By Barry Janoff
December 10, 2015: Calling it a "groundbreaking opportunity," video game veteran Electronic Arts has unveiled a strategy to build its first eSports platform.
"The Competitive Gaming Division is "the latest step in our journey to put our players first (and) will enable global eSports competitions in our biggest franchises including FIFA, Madden NFL and Battlefield," Andrew Wilson, EA's CEO, wrote on the company's blog site.
The EA CGD will operate under Peter Moore, who becomes evp and chief competition officer.
Todd Sitrin, who has been with EA for 14 years, including svp-marketing, was named svp and GM for CGD.
Wilson said that Moore would remain in his current position "through the end of FY16 before shifting full time to his new position."
The move comes as others in the category, including Activision Blizzard, have put substantial finances and other resources into building their own eSports divisions.
In October, Steve Bornstein, who was a top executive for ESPN for 20 years before moving to the NFL Network in 2003, was named chairman for a new eSports division at leading videogame company Activision Blizzard, which has become a global front-runner in the burgeoning eSports category via such titles as Call of Duty, StarCraft, World of Warcraft, Heroes of the Storm and other platforms.
According to Activision Blizzard, the new division will "build on the company’s competitive gaming leadership by creating all-new ways to deliver the best-in-class fan experience across games, platforms and geographies, furthering the development of its eSports ecosystem."
In September, Turner Broadcasting and WME | IMG unveiled an alliance to create an eSports competitive gaming league. Through the venture, Turner and WME | IMG said they would "deliver competitive gaming events for all platforms including premium live fan experiences, televised coverage airing exclusively on TBS and extensive, high quality live digital event coverage and content extensions," beginning in 2016.
Among the non-endemic brands aligned with eSports are Coca-Cola, Intel, Nissan, Microsoft and T-Mobile.
The number of eSports enthusiasts worldwide has grown from 89.7 million last year to 116 million in 2015, according to gaming research, consulting and marketing firm NewZoo, San Francisco.
eSports revenues totaled $194 million in 2014, are predicted to reach $278 million in 2015 and are estimated to grow to $765 million in 2018, according to The Global Growth of eSports, a NewZoo study released earlier this year and updated last month.
Domestically, the eSports audience is currently 32 million people with anticipated growth to more than 50 million by 2017, with more than half of adult eSports viewers younger than 35 years old, according to Turner and WME | IMG.
Global eSports viewership is more than 226 million people, with the total expected to climb to 323 million by 2018, per NewZoo.
"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," said Wilson.
According to Wilson, CGD will be built around three core pillars: Competition "to create highly-engaging competitive experiences with our games, officially supported by Electronic Arts"; Community "to celebrate, connect and grow our community of players across all levels of expertise"; and Entertainment "to develop live events and broadcasting that bring the spectacle of competition to millions of people around the world."
Recent other major moves in the eSports category included the launch of a weekly online eSports video show from Internet media company IGN and sponsored by Coca-Cola; and rEvolution, a leading integrated sports marketing and media services agency based in Chicago, acquiring NEXTGEN+MVPs, an eSports sponsorship consultancy, and launching eSports consultancy, rEvXP, "to serve brands, platforms and players in advancing their respective brand connections with fans,"
In addition, Skillz, a global leader in mobile eSports, raised $15 million in Series B funding, which included investments from The Kraft Group, owners of the NFL's New England Patriots; and Marc Lasry, co-owner of the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks.
"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," EA's Wilson said. "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."
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