Finally: News on Blizzard’s Overwatch League emerges
This is a guest post by Bill Cooney @WHoisthecoon7
There has been an underlying feeling of uncertainty surrounding the professional Overwatch community this summer. With most of the professional players choosing to stream instead of compete, and a lack of communication on Blizzards’ city-based Overwatch League (which would be an esports first) the professional scene looked lost.
But a fresh breath of life was breathed into the scene on July 12 with the announcement by Blizzard of the first seven cities that will be receiving Overwatch League teams. Some of the owners are well known in the already-established sporting world. Robert Kraft, chairman and CEO of the New England Patriots, has claimed the team in the city of Boston.
Just to the south in New York, Jeff Wilpon, who is chief operating officer of the New York Mets will be the owner of New York City’s Overwatch League team. It will be interesting to see if these two owner’s experience in more established sports markets will give them an advantage, or if they will have to adapt to esports.
Rounding out the East Coast of the U.S., Misfits CEO and cofounder Ben Spoont will own the Miami and Orlando team. It is assumed there will only be one team representing both cities. San Francisco has been grabbed by Andy Miller, Chairman and founder of NRG Esports. While the city of angels, Los Angeles, will be the home turf of Immortals CEO Noah Winston’s team. All three of these franchises have fielded teams that have done well in competitive Overwatch events in the past, but it remains to be seen how well they will do in the new league format.
Playing a major part of the excitement surrounding the upcoming Overwatch League was the possibility of teams from outside the U.S. competing. This was confirmed with the announcement of two teams competing across the Pacific in Asia. Shanghai, China’s team enters the competition led by Chinese internet company NetEase. The final team to be announced (and already this authors’ favorite) comes from Seoul, capital of South Korea. If Robert Kraft thinks his dominance in sports will translate to esports, he may want to take a look at the Korean esports scene first. The Seoul team owner is Kevin Chou, cofounder of Kabam.
Blizzard Entertainment CEO and cofounder Mike Morhaime said in the release July 12
“Overwatch is a game about a diverse group of international heroes who fight for an optimistic vision of the future, and the Overwatch League is an extension of that spirit, We’re building this league for fans—esports fans, traditional sports fans, gaming fans—and we’re thrilled to have individuals and organizations who are as passionate about professional competition as we are, and who have extensive experience in all three fields, representing our first major international cities in the league.”
Overwatch League’s Season 1 regular-season matches will all be played in Los Angeles, no word on playoffs or a championship yet. Games will be played each Thursday, Friday, and Saturday during the season. There is no word yet on where or how the matches will be streamed online, or even broadcast on television, but it’s almost assumed they will be in one form or another.
Blizzard has also announced each team will have license to have up to five amateur events in their home territory each year.
“These events would complement the online Open Division as well as regional Contenders and other mid-tier leagues, and provide more occasions to celebrate talent in each community as more teams join the Overwatch League,”
Blizzard said in their statement.
All teams will also receive an equal share of net revenues from advertising, ticketing, and broadcasting rights. Teams will also be able to keep local revenue up to a certain amount each year, past that, revenue will be put into a league-wide shared pool between all the teams.
Regular Overwatch players (Hey! That’s us!) will be able to support teams with special in-game items. What these items will be, what they look like, and what they will cost to acquire will most likely become the subject of intense fan speculation in the coming months, as almost everything announced by Blizzard is.
Whew, just when the community was starting to get worried about the professional scene, Blizzard throws out a pretty big bone. There are still A LOT of details that need to be worked out, but, according to Blizzard, we should see the first matches of the Overwatch League taking place later this year. Finally.