Esports Could Fuel Explosive Activision Blizzard Growth

Activision Blizzard’s financial future is looking bullish thanks to its esports initiatives, according to Morgan Stanley. The investment bank thinks the video game publisher’s revenue could reach $12.9 billion, up from previous estimates of $8.6 billion.

Morgan Stanley attributes this growth to a number of factors. The Overwatch League (OWL) is performing well, for one. Its audiences are twice as big as expected, which could lead to higher revenue. A bigger fan base also translates into larger live events and merchandise sales. The bank also believes that Activision Blizzard is exceeding its maximum expectations on its Twitch streaming contract.

A “Call of Duty” esports league could be next, Morgan Stanley said, and that franchise’s player base is at least two times larger than “Overwatch’s.” The bank expects to see a “CoD” esports franchise in early 2019, and said such a league could generate $105 million in revenue in 2020.

The Supreme Court’s recent decision to strike down the professional and amateur sports protection act (PASPA) and pave the way for sports betting in the U.S. could also provide Activision Blizzard with a new revenue stream. Morgan Stanley sees the publisher earning a potential $17 million in gambling revenue in 2020, since it estimates 30% of esports viewers could wager about $20 to $40 annually across OWL/CWL events.

Activision Blizzard reported a first-quarter record of $1.97 billion in net revenue earlier this month, up 14% compared to the same period last year. It also said first-quarter profit rose to $500 million from $426 million in 2017. It added that the rise in revenue and profit illustrates the “enduring nature of our franchises and our shift to a games-as-a-service model.”

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