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Virtual K-pop band inaugurate new Shanghai stadium

K/DA, a virtual girl group composed of four League of Legends characters, performed during the opening ceremony for the League of Legends World Championship grand final at the new Pudong Football Stadium in Shanghai on 31 October.

The competition, one of the biggest dates in the esports calendar, was the first event at the 33,765-capacity venue, constructed ahead of the AFC Asian Cup in 2023.

K/DA, created by League of Legends developer Riot Games, performed via augmented reality (AR), appearing on a physical stage in front of a crowd of 6,312 fans, according to tournament operator TJ Sports. The event was watched by an addition 3.8 million people online.

In addition to the virtual performers, the opening ceremony featured a number of real-world artists and dancers, including Chinese pop star Lexie Liu.

K/DA made their debut during a similar AR concert at the 2018 World Championships, which were held in Incheon, South Korea.

 


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Riot Games exec joins virtual concert start-up Wave

Wave, a Scooter-Braun backed virtual concert start-up, has announced that former Riot Games executive Jarred Kennedy is joining the team as chief operating officer.

Kennedy, who most recently served as global head of entertainment businesses and partnerships at Tencent-owned gaming giant Riot Games, will oversee core operations and expand the scale of digital concert experiences at Wave.

The former Riot Games executive will also work on establishing partnerships with artists, investing and innovating in interactivity and expanding the reach of Wave so that more people can experience the musical events.

“The founding team and a lot of the first folks to join Wave are all musicians, they understand the artists that they’re serving and they understand what it means to be fans,” Kennedy tells The Hollywood Reporter.

“They’ve built their company and their culture around that, and so there’s a lot of trust between the creative community and Wave.”

“I believe in where technology is taking these interactive experiences and I also believe in the power of technology to enable really emotional and personal experiences”

Wave, which transforms artists into digital avatars in real-time, casting them onto stages in customised virtual worlds, recently received $30 million in funding from investors including Superfly co-founder Rick Farman, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin and Justin Bieber manager Braun.

Kennedy says that he can see virtual concerts garnering popularity in a similar way to esports, as “[there is] the potential to create experiences that are both more interactive but also more immersive through virtualisation, [which] I think could be very powerful for what happens and what music performance becomes.

“I believe in where technology is taking these interactive experiences and I also believe in the power of technology to enable really emotional and personal experiences.”

“Wave is growing exponentially thanks to an incredible team of investors, partners and employees committed to our mission,” comments Wave CEO Adam Arrigo.

“Jarred’s wealth of knowledge in the industry, as well as understanding on how to build initiatives that tap into the core of digitally-forward culture, will allow Wave to better serve today’s digital avatar generation and increase our core technology and gaming capabilities.”

Wave concerts are distributed for free on major platforms including Twitch, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, and have featured artists such as John Legend and Imogen Heap.

Read more about the intersection between live music and gaming here.

Gamers: 750m new live music fans?


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Gamers: 750m new live music fans?

Live music professionals who fail to capitalise on the lockdown-era boom in videogaming will miss out on a confirmed audience of more than three quarters of a billion potential fans, new analysis of player numbers for some of the biggest online games reveals.

A total of 758.5 million people – more than live in Europe, and some 2.5 times the population of the US – regularly play one or more of the 20 most popular online multiplayer video games for which there is recent, reliable data on active users, according to IQ analysis.

Gaming is thriving during the Covid-19 crisis, with firms such as Epic Games, the company behind the Fortnite phenomenon, and Tencent, the Chinese publisher of hit multiplayer titles League of Legends and Honor of Kings, seeing sales soaring while consumers worldwide remain stuck at home.

Especially interesting for the concert industry is how successfully the virtual worlds of FortniteMinecraft and other online games lend themselves to live performance, as well as the apparent receptiveness of those games’ existing audiences to live music content. For comparison, One World: Together at Home – aka the star-studded, Taylor Swift-headlined virtual Live Aid – was watched by 20.7m people in the US; the figure for Travis Scott’s 20-minute ‘Astronomical’ event in Fortnite Battle Royale (albeit globally) was 27.7m.

Estimates of the number of videogamers worldwide range from 877m to 2.7bn

Before we continue, a note on IQ’s numbers: the 758.5m figure includes only active users. so while EA’s Apex Legends, for example, has been played by at least 70m people on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, the only available data on monthly active users (MAU) shows just shy of 7m playing regularly on console, which is the figure IQ has used. Similarly, Epic Games does not share data on active Fortnite users, so IQ has used the 27.7m who turned out for Travis Scott, even though the real number is far higher.

This, combined with the choice to limit the research to 20 games, means the aforementioned three quarters of a billion is a conservative estimate – with the actual total likely far higher. (Estimates of the number of videogamers worldwide range from around 877m for online gamers only to 2.7bn in total, including those who play single-player titles, casual mobile games and others).

Videogame concerts, it should be noted, are nothing new: Second Life, the forerunner of event-focused video game-cum-virtual hangout Sansar, hosted what was billed as the world’s first virtual gig in 2007, with Duran Duran, Suzanne Vega and, most famously, U2, also performing as virtual avatars during the game’s late-2000s heyday.

However, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the push towards digital forms of ‘live’ entertainment, with Travis Scott’s spectacular (albeit prerecorded) show in Fortnite in April and upcoming Diplo-headlined festival Electric Blockaloo in Minecraft among recent high-profile virtual events capitalising on the influx of new gamers.

A number of other multiplayer titles are nipping at Minecraft’s heels

Mojang Studios’ Minecraft, which launched in 2011, is both the best-selling video game of all time, with 200m copies shipped, and the most popular online game, with 126m monthly active users as of 18 May. It hosted its first music festival in 2016, and has held several more in the years since, including Fire Festival in January 2019 and the recent Block by Blockwest, with Pussy Riot, Idles and Sports Team.

However, Minecraft’s status as top dog of the notoriously fickle online gaming world is by no means secure, with a number of other multiplayer titles – such as tween-friendly create-your-own-game platform Roblox (115m MAU), esports favourite League of Legends (100m MAU) and two Chinese games, Fortnite-style mobile battle royale Free Fire (80m daily users) and blatant Minecraft knock-off Mini World: Block Art (80m MAU) – already nipping at its heels.

To date, none of those games have hosted a large-scale, artist-backed live music experience akin to Travis Scott or Marshmello in Fortnite – and the same is true of Fortnite’s battle-royale arch-rival, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), which has 55m active daily users excluding China according to developer PUBG Corporation.

Other as-yet untapped videogame phenomena include another free-to-play battle royale, Call of Duty: Warzone, which has been played by 60m people since its launch in March; mobile strategy game Teamfight Tactics, spun off from League of Legends by developer Riot Games, which had 33m active users as of September; and first-person shooter Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, another game played as a competitive esport, which recorded over 26m players in April.

“Going forward, there will be more partnerships with the wider entertainment industry”

Given Fortnite’s success, it seems likely the next major in-game musical performance will be in a similar battle royale-type title; DJ Deadmau5, who recently performed in Fortnite’s new combat-free Party Royale mode, is known to be a PUBG player, while Taylor Kurosaki of developer Infinity Ward has suggested live events could be held in Call of Duty: Warzone in future.

What the future has in store for digital live performance – whether consumers will ever flock en masse to concerts in video games or virtual-reality worlds, or if ‘simple’ livestreamed video will suffice – only time will tell. What is certain, however, is that music and other traditional entertainment businesses, keen to claim their slice of the US$160bn global videogame market, will seek increasingly to partner with gaming companies in the years ahead, according to Stefan Hall of the World Economic Forum.

“Going forward, there will be more partnerships with the wider entertainment industry, as media companies seek to take advantage of the momentum gaming has produced,” says Hall, who also highlights recent reports linking Japanese tech giant Sony with efforts to improve the VR content, including concerts, available for its upcoming PlayStation 5 console as proof of the growing power of virtual experiences.

The latest IQ Focus session, The Innovators, will discuss the growth of videogaming, virtual worlds, 3D venues, livestreaming and more. Featuring Sheri Bryant, president of Sansar, alongside other technological innovators, the panel takes place tomorrow (27 May) at 4pm UK time on Facebook and YouTube:

Innovators take the virtual stage for IQ Focus panel


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Esports giant trying its hand at concert promotion

Riot Games, the developer of esports mainstay League of Legends (LoL), is to stage a concert featuring music from the game ahead of next month’s League of Legends World Championship 2017 final.

Dubbed League of Legends Live: A Concert Experience, the show will include performances from both international artists and amateur “League of Legends community musicians”, with headliners including Norwegian producer Alan Walker (whose song ‘Faded’ features in the game), metal band Pentakill and DJ duo Mako.

The concert will take place at Beijing National Aquatics Center (17,000-cap.) on 3 November, on the eve of the Championship final, which will pit either SK Telecom T1 (South Korea) or Royal Never Give Up (China) against Samsung Galaxy (S. Korea) or World Elite (China). Prize money currently stands at more than US$5m, with $2.13m pledged by Riot and more than $3m by fans.

League of Legends Live will be streamed live at watch.na.lolesports.com and on the game’s Facebook page.

Esports, or competitive videogaming, is becoming an increasingly hot property in live entertainment for its ability to fill stadia with thousands of fans who have little interest in concerts. Madison Square Garden Company and AEG in the US, TEG in Australia and France’s Vivendi all have business interests in esports, as a growing number of promoters and other music businesses seek to claim a slice of the pie.

The global esports market is predicted to be worth US$1.1bn by 2019.

 


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