The big picture: Activision Blizzard and Google have partnered on all things streaming, from livestreamed esports tournaments on YouTube, to cloud gaming on Stadia. Yesterday, the first season of the Call of Duty League kicked off with a bang netting almost 700,000 live viewers on the first stream. Tomorrow they’ll have the first ‘Hype Battle’ featuring Black Panther’s Michael B. Jordan. Two weeks from now the third season of Overwatch League will premiere and attempt to top the 13 million views it received during the first week of season two.
YouTube Gaming has won big.
YouTube Gaming has been generally unsuccessful in the past, and even shut down their dedicated app and portal in May. However, in recent months they've been able to swing things around courtesy of a brilliant new strategy: bribery.
They’ve paid a fortune to sign exclusivity deals with some serious streamers, including CouRage, Valkyrae, LazarBeam, and Muselk. Combined, the four have 23.3 million subscribers on the platform.
“With more than 200 million gamers a day watching more than 50 billion hours of gaming content per year, YouTube provides gamers and their passionate fans with the most popular video gaming platform in the world,” said Ryan Wyatt, YouTube’s head of gaming.
Activision Blizzard’s bottom line is no doubt looking pretty good right now, too. They had previously entered a $90 million deal with Twitch to stream the first two seasons of the Overwatch League on the platform, so Google must have outbid them for the next few seasons.
“Both the Overwatch League and Call of Duty League are the quintessential examples of world class esports content. As a former Call of Duty esports commentator myself, I couldn’t be more excited for Activision Blizzard to choose YouTube as its exclusive home for the digital live streaming of both leagues. This partnership further demonstrates our dedication to having a world class live streaming product for gaming.”
It’s also possible Google offered incentives relating to hosting the games on Google Stadia. None of Activision Blizzard’s major games are presently available on Stadia, but after today’s exclusivity announcement, they can’t be far away.