Lydia Pendergrass, Esports Business Writer, for NGame Esports shares her perspective about the Activision Blizzard and Google partnership.
Activision Blizzard recently announced a multi-year partnership with Google. Half of the deal makes Google Cloud the preferred provider for Activision Blizzard’s gaming infrastructure, while the other half will see Overwatch League, Call of Duty League, and Hearthstone esports now broadcasted exclusively on YouTube. While streaming competition has been going on for quite some time now, streaming platforms are just now taking esports broadcasting rights seriously – as they should.
At the debut of the Overwatch League in 2018, Blizzard announced a deal with Twitch for exclusive broadcasting rights (outside of China). The deal was said to cost Amazon-owned Twitch upwards of $90 million and last for the first two seasons of the league. The latest partnership announcement did not include financials.
YouTube as an exclusive broadcast partner, seems to be the one that makes the most sense for Blizzard. While YouTube has a reasonably lackluster Gaming section, most broadcasters use YouTube for video on demand (VODs), despite live-streaming on other platforms. Now, Blizzard esports content will be collectively accessible in one place.
There has been little mention or in-depth details as the other side of the partnership – Google Cloud as the preferred game hosting infrastructure. While players may not take immediate notice, Google’s AI capabilities will help the performance structure on Blizzard Games.
From an esports production standpoint – the deal more than likely will not change too much from what you see. What will be a noticeable change is the fact that both the CDL and OWL will be doing Home/Away games at a different location around the world every week. Google’s infrastructure should help keep these streams stable, no matter where matches are being played.
While YouTube Gaming & live streaming has existed for quite some time now, this move puts Google on the map for gaming broadcasts. Now all they have to do is retain it. If nothing else, this is fantastic publicity for the Google Cloud and how well their platform can be utilized for other gaming companies.
The main focus of the partnership is, of course, on Overwatch League and Call of Duty League, but we cannot breeze by the fact that Hearthstone is included in this deal as well. On top of broadcasting the esports side of things, Hearthstone is also available to play on mobile, which can be extremely beneficial considering Google’s mobile infrastructure.
There is also potential this could somehow tap into Stadia – Google’s cloud gaming service. Although Stadia had a less-than-stellar release last year, the partnership between Google and Blizzard could help elevate it in the future.
Over the years, as esports has grown, fans have become accustomed to having all games they wish to watch on Twitch, and this deal puts a wrench in it. Consider the comparison to traditional media. If you want to watch an AFC football game, you watch it on CBS. If you want to watch an NFC football game, you switch over to Fox. Consider whatever you are using to stream it as the cable box. It is essentially the same concept, and over time, fans will get used to it.
Up until recently, Twitch was the go-to place for gaming content and esports in particular. In the last few years, that has begun to change as many heavy hitters are entering the space. Microsoft’s Mixer has exclusive broadcasting rights to Hi-Rez’s Paladins and SMITE league. Facebook is starting to sign content creators, along with a short exclusive stint with ESL One events. In short, Blizzard giving YouTube exclusive rights should come as no surprise. It is more of natural growth in the broadcasting wars. This type of competition is nothing but healthy to the scene, and while fans will take some time to get used to it, it is only for the better.