What was your path to Activision Blizzard and the Overwatch League?
I came into esports through traditional sports. I had been the Executive VP of Digital at FOX Sports, and before that I founded a sports media startup that we sold to FOX Sports, which is how I ended up working there. Part of my job at FOX was to look out on the horizon to identify the competition and opportunities that the company should be focusing on, and esports was one of the things I spent some time on. I was hooked, and when I was recruited into Activision Blizzard about three years ago, it was an easy decision for me to come help build this really exciting new business.
You’re the president and CEO of Activision Blizzard Esports Leagues—why did you decide to take on the league commissioner role as well?
I have been closely involved with the Overwatch League since early in the design phase in 2016, and since then I have been running the business that operates the league. Over the years I have developed close relationships with our owners and have gotten familiar with the product. When the commissioner role opened up, we thought it was important to install someone into that position who had a broad view of the challenges and opportunities the league is facing, as well as the right relationships to move things forward quickly. It turns out that was me.
What are your top priorities as commissioner?
Happy fans. Happy owners. Happy partners. Happy employees.
How can the Overwatch League continue to expand its audience at a time when there are so many great entertainment options for consumers?
By doing what we’ve been doing. People who love the product are telling their friends about it, and I expect that to continue. Also, going into home markets next year is going to unlock a lot of new fans, who will be rooting not just for a team, but for their city. I can’t wait to see all those fans in venues around the world next year.
What sets the Overwatch League apart from other esports and from traditional sports?
Like a lot of other esports, our league is young, global, and digital-native. Like a lot of traditional sports, we have an easy-to-understand structure and format. I really think we’ve taken the best elements from esports and traditional sports and created something entirely new that is designed to last for a very long time.
What’s the biggest thing you’re looking forward to in the remainder of the 2019 season?
The Grand Finals, of course! Last year’s event at Barclays Center was one of the best live events I’ve ever been to, in any category of entertainment: music, sports, esports… but I think we’re going to top it this year in Philly.
How do you see the league evolving in 2020 and beyond, particularly with home and away matches?
Like I said, going into home markets is going to unlock so many fans and a lot of value for our owners. I’m especially excited to see how each of our owners approaches the fan experience in and around their venue. Nobody’s ever really done this before, so no one knows what works best to get fans fired up to come out and support their team. Every team is going to be trying slightly different things, and the teams are going to learn from each other. That evolution is going to take a few years to settle, but it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch and be a part of.
What’s your vision for the larger competitive Overwatch ecosystem, including Contenders and the Overwatch World Cup?
The Path to Pro is so important for the long-term success of our league. We operate multiple tiers of competitive play below the Overwatch League, and that will continue. Contenders is the primary source for future generations of star Overwatch League players, and the World Cup is a chance for unknown players to make a name for themselves, while giving fans in countries that don’t have an Overwatch League team a chance to root for a local team. I’m really proud of the work we’ve done to establish competitive Overwatch at every level.
What do you enjoy most about Overwatch, and what makes the franchise stand out to you?
I love the diversity of the heroes and the bright, positive, inclusive, optimistic vision of future Earth that the game portrays. I also love that the game is really fun for all skill levels, while its competitive depth rewards players for investing the time it takes to be really, really good. It’s a beautiful game, and I’m proud and excited to be working with the game—and the amazing people that built it—as the engine around which we built the Overwatch League.