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What just happened? The pandemic's far-reaching effects has impacted eSports, which often attracted huge crowds at arena events. As such, Activision Blizzard is laying off around 50 employees as it shifts focus from live competitions to online-only play.
"Players are increasingly choosing to connect with our games digitally and the e-sports team, much like traditional sports, entertainment, and broadcasting industries, has had to adapt its business due to the impact the pandemic has had on live events," an Activision Blizzard spokesperson told Bloomberg in a statement.
Tony Petitti, Activision Blizzard Sports and Entertainment president, suggested that both the Call of Duty League and Overwatch League will remain primarily online with remote competitors in the future.
"We learned a lot last year in terms of how the leagues can be structured for online play, and we'll look to carry forward the best practices from that," Petitti told Sports Business Journal in an interview. "In terms of timing, it's a reaction to the realities of how the leagues are playing and what resources we need to allocate to best serve the league, owners, teams and fans."
The layoffs don't mean live eSports will die off entirely. A representative told Gamesindustry.biz: "Live events are still very much a part of both the Overwatch League and Call of Duty League strategies. We plan to get back to them as soon as it's safe to do so and logistically feasible."
Bloomberg writes that the laid-off employees, some of whom work for Candy Crush-maker King—an Activision subsidiary— will receive three months' severance, health benefits for the next 12 months, and a $200 gift card for Battle.net.
The success of Call of Duty and Warzone helped Activision Blizzard to record revenues in 2020. The company still closed offices in France and the Netherlands and cut staff at its Asia-Pacific studios, though it will be hiring 2,000 people to meet production demands.