Former StarCraft 2 pro Geoff Robinson, aka iNcontroL, died on Saturday “due to sudden illness.”
A statement released via Robinson’s official social media accounts announced his passing earlier today:
Robinson was a former StarCraft 2 pro with clan Evil Geniuses before later moving into a broader esports career as a commentator, host, and streamer. He is being remembered as a prominent and beloved member of the game’s community.
Colt “Havok” McLendon watched the 2018 Call of Duty World League Championship from home. This year, his team could go all the way to the finals.
“Before this year started, I told myself, ‘I’m going to do competitive all or nothing, or I’m going to be a streamer,” McLendon, a member of the team Gen.G Esports, told Dot Esports in an interview earlier this week. “I’m not going to try to do both again.’ Now, my only goal is to win an event. And I guess it’s the secret formula because it’s been a lot better.”
The release of Call of Duty: WWII turned out to be the kiss of death for the pro player, whose 2017-2018 season ended in disaster, including not even qualifying for the championship. His fortunes have rebounded in the era of Black Ops 4, starting with a respectable 7th-place finish at the Las Vegas Open last December before managing to qualify for the 2019 Pro League with his ragtag team of unknowns, Team Space, in January.
The team, which was immediately signed by Gen.G, has only continued to build up steam, finishing 7th at CWL Fort Worth in March, 5th at CWL London in May, and 2nd at CWL Anaheim in June. Earlier this month, Gen.G finished the Pro League 2019 season in 3rd.
Now they have a chance to become world champions, and potentially rake in millions between the Pro League Championship’s $1,250,000 prize pool this weekend and the World Championship’s $2,000,000 prize pool in August. It’s the kind of money that could make it all worth it for the team of six whose future remains uncertain, especially as the esport heads into 2020 with not only a new game, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, but also an Overwatch-like franchise system.
Play-ins for the remaining two spots in this weekend’s Pro League playoffs take place throughout Friday afternoon, with the bracket stage beginning on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. ET. Play continues on Sunday at the same time, with the grand finals slated to get underway sometime later that day. You can watch the entire tournament streaming on the Call of Duty Twitch Channel.
Outside of esports, the European Speedrunner Assembly will be kicking off its 2019 marathon on Saturday at 9:00 a.m. ET with an Any% run of Perfect Dark on the Nintendo 64. Though not as well known as Summer Games Done Quick, at least on this continent, the weeklong event features plenty of talented speedrunners showcasing playthroughs in a wide range of games.
Some other runs to watch out for include Wario Land: Shake It! at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, Catherine Classic at 4:00 a.m. on Wednesday, and Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age on Thursday at 3:51. The entire event will wrap up next Saturday at 6:00 a.m. with a playthrough of Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories on the Game Boy Advance.
And of course it’s all for a good cause, with donations from viewers going toward the Swedish Alzheimer’s Foundation. You can watch all of the speedruns on the ESA Marathon Twitch channel.
Today, a pre-recorded Overwatch League video leaked sharing news that Blizzard is apparently implementing role-locking in Overwatch and the Overwatch League. It is currently unclear how role-locking will manifest in the game itself.
Starting soon, all team compositions in the Overwatch League will consist of two damage-dealers, two supports, and two tanks, explained league staffers in the leaked video. The decision was made because “the more that we can do to keep the pro experience in Overwatch League consistent with the live game experience of Overwatch players, the better from the Overwatch League perspective,” explained Overwatch senior product director Jonathan Spector.
The dramatic shift may not come as a surprise to lots of fans; hints have been dropped for months. Before quitting the league, former pro Chan-hyung “Fissure” Baek apparently confirmed it. The esports site Upcomer did, too, in a report where they spoke with several internal sources. And before announcing tonight’s Overwatch League broadcast, where the news was apparently slated to air, three Overwatch league casters each threw up a peace sign—2-2-2.
What might rattle even the most tuned-in fans was Spector’s comment that “2-2-2 is coming to the game soon” in what he describes as the “biggest change that’s happened in Overwatch since they added the one-hero limit.” Without more details, it seems like the rule will be implemented in the game, meaning regular players will be asked to follow the pros’ lead and specialize in a certain class map-by-map. It’s unclear whether this will be across the board or simply in the game’s competitive mode. On the Overwatch subreddit, players are expressing cautious optimism.
Role-locking will come as a welcome change for Overwatch league fans who are sick of the dominant “GOATS” meta, an unflashy playstyle of three tanks and three supports. Without Widowmaker’s hype headshots or Tracer’s zippy time-turning, players became bored of tuning in to the same old compositions over and over for months. Those opposed to role-locking’s implementation would argue that GOATS was already on its way out. Damage-dealing heroes like Sombra and Pharah were insinuating themselves more and more into the meta; who’s to say that Tracer might not come back, too?
In the leaked video, Spector says that the Overwatch League team let pro players vote on implementing role-locking. “An overwhelming majority of the teams supported the approach that we’re taking here,” he says.
For fans tired of playing support when four players insta-lock DPS, or fans excited to play tank knowing they’ll have two supports behind them, role-locking will unlock a version of the game they believe best represents its core. Others who prefer a more molten and chaotic meta might find Blizzard’s unilateral decision stifling. For my part, I can’t wait to see Saebyeolbe back in action.
Evo 2019, the premier fighting game tournament, is less than a month away, and players are spending the weekend getting ready. With their game having only released in June, it’s an especially important time for Samurai Shodown players.
Nine-time Evo champion Justin “JWong” Wong hasn’t wasted any time getting up to speed after announcing in February he’d be competing in Samurai Shodown’s first-ever Evo tournament, which will have a $30,000 pot bonus partially thanks to the game’s publisher SNK. Wong, while best known for playing Street Fighter, has placed first in Samurai Shodown tournaments at both CEO 2019 in June and The Pinnacle last weekend. This weekend he faces competitors NeoRussell and ElChakotay at Toryuken 2019 in Toronto, Canada.
More Samurai Shodown competition will take place this weekend at Low Tier City 7 in Texas and Sonic Boom VI in Madrid, Spain. Since the game is still so young, and it’s been 11 years since the previous in the series, Samurai Shodown: Edge of Destiny, it’s too early to declare favorites—although given his experience, notoriety, and recent momentum, Wong remains an obvious contender to watch.
Meanwhile, there’s another grass-roots event for Halo 3 being held in Chicago on Saturday. The $10,000 old-school tournament will feature 2v2 team battles throughout the night. If you have trouble sleeping that night, you can catch the remaining players grinding it out in the finals at approximately 5:00 a.m. ET Sunday morning. Those matches will be streamed live on Red Bull’s Twitch channel.
Finally, the remaining Dota 2 teams from North America will be battling it out in qualifiers this weekend for a shot at competing in next month’s The International for a piece of the $25 million prize pool. The Round Robin stage is currently underway with Forward Gaming leading the pack undefeated. After a few remaining matches tonight, the top four teams will reconvene on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. ET for the start of the playoffs, followed eventually by the grand finals on Sunday at 6:00 p.m ET. You can catch all of that action on Beyond The Summit’s Twitch channel.
This week, America celebrates declaring its independence from England with hot dogs, fireworks, and, apparently, tanks stationed around the National Mall in Washington, D.C. But don’t let that stop you from catching Europe’s biggest Smash Bros. tournament of the year go down at Emirates Stadium in London.
Currently boasting over 1,000 entrants, Albion 4 will host the best Super Smash Bros. Ultimate players from around the world in what could prove to be an exciting series of matchups that break away from the current dominance of Snake, Peach, and a host of Fire Emblem fighters.
Most notably among these is a potential showdown between Wario main William “Glutonny” Belaid and Duck Hunt main Tetsuya “Raito” Ishiguro. Seeded third and fourth respectively, they are both currently projected to meet in the loser’s semifinal in what could be one of the game’s most unusual meta-shattering face-offs to-date.
It’s also possible, though even more improbable, that both pros could meet in the winner’s final, although to do that they would need to unseat the one and two seeds, Samuel “Dabuz” Buzby and Jestise “MVD” Negron, in the winner’s semifinals. Pools play kicks off at 5:00 a.m. ET on Saturday, with top eight play set to begin on Sunday at 12:00 p.m. All of the matches will be streaming live on the DAT Team Twitch channel.
DreamHack Showdown will also be taking place in Europe this weekend. The all-women Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament out of Valencia, Spain will feature the best female teams around including CLG Red, Besiktas, and the reigning world champions, Team Dignitas. The $100,000 event begins on Friday at 4:00 a.m. with group matches, followed by eliminations matches starting at the same time on Saturday. The semifinals are scheduled to begin at 4:00 a.m. on Sunday, followed by the grand finals at 12:00 p.m. All of the matches will be streamed live on the DreamHack Counter-Strike Twitch channel.
Meanwhile, in Germany, play has already gotten underway in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s ESL One: Cologne 2019. European powerhouse Astralis is already dominating in Group B, while Team Liquid prepares to face NRG Esports in Group A on July 4 at 9:30 a.m. ET. The quarterfinals for the tournament will then get started on July 5 at the same time, with the grand finals taking place at 10:00 a.m. on July 7. You can find a full list of match times on Liquidpedia, with all of them streaming live on ESL’s Counter-Strike Twitch channel.
The International 2019, the biggest Dota 2 tournament of the year, will take place in August. Already, its prize pool looks set to break last year’s record, and possibly even outpace Fortnite’s. In addition to the $1.6 million invested by Valve, a quarter of all the money spent by players on the game’s battle pass also gets added to the tournament’s prize pool. Last year that amount capped out at $25,532,17. This year, more than a month out from the event, the prize pool has already broken $23 million.
While those impressive numbers are the result of players spending money on battle pass levels and associated treasures (that’s Dota 2’s version of loot boxes), it doesn’t mean that Valve plays a completely passive role. On June 26, Valve announced the Battle Level Bundle sale, offering $120 worth of treasures and battle pass levels for $30. Not surprisingly, the prize pool exploded following the announcement, growing by almost $4 million in the days since. It’s the largest prize pool in esports for so many years running, and the creator of Dota 2 and its fan base seem intent on retaining that title for their preferred esport.
As of today, 12 teams have locked in their spots for The International. Many still have work to do ahead of that event, including those competing in this weekend’s $1 million Epicenter Major in Moscow, Russia. There are several matches still to go in the tournament’s lower bracket, starting on Saturday at 5:00 a.m. ET with TNC Predator vs. PSG.LGD. On Sunday, Vici Gaming, currently ranked third in the world on points, will be awaiting whoever makes it through in the grand finals at 9:00 a.m. All of the matches will be streamed live on the Epicenter Twitch channel.
Back on this continent, some of the best fighting game players from around the world will be throwing down in Daytona Beach, Florida at CEO 2019. Featuring all of the big games, including Street Fighter V, Tekken 7, Dragon Ball FighterZ, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, the event is also famous for featuring tournaments in lots of other competitive series, including BlazBlue, Guilty Gear, and Dance Dance Revolution. You can find a full list of match times and streams on CEO Gaming’s website, with most of the action streaming on CEO’s Twitch channel.
Finally, Friday Fortnite has its third official tournament of the season going on right now. Featuring Ninja, Myth, and others, play began in the bracket at 4:00 p.m. ET with matches expected to continue well into the evening. You can watch the $20,000 tournament in its entirety on the UMG Events Twitch channel.
Esports commentator and host Alex “Golden Boy” Mendez started out hosting Call of Duty tournaments in hotel ballrooms in 2011 and covering esports for websites like Kotaku. Now, he hosts esports events in stadiums for thousands, as well as esports matches for TV broadcasts. On this bonus episode of Kotaku Splitscreen, I interviewed Mendez on the E3 show floor about how much esports has changed and whether streamers and influencers are about to steal all the esports industry’s lunch money.
Maddy: I agree with you that franchising, at least with Overwatch League, is going way better than I thought it was going to go. But I feel like the counterpoint to that is stuff like the rise of Fortnite and influencers as opposed to esports, and the idea of people identifying very strongly with a specific streamer or person that they like, as opposed to a team. I think that that is going to play out in an interesting way in the next few years.
Alex: I would agree. I think that Fortnite’s an interesting beast because we have a lot of players that have come up — guys like Poach, or Vivid, or 72Hrs, or Ayden — and these are pros that have created a brand. But they’re nowhere near as big as Tfue, who is also a pro, but he’s also very much now a brand. Ninja, a brand. Nickmercs, a brand. And people do want to see them compete.
I think Fortnite’s structure and allowing anyone to be able to compete allows for that kind of freedom of expression with the fans. But when we get to the Fortnite World Cup in New York City, that’s going to be interesting, because if you look at the people who’ve qualified? Very few big names. Tfue qualified in solos. He’s probably the only big name. You have some other names that are known amongst the Fortnite community, but for the most part, it is just pros. Kids. Fourteen, fifteen years old.
Maddy: Do you think that’s because it’s not an invitational format and it is that qualification format, so it’s resulted in some randoms?
Alex: Obviously the cream will rise to the top, the best players will rise to the top. And one of these kids is going to walk away with four million dollars.
Maddy: Which is crazy!
Alex: Which is insane. But will that kid walk away with four million dollars and all the fame? Maybe. But I still think that Ninja and those guys are gonna be pulling in all of that.
Maddy: They’re going to be pulling in the consistent income. I’ve been curious to see if more Overwatch League kids are going to spiral off and be like, “I’d rather go the influencer route,” because as they individually get famous, they might decide that that’s a more consistent way to make a living in esports.
Alex: Yeah. It is. It’s also weird in comparison to traditional sports.
Maddy: Yes! Like, that’s even an option in esports, that you could be like, “I’m just gonna stream.”
Alex: Exactly. We cannot measure ourselves to traditional sports, because in traditional sports, a guy does not just go stream and become a personality. Like, sure, it’s starting to happen more and more now, but it is not—that was not an option. Whereas, Dafran played one season [of Overwatch League] and was like, “You know what? I’d rather stream.”
Maddy: “I could make some more money if I leave.”
Alex: And then that’s what he did. And now he’s more successful than ever.
For much more, listen to the entire episode. As always, you can subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts and Google Play to get every episode as it happens. Leave us a review if you like what you hear, and reach us at email@example.com with any and all questions, requests, and suggestions.
Most of the details in Turner “Tfue” Tenney’s recent lawsuit against FaZe Clan focused on the ills of his since-leaked contract with the esports organization. But the suit also alleged that FaZe lied about the age of another player it signed, saying he was 13 when, at the time, he was only 11. This would make the player ineligible to participate in Fortnite tournaments and stream on Twitch. Now he’s been banned from Twitch sans explanation.
The player in question is H1ghSky1, a Fortnite streamer and competitor who had nearly 500,000 followers on Twitch before his channel got taken down yesterday evening. In Tenney’s legal complaint, he and his attorney claimed that FaZe not only lied about H1ghSky1’s age, but also “pressured the minor and his family to do so” in violation of labor codes. Then, last week, esports publication Upcomer released a report claiming that H1ghSky1 signed with FaZe one month before his 12th birthday, citing sources and social media posts from his parents directly referencing his age in 2012, at which point they said he was 5 years old. That would make him 12 now. Kotaku reached out to FaZe about the report last week but did not receive a response.
Now Twitch has suspended H1ghSky1’s channel, and while it hasn’t provided a reason, H1ghSky1 doesn’t seem to have any other notable infractions staining his track record. Meanwhile, Twitch’s terms of service state that “by downloading, installing, or otherwise using the Twitch services, you represent that you are at least 13 years of age.” Kotaku reached out to Twitch, FaZe, and H1ghSky1 for more information but did not hear back as of this writing.
As for what happens next, it’s hard to say. If H1ghSky1 is indeed 12, it’s likely that he won’t be streaming or playing in tournaments for a while. He previously won thousands of dollars in official Fortnite tournaments, despite Epic’s age minimum of 13 for competitors. Epic has yet to take any sort of action, but a representative did provide Kotaku with a statement: “We have a dedicated team that actively monitors competitive integrity. If a player has been determined to compromise competitive integrity, we will make adjustments to the standings and placements as needed.”
None of this bodes well for FaZe, a monolithic esports and lifestyle organization that’s made headlines for all the wrong reasons these past few weeks. However, FaZe still managed to shock everyone by signing Twitch star Nick “Nickmercs” Kolcheff last week amid the controversy. For now, FaZe continues to chug along, despite rocky roads of its own making behind and ahead.
With a $100,000 prize pool at stake, this weekend’s big Rocket League tournament in Dallas will give some of the game’s biggest teams one last chance to test one another before next month’s World Championship.
Now in its seventh season, the Rocket League Championship Series is divided across four continents. The winners of the biggest divisions, North America’s NRG Esports and Europe’s Renault Vitality, both battled through their groups in matches that started earlier today, and Vitality has already stumbled on their way to the grand finals in a shocking upset.
Mousesports, which finished last in the European division with a one and six record, managed to edge out Vitality 3-2 in the Group A semifinals, sending the European champions down into the loser’s bracket. Though Vitality eventually qualified for the single-elimination bracket later in the day, the early results have shown that even the game’s top teams aren’t unstoppable. For its part, NRG Esports cruised through its group matches, while Cloud 9 and FC Barcelona, the runners up of North America and Europe respectively, will be tested later this evening.
After a full day of matches on Saturday, the play-off stage will get underway on Sunday starting at 12:00 p.m. ET. You can watch all of the matches live on DreamHack’s Twitch channel.
DreamHack Dallas will be home to a number of other big tournaments this weekend, including Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Classic Halo, and a number of fighting games like Mortal Kombat 11 and Smash Bros. Ultimate. You can find stream listings and match times for all of them over on DreamHack’s website.
“We used to have the perception he didn’t care,” said Super Smash Bros. pro Gonzalo “Zero” Barrios at Nintendo’s first tournament for Smash Ultimate last year. “He,” of course, was game director Masahiro Sakarai, the Smashdaddy himself, who was watching from the sidelines. Barrios had just won a glistening crystalline trophy, and holding it in one hand, he continued: “Obviously that’s not true.”
Nintendo has always leaned into a come-as-you-are marketing strategy for Super Smash Bros., which a hard emphasis on high-level competition can run against. Smash, said Sakurai years ago, needs to be novice-friendly first and foremost. Yet in the year since that tournament, held in a former burlesque theater in downtown Los Angeles, Nintendo has slowly been rolling out more Nintendo-sanctioned Smash tournaments, including one slated for E3 on June 8. They’re a little weird, though, as far as Smash tournaments go. They have items. They’re governed by strange rulesets and competed in by some relatively unknown players. As an independent and hugely popular competitive Smash scene roils on in the foreground with little help from Nintendo, the big question surrounding these official tournaments is simple: Why now?
“Obviously with something like Smash, there are already a ton of tournaments out there,” said Bill Trinen, Nintendo of America’s senior product marketing manager in an interview with Kotaku. “We’re trying to find ways to make it easier for people who are everyday Smash players to get a taste of participating in tournaments.”
In 2019, as big game publishers like Blizzard are salivating over the #esportshype and rolling out hundred-million-dollar leagues, Nintendo is swerving. Let’s not forget they’re the company that looked around at all of its VR-obsessed competitors and decided to release its own line of cardboard “make believe” gaming accessories. Their plan with these sporadic official tournaments isn’t to replace or overshadow Smash’s pro scene. “We want to keep the grassroots base community healthy and sustainable and the way we want to do that is to bring in fresh blood,” said Trinen. Essentially, he wants to leverage Nintendo’s brand to nourish Smash’s player-driven esports ecosystem.
Nintendo has had a fraught relationship to Smash’s fierce competitive community for about a decade. For the most part, Nintendo ignored the contingent of Smash fans who, like an on-task ant colony, carried many times’ their weight in organizing tournament circuits, prize pools and artists alleys for fan-made Smash merch. On one hand, it wasn’t an issue; Smash’s esports scene was organic and hype, even for all of its relative messiness without the polished treatment of a big-money developer. On the other hand, pros wanted to make some damn money for all their hard work, which, some argue, helps extend Smash’s mainstream relevance. Some even considered unionizing.
“We don’t view ourselves as really even now dipping our toe into esports,” said Trinen, following that up with a bit of a marketer’s rhetorical spin: “I think our approach is less of one of competition and it’s really more about the competitive fun.”
In a way, Nintendo’s tournaments feel a little like your dad throwing you the sort of birthday party he thinks you’d want. It’s got most of your friends, including beloved Smash commentators and a couple pros. It’s got all the glitz and glam. But weirdly, he’s set up pinatas (Smash Balls, in this metaphor) and other games you haven’t played seriously since you were little (2 vs. 2 timed battles in the upcoming E3 tournament). It’s fun and you’re grateful—it’s just not what you and your buddies might do on your own.
Trinen says Nintendo is trying to bridge the gap between ardent Smash fans and the pro community (who have their own idiosyncrasies). They don’t allow items in tournaments, and each game is a stock battle that must take place on a tournament-legal stage. “We want to bring the casual Smash player into the competitive scene and the existing competitive community,” he said, citing how over 60 percent of 10,000 players participating in online qualifiers for the last official Smash tournament had never played in a tournament before. Nintendo’s upcoming E3tournament will still be inundated with items, and split between 1 vs. 1 and 2 vs. 2 matches—sometimes timed and sometimes stock. It’s a more mellow vibe, and it’s to be seen whether it whets players’ palates for a weekly local tournament at their nearest card shop.
“We don’t want to compete with the competitive scene,” said Trinen when I asked what the thinking is behind Nintendo’s tournament ruleset. “We’re using items on partially to differentiate from what the competitive scene is doing and partially to make it easier for a more casual audience to approach.”
Lately, there’s a lot that Nintendo has been doing to appease its competitive fans on top of these tournaments. Commentators like Victoria “VikkiKitty” Perez and Phil “EE” Breezy are getting gigs from the publisher. Yet when I asked whether there’s a future for aged-out pro Smash players among Nintendo’s salaried ranks, Trinen politely answered, maybe, for people with the right skillset, but hopefully they can pursue streaming or YouTube content creation. Similarly, Nintendo now issues detailed patch notes for Smash, which means pros aren’t meticulously picking apart the game for any iota of insight they can find. Yet according to Trinen, while developers “look at general trends in the competitive scene” when balancing the game, “I wouldn’t necessarily say they’re tailoring the game for one particular audience of another.” It’s a tightrope act, I gathered.
Nintendo is smartly finding ways to funnel newer fans into Smash’s already-existent network of competitive players and the infrastructure they’ve hammered out over the last decade. New blood’s closeness to the Smash gods at these tournaments will inflame their ambition to one day sit among them. The competitive mindset stokes their passion and, importantly for a game with slow-release DLC, invites them to continually buy in. And relative to the Riot Games and Blizzards of the world, it won’t cost them a whole lot.