Mobile Menu

How Will the Activision Purchase Impact eSports?

There’s been a lot of talk about how Microsoft’s Activision purchase will impact on consoles, mobile devices and the cloud. But there hasn’t been much information about the effect on eSports.


Maybe that’s because it’s presumed eSports will just keep ticking on regardless. After all, the same games are still going to be played in the same way. For the most part, they’ll even be played in the same places – Call of Duty will be on PlayStation for at least a few years to come.

But is that an overly simple view of what could be a seismic shift in a growing gaming arena? It’ll be interesting to find out.

Call of Duty

Call of Duty is already one of the most important gaming IPs, and it’s a big hitter in the eSports community too. Millions of dollars are gambled and won across the world, with hundreds of thousands of people tuning in the watch matches at all levels. Places like see just how important this game is to the online gambling community. When paired with Activision’s other major IP, you can see how mismanagement could cost a lot of people a lot of money.

But there’s no real reason for mismanagement. Microsoft will want these titles – and especially Call of Duty – to stay popular. Growing this area can only be beneficial.

Actually, there is a very simple way eSports will benefit from the Activision purchase. Game Pass effectively means mainline Call of Duty and its cohort will be free-to-play for many of its users.

There’ll be people who balk at that suggestion, but it’s true. If you’re already paying for Game Pass, you can access Call of Duty. People who haven’t played it for years will download it just because they can on Xbox and PC.

This will reconnect with the millions of people who used to jump in day one but no longer do. They could become reinvested in a franchise they left behind. Some of them will become pros. Others will just watch the occasional match. But everybody could be exposed to the main series once more.

If nothing else changes this is a major one. Of course, that’s presuming it does come to Game Pass. There’s every reason to think it will – but we won’t know until the ink on the contract is dried, and we find out what’s going on.

Other Activision Franchises

Call of Duty isn’t the only Activision franchise that is big in the eSports scene. Overwatch, Starcraft II and Hearthstone are all in the top 10 games for awarding prize money, ahead of Call of Duty.

Starcraft II is an old favourite by this point, and Hearthstone is a quiet hit. You’re not going to see a lot of debate about it on the gaming forums, because it’s not a massive talking point on consoles. You might see occasional scandals in their communities, or other big news, but by and large they just tick along in a fairly successful way.

Overwatch is on the cusp of a new release, and it’s shaking everything up in an effort to go free-to-play. Season passes, locked characters, no new costumes unless you pay – the decisions have been controversial but, I suppose, understandable. Everybody will be able to play the game, but you’ll have to part with your hard-earned cash if you want to unlock the coolest of things.

This will probably make Blizzard more money in the long run, but without access to all the content as it releases, it’ll be interesting to see what effect that has on the eSports community. Will people get tired of the game faster? I’m less interested in jumping in, myself. And with that loss of interest goes my interest in the community.

It’s a balancing act, but one that Microsoft’s support may smooth out in the coming years.


Article By

blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

Follow on:
Twitter: @matgrowcott