BlizzCon 2016 kicked off on Friday, attracting over 25,000 visitors from 60 countries and even more viewers across 70 broadcasts in 19 languages. This event marks three major anniversaries for Blizzard Entertainment: the company’s 25th anniversary, the 20th anniversary of Diablo and the 10th BlizzCon, which has grown more than six times since its inaugural year.

What ESports Dreams Are Made Of

Beginning with StarCraft, Blizzard has been a major player in the rise of eSports from its humble beginnings to the $892 million eSports market it is today—and the company continues that tradition by introducing the all-new Overwatch League. “The Overwatch League represents not only the pinnacle of Overwatch competition, but also a genuine career opportunity for the most-skilled Overwatch players,” Blizzard CEO, Mike Morhaime, said on stage at the opening ceremony. “We’re building a league that’s accessible to players and fans, sustainable and exciting for everyone involved.”

The Overwatch League offers gaming hopefuls the chance to compete and join local city teams in a rise to greatness. Structured much like a traditional eSports league, players will have contracts, benefits and guaranteed salaries to make the publisher’s break-out new game a viable career option.

As Activision Blizzard’s second-most-popular streaming title, Overwatch attracts over 8 million monthly active players and an average concurrent viewer count of over 21,000, according to SuperData. According to the company’s quarterly earnings report, Overwatch pulled in more than $500 million in sales and reached 20 million players in October, helping push revenue to a record setting quarterly result.

Sombra (Finally) Makes Her Debut

Feigning technical difficulties, Blizzard interrupted its own presentation by getting “hacked” by its latest hero, Sombra. This feisty new character appeared on-screen in an animated short that revealed her assisting teammates, Widowmaker and Reaper, as part of the villainous Talon organization. Blizzard has been building hype for the character since summer with a month-long alternate reality game that Blizzard began in the announcement video for Ana in July. Since then, Blizzard has left a detailed trail of coded messages, encrypted images and a three-month-long countdown timer.

Blizzard continues to grow as a major force in the eSports community, and the introduction of Sombra will only stoke that fire. Combined online viewing of Activision Blizzard’s titles accounts for 28.9 percent of total game stream viewership. SuperData reports that consumer audiences have spent 104 million hours watching the publisher’s game content online in September—an impressive increase of 63 percent from the same month last year.

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