As a developer and publisher, Activision Blizzard owns a number of game franchises, such as Overwatch, Call of Duty, and StarCraft. In 2015, the gamer community held a number of tournaments from various Activision Blizzard games and broadcast the match on Twitch. However, at that time, the tournament was still informal. Activision Blizzard then decided to create a media division that was responsible for the development of esports. They appointed Steve Bornstein, former CEO of ESPN, to lead the division. In addition, they also invited Mike Sepso, a pioneer in the esports industry, to join their new division.
One year later, in 2016, Activision showed its seriousness in developing esports by acquiring Major League Gaming (MLG), the organizer of the esports tournament founded in 2002. With this, Activision has the ability to organize and broadcast esports matches. The next step that Activision took was to try to build the structure of the esports league.
Activision began holding the Overwatch League in 2016. The Overwatch League uses a franchise model in which teams that compete will represent a large city, such as the Los Angeles Valiant, Shanghai Dragons, and Seoul Dynasty. And starting in 2020, Activision will also use a cage-away system, like traditional sports. So, the host team will host their opponents at their base. Fans can buy tickets to watch the game live. Ticket sales from the match are a new source of income for Activision and the host esports organization.
Initially, the Overwatch League was only attended by 12 teams, who paid franchise fees to be able to participate in the league. Now, the number of teams has increased to 20 teams. Success with the Overwatch League, Activision began holding the Call of Duty League this year, which also uses a franchise system. At present, there are 12 teams competing in the Call of Duty League. According to the Motley Fool report, from the sale of the esports franchise, Activision has earned US $ 500 million.
The Activision esports business does look quite successful. However, they can still develop the business to become even bigger. As a publisher, Activision holds the rights to the game’s intellectual property. So, they have various ways to monetize their games. In addition, they also have other popular games, such as StarCraft and Warcraft, whose esports ecosystem can still be developed. They can also develop their existing esports league.
Of course, in addition to financial benefits, Activision Blizzard also gets other benefits by developing the esports business. The existence of a professional league makes the community of players more active, they play games longer and they are willing to spend more money to buy in-game items.