After reports earlier this morning from the eSports Observer, Activision Blizzard has confirmed that it has acquired Major League Gaming. The earlier report said the deal was for $46 million with MLG chief executive officer Sundance DiGiovanni being ousted, but the official press release does not offer any sale details and DiGiovanni still seems to be involved in the operation.
Activision Blizzard had already carved out a dedicated eSports division back in October, under the leadership of MLG co-founder Mike Sepso. That division is now called Activision Blizzard Media Networks and this acquisition to be an expansion and partnership to that division. MLG's operations will continue without changes according to the press release; MLG.tv, MLG Pro Circuit and GameBattles platforms and existing partnerships will remain.
"Our acquisition of Major League Gaming's business furthers our plans to create the ESPN of esports," said Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick. "MLG's ability to create premium content and its proven broadcast technology platform – including its live streaming capabilities – strengthens our strategic position in competitive gaming. MLG has an incredibly strong and seasoned team and a thriving community. Together, we will create new ways to celebrate players and their unique skills, dedication and commitment to gaming. We are excited to add Sundance and the entire MLG esports team to our competitive gaming initiatives."
"Our mission for over 12 years has been to promote and expand the growth of competitive gaming worldwide, and today the industry is at a key inflection point as its popularity soars and rivals that of many traditional professional sports," said DiGiovanni. "This acquisition and Activision Blizzard's commitment to competitive gaming will expand the opportunities for gamers to be recognized and celebrated for their competitive excellence."
"[Our mission is] to build the biggest and best eSports media platform in the world," Sepso told GameInformer. "This acquisition instantly makes us a significant player in the space."
As I said previously, with the success of internal eSports leagues like the Dota Major Championships or the League of Legends Majors, it's starting to make more sense for large publishers to be involved the in the eSports leagues related to their games. These leagues provide companies with a strong connection to a fervent fanbase, meaning more direct marketing opportunities become available. In addition, it keeps the money made on eSports events in-house, instead of that money going to a third-party.
"Esports is realistically only 15 years old, and we’re super early," Sepso added in the GI interview. "Our position as Activision Blizzard Media Networks and MLG is now to try to engage as directly as possible our internal partners and other publishers to develop the entire space into something bigger and better. People are realizing that this is a big opportunity, even as recently as a year or two ago. Publishers are starting to realize that eSports is a real thing and it’s not going away. It’s an important part of fan engagement and, for us, an important way to grow a new business."
The MLG deal does have some detractors. According to the eSports Observer report, while majority stockholders were informed of the deal, minority stockholders were not. Many of those smaller stockholders believe that most of the money from the deal won't go to them, but instead be used to pay down MLG's debts. That lack of information and possible compensation is not going over well with all of MLG's stockholders.