Blizzard’s ever-growing e-sports ambitions will soon have a new home. Today, the game developer announced plans for an e-sports arena in LA. Officially called Blizzard Arena Los Angeles, the new space will be situated at legendary TV production facility Burbank Studios, and will open next month.
Blizzard says the arena “has been custom-tailored to support an exciting live-event experience for local attendees and broadcast audiences around the world.” In addition to stages for showcasing prominent e-sports competitions, the arena will also feature multiple sound stages, control rooms, areas for practice, and, naturally, a store to buy Blizzard merchandise. It will have a capacity of around 450 spectators, though that number will vary a bit based on the event. Right now, Blizzard isn’t showing off what the space will look like when completed.
“We’re at a tipping point for e-sports.”
“We’re at a tipping point for e-sports and we look forward to helping usher in a new era of competition-based entertainment,” Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime said in a statement. The new arena represents part of an ongoing push into e-sports from both Blizzard and its parent company Activision. In 2015, Activision launched a dedicated e-sports division headed by former ESPN CEO Steve Bornstein, and the following year, the company acquired pioneering e-sports group Major League Gaming. Activision CEO Bobby Kotick has said that the company “plans to create the ESPN of e-sports.”
Meanwhile, Blizzard is in the midst of launching an ambitious global league for its game Overwatch, which already has nine franchises spread across the US, South Korea, China, and England, owned by some of the most prominent names in sports. (Two of the franchises are based in LA, where Blizzard’s arena will be.) The league is aiming to further professionalize competitive gaming by featuring city-based teams, and offering players guaranteed contracts and salaries, as well as insurance and retirement plans. The Overwatch league will kick off later in 2017.
This isn’t the first such arena to open. In 2014, MLG opened its first dedicated e-sports arena in the US, while similar spaces also exist in e-sports hotbeds like Seoul and Beijing. Most recently, a nightclub on the Las Vegas strip was transformed into a competitive gaming space.
Blizzard’s new arena will officially open its doors on October 7th with a two-day Overwatch competition, followed by Hearthstone’s week-long summer championship tournament starting on the 13th.