[toc]As the Overwatch League moves closer to becoming a reality, Activision Blizzard is considering another step that would draw the esports title into an even closer parallel with stick-and-ball sports: Integration of real-money fantasy sports competitions.
That’s per a report from HeroesNeverDie.com.
“Fantasy has obviously proven to be something that fans love in traditional sports and are a great driver of engagement,” Overwatch League commissioner Nate Nazer told the site. “We’re definitely looking into something like that.”
Nazer ruled out integration of more traditional event-based wagering. But Overwatch matches are already a fixture at online sportsbooks – such as Pinnacle, Bet365, and Betway – that offer esports matches.
A state-by-state patchwork awaits
Should Activision Blizzard move from planning to execution, the company will be wading into a legally complex and fragmented market.
Major DFS operators offer real-money play in roughly 40 states. But the number of states that have explicitly legalized and regulated the activity (12 so far, with a few more en route) is just a fraction of that total.
Activision Blizzard will fact some interesting choices regarding which markets to serve and which to avoid.
The company will likely be incentivized to chart a comparatively cautious course given the relatively small size of the market and the substantial legal ambiguity that remains in states such as California, Florida, Illinois, and Texas.
The checkered history of fantasy esports
Play-for-free fantasy contests have long been a part of the esports landscape.
But the real-money vertical remained effectively dormant until early 2015, when two competitors – AlphaDraft and Vulcun – launched within weeks of one another.
Both sites exhibited significant organic growth through the first half of 2015.
But the fall was just as rapid as the rise.
- DraftKings cut back significantly on esports in the wake of mounting legal and regulatory challenges to its core business toward the end of 2015.
- Vulcun shuttered its fantasy esports platform just one year after launch.
- AlphaDraft hung on for almost another year before FanDuel pulled the plug in October 2016.
DraftKings continues to offer limited fantasy esports contests. A number of smaller sites, most notably ESP.Bet, continue to offer fantasy-style esports wagering products.
To build or to partner?
Another open question for Activision Blizzard will be whether to build a product internally or to partner with an company to execute an external Overwatch fantasy sports platform.
Given the importance of engagement – as opposed to bottom-line revenue – from Activision Blizzard’s perspective, it seems most likely that we’ll see an internal, tightly integrated fantasy sports platform firmly under the company’s control.
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