Today, game publisher Activision/Blizzard announced that it had acquired professional eSports organizer and media franchise Major League Gaming, a company that has long been a name in the rising gaming tournament world. The announcement made it clear why the acquisition happened now, as Activision CEO Bobby Kotick said the company wants to “create the ESPN of eSports.”
This is a big deal for the eSports world, which has seen a boom thanks to increasingly competitive (and lucrative) tournaments that draw an audience of thousands in person and millions online. In a world that has seen the massive explosion of Twitch (which was acquired by Amazon in 2014 for nearly a billion dollars), it’s no surprise that a big-name publisher wants a piece of the pie for itself.
And Activision is the one to do it, given its existing presence in competitive tournaments worldwide. Not only did it make the incredibly popular game ‘Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft’ — which is getting increasing tournament participation and coverage — and has its own MOBA with ‘Heroes of the Storm,’ it has also made a big push to raise the profile and eSports potential of its ‘Call of Duty’ franchise.
Although you can argue it’s not as big of a player in the scene as Riot Games (which is now owned by Tencent) or Valve, it’s clear from the language in the announcement that Activision is laser focused on being a dominant player in providing eSports tournament content, promotion and distribution.
Activision SVP and MLG co-founder Mike Sepso articulates:
The acquisition of MLG’s business is an important step towards Activision Blizzard Media Networks’ broader mission to bring eSports into the mainstream by creating and broadcasting premium eSports content, organizing global league play and expanding distribution with key gaming partners.
The entire MLG team will join Activision Blizzard Media Networks division, led by Sepso and ESPN CEO Steve Bornstein. Neither companies confirmed a price, but reports from eSports Observer pegs the acquisition for $46 million.
➤ Activision Blizzard Acquires the Business of Major League Gaming [Businesswire]