With COVID-19 cutting into revenue from wireless and advertising, Verizon is doubling down on one sector of the tech industry that's booming during quarantine: video games.
Verizon plans to announce Tuesday that it has become a lead sponsor of FaZe Clan, one of the world's most popular and influential video gaming organizations. The move comes just a month after Verizon announced a long-term partnership with the professional North American league for League of Legends, the world's most popular esport, which is owned by Riot Games (which is, in turn, controlled by Tencent).
Partnering with FaZe Clan, which recently surpassed 1 billion views on its YouTube channel, associates Verizon with the group's more than 80 online influencers and FaZe's professional teams in games including Fortnite and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. The sponsorship is focused on Verizon's 5G wireless services.
"If Verizon were to pick any two organizations to associate with in esports, FaZe and League of Legends are pretty much the best-case scenario," said Rod "Slasher" Breslau, a leading esports analyst. "Having a company the size of Verizon commit to this space is extremely important to show how video games and esports are one of the few bright spots in terms of reaching the audiences these companies want."
FaZe Clan is building a competitive roster for Valorant, Riot's hot new shooter. People close to the deal said FaZe will soon put Verizon's (undisclosed amount of) money to work as it expands into Valorant, including as prize money for a new Valorant tournament to be announced as soon as Tuesday. The new tournament, part of Valorant's Ignition Series, would be an element of FaZe's expansion from recorded into live gaming content.
"Gaming and esports are already at a critical mass, and this relationship with FaZe is about how to take it to the next level, both from a B-to-B standpoint but also from a consumer and player perspective," said John Nitti, Verizon's chief media officer.
Jeffrey Pabst, FaZe's chief revenue officer, said: "People look for a technology partner on the esports side, but we're also a content company turning out huge amounts of content on our phones and other devices. Verizon, especially with their 5G infrastructure, is going to take what we're doing and put it on steroids."