Activision Blizzard Prepping for Overwatch League and Beyond

The company is looking to revolutionize the esports industry.

By Robert Marrujo:: If there's one thing beyond a shadow of a doubt in the world of competitive gaming, it's that big things are afoot and changes are coming. We reported back in August about the coming of Activision Blizzard's Overwatch League, an initiative set to further legitimize esports by providing stable income for players. Binx.News also gave some insight into the development of legitimate esports venues being put up around the United States, most notably the upcoming Oakland eSports Arena in that city's Jack London Square area. Now, Blizzard is gearing up to really take esports to the next level.

Mike Sepso, Activision Blizzard Vice President and Co-Founder of Major League Gaming, recently spoke with GameIndustry about how the company will be pushing to make the Overwatch League as big as the NFL. In his eyes, esports are in the unique position of being able to monetize via ad revenue and sponsorships at a much faster pace than traditional sports, which took decades to reach the point they're at now. Part of that means keeping players (in the case of esports, gamers), paid and happy, so that the industry can move forward with a stable foundation underfoot.

The next challenge, however, is figuring out the way to make money in a world that is seeing a huge shift in how customers consume media. Sepso had this to say about the issue:

"The whole sports world... is trying to figure out the transition from television [as a source of revenue. It's a challenge and an opportunity, because we don't have to build [esports] on that old model and go through that transition. We can skip ahead, and almost out of necessity that was how esports was developed, because you couldn't broadcast a three-day, 12-hour tournament on ESPN.

This is not just a major change for Activision Blizzard and how it has handled esports for a long time. It's a major change for the whole industry.

It's a generational wave that's happening. For the first time, just over a year ago, ESPN actually lost subscribers; that's never happened before. The Yankees, my hometown baseball team, are significantly below last year on ticket sales. Things are happening to traditional sports that nobody expected, and quicker than anybody in that business expected."

Given the a la cart nature of mass media these days, with people moving in droves towards services like Netflix and Hulu that allow consumers to pick and choose what content they want to see, it's only natural that esports would seek to be ahead of the curve in terms of giving customers the freedom to watch in a way that gives them more control. At the same time, there's also plenty of room for more traditional engagement, such as fans walking into a brick and mortar arena to watch games. How Blizzard Activision tackles these challenges in the coming months and years will be very fascinating to watch, as well as the response from other developers and publishers with their own titles that could become potential esports revenue streams.

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