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HTC gets involved in e-sports, foreshadowing move into home entertainment

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Cloud9, Team Liquid, and Team SoloMid will carry the HTC banner in professional gaming leagues

HTC doesn't want to be known as just a smartphone maker anymore, and one of its first moves to update its brand image in 2015 has been to sponsor three prominent e-sports teams. Cloud9, Team Liquid, and Team SoloMid have all warmly welcomed HTC into the realm of e-sports, promising to produce "a top-notch video series with players" from each team and HTC's support. There'll be giveaways as well, giving e-sport fans "opportunities to snag some amazing new HTC devices."

Notably, the Team Liquid announcement names Walter Wang and Thomas Chen as E-sports Project Managers at HTC, underlining the importance the Taiwanese tech company is placing on this venture. HTC's sponsored teams compete in various games, including Counter Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2, but HTC only mentions the League of Legends Championship Series in its celebratory tweet.

HTC's participation in e-sports is not unusual for tech companies. Asus recently took title sponsorship of a Dota 2 team that is now known as Asus.Polar, Gigabyte and Alienware run small-scale tournaments, and hardware brands like Kingston, Logitech, Eizo, and Razer make sure to have their names closely associated with either particular players or teams. What's different about HTC is that it doesn't have a product that immediately ties into the act of gaming. At least not yet.

When I spoke with HTC's Drew Bamford at CES, he stressed that 2015 will be a transformative year for the company and teased a major new product from HTC for the home entertainment market. "Some of the other stuff may feel evolutionary, but this is a totally new space," he said, promising to reveal all by the end of the first quarter of this year. Sources familiar with HTC's plans tell The Verge that the company's involvement in the competitive gaming scene is directly related to this new product.

Update 1:45AM ET, January 26: Article was updated to include confirmed link between HTC's upcoming home entertainment product and e-sports participation.