Everything there is to know about the Overwatch League
Since Blizzcon 2016, the world has been pretty much in the dark regarding what the Overwatch League would actually entail. Finally, in the weeks leading up to and during Blizzcon 2017, Blizzard has revealed nearly all we need to know about the Overwatch League.
If you haven’t been following the news cycle, don’t worry, we got you covered with the what, when, who, and the where is all this money coming from?
What Exactly is the Overwatch League?
The Overwatch League is Blizzard’s move to franchise the e-sports scene. Without this move, e-sports would still be in the stages we currently see it in: teams clustered around Los Angeles and nowhere else in the United States.
With the move to franchising, Blizzard was also looking for some hefty investors to come into the League. With any new venture, money is critical in the early stages. It was reported by ESPN back in May, that the buy-in to get a spot in the Overwatch League was $20 million.
It may seem like a lot of money, but you have to remember what comes with that purchase. You get a team with a secured spot in a brand new e-sports competitive league, one that very well may take over the competitive scene. We’ve seen Blizzard move into new areas before and excel, so it stands to reason that they may accomplish domination once again.
Don’t forget, with the franchise comes the opportunity to merchandise the team and the players. By far one of the easiest ways to recoup money invested, though it relies heavily on viewer turnout.
What’s the Schedule?
Over the course of a year, teams will compete in a somewhat familiar sports format. There will be the pre-season that goes from December 6th to December 9th, with tickets currently on sale through the Universe website.
All matches in the pre-season and in the inaugural season of the Overwatch League will be played in Burbank, California at the Bob Hope Studios. After the first season of Overwatch League comes to an end, teams will be moving back to their home cities.
The first season will be split up into four stages. Each stage will consist of five weeks of games that culminate in title matches with a prize pool of $125,000 for each stage.
To get to those title matches each team will be playing two games per week, which will take place Wednesday through Saturday, starting January 10th. The last games of the regular season will take place on Saturday, June 16th. Playoff dates have yet to be determined.
Times the games are played vary per day, so make sure to check out the official site for more details, or wait until Blizzard unveils the Overwatch League app for mobile access.
There will be twelve teams that participate in the inaugural season of the Overwatch League. While most of the teams are U.S. based, there is plenty of competition from around the globe. Blizzard has helpfully divided the twelve teams into two categories: the Atlantic division and the Pacific Division.
While teams are based in different regions, there are no restrictions requiring players to be from that region. For example, the London Spitfire’s current team is made up of twelve Koreans.
Atlantic Division: Pacific Division:
Boston Uprising Dallas Fuel
Florida Mayhem Los Angeles Gladiators
Houston Outlaws Los Angeles Valiant
London Spitfire San Francisco Shock
New York Excelsior Seoul Dynasty
Philadelphia Fusion Shanghai Dragons
With the buy-in being so steep combined with the expenses of running an e-sports organization, it’s important to ask where the money is coming from. Finding out where that money comes from can tell you a lot about how the team might be run, or how it deals with the inevitable PR problems that will arise in the future. For example, the San Francisco Shock already fired their team manager for sexual assault allegations.
The Boston Uprising are funded by the Kraft Group, a multi-industry conglomerate that has its fingers in quite a few industries. The organization purchased the New England Patriots back in 1994 and own Gillette Stadium, the stadium that the Patriots play in. In addition to the Patriots, the Kraft Group also owns the New England Revolution, a Major League Soccer team.
The Florida Mayhem are owned by a more familiar face to the e-sports scene, Misfits Gaming. The organization has been a major player in the European League Championship Series with the team taking two games off SKT in the Ro8 at Worlds this year. If their surprising performance at Worlds is any indication of how the Overwatch team will perform under pressure, expect to see them in the title matches.
The Houston Outlaws is another familiar face to the e-sports scene. They are owned by Hector Rodriguez, owner and CEO of OpTic Gaming. While OpTic gaming hasn’t really made any headway into games like League of Legends, they have been prominent in the FPS genre, fielding teams in Call of Duty, Halo, and Gears of War.
The London Spitfire are owned by founder and CEO of Cloud9, Jack Etienne. Cloud9 has had a long history in the e-sports scene and their players have consistently performed well.
The New York Excelsior are owned by the New York Mets’ COO, Jeff Wilpon. It is worth noting that in 2014 a civil lawsuit was filed against Jeff Wilpon by the Mets’ senior vice president, Leigh Castergine, in response to unsavory working conditions and what looks like a retaliatory firing. You can see the full filing here.
If you aren’t from New York, you may not know the history behind Excelsior. It’s latin for “Ever Upward” or “Still Higher.” Excelsior is the official motto of the State of New York.
The Philadelphia Fusion are owned by Comcast Spectator, but don’t grab your pitchforks just yet. Spectator is more focused on the live event experience rather than your local cable or internet service. Comcast Spectator also owns Philly’s NHL team, the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Dallas Fuel are owned by another familiar face to the gaming industry, Team EnVyUs and nV investor, Hersh Interactive. Serving as chairman for Hersch Family Investments is Kenneth A. Hersh, a Texas native. He is an entrepreneur, business executive, and financier who specializes in the energy industry. The investment group focuses highly on non-profits and other social goals.
Los Angeles Gladiators are owned by Kroenke Sports & Entertainment (KSE). KSE is based out of Colorado and own the St. Louis Rams, who now reside in LA. KSE is also building a stadium in Inglewood, California that is expected to be completed in 2020. It may be the future home of the Los Angeles Gladiators. It is also worth noting that Josh Kroenke, who inherited and runs KSE, is also the heir to the Wal-Mart family fortune through his mother.
The Los Angeles Valiant are more familiar than you know. In reality, this is just your Immortals Overwatch team rebranded as the Los Angeles Valiant. The organization is run by Noah Winston, and will continue to bring top quality value to the fans of the organization.
The San Francisco Shock are owned by NRG Esports. The owners of the team have further connections in the northern California sports scene: Andy Miller and Mark S. Mastrov are part of the Sacramento Kings ownership group. The third major partner in NRG Esports is Jimmy Rollins, who has played professional baseball for the LA Dodgers, the Chicago White Sox, and the San Francisco Giants.
The Seoul Dynasty are owned by Kevin Chou, chairman and CEO of KSV eSports. KSV eSports stands for Korean Silicon Valley eSports. It’s a partnership between the two regions in an effort to bring money and skill together. I’ll let you figure out which one is which in that relationship. Kevin Chou previously worked as the CEO of Kabam, a mobile game company that strived to create console-quality games for mobile devices.
Finally, the Shanghai Dragons are owned by NetEase, a Chinese internet technology company. The company develops and operates many of China’s online PC and mobile games, advertising services, and email services. In addition, they are partnered with Blizzard Entertainment in China as the distributor for Blizzard games.
That’s pretty much all we know for now. You can check out team rosters, the complete schedule, and team colors and logos at Overwatchleague.com.