'Overwatch,' 'Call of Duty' May Follow in Fortnite's Free-to-Play Footsteps: Analyst

Photo Credit: Mary Altaffer/AP/Shutterstock
January 4, 2019
Updated 2mo ago

By Zane Bhansali

Following Epic Games' incredible $3 billion profit gain in 2018, many game developers are eager to emulate its success. Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter predicts that Activision Blizzard will follow in Epic's footsteps by changing two of its biggest titles to a free-to-play model.

According to Pachter, Overwatch and Call of Duty may soon switch to the free-to-play model in order to meet investors' expectations.

"The real reason I think this is going to happen," says Pachter, "is that Bobby Kotick, who's the CEO of Activision, has convinced 18 members of the billionaire boys' club to buy franchises in the Overwatch League."

According to Pachter, Activision Blizzard's ($ATVI) only viable route to making back the $18 million to $24 million purchasing fees for each team slot is through advertising ー a model better suited by having more eyes on the game. To Pachter, that means more players who can understand Overwatch's frenetic pace.

"Overwatch, if you play, you get it," says Pachter. "If you don't play, it's incomprehensible. The only way you're going to ever drive more eyeballs is to make it free. The only way these 18 billionaires are going to get their investment back is if the audience expands dramatically."

Blizzard's Overwatch League has faced concerns about viewership numbers after a strong start. According to a report from The Esports Observer, the Overwatch League Twitch channel ranked fourth in hours watched in 2018 with 74.6 million hours watched. Rival developer Riot Games logged 99.31 million hours on its own channel, while breakout Fortnite streamer Tyler "Ninja" Blevins eclipsed both, with 226.85 million hours.