By Ryan Shepard
Blizzard has finally announced more details about their upcoming and much discussed professional Overwatch League. The announcement posted yesterday introduces the first seven official teams and their owners and provides some insight into Blizzard’s strategy to take Overwatch to the level of major league sports. To start, here’s a list of the teams and their owners:
- Boston: Robert Kraft owner of the patriots, chairman CEO of Kraft group.
- New York: Jeff Wilpon COO of the New York Mets
- Miami-Orlando: Ben Spoont, CEO and Co-founds Misfits Gaming
- San Francisco, Nor-Cal: Andy Miller, Chairman and Founder of NRG
- Los Angeles: Noah Whinston, CEO of Immortals
- Shanghai: NetEase, Chinese Partner to Blizzard
- Seoul: Kevin Chou, Co-founder of Kabam
As you can see, Blizzard is taking a note from conventional sports teams by basing their teams around Cities/regions. This decision, according to nate Nanzer, the commissioner of the Overwatch League, was made after researching what exactly makes traditional sports successful and what’s missing from esports. They determined that traditional sports benefit greatly from having a set venue to host games and sell tickets and merchandise. Blizzard also hopes to attract fans through loyalty to their hometown teams and competition with their rivals.
Is this a move in the right direction to bring great legitimacy to esports in general? The confidence of its investors would seem to say so. NRG Esports own Chairman, Andy Miller, stated this city based approach was “the biggest selling point on the idea of joining up in the league.” Or just take another look at the list of teams and their owners, right from the top we see Robert Kraft, owner Of the New England Patriots and Jeff Wilpon, COO of the New York Mets. In an interview with Bloomberg, Kraft expressed enthusiasm about the League’s potential “Having 30 million players and this point, just, this evolution really appeals to us — the concept of having a team in the new England region.” The teams Kraft and Wilpon represent are two of the most popular and successful in the country within their respective sports, couple this with an ESPN report that claims Blizzard is asking for a $20 million buy in fee from the team’s owners, and you start to get the picture of the amount of confidence that is being put into the formation of the Overwatch League.
The future looks bright, but not certain, for the League. Concerned fans still have many questions left to be answered. Does Blizzard plan to include more regions globally? So far, the announced teams only represent East Asia and North America, leaving a lot of European Overwatch fans upset. The youtube comments for the Overwatch League announcement are filled with remarks like “Blizzard doesn’t care about Europe,” or ‘[insert region] was left out’. But before you take your torches and pitchforks out, bear in mind that Blizzard is most likely in talks with numerous potential team owners in Europe and elsewhere and only time will tell how well represented the Overwatch fanbase will be in the league.
For more details and a discussion about the Overwatch League announcement, catch the latest episode of the VideoGame BANG! Podcast.