Activision Buys Major League Gaming, making eSports history

Major League Gaming, a pioneer in global eSports, was recently purchased by Activision, marking a big step forward in the industry of eSports. This June 13, 2013 file photo shows Activision Blizzard Inc., which published “World of Warcraft,” “Starcraft 2” and “Diablo 3," during the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles.  (AP)

Major League Gaming, a pioneer in global eSports was recently purchased by Activision, which has many wondering how such an acquisition will affect the future of eSports - a growing multi-million dollar industry. 

In October 2015, John Gaudiosi wrote on the website Fortune that “Stephanie Llamas, director of research and consumer insights at SuperData, forecasts that the global eSports market will grow from $748.8 million today to over $1.9 billion by 2018.”

MLG was not only a pioneer in eSports culture and its success, but also arguably a household brand in video games. They were responsible for the foundation of eSports’ place on the map in the U.S., with its practices setting a standard for other gaming companies to follow within North America.  Prior to MLG, the professional gaming world was a hemisphere away, having exploded in Korea in the 90s before spreading all over Asia and eventually growing out into Europe and the U.S.

The road to this point for eSports has been rocky and obstructed by a stigma from those who can’t imagine how sitting at a computer playing a video game can come close to playing in the NFL. There are obvious differences in the play and competitive structure of games, but when it comes to how money is made in eSports there are an innumerable amount of similarities, especially in the realms of franchising, branding, advertising, betting, ticket sales and broadcasting.

 If anything, eSports provides another dimension towards advertised competition because of its directly interactive value. Activision was also behind games such as “Call of Duty,” “Destiny,” and “Guitar Hero.” They were also the corporate giant behind Blizzard Entertainment, which published “World of Warcraft,” “Starcraft 2” and “Diablo 3” to name a few.

Jake Muncy wrote on Wired that “Major League Gaming, [Mike Sepso] says, will retain its independent branding and staff, operating under the larger Activision umbrella much the same way Blizzard has since its acquisition by the company in 2008.”

The purchase of MLG by a major company like Activision could be the moment many have been dreaming of: eSports becoming mainstream to the degree of the NFL or the MLB.  Million dollar contracts and product endorsements shaping what a professional gaming career can look like more than that which already exists now.

For example, The International 5, a “Defense of the Ancients 2” (DOTA 2) Tournament, boasted an $18,429,613 prize pool with a first place pay-out of $6,634,661. 91 percent of the total prize pool came from the DOTA two-player community though in-game purchases of varying degrees of digital content and online ticket sales in order view live broadcast coverage of the games within the tournament.

Above all else, MLG has always been the unwavering backbone behind a culture of gamers who have dreamed about playing on the big stage, like a Pop Warner kid for playing in the Super Bowl.  Activision’s purchase of MLG to the annals of eSports history could be the moment where a Peyton Manning or a Tom Brady of any video game could finally exist with complete coverage brought to you by ESPN. Maybe that person could be you. 

Matthew Gilbert is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at matthew.gilbert@uconn.edu.