What Activision Blizzard Hiring an MLB Executive Says About the Future of Esports – CBR – Comic Book Resources

This year was supposed to be a big one for esports, and especially for Activision Blizzard. The inaugural season of the Call of Duty League was set to roll out following the same city-based structure as traditional sports, and the Overwatch League’s third season was to begin having its teams play big homestands in their respective cities. Of course, all those big plans got were sidetracked by the of COVID-19 that sparked cancellations of esports and traditional sports events alike.

Despite those cancellations though, esports did find a way to keep rolling. Plans did change, but both the Overwatch and Call of Duty Leagues have found success in a modified 2020 format, filling the gap that traditional sports left behind. And while traditional sports may just barely be starting to restart seasons, Activision Blizzard has taken a big step forward for esports by hiring Major League Baseball Deputy Commissioner Tony Petitti as its new President of Sports and Entertainment.

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For Activision Blizzard, this move represents a move towards expanding its existing city-based esports leagues and indicates a goal of bringing esports into the mainstream with more live and televised events. Petitti already has experience building upon established leagues to increase audience engagement during his time at the MLB, MLB Network, ABC and CBS, and Activision Blizzard hopes to utilize that experience to create events that can rival those of traditional sports.

Logos for the Overwatch and Call of Duty Leagues

One way that might happen is telling stories of players in the Leagues to create hype and excitement for viewers. Traditional sports media has produced shows and movies based on the stories of some of the biggest stars, whether it was the tale of a player in-game or the history of a player’s life leading up to a game. That player-specific media has seen incredible success, helping drive narratives and craft storylines that drive fans to watch matches. Bringing those stories to esports, where player-specific media has been lacking, would not only be a way to drive up viewer engagement. It would also help compete with traditional sports, bridging the gap in media that existed between the two.

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On top of the expertise Petitti brings from his time in the world of traditional sports, his move to Activision Blizzard has more implications for where esports is heading. Petitti was the active MLB Deputy Commissioner and COO, meaning he left the MLB, an established organization with years upon years of history, for a new upstart industry. Though the MLB is currently experiencing some turmoil regarding player contract during the current shortened season, Petetti says this did not influence his decision to leave.

Petitti’s choice shows that the media veteran believes in the future of city-based esports enough to make the shift, and that in and of itself says a lot about the future of esports. This year has certainly been a tumultuous time for both esports and traditional sports. However, Activision Blizzard and Tony Petitti’s decision sends the message that esports is here to stay, and it’s only going to get bigger and better.

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