IBM will manage the technology for Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch League, a sign esports is starting to demand the most sophisticated cloud and AI technologies. With esports on the road to becoming a mainstream phenomenon alongside traditional sports, we can expect to see more of this kind of marriage in the future.

In a multi-year deal, IBM is teaming up with Activision Blizzard, one of the biggest players in the game industry. IBM will provide cloud, Watson AI, and machine learning for the Overwatch League and become a presenting partner of the Overwatch League Grand Finals. The technology company will help run interactive and analytical content for the league, which is one of the powerhouses of the $950 million esports industry.

The IBM sponsorship component kicks off at this year’s 2020 Overwatch League Grand Finals, which started October 8 and run through October 10. The agreement makes IBM the official AI, cloud, and analytics sponsor of the Overwatch League and covers the 2020 Grand Finals and the entirety of the 2021 and 2022 Overwatch League seasons.

Overwatch League

Above: Overwatch League before the pandemic.

Image Credit: Seoul Dynasty

Through this agreement, IBM and the Overwatch League plan to leverage IBM’s suite of advanced cloud and AI products. Starting in 2021, IBM and the Overwatch League will develop technology leveraging IBM’s expertise in natural language processing and machine learning to improve the league’s rankings system. The league will utilize IBM’s Watson AI capabilities to create live and in-broadcast predictive analysis, with specific solutions currently under development.

Solutions developed through the partnership will be hosted on the IBM Cloud and will leverage IBM’s suite of analytics tools to process in-match data. They will also use Watson Machine Learning and the AutoAI functionality within Watson Studio to harness Watson’s AI capabilities.

The announcement marks IBM’s first foray into the global world of esports. But the company has been a part of gaming history as a hardware manufacturer, chip creator, and software provider for developers since 1985. Over the past 35 years, IBM has worked with gaming and esports entities through PowerPC processors, NLP, and cloud technology.


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