Game powerhouse Activision Blizzard recently shelled out $46 million US dollars for Major League Gaming, a well-known eSports company that specializes in organizing and streaming live gaming events and competitions. The deal was announced on January 4th.
The acquiring company operates on two fronts: Activision Publishing, which develops and publishes console games such as Call of Duty, Skylanders, and Destiny, and Blizzard Entertainment, which develops and publishes one of TCG’s favorites – CCG Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft.
On the other end of the deal, MLG runs the broadcast network MLG.tv, which streams live competitions and on-demand daily content like their pretty popular eSports Report show. The company also helms MLG play, which overseas and streams online gaming tournaments, the MLG Pro Circuit, which is the longest running eSports league in North America, and the GameBattle platform, which hosts console, PC, and mobile gaming tournaments.
Last October, Activision Blizzard announced that it was looking to create an eSports competitive gaming division that would function as the “ESPN of eSports,” according to CEO Bobby Kotick. The new branch of the company was announced as Activision Blizzard Media Networks, which is what MLG will fall under. Some outlets previously reported that MLG would be liquidated, when the acquisition was still a rumor. But, as of now and the official announcement, it looks as if MLG will operate under the umbrella of Activision Blizzard, and the current setup and staff will function as normal. Activision Blizzard specifically praised MLG’s platform, seasoned team, and the current activity levels and vibrancy of the community.
But there are several possible wrenches in Activision Blizzards plans, namely their rather limited selection of titles (comparatively when the plethora of competition-friendly console and CCG games are viewed as a whole) and how they’ll fare against their rather well-known competitors.
Although Activision Blizzard owns a good selection of very popular games, makers of other, equally as popular games aren’t likely to offer streaming rights to a competitor. So rather than being the ESPN of eSports, which can cover everything, Activision may be limited to covering just their own titles. Right now, Twitch, owned by Amazon, and YouTube, owned by Google, corner the market on streaming game competitions and leagues; as third parties not affiliated with developers, they have more room to negotiate with developers of all games. And because most content on these two sites is user generated (note: they do work with publishers and developers to stream competition), the amount of content available is pretty substantial, and not likely to move to another platform.
However, Kotick has stated that they aren’t really out to take away from/overtake sites that focus on user generated content; instead, they’re looking to develop a strong platform for premium content. According to the company, the studios that fall under Activision will not be under any obligation to stream or partner their games’ competitions and leagues on MLG.
So what’s the ultimate goal? According to Kotick, while they expect most events to be watched online, they want to bring events to viewers via a good ‘ole traditional television channel. Suffice it to say, it will be interesting to see how this newest acquisition pans out.