The past decade has seen the rise of eSports in a way that nobody could have imagined. Casual fans of eSports will know that there are a few key games that keep fans coming back to the stadium and competitive gamers back to the arena. Call of Duty, League of Legends, and DoTA are among the most popular games played at a competitive level. This past week the CoD Championships began as multiple teams all vied for the better part of a $1.5 million tournament prize. With packed arenas and fans filling the seats we can finally see that eSports are here to stay. However, will it be possible for eSports to break through to a casual audience?
If eSports are ever going to make it out of their niche demographic it is going to be due to large scale infrastructure falling into place. Competitive gaming is not a new concept and tournaments aren’t even that rare. However, Triple-A companies publicly backing competitive gaming leagues is a new innovation and it is one being spearheaded by the team at Activision. In 2016 Activision made eSports when they introduced everybody to the Call of Duty World League (CWL).
Activision leaping on board to create their own competitive gaming league is a change in the eSports world that cannot be ignored. Having a large company like Activision involved in the process means that the tournaments will grow larger, the prize pools more expensive, and the viewership more extravagant. Activision has helped to publicly improve the production value of the world of eSports. They’ve even gone into their game, Call of Duty, in order to customize graphics for different players and teams while competing.
With Activision putting so much stock into their own tournaments and league it makes sense that they are working toward getting a broadcasting deal set up. Last year we also saw Activision purchase MLG.TV in order to coincide with the launch of the CWL. The purchase cost Activision nearly $46 million but it gave their company a direct line to broadcast high quality competitive gaming content directly to gamers all around the world. The goal, if it can even be dreamed about, is to eventually have an ESPN like service for eSports.
One of the greatest hurdles that eSports will face in the future is how they acclimate fans to their biggest stars. That is, ultimately, going to be the deciding factor between long term mainstream success and relative niche appeal.