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What the Activision Purchase Means for eSports

There are a number of big reasons why Microsoft’s purchase of Activision made sense. But the eSports angle rarely got explored.


For the vast majority, the Call of Duty of it all was just more important. And that’s without mentioning the huge boon the purchase gave Xbox in the mobile space. In fact, there’s a lot of reasons this deal was made, and eSports is probably the least of it. At least, it might seem that way on the surface.

Because it’s no small thing to go from having very few eSports games to having some of the biggest going. Call of Duty, Overwatch, Starcraft and more are all now firmly sitting in Team Green. And that could prove to be very important.

The World of eSports

eSports is big business. In 2022, it was worth over 1.25 billion dollars. Covid gave people the chance to look at this industry in a different way, and it seems they never left. Gambling on professional video games using sites like GGBET, became more and more popular, and it’s easy to see why. Regular sports can be exciting, but obviously they’re grounded in reality and safety. Those things don’t hold back video games.

Call of Duty, Call of Duty: Warzone, World of Warcraft and Overwatch are all in the top 20 most watched eSports games. And with Call of Duty and Overwatch there is room to grow that into something even bigger. There’s certainly the mainstream popularity. Developers just have to work out how to get their biggest fans into eSports. And with the rise of Twitch, it’s not nearly as difficult to convince people to watch games as it used to be.

That doesn’t mean it’ll be easy, but it gives Xbox a foundation upon which to build. Until now, they’re really only had Halo and Gears. The former, while popular, isn’t what it used to be. And the latter hasn’t had a new game in long enough that it’s practically irrelevant in terms of ongoing eSports support.

And so to go from nothing to something overnight is a bigger deal than maybe some people are making out.

Building on Call of Duty

There have been a lot of opinions on where Call of Duty goes from here, the biggest being that it should stop being a yearly franchise. This is a fair point, especially given initial reaction to Modern Warfare III. Some people think it’s underbaked, in part because it was originally supposed to be an expansion.

Half the releases mean half the profits – in theory. But we’re living in the live service era, where every game needs years of content. Call of Duty is already one of the big examples of this, and they do it very well. But can that stretch for two years? When there’s already so many competitors vying for attention, can Activision do without its yearly franchise?

eSports can genuinely be a part of that. Nobody gets bored with Football, despite the lack of yearly iterations. There aren’t crowds of people moving on from Tennis each year because they don’t like how the old graphics look, or because the roster didn’t change enough. Sports are evergreen, and people get into sports because they enjoy watching sports.

With streaming so easily accessible and more people open to the idea of celebrity gamers and teams, there’s never been a better time to start pushing eSports leagues. And while it won’t make up for the lack of yearly releases, it’s possible it might just help drive excitement for expansions, for tournaments and for continued play.

If nothing else, it puts Xbox in a much better position than they were in a few months ago. And that shouldn’t be overlooked.


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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.

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Twitter: @matgrowcott