Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI) is teaming up with Torque Esports' UMG Media division to broaden the reach of organized competitive play for Overwatch. UMG Media will host a collegiate tournament for the game company's popular first-person shooter that will feature teams from 64 different schools competing for scholarship prize money.
As pointed out in the press release announcing the new college-level tournament for the game, hundreds of colleges around the U.S. now have Overwatch teams. The tournament participants are set to compete for $40,000 in prize money that will be used to build esports programs at their respective schools, and matches will be streamed on UMG Media's official Twitch channel.
Where does college-level esports fit into Activision Blizzard's plans?
Activision Blizzard's professional Overwatch League has gotten off to a solid start and is generating revenue through the sale of team license rights and broadcasting deals with entertainment players including Disney and YouTube. College-level esports could aid the company's bid to increase interest in gaming as spectator entertainment content.
Esports leagues present a wide range of revenue opportunities for games companies, including the sale of professional team rights, ad space, and merchandise. They can also help generate and maintain interest in the underlying games that the competitors in the leagues are playing.
Overwatch launched in 2016, and Activision Blizzard has been able to sustain player engagement through content updates, special in-game promotions, and the substantial esports push for the game. Overwatch has been Activision Blizzard's premier esports franchise, but the publisher is also making a competitive push for franchises including Call of Duty, Hearthstone, and StarCraft, and it's betting that esports will see big growth over the long term.