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Esports Owners, Executives React To Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard Deal

Activision-Blizzard has made quite a name for itself over the last decade, producing titles like Overwatch and Call of Duty. With the recent $70 billion Microsoft purchase, it’s gotten the attention of many in the industry. Activision-Blizzard has refused to comment on how the acquisition might impact them, particularly their competitive esports division. However, other members of the industry are already speculating as to what this means for the future of gaming.

To Adrian Montgomery, the Chief Executive at Enthusiast Gaming, Microsoft’s pending acquisition of Activision-Blizzard is a ringing endorsement of the future of the gaming industry. He said the deal makes their organization “more bullish” on its investments in the CDL’s Seattle Surge and the OWL’s Vancouver Titans. “There are a handful of trillion-dollar companies in the world and one of them happens to control Overwatch and Call of Duty,” Montgomery said of Microsoft. “I think that’s a very, very good thing.”

Adam Rhymer, the Chief Executive of Envy Gaming, which owns the OWL’s Dallas Fuel and CDL’s OpTic Texas, said he hopes the Microsoft deal will “lift some of the clouds” around both leagues this year. Last August, major brands — like Coca-Cola and State Farm — decided to stop advertising with Activision’s esports leagues after California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing sued the video game giant over allegations of widespread harassment and discrimination. Then, in November, The Wall Street Journal reported Activision’s CEO Bobby Kotick knew about sexual misconduct allegations within the company for years. Kotick is expected to step down from his role at Activision when the deal with Microsoft closes, according to media reports. “I would hope that, in the short term, we start to see some sponsors coming back to the leagues,” Rymer said. “That’d be a great step in the right direction.”

Additionally, Microsoft’s statement announcing the pending acquisition mentioned two other titles endemic to esports — Major League Gaming, which Activision acquired in 2015 in an attempt to become the “ESPN of esports,” and StarCraft, a science-fiction strategy game and a title credited with first bringing esports into mainstream popular culture.

“[StarCraft] was the foundational game that really helped esports happen,” said Mike Sepso, the Co-Founder of Major League Gaming and now the Chief Executive of Vindex, a company that provides behind-the-scenes support to esports leagues. “I would love to see a resurgence of that game in the competitive community.” So, what does Microsoft’s acquisition mean for the gaming industry? Sepso says nobody knows, given the recent nature of the news. But, Sepso said it’s clear the giants of the tech and media industries are making these acquisition deals to figure out “how do I hold consumer attention in the future?”

Sepso believes the consumer of the future will look a lot like the gamers of today and companies like Microsoft and Facebook are positioning themselves to build a new interactive form of the Internet — otherwise known as “the metaverse.” In Microsoft’s announcement, Microsoft’s chairman and CEO Satya Nadella said as much, noting that video games will “play a key role in the development of metaverse platforms.”

“When people talk about the metaverse, what [they’re] really saying is: How do I engage a mainstream consumer in the future that is a gamer?” Sepso said. “In the future, do I want to go to a static, text-driven website to buy toothpaste, or do I want to do that in a ‘Fortnite-like’ environment?”

(All information was provided by The Washington Post)

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