Actvision Blizzard announced this morning that it’s creating a new division focused on its “esports ecosystem.”
The new division wasn’t named in the release, but as GamesBeat reported in August, Blizzard Entertainment recently registered the name Compete for an esports-related offering. Esports could be a $465 million industry by 2017. And with an already healthy competitive gaming scene around first-person shooter Call of Duty and StarCraft II, a PC strategy game, and growing segments for Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft (a collectible card battler) and Heroes of the Storm (a multiplayer online strategy game known as a MOBA), Activision-Blizzard is in a good spot to become one of the biggest game publishers in esports.
Steve Bornstein, a former chief executive at ESPN and the NFL Network, will chair the new division, and Mike Sepso, former co-founder and president of Major League Gaming, will step in as senior vice president.
“Celebrating our players and their unique skill, dedication and commitment is the essence of our esports initiatives,” said Bobby Kotick, chief executive of Activision Blizzard, in a prepared statement. “There are no better leaders for this new initiative than Steve and Mike.”
The company created gaming that was viewed and played by more than 150 million people for more than 13 billion hours last year, the release said. That’s people playing and watching Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, Heroes of the Storm, and StarCraft II, all which have large (and growing) esports scenes. It quoted Bornstein, who said, “This dwarfs the engagement that fans spend on all other sports.”
The company’s next big esports event takes place around its huge BlizzCon fan convention on November 6 and November 7 in Anaheim, California. Teams of gamers will compete in the global finals for Blizzard Entertainment’s StarCraft II, World of Warcraft, Heroes of the Storm, and Hearthstone. The total prize pool adds up to more than $4 million.
The company has also invested in other high-profile competitions, including Blizzard’s “Heroes of the Dorm” contest on ESPN2 and the Call of Duty World League, which launched in September.