Blizzard talks about its esports plans beyond Blizzcon 2017We interview Blizzard's senior business operations manager for esports Adam Rosen about the company's plans for its esports initiatives in 2018.
You're probably really familiar with Blizzard Games! Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm, World Of Warcraft. But what you might not be aware of is Blizzcon is coming And there are five different Eastboards competitions happening there. So let's talk about that and what E Sports plans was there has in the future. We have Adam Rosen, the Senior Business Operations Manager at Blizzard for E Sports. Hello? Hi, nice to be here with you. I'm so excited to talk to you but I have to admit I have no idea what your job title means, so you have to explain A little bit about whar a senior business operations manager does for E sports [LAUGH] Sure, so the way that we think about the E sports [INAUDIBLE] Blizzard is we have the product team which is responsible for making these awesome leagues and really epic live events. And then we have a business side which is everything beyond that looking cross franchising between all of our different games, looking at incubating new projects, looking at Ways to build our business, way to grow what we're doing, and that other side, that business side is me. As I mentioned BlizzCon is coming up really soon and there are some pretty big esports initiatives now at BlizzCon. It's not just a convention where you come to play Blizzard games. Can you talk a little bit about what exactly is going on at BlizzCon? Yeah, absolutely, so This year at Blizcon we'll have five of our esports titles represented in some way. We have the World of Warcraft arena championships which is the top WoW players from around the world coming to compete in PvP. We have the Overwatch World Cup. We have the Hearthstone invitational. We have the HDC global finals for Heroes of the Storm. And we also have heros well over watched stock after with WCS global finals applicants as well. Amazing. So one of the games you mentioned obviously over watch huge game lots of fans support And, there is now a Blizzard arena that just opened up next door to our building actually. And, I'd love to hear a little bit more about the plans for Blizzard arena after BlizzCon is over. Because that's obviously a continuation of you e-Sports plans. Yeah, absolutely. So, one of the things that we did when looking to hack over the last year as we took a look at all of these amazing content we were creating. We looked at all of these leagues and said How do we creat an awesome experience for our fans year round. One of the things that we've seen that we've done well at events like Blizzcon, where we've have 30,000 people coming together. Provide this opportunity to fans to not only interact. Connect with our leagues, but also to interact with each other. And we thought there was a great opportunity to create something where fans didn't have to wait until BlizzCon. They could come and have that experience year round. So, we opened Blizzard Arena, which is over 50,000 square feet. Just right next door here in Burbank. And what we'll be doing there is essentially looking to create the next generation of Esports content. We have a facility where we'll be kicking off shows for all of our Esports games. So earlier this month we had Overwatch contenders there. We had the Heart Stone HCT Summer Championships and, just this week we have opening week for BlizzCon with Heirs of The Storm and with World of Warcraft. So, after BlizzCon, what are we looking towards? We're looking towards Overwatch League. We'll be launching the pre-season in December and then We will be having the regular season starting in January where all of those matches will be taking place at Blizzard Arena. So with Overwatch League, I actually am a little bit confused about the difference between Overwatch League and Overwatch World Cup. So is this going to be something like These two different things coexist with each other or is it something where you feel like [UNKNOWN] merge them in the future? So we see Overwatch in the future being the premiere competition for Overwatch. The best of the best from around the entire world come together and compete and they show off the highest level of competition in the whole world. We see. World Cup. Also being a really interesting part of the ecosystem where with over watch World Cup you could see your favorite players but participating and competing against each other, representing not their traditional teams but representing countries with other people that or from the same country as them. So we see it as a really interesting. Opportunity for fans who look for their players in a new way. And then, I think in general the way that we think about eSports is for us when we look at eSports having that top level professional league is really important, but it's also really important to have all of these other elements below that, right. So when we look at country versus country here or we look at semi-professional or we look at colleague All of these are really great opportunities for players to participate but also fans to engage with the games in different ways. So we might see say a player from the Los Angeles Valiant and somebody else from Boston playing on the same Overwatch World Cup team at Blizcon one year. You know one of the most interesting things for us is World Cup is an opportunity to see these match ups that you maybe don't traditionally see. You could see players who come from the same team traditionally on opposites sides and knowing each other's strategies and strengths and weakness. Or you can see those two players that you always wish could play on the same team but never could Coming together and seeing that they dominate. That's really cool. I am looking forward to watching that. And then what is something that you wish more people know about E sports at Blizzard? One of the most interesting things about eSports to me, especially for new viewers, who may be you're looking at eSports for the first time and don't really understand it yet is that there's so much depth there. When we look at traditional sports, we see all these things that make it great, it's the story telling, the history behind the players Players, it's this rivalries. It's the fierce preparation that goes into all these matches and we see the exact same thing with e-sports but more. We see these players who are coming together on team, so practising, full time practice regimes, they've team analysis, they have coaches, they've nutritionist, they're studying, they're analyzing their opponents and All of this culminates in this top level competition so I think one of the interesting things that new viewers might think is cool you're just getting gamers together and they play but it's not that at all. It's actually the best of the best coming together and these, at BlizzCon this year we have players who've been training All year who are finally coming together and get all of that training to the ultimate test. That's interesting that there are some of like sort of common misconceptions about it being gamers, all kind of being toss the other, everybody is kind of casually playing, and now they're gonna play at this high level, but it really is kind of a full time job for a lot of these, a lot of these guys and girls. So, one of the things I think is really interesting is, like you were mentioning about, through this idea of what E-Sports is. One of the things Blizzard kind of has on lock appealing to gamers of All age ranges, right? So you have Hearthstone for somebody who is maybe is not a shooter fan. You have World of Warcraft, which is kind of a legacy at this point of its own. And then you also have new things like Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm. So How does Blizzard as the company plan to appeal Esports wise to both younger gamers who maybe having grown up with some of the titles that Blizzard is most famous for and then also older gamers who maybe say While I like gaming, but e-sports isn't really my thing. Yeah, it's a good question and it's something that we think about a lot. It's interesting because each of our games, for example, at Blizz Con this year we have five e-sports titles. And Each of them brings something a little bit different and a little bit new. When you sit down to watch Hearthstone, it's obviously a card game where you have players who are going head to head against each other with decks they've crafted. It's very strategic, and something like that is very different from Say heroes of the Storm which is all fast paced, its action, its teamwork, its communication, its strategy. So depending on what a person is interested in, we think there's a game and an eSport for everyone. Cool. Thinking of Heroes of the Storm. Full disclosure. My brother works on Heroes of the Storm at Blizzard. However getting any information or beneficial anything from him is like squeezing blood from a stone. It's impossible and really not worth anybody's time. [LAUGH] So thanks, Chad. Great job. Next question. One of the things that I think is really interesting and I'd love to hear how Blizzer's sort of handling this is, we're seeing games like World of Warcraft and Starcraft 2 sort of take a little bit more of a backseat? Compare to Overwatch, Hearth Stone, Heroes of the Storm. These games that are sort of newer. That have a lot of ground swell in the way a fan interest. How do you balance all of these different titles that had their own fan bases that obviously especially with World of Warcraft and Starcraft 2 had been around for years at this point? How do you balance of these Things as they sought of, you know kind of come up and then head back down. Yeah it's a good question. One of the things that we look at a lot for each of our e sports is not necessarily creating something that works as an e sport and then copying and pasting that for you to the different games, each of the different games that we, We have these leagues for. We try to customize for what works for the game, what works for the players, what works for the fan base. So something like Star Path, like you mentioned, has been around for 20 years, right? It's the original e-sport in Korea, and I think something that makes it really special is this longevity. It's the history, it's the stories of these legends who've been playing sometimes for over ten years, coming and really trying to see if they can continue their legacy. So what we do in balancing these is really just looking at what is best for each league, what's best for each game, and trying to be true to the game at the end of the day. So where do you see Blizzard's role in Esports in five years? I know here in the states we've kinda had a little bit more of a slower sorta build up to this explosion of Esports that we're now kinda seeing the beginnings of. I know a lot of people Who are really into gaming feel like eSports is here, its huge, its a big deal in my life. But maybe not to everybody in the country. Like say, South Korea, eSports is not quite at the level Level of rock stardom that these players in other countries might experience. So, where do you guys see Blizzard in the way of East Sports in five years? Where we see Blizzard. We see East Sports as a whole as being a really fundamental part of culture. So we're looking five years out from now. What I expect is that we should be able to look out on the world and whenever we talk about sports and we talk about competition E-sports is in that conversation in the same way that soccer and baseball and football are when we talk about sports. Starcraft and Overwatch and Heartstone should be right there as a part of that. So five years out, e-sports is a fundamental part of culture and Blizzard is driving that forward. So on the even of Blizz Con 2017, I have to ask the The obligatory Blizzard fan question which is, can you tell me anything secret that the company's gonna announce at BlizzCon. Yeah, absolutely. So, I actually brought the script from the opening ceremony. So- Perfect, so we'll read that right after. It's totally fine, I'll just wrap up this video right now and we'll check it out. Guys, that was our interview with Adam Lawson, thank you so much for coming to this studio and talking about Esports and Blizzard with us. We will have more BlizzCon coverage on our social media challenge that you guys can check out. We're at CNET and please feel free to let me know what your favorite BlizzCon Esport is in the comment. Bye guys. [MUSIC]