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Microsoft has ‘meaningful building blocks’ for the metaverse: Super League Gaming CEO

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Super League Gaming CEO Ann Hand joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the Microsft-Activision Blizzard deal, an overview of Super League Gaming, gaming and esports, women in the video game industry, and the outlook for video games and the metaverse.

Video Transcript

BRIAN SOZZI: Microsoft's eye-opening deal for Activision Blizzard has sent a jolt throughout the gaming community. Let's talk more about what industry insiders are chatting about here with Super League Gaming CEO Ann Hand. Ann, nice to see you again. It's been a bit. So have you and your team sat down yet and thought about what this Microsoft deal means to your business? And what would it mean?

ANN HAND: Yeah, actually. That's a good question. We have talked about it. We were pretty pumped, to be honest. We've been a strategic partner of Microsoft since 2016. And just that in itself says so much because Super League in 2016 was about this big. And I spent a lot of time in large cap as an executive. And I can tell a lot about corporate cultures pretty instinctively. And they always treat people across the other side of the table as equal partners, no matter how small or large. It's just a culture that's really built on win-win.

So we looked at it and we thought of the rich opportunities ahead for us as a strategic partner working with them on Minehut and across their cloud services and other parts of their business, and also, all that rich IP that they have now inherited that we think they can really do a lot with to really grow. If you look at it, I mean, number three, obviously, in the gaming space.

But when you look at they already have 25 million subscribers to Game Pass, now you're putting games like "Call of Duty" and "Overwatch" into Game Pass. There's just a lot of exciting ways that they'll be able to leverage so much of the Microsoft ecosystem to not just really build that IP, but I really think to take a step change in the performance of Activision Blizzard as a holistic company with employee health and culture.

JULIE HYMAN: Reading between the lines, Ann, obviously, Activision Blizzard has undergone some problems over the last couple of years culturally--

ANN HAND: Yeah.

JULIE HYMAN: --I think is what you're alluding to. So-- and there have been problems more broadly in the gaming industry, of course over the past decade in terms of culture. Do you think that it's moving in the right direction? And is this deal a sort of symbol of that?

ANN HAND: You know, yes, I think it is symbolic. I think the timing is good for both companies. I do believe that these challenges that we talk about a lot in gaming, I think they're across all industries. I think you'll find it in the banking and finance sector, the energy sector. I just think that some industries are further along in their progress. And I just think that's where gaming has been trying to catch up a bit.

But I think we're kind of in a different world, where I don't even think it's really a female-male conversation. I think if you think about what we've all gone through with COVID, just the dynamic fast way that tech is changing so quickly on us, it's requiring a different type of leadership. You need to be highly adaptable, resilient. You know, you need to believe in empowerment, frankly.

Because use whatever jargon you want, Web 3.0, the Metaverse, what it really is about is that we're moving into a virtual-rich world of opportunity that's all built around user generated content. And so if you don't live empowerment, believe it, if you don't operate a company that way, then, frankly, you're kind of missing the boat because that's where the money is. And so I think to really understand where that consumer, that end user is going, it just takes a different type of company culture to optimize it.

BRIAN SOZZI: Ann, really, since we last spoke, you're starting to see now a roll-up of large companies getting more gaming assets. You had the Microsoft deal, you had Take Two making a play for Zynga. Is the reality that over the next decade, because of the Metaverse, the explosion of NFTs, whatever it is, really, a handful of companies are going to control the gaming industry?

ANN HAND: Well, I mean, I'm not nervous from an antitrust point of view. I don't think that-- I think Microsoft does start to have a lot of the real meaningful building blocks, probably more than most, when it comes to the idea of the big Metaverse, like a truly interconnected open system for play, for work, for community, for commerce. Look, we're a long way off from that, but they certainly have a lot of the big pieces there. And I think that makes them very attractive. But yeah, I think the roll-up is real.

We had three acquisitions last year because that's the access that the public markets give us to create more heft to break from micro into mid-cap. And yes, I do think you're going to continue to see M&A be a big piece of the strategy here.

JULIE HYMAN: Ann, just quickly, we've been talking around the issue of the Metaverse a little bit. And I'm curious for your business, sort of what-- we're still in the infancy, although gaming is further along than most other industries with the Metaverse. What are you most excited about in terms of the opportunity for gaming and that area?

ANN HAND: Yeah, I mean, you know, what we started out early on doing is first aggregating the community mostly of young gamers, competitive gamers. We talked about e-sports a lot. We built an ad engine around it that's pretty sophisticated. We now have gotten into data and analytics, and we continue to go further downstream in the offerings. And so much is built around the Metaverse for us. We reached 60 million players in the Metaverse a month. That's quite a different company than not only when we went public in 2019, but that's a vastly different company than we were in January of just last year.

And so and all of our platform is built around the notion of empowering those creators with tools and economies to help them build out that world, to build out their own gameplay, rich experiences, to live stream their gaming centric content. And so for us, it's really at the center. In fact, frankly, I feel like I have to kind of remind investors on our earnings call. We've been talking about the Metaverse for three years, four years, because that's how long we've been in it. And so we're not kind of jumping on the bandwagon here. But for us, it's really central, that. And creator economies are central to the platform that we've been building.

BRIAN SOZZI: It's always nice to get some time with you. Super League Gaming CEO Ann Hand, have a great weekend.