Activision Blizzard Esports’ Jack Harari on how the energy and pageantry of gaming is enduring the pandemic
Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Google Play | Spotify
If there was one mode of international competition that wasn’t to be disrupted much by the global coronavirus pandemic, it’s esports.
“One of the unique things about gaming is that our players don’t have to be in the same place,” Activision Blizzard Esports VP Jack Harari said on the Digiday Podcast.
Still, elite video game competition benefits from the same trappings that established league sports do, from pre-game pageantry to fan cams and a real sense that competitors are squaring off against one another even as they sit at their computers.
“It adds more energy, creates some really unique production opportunities,” Harari said. He joined Activison Blizzard — the creator of esport staples like Call of Duty, Overwatch and StarCraft — after five years with the NBA.
Like most media businesses, the company hopes to resume physical events next year, the company, Harari said, hopes to resume physical events next year, but has proved highly engaging in a media economy forced to be remote.
One clear differentiator between the company’s Overwatch League and a traditional sports league is that Activision Blizzard owns the game from top to bottom. Avid fans of the sci-fi shooting game can go from watching the world’s best to playing the exact same game themselves, albeit with different stakes.
In a week, the average fan watches four to five hours of professional esports while playing the company’s games for more than 20 hours, according to Harari.
Activision Blizzard is hoping to monetize that high level of engagement in a way other sports can’t. Last year, the category brought in more than $1 billion globally for the first time.
Here are highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
Gaming companies own the league. They also own the game.
“If there’s an EPL [English Premier League] fan out there or a Man U fan out there, when they’re playing soccer, football, outside of watching or being at an EPL match, they’re not interacting with the EPL, they’re just interacting with soccer. It all gets lumped in together. When our esport fan isn’t watching our esport, isn’t interacting with Overwatch League, and they’re still playing Overwatch, that’s still a touchpoint with us. So how we respect that and how we are critically thinking about how to address our fans across that entire lifecycle is really what’s most unique about how we develop these brand partnerships.”
The virtual advantage
“We have players playing on six to ten different servers globally this year for our season. That’s not ideal, but that was what kept our product going. One of the things we’re evaluating for next year is how to get that more centralized. There are moments in time where it adds significant value to our products to have at the very least our players in the same place and then maybe have fans, should we be able next year. It adds more energy, creates some really unique production opportunities. We’ve demonstrated and proven to ourselves and our partners and fans that we put out a great product under really difficult and unique circumstances.”
Esports was always going mainstream
“The notion that esports is popping because of the pandemic I think is a little misleading. To me, it feels like it’s a natural progression of where esports is going and has been going over the last five years or so. We as a company just had an earnings call last week where across Activision, Blizzard and King [mobile games], our third quarter monthly active users combined were close to 400 million. This isn’t a result of the pandemic, it’s a result of the natural progression.”
Newsletter publishers cautiously plan to expand editorial and sales teams
Publishers with newsletter-focused businesses are looking to grow their editorial and sales teams this year — but cautiously, to keep spending down during a time of economic uncertainty.
Magna 2023 forecast paints a resilient U.S. market, thanks to retail media and streaming
In its latest ad forecast, Magna is expecting a resilient U.S. market this year – boosted by retail, streaming and the auto industry’s bounceback.
How agencies are shaping the future of DEI beyond their own walls
Agencies are acknowledging that diversity efforts don’t stop with their companies. In addition to improving employee representation, now agency efforts in diversity, equity and inclusion are aimed at supporting clients and external partners.
SponsoredHow advertisers are fostering more effective publisher partnerships
Michael Weaver, senior vice president, business development and growth, Al Jazeera Media Network An everyday conversation between publishers and advertisers goes like this: The publisher invites the advertiser to a meal to talk about their business, attempts to delve into specifics on what the media buyer is looking to achieve, their audience breakdown and how […]
Newsletter publishers say they continue to see uptick in revenue despite advertising slowdown
At a time when larger media companies are feeling the pressure of the economic downturn and advertising slowdown, newsletter businesses continue to be in a period of revenue growth.
TikTok’s CEO faces bipartisan skepticism in first Congressional hearing on security concerns
The hearing comes amid calls to remove TikTok from government devices and in some cases even ban it entirely.