Overwatch Makes A Huge Announcement About Competitive Gaming

The Overwatch League kicks off later this year.

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It's a big day for Overwatch and competitive gaming overall. Blizzard Entertainment today announced the owners of the first seven Overwatch League teams, and included among them are some very big games in traditional sports, gaming, and other industries.

As rumored New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who is a billionaire, will own the Boston-based Overwatch League team. Additionally, Jeff Wilpon, who is the co-founder and partner at Sterling.VC, which owns the New York Mets, will operate the New York team. There will also be Overwatch League teams in Los Angeles (Immortals), Miami-Orlando (Misfits Gaming), San Francisco (NRG Esports), Shanghai (NetEase), and Seoul (Kevin Chou, Kabam).

"We looked at major cities around the world and came up with a list of cities that wasn't just based on population size but really the concentration of Overwatch players," Overwatch League commissioner Nate Nanzer told GameSpot. "And once we had our cities identified, we set out and were talking to who we thought would be great owners. We wanted to make sure we were partnering with partners who, first and foremost, had a proven track record of building and growing a fan base."

With today's announcement, the Overwatch League becomes the first major international pro esports league with a city-based structure. This is a big step for competitive gaming, as it brings it more in line with traditional sports leagues, though Overwatch League is unique in that teams from different countries will compete in certain events.

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Here is a rundown of the first seven Overwatch League team owners.

  • Robert Kraft, Chairman and CEO of the Kraft Group and the New England Patriots (Boston)
  • Jeff Wilpon, Co-Founder and Partner of Sterling.VC and COO of the New York Mets (New York)
  • Noah Whinston, CEO of Immortals (Los Angeles)
  • Ben Spoont, CEO and Co-Founder of Misfits Gaming (Miami-Orlando)
  • Andy Miller, Chairman and Founder of NRG Esports (San Francisco)
  • NetEase (Shanghai)
  • Kevin Chou, Co-founder of Kabam (Seoul)

Kraft, who is the chairman and CEO of the Kraft Group, said in a statement that his company has been looking at the esports market "for a number of years."

"The incredible global success of Overwatch since its launch, coupled with the League's meticulous focus on a structure and strategy that clearly represents the future of esports made this the obvious entry point for the Kraft Group," he said.

The seven teams announced for the Overwatch League today are just the start. By comparison, MLB has 30 teams and the NFL has 32. You can expect Blizzard to expand the Overwatch League's roster of teams in due course, as good partners are found.

"We don't have a set number in our mind right now," Nanzer said. "We want to grow this over time. We want to make sure that we get great owners in big markets around the world. We expect this to be the first of many announcements. And over time, I think you can expect that the size of the Overwatch League will be similar to the size of the traditional sports leagues."

While competitive gaming is undoubtedly on the rise in terms of profile and prominence, the debate around esports being "real" sports will never end. Nanzer isn't losing any sleep over it.

"It doesn't really matter," he told us. "At the end of the day, it's competition, and people love to see competition. People have hobbies like golf and tennis and if you have hobbies like that, you want to go watch and see who is the best in the world at those hobbies--and it's no different for games."

"This is not something that we're doing for a short-term gain. We're taking a very long-term view of this."

Announced at Blizzcon last year, the Overwatch League will kick off later this year. For the league's first season, matches will take place at a venue in the Los Angeles area, as the local squads take the time they need to create their own local venues. There will eventually be home and away matchups, just as with traditional sports. Full details on the schedule and ticket sales opportunities will be announced later this year.

Overwatch League teams will make money through ticket sales, advertising, and broadcast rights revenue. According to Blizzard, this money will be shared evenly, though local teams get to keep all the revenue from their home territory and venue up to "a certain amount." If/when this figure is eclipsed, a percentage will be given to a shared league revenue pool. Another element here is that franchises can operate and make money from five non-professional events in their home region every year.

Additionally, there will be league- and team-based Overwatch content sold in the game, with 50 percent of revenue going to a shared revenue pool for all teams.

There are still plenty of unanswered questions about the Overwatch League, but what's clear is this is a massive step forward for competitive gaming. Kraft and Wilpon, titans of business, getting on board is clear indicator that competitive gaming is no passing fad.

GameSpot spoke with Nanzer about today's news, and you can see some of the big takeaways from our talk listed out below.

  • The announcement of the seven teams today is just the start, Nanzer says. More will be announced in due time. By comparison, the NFL has 32 teams and MLB has 30.
  • The version of Overwatch played in Overwatch League matches is mostly the same as the public version. However, Overwatch League will hold back new heroes, maps, and balance changes until they are properly tested.
  • There is a minimum base salary for Overwatch League players, though this figure was not disclosed.
  • Blizzard will support Overwatch League teams with support and benefits, though there are no plans for a player's union. However, Nanzer says Blizzard would be open to having a discussion about that if players want one.
  • Nanzer envisions Overwatch League as a "forever league" that kicks off this year and never ends, similar to how the NFL and MLB started and have never stopped and never plan to.
  • Blizzard will announce details on the Overwatch League prize pools later. They are holding back for now because the prize pool isn't always what's most important, Nanzer said, mentioning that people rarely talk about the prize pool for the Super Bowl.
  • However, Nanzer did say the Overwatch League prize pool will be "meaningful."
  • There were reports about franchise fees of $20 million for the Overwatch League, but Nanzer declined to share any specifics on this.
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xNSHD

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this is really a thing? people care about this?

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Avatar image for P00DGE
P00DGE

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@xnshd: It isn't any stranger than people caring about watching Baseball or Basketball on tv. Watching professionals compete and picking one to root for has been a thing for thousands of years, it just a fundamental of entertainment in society.

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deactivated-597646ec1539d

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@xnshd: sadly, yes. people do care about this kind of shit and its sad.

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Mr_Mark_Legion

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@computernoises: crazy times man.

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jerusaelem

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Edited By jerusaelem

@computernoises: "Back in MY day, children used to play with pointless chunks of plastic vaguely resembling the characters they'd see on 20-30 minute animated commercials they'd watch once a week in between a swarm of other, SHORTER commercials telling them what sugary garbage they should eat, and what clothing would make them popular! And sometimes our parents would force us to go outside and ride bicycles in a circle for hours, killing time before we could go back inside and watch MORE commercials!

And if we wanted to watch other people play games, we watched boring game shows on tv or sports, because watching some shitty, overpayed millionaire hit a small ball with a large stick is somehow LESS a waste of time than watching someone else play a far more interesting video game."

Seriously. Your generation sucked too. You ain't gonna fool me with your bullcrap nostalgia because it was my generation too. Being judgmental about people who watch video games is as stupid as being judgmental about people watching ANY sport they could be playing themselves.

Also, I have my doubts that someone reading video game articles about things they're NOT interested in just so they can complain about "the good old days" and "this damned younger generation" in the comment section below is crushing any more ass than your average phub viewer. Probably notably LESS. Sad...I know.

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P00DGE

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@computernoises: But this is nothing new. You act like this generation dropped the ball or something, but a couple of generations now have been content watching others do things. Televised football and baseball have been American staples for decades now, especially with older audiences.

Also, you are on a website that talks about video games instead of you going and just playing them. Not exactly equivalent, but still, there is a small sense of irony here.

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P00DGE

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@computernoises: I wasn't trying to judge or belittle you. I think it is just fine that you are on here. But the point is that not everyone wants to be doing the thing they like all the time, they sometimes just want to watch others who are better then them at it do it. And that isn't anything new. Ancient Romans did the same thing. Sometimes when i am watching my son, I am in a gaming mood but can't play games, so I might pop twitch on the tv in my front room so I can watch it without having to leave teammates if I have to take care of something with my kid. Some people like to watch games so they can pick up some new ideas from professionals that they never would have thought of on their own. A lot of people just get wrapped up in the excitement of rooting for a person or team just like people do for the Superbowl or World Series.

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deactivated-597646ec1539d

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@computernoises: lol its funny because its true.

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uubershikamarux

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spoiler alert the koreans win it.

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Chris_53

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I stopped reading after "240 frames per second"

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