Overwatch esports gets a shot in the arm as MLG is folded into new Blizzard division

By Brenna Hillier
10 May 2017 09:58 GMT

Overwatch has a bright esports future ahead of it.


Overwatch has a flourishing ranked play scene, but the esports side of thing is not great – the game itself is lacking some features the competitive community really values, and the Overwatch League has been slow to come together.

Never fear though; Blizzard is always adding new features to Overwatch and now it looks like Activision Blizzard is taking the whole thing very seriously. Remember how back in 2015 the one time twin publisher set itself up as a three segment company, with an esports division as the third prong? And then in early 2016 it acquired long-running esports bastion Major League Gaming?

You might have expected MLG to be a cornerstone of that third segment and to go big on Call of Duty, but to our surprise, it has been folded into Blizzard instead – specifically to support Overwatch.

In a press release, Activision Blizzard said it had formed a new internal Blizzard division “that will handle management, operation, sales, and distribution for Overwatch esports programs, including the Overwatch League and Overwatch World Cup”.

“In addition to bringing together some of the most talented people from across the entire organization, this effort includes the full integration of Major League Gaming, acquired in 2015, into Blizzard and also leverages some of the best and brightest from traditional sports, esports, and entertainment,” the publisher said.

“The new division, which will retain the MLG name, will build on Blizzard’s nearly 20-year history as a leader in esports and leverage MLG’s extensive experience with live events and content distribution. It will also operate the MLG-branded media network, which will broadcast both Blizzard and Activision esports content as well as other premium gaming programming.”

If this works, it’s great news for Overwatch fans – esports is huge business, and getting it right will guarantee the Blizzard blockbuster sees support for many years to come. It’s also good news for Blizard, one of the founding parents of esports, which has lost its prominence in the scene to upstarts like Riot with League of Legends.

So what does this mean for Activision Blizzard’s three segment approach? As it turns out, Blizzard’s new esports team will be in charge of Activision’s Call of Duty World League as well – so it looks like it’s maybe cooling off on that whole idea a bit. This is maybe not terribly surprising as so far it hasn’t achieved a lot, and we haven’t seen much out of rival EA’s efforts either (its eSports boss Peter Moore just offski’d, too.)

Interestingly, Blizzard isn’t handing over control of its Heroes of the Storm, Hearthstone, StarCraft, and World of Warcraft esports programs to the new division – but the teams responsible for them will “begin leveraging the new division’s capabilities for media production, sales, and distribution”. Activision Blizzard intends to start making some moolah, in other words.

Oh hey and Blizzard is hiring in support of all this. Just by the by, if you have relevant skills.

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