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Activision CEO Bobby Kotick Talks Esports 

Bobby Kotick’s Activision Blizzard is a leader in the esports league. Its competitive gaming properties include the Call of Duty League, Overwatch League, the World of Warcraft Arena World Championship, and Hearthstone Masters. If you’re not familiar with esports, consider it competitive video game playing. Much like mainstream professional sports, in esports teams of gamers play against each other, and fans can cheer on their favorite teams across the United States and around the world. Kotick seems confident it will continue to grow in popularity.

“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,” says Bobby Kotick. “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.”

Gambling on Esports

Like most major sporting events, such as the Super Bowl, the Stanley Cup Final, and even March Madness, Kotick foresees people eventually betting on esports in places where gambling is allowed. “We make games of skill. And in most states and in most countries, wagering on games of skill is legal,” says Kotick. “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.”

As for the future of esports, Bobby Kotick says, “You’ll see fantasy leagues emerge. 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.”

The metaverse is going to be a significant player. “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 purpose, and a lot of value that we haven’t really seen quite yet,” says Kotick. “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.”

Activision CEO Bobby Kotick on the Future of Virtual Reality

According to Kotick, “Virtual reality [VR] 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.”

Kotick is confident Activision Blizzard will remain the industry leader for great games. “Our mission has always been connecting and engaging the world through epic entertainment. And so because it’s a very social experience, you’re playing against people or could play against people around the world, and people are developing social relationships, social connections, and it’s in the service of joy,” says Bobby Kotick. “But there is also a competitive dynamic, and esports has become a very big way to succeed in video gaming.”

How does Kotick feel about the critics who say kids spend too much time playing video games like Activision Blizzard’s Crash Bandicoot and Candy Crush? “There are professional teams with players making hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars a year. And so I would advocate for a kid who has a proficiency in gaming, that there could be a great career for them as an esports athlete,” he says. “For what you get from a cognitive perspective, there’s no question we see that interacting with video games has the ability to meaningfully improve your cognition. It has the ability to improve your spatial relationships with like three dimensions. So there are real benefits. Plus, we’re building social connections with hundreds of millions of people worldwide. We have the chance to create heroes from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities with our games. There’s an enormous opportunity to build tolerance and understanding through video games.”

Opportunities abound; however, you’ll never find Kotick playing 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,” he shares. “If I’m playing anonymously, which is every once in a while, nobody knows who I am, and usually, I lose. I probably should be spending more time playing video games.”