Forget about opening up Twitch to watch the Call of Duty League opening event this weekend. Activision Blizzard has just secured YouTube as its exclusive streaming partner for all of its esports, including Call of Duty League, Overwatch League, Hearthstone esports, and World of Warcraft esports. This comes as part of a bigger strategic deal between Activision Blizzard and Google that includes Google Cloud as the publisher’s “game hosting infrastructure.”
The multi-year deal starts today with the Call of Duty League 2020 season opener in Minnesota. 12 franchised teams are coming together to compete in the newly created league, an evolution and drastic change to the Call of Duty World League that sees a whole new structure for this year. Overwatch League, kicking off on February 8, 2020, will also be streamed exclusively on YouTube. This is a pretty big shift for both leagues that each had a big presence on Twitch. With this move, you won’t be able to catch any Activision Blizzard esports live on Twitch or Mixer. YouTube is the exclusive streaming platform for the foreseeable future.
On the Google Cloud side, Activision Blizzard hopes that Google can help “enhance its gaming infrastructure” with “superior, low-latency player experiences.” The specifics on how Activision Blizzard plans to utilize Google’s expertise are currently unclear. In addition to “premium network quality-of-service, including low latency and packet loss,” Google Cloud could also help Activision Blizzard rework monetization strategies, something the publisher has come under fire for in the past. Google Cloud’s AI tools can “offer curated recommendations for in-game offers and differentiated gaming experiences.” While much of the release wording seems to hint at mobile game development, analytics, and delivery, the publisher could also be reacting to the industry shift in focus to subscription and cloud gaming services for next-gen consoles.
While Stadia wasn’t specifically mentioned, it stands to reason that this partnership could open up Google’s cloud streaming game platform to Activision Blizzard’s games. The publisher has been conspicuously absent from the platform in its early months, and Google is no doubt trying to get its hands on massively successful games like Call of Duty and Overwatch to help Stadia grow.