Halo. The team did not even qualify for HWC 2016, despite having the GOAT of Halo, Tom “OGRE 2” Ryan, and a player affectionately referred to by the community as “The Wizard,” Justin “iGotUrPistola” Deese. To put this into context, the previous time Ogre 2 and Pistola teamed, they formed the Instinct god-squad. They won several events, including winning MLG Anaheim 2011 without dropping a single game. Following the conclusion of the HWC 2016, NV finished in the Summer Pro League in third, with a roster of Pistola, Austin “Mikwen” McCleary, Visal “eL TowN” Mohanan and Tim “Rayne” Tinkler.

After the Summer Season, both eL TowN and Rayne left the team. With this, came the formation of what is possible the next Halo “God Squad.” Team NV acquired Eric “Snip3down” Wrona, one of the greatest players since the Halo 3 era, and Cuyler “Huke” Garland, a former Call of Duty player who had first made his name at HWC Regionals, and had gained a reputation through legendary snipes such as this (Warning to headphone users: You probably like your sense of hearing, do yourself a favor and turn the volume down):

Crowd footage courtesy of Mishwad

This is the team that has dethroned OpTic Gaming. Carrying their momentum from HCS Las Vegas, they accomplished what no team has been able to do since the start of 2016.

OpTic Gaming

This team, formerly CLG, has dominated the professional Halo scene since HWC Regionals and needs no introduction. With a roster of Paul “Snakebite” Duarte, Mathew “Royal 2” Fiorante, Bradley “Frosty” Bergstrom, and Tony “Lethul” Campbell, this team was unstoppable. Snakebite, Royal 2, and Lethul put up constant slaying power, allowing Frosty to do disgusting things like this.

And this:

This squad became the first Halo World Champions, the HCS Summer Season Champions, and won the HCS Orange County event. Their remarkable streak was only broken at the Fall Finals in December. This loss can either motivate them, or anchor them down coming into the Halo World Championship.

Conclusion

One could say that since the NV squad won the last event, they are now the best team. But with OpTic having dominated for so long, can NV be the best after winning once? Both arguments carry validity. What follows is solely my opinion.

Let’s look at the numbers. OpTic defeated NV twice at HCS Orange County with an ending score of 10-2 in favor of OpTic. The next LAN event that these teams met at was the Fall Finals. OpTic dominated NV in the Winner’s Bracket Finals with a 3-1 finish. Meeting again in the Grand Finals, NV reset the series by winning 4-2. They became the first team to beat OpTic on LAN by defeating them in a second best-of-seven series 4-3. The total record of games is 18-11 in favor of OpTic.

While NV has managed to defeat OpTic on LAN, I do not believe they are the best Halo team as of yet. Not only does OpTic out-perform NV on the basis of games won on LAN, but other factors could have contributed to OpTic’s loss that were outside of the game. It is also completely legitimate to say that OpTic just had a bad series, just as they did at X-Games. However, following the end of the Fall Season, the total game score of online scrims is 13-9 in favor of NV. With that said, these are online results, and are far less important when considering that OpTic is a far superior team on LAN than online.

NV may have won the last event and taken the title of Fall Season Champions; But much like X-Games, they may have awakened a sleeping dragon.

I hope everyone enjoyed the read! To find more top-notch articles about sports and eSports, like and follow The Game Haus on Facebook and Twitter! Check out the Team Beyond forums to participate in the discussion of Halo eSports. Get in touch with me personally to talk more HCS and see more articles by following me on Twitter @Frostbite_XV2!

All clips are courtesy of Microsoft, 343 Industries, ESL and the HCS.

Pokésports Crest

Pokésports: The Power of a Brand and One Fans Plea

The Year of eSports

One of the big showings this year at CES Conference is eSports. Being a relatively new phenomenon, eSports is experiencing a surge of growth. Reporting a 2016 revenue of 493 million dollars. On top of that analysts project annual revenue to surpass 1 billion dollars by 2019.

Customers enjoying food and eSports at Buffalo Wild Wings.

Image courtesy of youtube.com user sapphiRe

Furthermore, recent studies have shown eSports rise in popularity. Now they are rating as high as Baseball and Ice Hockey among American Millennial Males. Turner Broadcasting is even getting in on the action with ELEAGUE, a professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive league. First being aired on TBS. Then picked up and shown in Buffalo Wild Wings throughout the United States.

Building a Brand

Half a billion dollars is still relatively small for a global industry. While poised for growth, eSports lacks a strong brand. That brings us to Pokémon. A 20 year old series revolving around Trainers capturing, raising, and battling monsters in the game world. Pokémon already has an existing competitive tournament series referred to as the Video Game Championships (VGC) with multiple tournaments each year culminating in a World Championship. However, Pokémon is generally not thought of as under the eSports umbrella. As an effect both Pokémon and eSports find themselves as somewhat of an odd couple. Both could benefit from being with the other, but neither will make a move.

The reason for the odd relationship between Pokémon and eSports comes down to marketing. The Pokémon Company International (TPCI) has not really worked to market the competitive aspect of the franchise. Even though Pokémon commands a massive following worldwide, competitive Pokémon still remains rather niche. While TPCI does little to nurture their growing competitive community.

Massive crowd cheering inside arena during Nintendo eSports tournament.

Image courtesy of Nintendo

Nintendo is showing signs of moving into eSports with the launch trailer debuting the new Nintendo Switch. The time has come for Nintendo, Game Freak, and TPCI to take a long and serious look at what they have with the Pokémon brand and its ability to translate into massive growth potential inside the eSports market. This would not only benefit the coffers of those companies, but serve as a springboard for the already fast growing eSport movement.

Perfect Match

The Pokémon brand carries a significant amount of weight. Generating 2.1 billion dollars annual revenue in 2015 and expected to report higher returns for 2016. Pokémon GO, an augmented reality game for Android and iPhone, launched in 2016. Going so far as to produce revenues of over 1 billion dollars in its first year. That’s right, a Free To Play app for smartphones generated double the revenue of the entire eSports industry, simply due to the Pokémon brand. Now consider an actual concerted effort to market Pokémon as the next big eSport.

I challenge you to imagine a world where Pokémon reaches its full potential as an eSport. A world where, just like football and basketball today, a kid can become a professional Trainer. Making a living mastering what is essentially a game of 3D chess, constructing teams out of 100’s of available Pokémon. The fanbase and brand power is undoubtedly there and I would hazard a guess that many corporations would get in bed with the Pokémon brand in the realm of sports. VGC Tournaments already look like what they show off in the Nintendo Switch trailer.

Large crowd gathers for competitive Pokémon tournament.

Image courtesy of Kotaku

This series I will dive into what it would take for Pokémon to become a respected eSports franchise, what that would look like, and the overall impact of such an event. Everything from the structure of the competitive community to the way matches are broadcast will be examined. With hope TPCI takes these points to heart and gifts the magic of Pokémon to future generations. A world of dreams and adventures with Pokémon awaits! Let’s go!

Opening scene from G1 Pokémon games.

Image courtesy of Game Freak

You can “Like” The Game Haus on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles written by other great TGH writers like Drew!

Road to the Halo World Championship 2017

On December 11th, 2016, Team EnvyUs dethroned the reigning kings of the Halo Championship Series (HCS), OpTic Gaming, in a thrilling double best-of-seven series. This was the first time the OpTic Gaming (formerly Counter Logic Gaming) Halo team lost a series on LAN since X-Games Aspen at the end of January 2016.

The first North American qualifier for the Halo World Championship (HWC) is fast approaching, and many players are putting their nose to the grindstone in order to get their piece of the $1,000,000 prize pool.

Team EnvyUs won the Falls Season of the Halo Championship Series

Team EnvyUs hoist the HCS Fall Season Finals trophy. (PC: ESL)

North America

For North American teams, the grind to make it to HWC 2017 begins on January 20th, 2017 at UGC St. Louis. The top eight teams from the open bracket will move on to the Championship Bracket, where the pro teams, seeded by the HCS Fall Season, wait for their chance to advance. The top three teams from the Champ Bracket will automatically qualify for the HWC. On March 3rd, HWC Vegas by Millennial Esports begins, with the same format as UGC St. Louis, and will send another three teams to the HWC. OpTic Gaming and Team EnvyUs are bound to face each other yet again, and the Greenwall will be looking for revenge.

Following both of the open LANs, the online qualifiers throughout the months will lead to a last chance online qualifier on March 11th, sending the final North American team to the HWC.

Europe:

Two European teams will also have their shot at $1,000,000. HWC London by Gfinity is an open-bracket event that will send the top two teams to HWC on February 17th-19th. Following this, the Europeans will have their own last chance qualifier to send the third and final European team to the HWC on February 26th.

At last year’s HWC, Epsilon eSports was the first European team to break into the top eight in Halo history. FAB eSports looks to best this record, and are poised to do so after winning both the EU Summer and Fall Season Finals. How far they are capable of going is in question after a disappointing 7th / 8th place finish at HCS Las Vegas however.

The Grand Finals of the EU Fall Finals saw FAB dismantling Team Infused with a 4-0 win. (PC: ESL)

The Grand Finals of the EU Fall Finals saw FAB dismantling Team Infused with a 4-0 win. (PC: ESL)

Latin / South America and Australia / New Zealand:

Gfinity will be sending only one team from the South / Latin America area to the HWC. The team to hold this coveted spot will be determined at HWC Mexico City on February 24th-26th.

ESL Australia will also be hosting an online qualifier on February 26th to send the 12th and final team to the HWC.

The race to the $1,000,000 game starts in January. The OpTic vs. EnvyUs rivalry will continue, as both battle for the glory of being the best Halo team in the world. However, many other teams are also looking to take home the title of Halo World Champion.

I hope everyone enjoyed the read! To find more top-notch articles about sports and eSports, like and follow The Game Haus on Facebook and Twitter! Check out the Team Beyond forums to participate in the discussion of Halo eSports. Get in touch with me personally to talk more HCS and see more articles by following me on Twitter @Frostbite_XV2!

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