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Activision: "eSports is happening with us or without us"

Eric Hirschberg on the "biggest unofficial sports league in the world"

Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg believes that eSports will continue to grow in isolation from the games industry, and it's down to publishers and developers to keep pace.

Speaking to Forbes following the unveiling of Bungie's Destiny, Hirshberg said that eSports is, "happening with or without us."

"Games have become the biggest unofficial sports league in the world right now," he said. "There's a massive unofficial ecosystem of content, whether it be on YouTube or Wikipedia pages, dedicated to the world's most dedicated gamers."

Despite the rate of growth, Hirshberg believes the market is still relatively open. There are only "a few venues" where players can compete in an "officially sanctioned public way," and Activision has ensured that Call of Duty offers the same service to its audience.

Hirshberg described the online impact of Call of Duty's first $1 million tournament as "massive", but he was less enthusiastic about the future of eSports on broadcast television.

"I feel like there's an organic thing that's happening," he said. "I'm more interested in supercharging that thing that's already happening organically than transforming it into an existing ecosystem like television, because they're not always compatible. It would be like saying what are the opportunities for YouTube videos on television."

The final of the League of Legends World Championship attracted more than 8.2 million unique viewers in October last year, and more than 8,000 people attended the live event. Riot Games currently leads the pack in terms of popularity, but its success will inevitably lead to more companies entering the scene. Last week, Wargaming announced a World of Tanks tournament with $2.5 million in prize money.

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Latest comments (3)

Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer 3 years ago
The basic issue of eSports - as with all sports - is that the focus is NOT on the game, it's on the players.
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Having research the professional gaming league competition scene - especially from the Korean, Chinese and US model - what eSport is to the consumer trade, is seen as audience Professional Tournaments to us. It is interesting that eSport fell into the public-space sector (television coverage, and stadium placement) rather than retained by the consumer trade?

I just wonder if it was the intransigence of the consumer game publishers to support a unified event / league format rather than spending more time on blocking the use of their games that made them miss the bus. I remember the problems that iRacing and iGames had before creating their licensing agreements. The arcade eSport scene is a major cash cow in Japan and Korea - and the EVO competition is a big draw.

I wonder of eSports will become an off-shoot of the conventional consumer game scene and condense into as big a operation as we see with the StarCraft leagues? Remember there are over 20 different organizations currently (not going to touch all the Chinese ones).
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Peter Dwyer Games Designer/Developer 3 years ago
"eSports is happening with us or without us"

Preferably without you Activision. You seem to corrupt everything you touch these days.
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