Activision Blizzard lays off around 50 esports staff, leaving the Overwatch League’s future uncertain

by Danny Craig  · 
Activision Blizzard lays off around 50 esports staff, leaving the Overwatch League’s future uncertain
Activision Blizzard

Activision Blizzard has laid off approximately 50 employees in its esports division, just days after Microsoft won a court battle with the Federal Trade Commission over its acquisition, leaving everyone wondering what will happen to its professional Overwatch and Call of Duty leagues in the future.

The details:

  • As reported by The Verge, the layoffs came as a surprise to those affected, with one employee saying it was a "complete shock," and they were not offered a transfer to another position within Activision Blizzard. Another stated that despite the esports industry's recent struggles, the department was led to believe that things were going well as they had "record viewership and lucrative sponsorship deals for our Call of Duty League (CDL) tournaments," and that while the Overwatch League (OWL) wasn't doing as well, in-game skins and its side leagues were still performing decently across the board.
  • The same employee also stated that the company was in the process of retiring tools used to run the tournaments and that new replacements were in the works when they were laid off. “As far as I know, that [tool] is still planned to be terminated in the coming weeks, and our replacement wasn’t finished, so I can only speculate that Activision Blizzard is closing its esports division,” the former employee said. “They may be able to keep a skeleton crew on to close out the OWL and the World Series of Warzone seasons in the next few months, but in my eyes, they are completely unequipped to internally support anything esports after that.”
  • It's unclear whether Blizzard intends to abandon esports entirely, as it revealed in its most recent financial report that it was willing to pay a $6 million termination fee to each of its teams if their owners collectively vote not to participate in the next season of the OWL, effectively disbanding the professional Overwatch scene that has been built since 2017.
  • The future of the CDL is also uncertain, as a senior content producer claims that the entire content team has been laid off; however, some have pointed out that other production companies, such as Esports Engine, which currently handles the league's broadcast, may be able to "save" the competitive scene by returning to its older, more open structure.

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