The biggest publisher in video games is getting into e-sports in a big way. Today Activision Blizzard announced a new division dedicated to competitive gaming, and it's being headed up by Steve Bornstein, former CEO of both ESPN and the NFL Network. Mike Sepso, who co-founded professional e-sports organization Major League Gaming, will serve as senior vice president of the new Activision branch.
"I believe e-sports will rival the biggest traditional sports leagues."
What exactly the new division is for isn't entirely clear. Activision says that it will be "creating all-new ways to deliver the best-in-class fan experience across games, platforms, and geographies," but stops short of offering any specifics. But the new division is just one of several new e-sports initiatives from the publisher. Back in September, Activision announced an ambitious new competitive league for Call of Duty, which will feature players from around the world and a prize pool of more than $3 million.
Subsidiary Blizzard, meanwhile, has seen great success with strategy games like Heroes of the Storm; the game's upcoming championship in November will feature a $1.2 million prize pool, and the series has even infiltrated colleges through the "Heroes of the Dorm" tournaments, which feature thousands of players from more than 400 schools. "I believe e-sports will rival the biggest traditional sports leagues in terms of future opportunities," Bornstein says of his new role.
Of course, Activision is far from the only big name throwing its support behind the rapidly growing world of competitive gaming. The BBC recently streamed matches from the League of Legends world championships in London, while Microsoft is starting a competitive league for Halo multiplayer. E-sports players are even being treated like traditional athletes, and not just in terms of the big cash prizes — governing body ESL has recently started screening players for performance-enhancing drugs.