September 14, 2018

Game on: Vancouver buys into economic upsides of eSports

Industry revenue could hit US$905 million by year’s end

Members of the UBC eSports Association gather at Telus Garden in downtown Vancouver for a viewing party of the Overwatch League Grand Finals in July. The Aquilini Investment Group has acquired a Vancouver-based franchise in the popular video gaming league | submitted

The Vancouver Canucks franchise probably shouldn’t expect to draw roaring throngs of fans to Rogers Arena based on last season’s performance.

Instead, it’s eSports fans, many of whom flocked to the venue last month when the city played host to The International Dota 2 championships, who are showing a fervour once reserved for playoff-calibre big-league sports teams.

At that global video game competition, thousands of spectators watched the world’s best players sweat and strategize for six straight days in pursuit of $25 million in prizes.

The Aquilini Investment Group, owner of the Vancouver Canucks, is now counting on that same passion to carry over into its latest investment: a new franchise in the Overwatch League.

The Vancouver franchise enters the league for the 2019 season with five other new teams from Toronto, Paris, the U.S. and China.

“So far the fans are pretty excited for this team to be coming to Vancouver,” said Nessa Harrison, director and team manager of the University of British Columbia’s eSports Association’s Overwatch department.

The game plays like a first-person shooter, but it trades in the typical blood and guts for bright colours and stylized animated heroes.

The Vancouver franchise, which doesn’t yet have a name, is expected to be based in California for the 2019 season.

Harrison plans to host viewing parties throughout the year before players move to the city.

A viewing party for the league’s grand championships in July drew 50 people to two boardrooms at Telus Garden before a local franchise had been announced.

“That just made me realize it didn’t matter where you’re watching just as long as you’re with other fans,” Harrison said.

“They’re just so engaged in the gameplay that they’ll just talk and get excited and cheer on their teams.”

Rogers Arena seems like an obvious location for a burgeoning eSports franchise following The International.

Myesports Ventures Ltd. announced in August it would build Canada’s first dedicated eSports arena in Richmond, with an expected completion date in 2019.

However, seating at the Gaming Stadium will be capped at 250 spectators.

It’s a far cry from the thousands who attended The International at Rogers in August or the League of Legends spring championship at Pacific Coliseum in 2017.

And it’s not an industry slow to gain traction.

ESports revenue is expected to grow to US$905.6 million by year’s end, according to marketing research firm Newzoo.

That’s up 38% from last year, and the report estimated the industry could generate US$1.4 billion by 2020 at its current trajectory.

Most of that revenue growth (77%) will come from sponsorship, advertising, media rights and content licences.

Meanwhile, Harrison expects fans of Vancouver’s Overwatch League team to buy merchandise such as jerseys and shirts with as much gusto as traditional sports fans.

But James Brander, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, said he doesn’t imagine the growing industry will siphon off fans of traditional sporting events.

“If anything, I think the effect would be complementary. ESports are more in competition with other forms of online gaming such as online poker, online role-playing games and fantasy sports.”



Bowen Island Pizza Company perfects the deli experience

Lonsdale Quay eatery a go-to place for home assembled charcuterie boards

Melanie McCready, owner of Bowen Island Pizza Company, shows off some of the options available in their ever-rotating offerings | Photo Paul McGrath, North Shore News

It has been over three years since I last reviewed Bowen Island Pizza Company for this column. At that time, the eatery was a new addition to Lonsdale Quay and had that scrappy independent vibe to it that appeals to me on an innate level.

The small island venue on the main floor of the market was turning out remarkable pies, with particularly exceptional crusts, rivalling some of the best and most celebrated pizza that was coming out of way bigger restaurants with more expensive and elaborate infrastructure.

Back in 2015 Bowen Island Pizza Company (BIP Co. from here on for brevity) had already curated a nice selection of deli goods and it was through these efforts that I discovered the joy of D-Original’s fennel salami, the thin, semi-dry sticks of densely packed pork goodness with explosive flavour.

Fortuitously, I somehow managed to get myself on an impromptu mailing list and was advised when BIP Co. received a limited shipment of D-Original’s intoxicating truffle salami, a hard to come by specialty that will quite literally take your breath away with its potent tuber funghi aroma.

I have frequented BIP Co. with some regularity since that column and have watched with admiration as the diminutive eatery has continued to grow its selection of deli goods, specialty retail items (they sell excellent quality dried pastas with that rustic semolina dustiness that is so often an indicator of good noodles, as well as giant tins of imported tomatoes that are presumably also used in the pizza sauce), and innovative, ever-rotating pizza offerings. BIP Co. is now one of my go-to places for home assembled charcuterie boards, an approach to meal service that I find particularly handy when guests are over. It is here that I buy mildly brined, juicy green Castelvetrano olives, Comte, Gorgonzola, and B.C.-made cheeses, balsamic-marinated Cipollini onions, roasted garlic cloves, and an assortment of small batch, artisanal meats to display with care on one of countless knotted, imperfect cutting boards that I have collected over the years; I suspect the 20-year-old me would cringe at the things that excite me these days. Sorry, little Bro, but slow grazing on fine foods, sipping big Spanish reds and listening to a meticulously developed playlist at home with friends simply slays the late-night club and bar hopping experience.


The small island venue on the main floor of the market turns out remarkable pies, with particularly exceptional crusts, rivalling some of the best and most celebrated pizza that is coming out of way bigger restaurants with more expensive and elaborate infrastructure | Photo: Paul McGrath, North Shore News

I nodded in knowing appreciation as I was asked on my most recent BIP Co. visit with visiting family if I was looking for a pizza-based dinner or a deli-based dinner. The question was telling as either is equally possible here today, with no sacrifice of taste or variety in either direction.

Alas, this was to be a pizza column and so pizza it was, with no fewer than five of a possible seven pies ordered (I’m counting a simple kids’ cheese pizza as an option here, in addition to the day’s fresh sheet). I thoroughly appreciate that neighbour Green Leaf Brewing permits patrons to bring in their meals from other vendors to tuck into as they sip brews made on premise. Indeed, I frequently see diners inside the expansive brewery space, with its excellent South-facing patio in the middle of all the action, eating from the signature mountainous plates from Sharkey’s Chophouse or from the immediately identifiable wooden boards of BIP Co. As I had my three kids in tow for this meal, however, I elected to eat outside at one of the new-ish picnic tables that line the outdoor railing of the Quay’s central square, looking out onto an unmatched view of the city.

Among the pizzas sampled this time around was a tasty and thoughtfully developed vegan option that included roasted zucchini, red peppers, black olives, and arugula set atop a creative and punchy spread of cashews flavoured with lemon, turmeric, and pepper. The pizza was colourful, brightly flavoured and unique, standing on its own as a tasty, well-rounded dish. That said, after two slices of the vegan pizza I moved on to a slice of BIP Co.’s most excellent Margherita, a classic pie with fresh basil and tomato, tomato sauce, and loads of melty, creamy bocconcini. It was only via this immediate, side-by-side comparison that I was able to conclude that for my taste, I really do prefer some cheese on my pizza. Of course, if cheese is not part of your regular diet and you have not fetishized it for its romantic history and prominence in the western culinary pantheon the same way I have, you will not find BIP Co.’s vegan pizza to be lacking in any way.

Our little group of seven proceeded to try the pizzeria’s signature Pear and Brie pie, a creation likely familiar to anyone who has visited here before as it has been on the menu from the beginning and is available by the slice throughout most of the day. Caramelized onions, ripe pear and chunks of creamy brie conspire to make this pizza a rich and complex offering, as well as something you will not find on most other pizzeria menus around town.

A daily creation called the Bee Sting was a creative dish made with heady calabrese salami, tomato sauce, mozzarella, velvety ricotta and a drizzle of honey. The combination of funky salami and creamy ricotta, tart tomatoes and sweet honey worked remarkably well and that pizza, along with the Margherita, was polished off on premise in short order.

Whole pizzas are 35 centimetres in diametre and range in price from $20 to $23. Pizza can also be bought by the slice ($5, while quantities permit), as half pizzas ($10 to $12), and as “take and bake”, which requires completion at home in a raging hot 500 degree oven. Charcuterie boards are also available. 604-770-3660.

North Shore News


What are we reading? September 13, 2018


Each week, BIV staff will share with you some of the interesting stories we have found from around the web.

Kirk LaPointe, editor-in-chief:

A law student has upended the concept of an anti-trust monopoly, focusing on the power of Amazon, and is the talk of Washington. - The New York Times


Ten years after the financial crash, the effects remain, and journalist M.H. Miller has lived through it. His story illuminates the personal mess as he tried to launch a career. - The Baffler


There have been several strong examinations of the supply management issue in our dairy business, but this in-depth piece is arguably the best. It looks pretty much at the history of trade as it delves into the Canada-US dispute. - Quartz


Veteran journalist Sandra Martin writes thoughtfully on the impending challenge of dealing with an aged society. - The Walrus


An alumnus writes about the loss of The Village Voice, once the bastion of left-of-centre writing and analysis. - The Baffler


Timothy Renshaw, managing editor:

In addition to being a leading distributor of political hot air, the U.S. is now officially the world’s largest producer of crude oil. - U.S. Energy Information Administration


Climate change, financial fears driving investor exodus from fossil fuels. US$6 trillion and counting. - The Guardian


What’s the state of public infrastructure in Canada? StatCan ready to rollout its first national survey. Might be potholes ahead. - Statistics Canada


Mark Falkenberg, deputy managing editor:
After working behind the scenes for months lobbying against Trump’s tariffs, a coalition of more than 85 U.S. business groups takes its fight public under the name Americans for Free Trade – Reuters

Mastercard enlists Microsoft help in developing a new digital platform aimed at helping smaller businesses navigate the labyrinth of cross-border commerce – Financial Post

Emma Crawford Hampel, online editor:

Lyft’s bid to rule the streets includes public transit. “Helping customers avoid your service can seem a strange move until you consider it in the context of Lyft’s greater mission: becoming the ultimate transportation middleman.” - Wired


Glen Korstrom, reporter:

This article gives a good overview of how the Indonesian rupiah currency’s fall - 9% so far this year, to nearly an all-time low versus the US dollar - is influencing government policy in the run-up to April 2019 elections - Nikkei Asian Review


Interesting take on Inc.’s blind spots and why the e-commerce giant may not be the eternal juggernaut that some believe it to be - Business of Fashion


Nelson Bennett, reporter:

Has the EU just figured out how to save journalism? With newspapers shutting down around the world and newsrooms reduced to skeleton crews, the mainstream media needs to figure out how to monetize content that is shared for free on the Internet. A new law passed by the European Union will require Internet platforms like Google, Facebook and Apple to pay the original content producers every time a news story or video is shared on their platforms.  – Buzzfeed


Carrie Schmidt, editorial researcher:

Ten Things I Never Knew About Las Vegas Until I Ran a High-Roller Suite  - Bloomberg


Fear far more than a chronicle of White House bluster and blunder

I spent the transformative summer afternoons of 1972 affixed to the new colour television set in my grandparents’ living room.

The Watergate hearings chaired by the drawling and laconic Sam Ervin pre-empted network soap operas to broadcast a different set of scandals and intrigues live across the continent, slowly but surely sending the U.S. administration to its grave by winter.

A few years later, by the time journalism became my post-secondary pursuit, Bob Woodward was an acknowledged deity, one-half of the combo that befelled Richard Nixon and bequeathed a new power of the press. Many before him and colleague Carl Bernstein were investigative, but no one had held the most powerful person in the world to such accountability for malfeasance. I have marvelled how over a half-century Woodward has sustained, how he has recurrently mustered the insider story – for the Washington Post, where he has worked since 1971, and for decades now with his own books about president after president that have shed light after light.

I spent many hours last week, and recommend it to others, to course through Fear: Trump in the White House, his new book on an unlikely ascension to and occupation of the U.S. presidency, and it is not exactly what you might think.

Sure, the excerpts that preceded the release were of folly, of fumbling and of fomenting a disgusting vein of America – story after story of the belittling of aides who at times swipe documents from his desk to avoid further chaos, the uncouth bigmouth who amplifies conflict out of an insecure reflex, the absence of logic or consistency or attentiveness to even basic tasks, and the utterly unapologetic and proudly ill-informed leader.

Fair enough: this was what many in his audience craved, and Woodward has put out a fulsome platter of red meat to affirm their detraction. For want of a better term, the result is tribal, convincing none of Donald Trump’s supporters they backed the wrong person while enthusing those who accept the orthodoxy of his incompetence, corruption and need to be taken down. I got as a reader what I expected in yet another long-form magazine-style chronicle, a piece of current writing that probes the most pressing issue of the day – Woodward’s books usually need to be read in their first few weeks because they report on events of the last few months. The most vivid elements arise from a controversial technique Woodward has of recreating conversations through recollections of one or more participants or someone present in the room. It is a neat but obviously flawed way to enliven a book’s narrative, but in Fear it is a regular dagger in hand. (I mean, the stuff he says Trump says!)

In greater context, though, the book does not so much explore the consequence of Trump’s blunders as it does the impact of his bluster. While its revelations do not prove the criminality Woodward found in Nixon, it is certainly evidence of what he calls a “nervous breakdown” of the most powerful office of the most powerful country – even if we cannot determine how it arose or where it might lead – and an extraordinary culture of fear in Trump’s home.

As literary journalism, Fear succeeds where Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury failed. It is broader, deeper and fairer, and there are fewer (but still some) self-interested passages from the likes of Steve Bannon. But most important, it also does not spare Trump’s foes, at times on international relations but also on his domestic perspective of an America with many left out of the spoils of success. Trump would have been wise to co-operate with Woodward; he is hardly ruined by him.

It is at its heart about a president who didn’t realize he was going to win and still can’t determine with any discipline how to exercise his clout. On issue after issue, it demonstrates an incoherence of journey, an acceptance of second-best practices, and a boss who through the complicity of his aides is protected from the wider world and from himself. It’s proof you can’t run a country the way you run a business. The longer Trump stays, the more it seems likely Woodward can furnish sequels in the same vein.

Kirk LaPointe is the editor-in-chief of Business in Vancouver and vice-president, editorial, of Glacier Media.