Electronic Arts has decided that eSports is the next big thing. At least big enough to establish a dedicated Competitive Gaming Division within the publisher. The head of the new unit will be EA chief operating officer Peter Moore, who adds Executive Vice President and Chief Competition Officer to his list of titles. EA senior vice president of product marketing Todd Sitrin joins Moore as the general manager of the division.
The point of the group is to establish global eSports competitions based around EA games, much like Riot Games' League of Legends Championship Series or Valve Software's Dota 2 The International.
"Competition runs deep in the DNA of Electronic Arts, and our games are already at the center of competitive gaming events at different levels today," wrote EA CEO Andrew Wilson. "FIFA fans around the world continue to compete in the FIFA Interactive World Cup, ESL One is hosting worldwide championships with Battlefield 4, we recently announced the return of the Madden NFL Live Challenge, and our games will be played in dozens of other regional competitions around the world in the next year. EA's CGD will seek to build a best-in-class program to centralize our efforts with new events, as well as the infrastructure to bring you the world's preeminent EA competitive experiences."
"As Peter and Todd begin these critical roles, we are focused on both delivering our commitments for FY16 as well as putting great energy behind this new opportunity. Peter will continue to lead his current organization through the end of FY16 before shifting full time to his new position. We will share further details about the CGD in the coming months."
EA is the second major publisher to establish a dedicated eSports division. In October, Activision Blizzard hired former ESPN and NFL Network CEO Steve Bornstein as chairman of its own eSports initiative. In addition, Major League Gaming president and co-founder Mike Sepso joined at the division's senior vice president. Publishers managing their own competitions makes sense, as any revenue gained for those competitions remains in-house, instead of going to Major League Gaming or other outside companies. This year's League of Legends World Championship had 36 million unique viewers according to Riot; that's a lot of potential customers.
Why does this matter to you if you don't play eSports? Because it represents money and other resources being pulled towards eSports and competitive gaming. That means you can probably expect EA to tailor their games to fit inside a competitive gaming framework. eSports is becoming big money and much like we saw with microtransactions growing as free-to-play became a revenue driver, you should probably expect more pure multiplayer titles like Star Wars: Battlefront in our future. Single-player experiences won't be gone, but a re-adjustment in focus is definitely in the cards.
It's worth noting that none of the pure multiplayer games that have been released recently have really captured the hearts and minds of gamers. Titanfall and Evolve had buzz at launch, but I'm not seeing huge fanbases following those games now. Star Wars: Battlefront has been criticized for not having enough content and it remains to be seen if Rainbow Six: Seige will have legs. At the very least, there needs to be some sort of adjustment to keep these games in the minds of the community.