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March Investment Recap: More Than $200M of Fresh Capital Gets Injected into the Esports Ecosystem 

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During the month of March 2021, The Esports Observer tracked 23 investments raised by esports-relevant companies. Disclosed investments amounted to $233M USD, bringing the total sum of disclosed investments in 2021 to $1.9B. 

In addition to several significant investments, including Overwolf’s $50M+ and Envy Gaming’s 40M Series C financing rounds, several private placement deals by Toronto Stock Exchange Venture Exchange listed esports companies, and multiple seed round investments, a couple of major deals in the works came to light during the month. Super League Gaming is in the process of acquiring live streaming technology platform Mobcrush at a transaction value likely to exceed $60M and Microsoft is in talks to acquire gaming voice and community chat platform Discord for more than $10B. 

Financial terms were not disclosed for all deals highlighted in this article. 

Overwolf Raises $50M+ Series C 

Credit: Overwolf

In-game apps platform Overwolf raised a $52.5M Series C financing round co-led by Griffin Gaming Partners and Insight Partners with participation from further investors including UbisoftWarner Music GroupImmortals Gaming Club investor Meg Whitman, Gen.G co-founder Kevin Chou, and existing investors Marker, Intel Capital and Liberty Media. 

Tel Aviv-based Overwolf, revealed that it intends to use the funding to “boost development firepower dedicated to creating services for creators and to create more opportunities and vehicles to invest in, and with, the in-game creator community.”  

Envy Gaming Secures Funding from a Publicly-Traded Television Broadcasting Company 

Credit: Envy Gaming

Dallas-headquartered esports organization Envy Gaming raised a $40M Series C investment round led by American New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) listed broadcasting company Gray Television. As the lead investor, Gray Television committed $28.5M 

Gray Television joins Envy Gaming’s ownership group, including former professional Call of Duty player and Envy Gaming founder Mike Rufail, musician Austin Richard “Post Malone” Post, Texas Rangers minority owner Ken Hersh, and several Texas families and national investors.  

PUBG Developer Invests in Indian Esports Firm Nodwin Gaming 

Credit: Nodwin Gaming

India-based esports and gaming firm Nodwin Gaming secured a $22.5M (1.64B INR) investment from South Korean game developer and publisher Krafton Inc., which is best known as the owner and publisher of PUBG and PUBG Mobile.  

The investment will be used to scale up in regions where it already has a foothold and expand beyond those borders. Those regions include South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East (with a focus on continuing to work from Dubai). It will also use the funds to continue to build out infrastructure and make improvements in its existing operations, and support talent. 

Beyond expanding its footprint in and around regions where it already has a presence, Nodwin co-founder and managing director Akshat Rathee told The Esports Observer that this investment will allow the company to consider creating franchising models and to consider building out esports around “real sports” such as Cricket and soccer in India and other regions where the sports are super popular. 

Funding for New Game Studios 

Credit: Theorycraft Games

Theorycraft Games, a new game development company founded by Riot Games, Bungie, Blizzard, and Valve Software veterans, raised $37.5M in a Series A funding round led by NetEase. Theorycraft will use the new capital in a recruitment push to fill out a team working on “a community-driven player versus player (PvP) game available across multiple platforms.” 

Frost Giant Studios secured a $5M investment round for the continued development of an independent real time strategy game (RTS). The investment saw participation from Korean venture capital fund Kona Venture Partners as well as Global Founders Capital, RXBAR co-founder Jared Smith, and game backend entrepreneur Eden Chen. 

Game Studio Acquisitions 

Credit: Motorsport Games

Nasdaq-traded racing game developer, publisher, and esports ecosystem provider Motorsport Games fully acquired rFactor 2 developer Studio397 from Luminis International for $16M. The Netherland-based Studio397 is expected to retain its name, branding, and existing development and management team following the acquisition’s completion. Additionally, Motorsport Games plans to utilize its resources and expertise to enhance rFactor 2, amongst other things by using Epic Games’ Unreal Engine and layering in additional components Motorsport Games has developed over the last two years. 

ByteDance, the owner of short video apps TikTok and Douyin, acquired Shanghai-based game developer and publisher Moonton through its gaming business subsidiary NUVERSE. The company which is best known for its mobile multiplayer online battler arena (MOBA) game Mobile Legends, will remain an independent developer while using ByteDance’s resource to expand overseas. 

Fortnite and Unreal Engine maker Epic Games acquired Tonic Games Group, the developers of the popular battle royale party game, Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout. Tonic Games joins Epic’s other wholly-owned studios including Rocket League developer Psyonix, Chair Entertainment, and People Can Fly. 

Private Placements 

Credit: GameSquare

Toronto Stock Exchange Venture Exchange (TSXV) listed Engine Media Holdings closed a $15M private placement. Engine Media owns several esports, gaming and news assets, including gaming video distribution analytics platform Stream Hatchet, racing game developer Eden Games, and esports tournament platform UMG. The group’s CEO Louis Schwartz revealed in a release that the new capital will be used to invest into the company’s subsidiaries and capitalize on “numerous growth opportunities in front of us.” 

GameSquare Esports, the Canadian Securities Exchange-listed parent company of esports agency Code Red Esports, completed its acquisition of Canadian esports organization Reciprocity. GameSquare fully acquired Reciprocity for a consideration of approximately $14.44M CAD ($11.57M). Furthermore, the completion of the Reciprocity acquisition satisfied the escrow release conditions of a previously announced upsized bought deal private placement raised by GameSquare. Therefore, the company got access to the $7M CAD ($5.6M) raised. 

Toronto Stock Exchange Venture Exchange (TSXV) listed Real Luck Group, the parent company of esports betting platform Luckbox, raised approximately $17.8M CAD ($14.1M) in an oversubscribed private placement deal. The company intends to use the private placement net proceeds for working capital and general corporate purposes such as investing in its existing team and scaling user acquisition. 

Seed Round Investments 

Credit: Ovation

Swiss esports organization Ovation eSports AG raised a seed round investment from twin brothers Maurice and Kyril Louis-Dreyfus towards growth and expansion. The Louis-Dreyfus brothers, who were born in 1997, are members of the French Louis-Dreyfus family and children to the late Robert Louis-Dreyfus, a former CEO of adidas and majority shareholder of the French soccer club Olympique de Marseille. In February, Kyril Louis-Dreyfus acquired a majority stake in the English third-tier soccer club Sunderland A.F.C. 

San Francisco-based mobile gaming platform company Ryu Games raised a $2.3M seed round led by Velo Partners, Citta Ventures, MGV Capital, INP Capital, Side Door Ventures, and 500 Startups. The startup intends to use the capital infusion to accelerate the growth of its mobile cash tournament gaming platform. 

Tech startup 1v1Me raised a $2M pre-seed financing round to launch its online gaming wagering platform from investors, including On Deck, AngelList Access Fund, Sterling.VCLightshed Ventures, and BettorCapital. The startup was founded last year by Anthony Geranio and Alexander Emmanuel, who met working at Skillshare, inspired by their friends playing video games for money using a whiteboard for stats and leaderboard tracking during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

California-based tech startup Esports GG Inc, the developer of interactive esports and gaming fan platform Organization.GG, secured a $610K pre-seed funding round from WePlay Esports, QPDigital, and private investors. The funding will be used to expand into the North American market and further develop the Organization.GG platform. 

Teneriffe-based tech startup Teide Innovation Technologies, the developer of esports training solutions eStragy, closed a €84K EUR ($99K) pre-seed funding round led by business angel Hugo Borges de Sousa. The startup intends to use the investment proceeds to strenghten its financial structure for its official launch in May. 

Other Acquisitions 

Credit: EVO

The annual fighting game tournament brand Evo got acquired by Sony Interactive Entertainment and RTS, a new esports venture backed by a group of investors including entertainment company Endeavor, through a joint venture partnership. 

Chinese esports solutions company VSPN (Versus Programming Network) acquired Chinese live streaming talent agency FamuleiFollowing the acquisition, Famulei will operate as an independent brand under VSPN, operating in live streaming talent management, marketing sponsorship, licensing, and e-commerce operations. In the Chinese esports live streaming business, Famulei has partnered with T1 Entertainment & Sports, Team Liquid, and Gen.G Esports, as well as famous esports players and streamer Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, Samu “Sambty” Kauppinen, and Júlia “Mayumi” Nakamura. 

Gaming and esports entertainment and media company ReKTGlobal acquired the social media monetization and talent development company TalentX Entertainment. Previously, ReKTGlobal had created a joint venture with TalentX as its talent management arm as a separate entity. The merger now brings them together under the same ownership group. 

Other Investments 

Credit: Andbox/Thirty Five ventures

California-based interactive live streaming platform Maestro Interactive secured a $15M Series B financing round from investors including NetEase, Sony Music Entertainment, Acronym Venture Capital, Stadia Ventures, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin, former Activision Blizzard executives Michael and Amy Morhaime via Moonwell Capital, and several existing investors. Maestro revealed that it intends to use the investment proceeds to finance the value-chain expansion of its products and further diversify its customer base. According to a release, Maestro more than tripled its revenue in 2020 and grew its staff fivefold in the last six months. 

Brooklyn Nets player Kevin Durant and Rich Kleiman joined Andbox, the New York-based esports organization behind the New York Subliners of the Call of Duty League and the New York Excelsior franchise of the Overwatch Leagueas investors thought their investment vehicle Thirty Five Ventures. As part of the deal, Durant and Thirty Five Ventures will look to be active partners across a range of initiatives between the two, which will include creating new entertainment content and designing new merchandise collections. 

San Francisco-based tech startup Lowkey raised a $7M Series A financing round from investors including Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. The company, which currently employs eight people, was created by Harvard graduate Jesse Zhang to build a software solution to capture gameplay videos on desktop, which can be edited and shared on mobile in a social format popularized by apps such as TikTok. 

The Indian Gaming League (IGL) parent company, House of Gaming Pvt. Ltd., raised a $500K strategic investment from digital entertainment company Hungama and movie and digital content production company Hindustan Talkies.  The Mumbai-based startup intends to use the investment proceeds to acquire new users and develop additional features to increase user engagement on its tournament platform. Furthermore, IGL will use some of its fresh capital to launch its Indian Gaming League Championship Cup inaugural season. 

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Source: https://esportsobserver.com/march-2021-investment-recap/

Esports

Leona Heidern cuts into the King of Fighters XV lineup

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As many fans predicted, The SIlent Soldier Leona Heidern is joining the King of Fighters XV roster, bringing her combat-centric personality to the ring. 

She was featured in the original announcement trailer for the game, so it was only a matter of time before she was shown cutting away at the competition. Despite this, she is technically the 20th fighter joining the game’s roster. 

Leona is an explosive and direct fighter that mixes fast motions with her claw-like form, which allows her to optimize her slashing-style that pairs well with her acrobatic movements. 

Many of her moves involve coating her attacks or body parts with a blade-like aura. This lets her pierce her opponents with her strikes, and even extend the blades to her energy attacks, such as with her Cutting Ball. 

Since Leona was not shown to have a team, we might be seeing the return of the Ikari Warriors in the near future. That would mean both Ralf Jones and Clark Still will be joining the roster, unless SNK decides to really shake things up with some of Leona’s normal supporting cast.

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Source: https://dotesports.com/fgc/news/leona-heidern-cuts-into-the-king-of-fighters-xv-lineup

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The 6 best VALORANT Agents to use for Replication game mode

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VALORANT’s Patch 2.09 dropped yesterday with a bunch of minor balance changes and map tweaks. Though competitive players may need to spend a decent amount of time to see if anything in the meta has changed, a new limited-time game mode will be available for fans to enjoy.

In the Replication game mode, teams will get to play with a single agent. When a Replication match begins, you’ll be able to vote on an agent. Once the agent is selected, all of the members of your team will play as the chosen character.

If you’re already having evil thoughts about perma-flashing your enemies, Riot may be one step ahead of you on that one since the developer also included a “flashguard” to help VALORANT players maintain their eye health.

The Replication game mode will only be available for two weeks, and these are the agents that you should try playing in the mode before it rotates out.

Raze

Image via Riot Games

When you know the enemy team is rushing through a corridor, there won’t be enough grenades in the world to cut them off. That may not be an issue at all, if you have a team of Razes, however.

A full Raze team can open the door to a world of opportunities both in terms of defense and offense. You can try flying into a bomb-site with Raze’s Blast Packs or set your Boom Bots toward the same direction for a robot uprising.

Paint Shells, on the other hand, can be a nightmare to deal with for your opponents. Throwing a couple of them from different directions to corner the enemy team can be enough to secure around by itself. When you all have your ultimates available, you may as well queue up the song Boom Boom Pow by The Black Eyed Peas. 

Cypher

Image via Riot Games

In most VALORANT games, the information flow within a team is often the deciding factor between securing a round or going bust. The level of communication can increase drastically if you’re a team of Cyphers.

With carefully placed Spycams around the map, you can have eyes on almost anywhere important on the map. Trapwires will work wonderfully to secure objectives, and once all Cyphers start using their ultimates, your enemies will have nowhere to hide on the map.

Omen

Image via Riot Games

No matter the map or the composition you’re running, Omen can always be a crucial part of any lineup. Considering the number of mobility tools he has, dealing with him can prove itself to be a difficult task.

While one decent Omen is already a trouble for most teams, dealing with five of them can make anyone dizzy. As five Omens, you can surround the enemy team from all angles, but it can also be a double-edged sword. If you get separated around the map, you can also get picked off one by one, which is never good.

Viper

Image via Riot Games.

Having less space to work with while you’re covering a site can make it impossible to withstand enemy fire. Once you block an exit, you can just expect your enemies to show up from the other side.

With a team of Vipers you can lay down multiple Toxic Screen and trap your opponents in a box. To stay one step ahead of your opponents, you may want to get up-to-date with all the smoke and wall locations for Viper.

Brimstone

Image via Riot Games

Brimstone has multiple abilities that make him a great pick for the Replication game mode. It’s his ultimate that lets him really shine, however, and your enemies will need to think not twice but thrice after you occupy a bombsite with multiple Orbital Strikes.

Aside from his ultimate, Incendiary will also be another great tool that can make it relatively easier to defend our push hotspots on any map.

Killjoy

Image via Riot Games

If you liked the idea of starting a robot uprising with Raze, you might also want to give it a try with Killjoy as well. Killjoy is equipped with multiple automated tools that make her one of the best agents to try out in the Replication mode.

Setting up multiple Alarmbots and Turrets at the same time can be quite difficult to deal with for your opponents, and you’ll be able to get creating with all the extra Lockdown charges on your team.

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Source: https://dotesports.com/valorant/news/the-6-best-valorant-agents-to-use-for-replication-game-mode

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Renekton, Scorched Earth skin now available on Wild Rift

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The latest champion to join the Wild Rift as part of Patch 2.2c is none other than the butcher of the sands, Renekton.

Now available to purchase in-game, Renekton offers players a powerful yet simple champion for their top lane needs. Those who are familiar with the champion from League of Legends will have no trouble picking up Renekton in Wild Rift as his kit is mostly unchanged between the games.

Alongside the champion, you can also score yourself the Scorched Earth skin to spice up Renekton’s appearance on the Rift. Introduced in patch 2.2b, Renekton is one of four champions that can partake in nemesis duels and this can occur when he comes face to face with Nasus during a match.

There is criteria that must be met for this unique battle feature to occur and you can check those out on Riot’s website. The champion who emerges victorious in combat will score themselves a buff for the rest of the game.

Later in Patch 2.2c, you can expect to see plenty of new skins added including a selection from the Blood Moon range, and a new Pride event on May 24. A full list of everything including in this latest update can be found here.

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Source: https://dotesports.com/news/renekton-scorched-earth-skin-now-available-on-wild-rift

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Konami reveals 2021 Lost Art Promotion, includes second run of Dark Magician Girl

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Over the last several weeks, Konami has slowly been revealing all of the new promotional cards that will be featured at Official Tournament Stores for the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG for upcoming physical releases. 

Now, the Lost Art Promotion list has been fully detailed and will include a second run of the special Lost Art variant of Dark Magician Girl from last year, along with 11 other cards. 

These Lost Art promos will be handed out at participating OTS stores when customers purchase $30 or more in sealed Yu-Gi-Oh! product. These packs will be refreshed and released in the middle of every month and will only be available while supplies last. 

Many of these cards will be released with artwork that has never been officially released outside of the OCG. Here are the confirmed cards that will be featured in this promotion. 

  • Dark Magician Girl
    • Will return to promo packs later this year
  • Raging Eria
  • Blazing Hiita
  • VWXYZ-Dragon Catapult Cannon
  • Vampire Vamp
  • Celestia, Lightsworn Angel

The remaining cards will be revealed later this year, so it is likely that the Dark Magician Girl promo will run at some point during the late Summer months. You can reach out to your local OTS locations for more details on the promotion and if they will be participating in it.

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Source: https://dotesports.com/yu-gi-oh/news/konami-reveals-2021-lost-art-promotion-includes-second-run-of-dark-magician-girl

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