[toc]Blizzard’s Overwatch League has faced scrutiny since it was announced at BlizzCon 2016.
There’s a ton of speculation surrounding the long-term sustainability of the league. Blizzard, however, should ultimately be applauded for its efforts to interject fresh ideas into the esports landscape.
Regionalism and why it’s important
One compelling element offered by OWL is the introduction of teams representing US cities. “ActiBlizz” CEO Bobby Kotick is referring to it as “the biggest milestone” in creating the league.
This form of representation is relatively new to esports. Previously, teams formed simply by assembling players, a team name, logo, and attending tournaments. So what about regionalism is going to be so beneficial to the competitive gaming scene?
Fans are now going to have something to stand behind: an Overwatch team hailing from their hometown. This will further strengthen the connection between players and fans. Certain cities and regions may be recognized as being appreciably superior to others in games, bringing bragging rights for locals.
Team announcements and investors
The Overwatch League has announced the first seven teams. Their respective cities and owners are as follows:
- Boston, USA: Robert Kraft, chairman and CEO of the Kraft Group and the New England Patriots
- New York, USA: Jeff Wilpon, co-founder and partner of Sterling.VC and COO of the New York Mets
- Los Angeles, USA: Noah Whinston, CEO of Immortals
- Miami and Orlando, USA: Ben Spoont, CEO and co-founder of Misfits Gaming
- San Francisco, USA: Andy Miller, chairman and founder of NRG Esports
- Shanghai, China: NetEase
- Seoul, South Korea: Kevin Chou, co-founder of Kabam
The bidding for each franchise started at $20 million, with prices being higher in certain urban markets like New York City and LA.
The shifting interest in esports towards ‘traditional sport’ owners and investors gives skeptics of the league more of an optimistic outlook. Having that expertise involved in the development of the project and competitive gaming in general is beneficial to say the least.
Examining the model and purpose
Blizzard plans on introducing a home and away game structure similar to current traditional sports, but not immediately. Blizzard’s global director of esports, Nate Nanzer, hopes to build the local scene first:
“We hope that by having these local teams that in a few years every team has home games. There’s millions of kids around the world that would love to go to an esports tournament and buy merch, but can’t because of travel costs. These localized teams will unlock lots of local revenue.”
Revenue aside, having an affordable and accessible option for spectating top-level competition live is the crux of this model. Intimate local competitions bring together fans of Overwatch, on a presumably frequent basis. This creates purpose and camaraderie, all beneficial to furthering the growth of esports.
There’s no set launch date for Blizzard’s Overwatch League. We expect it to commence sometime in 2018, however.
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