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  • It has wow gold been a good year for Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI), which saw its stock price reach record highs and recently received a boost to its prestige via its addition to the S 500.

    In my previous article I wrote a few words on Hearthstone, one of Blizzard Entertainment's newest titles, which has seen impressive growth in the last year and has the potential to keep growing:

    Last November a friend of mine told me about a relatively new online card game named Hearthstone. He said it was free to play, and that it was the type of game that appeals to non gamers so I thought I'd give it a shot. A couple of months in I realized that Blizzard's choice to make the game free was a stroke of genius. It had created a new community, and, once hooked, a user was very likely to spend money on new packs and expansions. Meanwhile, a whole ecosystem had begun to develop around it. As time went by I discovered streamers that had tens of thousands of fans and tournaments that gave away growing amounts of money. The fact that Blizzard provided new, and often actually interesting, resources for players on a regular basis meant that people were willing to spend money all year round. Freemium strategy at its best. As a consumer, I felt this was a strong product.

    Heroes of the Storm is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game which shares a fundamental common characteristic with Hearthstone: it is free to play and follows the freemium strategy, allowing players to make in game microtransactions.

    It was released last June, it received very strong reviews and, judging by its first three months, it is already showing signs of becoming much bigger than Hearthstone.

    Indicative of its rapid pace of expansion is the fact that last weekend the first Heroes of the Storm international tournament took place, with professional players from all around the globe battling for world domination in front of hundreds of fans, in what served as a prelude for the World Championships at BlizzCon on November 6 7.

    It appears that with Heroes of the Storm Blizzard has made a big step towards breaking into the MOBA market, and the potential that this move generates is immense.

    The behemoths of the genre, League of Legends ((LoL)) and Dota 2 are in the forefront of the eSports revolution. According to LoL's publisher, Riot Games, 67 million people play the game each month. The game's 2013 World Finals were watched by 32 million people. From January to September 2014 alone LoL generated a mind boggling $946 million in in game spending revenues.

    It is obvious that we are witnessing the dawn of a new era, and the day when eSports will be considered on par with traditional sport industries is closer than we might think. It has pretty much already happened in South Korea.

    Blizzard already has a strong foothold in the Asian gaming industry due to the popularity of World of Warcraft and Starcraft, and this may prove crucial in its attempt to challenge League of Legends for a slice of the constantly growing pie. Additionally, Heroes of the Storm will be in a good position to reap benefits from emerging markets. In countries like Brazil and Russia the free to play format is very popular because the use of consoles is not particularly widespread and users tend to play in internet cafes.

    The fact that the game is simpler and hence more accessible to casual players compared to its MOBA competitors gives it a great advantage, as does the fact that its games generally tend to be shorter, the latter always a strong point in the age of reduced attention spans.

    In conclusion, the release of Heroes of the Storm has given Activision Blizzard access to new, vast and rapidly growing markets. The signs during the game's first three months are very encouraging, and if it lives up to its potential and acquires a significant market share it may very well establish itself as one of the company's main growth drivers for years to come.

    Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

    I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.


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