A recent bit of news arrived that, only yesterday, Blizzard purchased the IGN e-sports league, lock, stock and boxtop, in order to better facilitate the growth of a StarCraft II
league. While this does bode well for gaming in general, the question to follow all this becomes, can gaming really be the next big competitive sport? The answer, I believe, isn't so much "yes it can" as "what has been stopping it all along?".
Blizzard, publisher of the ultra-popular World of Warcraft
series as well as the more recent and slightly less popular StarCraft II, not only bought up the various assets and technology making up the league, but also hiring on just over 20 staff members--formerly of the IGN Pro League--to help keep things in line. The IPL, however, is completely dead, but Blizzard is likely to bring all of that material into its own World Championship Series
, which recently got some revamping all its own.
Reportedly, the IPL's owner, Ziff-Davis--who picked up IGN not so long ago--was happy to be rid of the IPL despite the big traffic that came in for events. Consolidation looks to be especially beneficial, as several pro gamers who would normally be expected to show up at events were finding themselves out of the action as they were playing elsewhere. With Blizzard in charge, meanwhile, this suggests a note of consolidation and an improved commitment to making a better league in general.
The question was, however, why isn't this bigger? Well, perhaps the biggest problem is lack of viewership numbers. To really boost the numbers and make the league a force, Blizzard needs to get this new service in more places. Why is it not on one of the many ESPNs? Why is it not running Sunday afternoons on CBS? Why is it not at least available on Netflix? How many gamers out there have no idea where to watch World Championship Series play, or had no idea where to watch IPL play? Sure, they could have found out quickly enough with Google, but how many of them didn't even know what to Google in the first place?
This is the kind of problem that can likely be solved with a good old fashioned marketing push. Get the name out in front of the gamers and let them do the rest. Blizzard's massive bankbook thanks to World of Warcraft is likely to do some great things on this front, and may well help make the idea of professional gaming the popular event it can--and should--be.