Activision Blizzard announced recently that it will be creating a new division focused entirely on eSports.
“Celebrating our players and their unique skill, dedication and commitment is the essence of our eSports initiatives,” said Bobby Kotick, Chief Executive Officer of Activision Blizzard.
“Blizzard Entertainment and Activision Publishing have been leaders in the development of eSports. With that leadership, our strong franchises, our deep history and experience in eSports, and now two additional industry leaders, we intend to further enhance our efforts and make certain this remains an important growth driver for Activision Blizzard.”
The company is bringing in Steve Bornstein, former CEO of ESPN and the NFL Network, as chairman, and Mike Sepso, co-founder of Major League Gaming, as senior vice president to lead the division.
In a statement, Bornstein said:
“Last year, Activision Blizzard created entertainment that was viewed and played by over 150 million people for more than 13 billion hours – this dwarfs the engagement that fans spend on all other sports. I believe eSports will rival the biggest traditional sports leagues in terms of future opportunities, and between advertising, ticket sales, licensing, sponsorships and merchandising, there are tremendous growth areas for this nascent industry.
I’m excited to help Activision Blizzard further its leadership position in this exciting growth area.”
“As a member of the eSports community for over 12 years, I couldn’t be more excited for the future of the sport. I am confident that the company’s industry-leading content will capture the many opportunities we have to entertain and celebrate our players.
Activision Blizzard is uniquely positioned to give millions of fans around the world what they want, and I’m excited to help support this community in a way that honors its history.”
A name was not mentioned in the release, but the company did recently register the name Compete for an eSports-related offering.
An excellent track record in eSports
The company has a rich history in eSports. Its flagship game, StarCraft, was the early pioneer in large-scale mainstream, televised eSports since the 1990s.
BlizzCon, a video game convention, hosts some of the world’s biggest eSports tournaments. Taking place on November 6-7 in Anaheim, California this year, it will feature the global finals for StarCraft II, World of Warcraft, Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone, with a prize pool of more than $4 million.
Earlier this year, Blizzard Entertainment launched Heroes of the Dorm, the first collegiate eSports event to be televised on ESPN2. More than 6,000 collegiate players, representing 460-plus schools, competed in the tournament with the winning team from UC Berkeley securing the grand prize of fully-paid tuition for each of its members.
Activision Publishing hosts the annual Call of Duty Championship and in September this year the company also announced the creation of the Call of Duty World League, which provides a $3 million prize pool to professional and amateur players. Call of Duty is the top console eSports franchise in the world.
Additionally, Destiny, a first-person shooter video game developed by Bungie and published by Activision, has become the most watched console game on Twitch.
With a well-established competitive gaming scene around its titles Call of Duty and StarCraft II, growing segments for Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft and Heroes of the Storm, and a new eSports division headed by people with both eSports and sports broadcasting experience, Activision-Blizzard is in a good position to become the leading game publisher in eSports.