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A Look At Activision's New eSports Revenue Play

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A Look At Activision's New eSports Revenue Play
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"League of Legends" and the "Defense of the Ancients" games have long-dominated the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) genre of electronic sports. These games combined for just over $1 billion from January to September 2014, according to SuperData Research via Venture Beat.

These games have been key players in the history of eSports, but there have been issues with learning curves and toxic communities preventing widespread popularity among casual gamers.

Enter Activision Blizzard, Inc. (NASDAQ: ATVI), which came up with its self-proclaimed "Brawler" to separate itself from other MOBAs. While criticized for some of its dynamic changes compared to traditional MOBAs, Activision Blizzard looks to simplify the game for the more casual gamers. Blizzard, a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard, will release "Heroes of the Storm" on June 2.

Mixed Success?

Speaking to Benzinga, Sterne Agee CRT analyst Arvind Bhatia said he believes "Heroes of the Storm" success will fall somewhere between "League of Legends" and the failed Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: EA) MOBA "Dawnsgate." Bhatia said the title, "will gain slow, small market to start through six months and attracting a bigger audience over a year from launch."

With recent social media attention from "Heroes of the Dorm" championship on ESPN2, Bhatia believes this could be an "interesting partnership [and] trend for ESPN."

Related Link: Wedbush Calls April Video Game Growth A 'One-Hit Wonder'

ESPN Vs. Twitch

Cowen Securities analyst Doug Creutz agreed that ESPN coverage could occasionally cover major eSports events. He said the main benefactor from "Heroes of the Storm" eSports coverage would be Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN)'s recently-acquired Twitch.tv.

Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities culminated the modestly optimistic view of the upcoming "Heroes" release stating, "it stands to reason that the game will achieve some level of success."

All of the analysts agreed that this title from Blizzard could be an important eSports revenue generator. Creutz said he, "would be very surprised if 'Heroes of the Storm' isn't a multi-hundred million dollar revenue a year game."

Pachter echoed Creutz stance and added, "I estimate that 'League' is generating around $1 billion annually, so it isn't a stretch to expect 'Heroes' to get to a $200 million annual run-rate by year end. That means 'Heroes' will do around $60-100 million this year."

Bhatia also had positive sentiment for the Blizzard title, stating "Heroes" is a "long-term play, and will be quite successful."

As the June 2 launch approaches, time will tell if Blizzard's investment into "Heroes of the Storm" will truly innovate the MOBA genre and eSports sector.

Ratings

Bhatia has a $27 price target and a Buy rating on Activision; Creutz has a $27 price target and an Outperform rating; Pachter holds an Outperform rating and $31 price target.

Latest Ratings for ATVI

DateFirmActionFromTo
Apr 2017Pacific CrestReinstatesOverweightOverweight
Feb 2017Hilliard LyonsDowngradesNeutralUnderperform
Nov 2016BMO CapitalMaintainsMarket Perform

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