Back in August, Blizzard made its first entry into the world of videogame streaming by partnering with Facebook. In its first tentative steps to push back against the streaming monopoly held in the US (and plenty of other countries) by Twitch, Blizzard made all of its games streamable via Facebook Live.
In some ways, this was a populist approach to streaming, at least for content creators, since it made the actual process significantly easier, and allowed people who might not normally be interested in broadcasting their play sessions to give it a try. Of course, that was only on the creator’s side; audience members would find it difficult to tune into the stream of anyone they weren’t personally connected with, and your Aunt Tabitha probably isn’t interested in watching you climb the Hearthstone ranked ladder.
Now, though, Blizzard has ambitiously scheduled one of their major esports events to air live via Facebook streaming. Heroes of the Dorm, a tournament where college students from schools around the country compete in Heroes of the Storm, is entering into its third season; for the last two years, it was broadcast on ESPN. Now, it will broadcast through Facebook and Facebook alone.
Since esports get a majority of their viewership from the 18-34 demographic, having Heroes of the Dorm constrained to cable television can’t have been good for ratings. Streaming online will also allow for a wider audience worldwide, which Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime made clear in a press statement: “We’re excited to be working with Facebook this year to bring more live Heroes of the Dorm play to more viewers around the world than ever before,” he said.
Twitch has been the home of most Heroes of the Storm esports broadcasts, and there haven’t been any clear indications that it will stop being that. But it’s certainly possible that Blizzard is using Heroes of the Dorm as an testing grounds. If it does well, could we be seeing future Heroes of the Storm broadcast via Facebook Live? What about Blizzard’s other games, like Starcraft II or Overwatch?