Esports is organized competitive video gaming. Teams compete against each other in a virtual video game environment in order to win real prize money. And Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick sees a future where betting on the outcome of an esports tournament will be as commonplace as wagering on the baseball World Series.
“If you think about professional sports today, whether it’s basketball or football or soccer, there are maybe 3,000 people in the world capable of playing professional baseball and maybe 5,000 people capable of playing professional football. However, hundreds of thousands of people are capable of playing professional video games,” Bobby Kotick said.
The Activision CEO continued, “And so when you think about the requirements and the qualifications to get that same thrill, the same sense of accomplishment, meaning, purpose, and also have a career, it’s a real growth opportunity for people. And we’re seeing an explosion of interest in the spectator component of it.”
Players and spectators alike take it very seriously. Gaming journalist Ford James explained, “It’s teams of people playing games against each other at a professional level, regularly winning huge sums of money as prizes. These esports players are contracted to play for a variety of different organizations, much like a football or basketball player would be. These teams practice and compete on their respective game just as a footballer or other sportsperson would, too.”
Ford continued, “There are two elements that play crucial roles in helping a game to succeed as an esport: enjoy ability and balance. The first is simple because if a game isn’t fun to play, it will not be enjoyable to watch, and players will lose interest quickly. On the other hand, balance is key because otherwise, the game becomes uninteresting.”
Bobby Kotick’s Activision Blizzard Is a Leader in the Esports League
Bobby Kotick has been leading the video game holding company, headquartered in Southern California, since Activision merged with Blizzard Entertainment in 2008. The company’s competitive gaming properties include the Call of Duty League, Overwatch League, the World of Warcraft Arena World Championship, and Hearthstone Masters. Teams are based not only in the United States, but also worldwide. Kotick is confident that as its popularity continues to grow, it will expand to include fantasy leagues and wagering on the results.
“You’ll see fantasy leagues emerge. However, those fantasy elements are not really incorporated into the games today yet. So I think that’s one direction, and then from a technology perspective, I love the social experiences that people are having through video games,” said the Activision CEO.
“We make games of skill. And in most states and in most countries, wagering on games of skill is legal,” Kotick continued. “Now, we don’t participate in that today, but I suspect that as the esport leagues become even more prevalent and popular, you will start to see peer-to-peer wagering and broadscale wagering on the outcomes of these kinds of events.”
Virtual Reality and the Future of Gaming
Kotick is more confident in his abilities in the boardroom than in an esports league. “I know most of the people I play with, and if I’m playing with friends, they’re competitive. And most of the time, I will lose,” revealed Bobby Kotick. “If I’m playing anonymously, which is every once in a while, nobody knows who I am, and usually, I lose. So I probably should be spending more time playing video games.”
He said, “Virtual reality being really big in the gaming industry is still a ways away because I think that there needs to be a much broader installed base of VR hardware before we have a real market.” So when will that happen? He says, “A decade from now, it will be everywhere.”
He anticipates that the metaverse is going to be a key platform. “And I think as we start to add a greater dimension of the social experience, they’ll connect people in a way that delivers a lot of meaning, and a lot of purposes, and a lot of value that we haven’t really seen quite yet,” Bobby Kotick said. “While it is just emerging, augmented reality and virtual reality over the long term will have a real impact on the type of video game experiences that we can create.”