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Overwatch Announces City-Based eSports League

13 July 2017 10:27

The divide between the eSports world and the traditional sporting world narrowed even further over the last 24 hours after Activision Blizzard, creator of Overwatch, announced a new city-based league that will launch towards the end of 2017.

Overwatch League

The league, named the Overwatch League, breaks new ground in eSports as the only league to split teams up into a traditional city-based structure, rather than having teams represented all over the world, like most games currently do. Seven teams will start in the league, with more to be added over time and potentially even within the first year of competition. With the majority based in America, the cities with teams are New York, Boston, Miami-Orlando, Los Angeles, then Seoul and Shanghai from outside of the USA.

This truly is another breakthrough in the world of eSports that brings the structure in line with the Premier League in the UK or the NFL in America. Like the traditional American sports, teams will have to buy into the league with a one-time payment, but will then receive equal shares of league revenues in all fields, including streaming and broadcasting rights, which are sure to be extremely valuable should this league succeed. There has been no confirmation of the cost of this buy in, but it’s been reported to be in the $20-30million region per team!

Its not just the owners that will be seeing a potentially large influx of cash from this new league, as it has been announced that the minimum salary for players in these new teams is $50,000. On top of this, players will receive their own forms of insurance and a retirement plan, both of which are compulsory with the leagues new rules. The rewards for players doesn’t stop there, as the previously mentioned success bonuses given to teams must be split with the players themselves and not just with the owners. Half of the bonuses must go to players, meaning if there was on a team of six (the minimum required on a team) and they won every bonus possible, the players could make a staggering $750,000 in just one season.

Team Owners

The structure of the Overwatch League isn’t where the comparisons with traditional sports stop, as owners of other sporting franchises are getting involved. Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots in the NFL, will head up the Boston team, whilst Jeff Wilpon, COO of the New York Mets in the MLB, will own the New York franchise. Not all league owners are from the sporting world, as Andy Miller from NRG Sports will run the San Francisco team and Noah Winston, CEO of eSports team immortals, will run the Los Angeles team.

Benefits of City Teams

Having Overwatch teams based in cities rather than all over the world will hopefully bring a home and away feel to fixtures and give cities their own tribal fan base. Although the structure of the league hasn’t been announced yet, the expectation is that home and away games will be played on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays, with a league playoff structure at the end to determine the overall champion. Having matches at arenas in cities on a regular basis will hopefully bring a physical crowd out to matches, rather than relying on the majority of people watching the games via stream. Streaming will of course still be a major influencer in this league, but there is no better atmosphere than seeing two teams duke it out in the flesh.

The announcement of this Overwatch League comes a few weeks after LoL announced they would begin franchising teams in their major North American league. These two leagues will end up being very similar, with the only difference being the Overwatch League basing their teams in cities. Time will tell which method is more effective, but don’t be surprised to see more eSports adopt this methodology of league play which favours the big, wealthy teams, but could screw over the small-time teams that make eSports so inclusive.

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Updated on: 2017-08-18

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