Overwatch Makes A Huge Announcement About Competitive Gaming

The Overwatch League kicks off later this year.

58 Comments

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.

No Caption Provided

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.
Please use a html5 video capable browser to watch videos.
This video has an invalid file format.
00:00:00
Sorry, but you can't access this content!
Please enter your date of birth to view this video

By clicking 'enter', you agree to GameSpot's
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

Now Playing: GS News Update: Overwatch Makes A Huge Announcement About Competitive Gaming

GameSpot may get a commission from retail offers.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Join the conversation
There are 58 comments about this story
58 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
  • 58 results
  • 1
  • 2
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for lionheartssj1
lionheartssj1

3996

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 12

User Lists: 0

How about a league for really sucky players like myself?? 'Get guud' is a function of time, which some of us don't have a ton of so gather those low decimal kill ratios.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for v8p
V8P

123

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 4

User Lists: 0

Edited By V8P

$20 million entry fee, how humble they are! League for the top 1% as we are used in real sports still doesn't make it a real sport, Blizz.

4 • 
Avatar image for masterthrall
masterthrall

95

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

As many others have said, this isn't the greatest game from a viewership perspective. I agree. On the times I watch streamers on twitch.tv the most enjoyable games to spectate I feel are strategy games. If you want me to pick games I would say Starcraft 2, and Warcraft 3 if you want Blizzard games. Otherwise I would say League of Legends or Counterstrike. There is just much more depth than a bunch of cartoon characters zinging around on screen. Additionally, these type of games allow for a top-down view controlled by an observer. How would that work in Overwatch? Just skipping the camera view from person to person? No thanks. It's tolerable in CStrike, but even that hasn't become a viewership mecca.

3 • 
Avatar image for jinzo9988
jinzo9988

1955

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Edited By jinzo9988

@masterthrall: League of Legends might be a good watch for people who play the game, but it's nonsensical and boring as shit for people who don't understand it. Nobody can possibly sit there as a brand new spectator knowing nothing about the game, watch a game or two, and even understand half of what's going on.

For Overwatch it's either push the cart, stop the cart from moving, or hold/capture points. Easy. Any layman can pick that up from an announcer.

3 • 
Avatar image for masterthrall
masterthrall

95

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@jinzo9988: Starcraft 2 has many spectators, and it's quite a bit more complex than League.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for hamdan1233
hamdan1233

54

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 6

Overwatch is a good game, but it started to wear out for a reason:

Their ranking system is super flawed..Nowadays, whenever i play on competitive, its either an easy win or an easy loss, so in another word its anything but "competitive" really. It becomes extremely rare to play a challenging round, at least for me. (Solo on console).

3 • 
Avatar image for AzatiS
AzatiS

14969

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 11

User Lists: 0

Edited By AzatiS

Good stuff ... too bad game SUCKS from a watcher perspective and its not exciting at all to watch, specially if you are not playing competitively the game yourself. Eveything is so messy and zergy with current competitive systems and mechanics that i dont think this will end well in the long run.

Hope the best since im competitive gamer myself the last 15 years or so in various, highly competitive games and i love the E-sport scene, whatever the game, but sadly Overwatch is not the game ill be watching. I tried few times and it was a bad experience.

3 • 
Avatar image for Kezzy123
Kezzy123

525

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Nobody takes this game's competitive mode seriously anymore.

Too little too late Bli$$ard.

"its just comp bruh"

4 • 
Avatar image for sirk1264
sirk1264

6032

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 12

User Lists: 0

I like playing Overwatch. However they really need to change up the competitive version of this game. The matchmaking is horrendous. Players still leave during a match and ruin the experience for the entire team. There needs to be harsher penalties for leavers. I'm actually surprised blizzard is still pushing this game harder than heroes of the storm. HOTS has a much better competitive scene than overwatch imo and it is growing too. I'd rather watch a match of HOTS than watch a match of overwatch.

2 • 
Avatar image for d9000
d9000

519

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Neat! It's starting to sound legit enough to bring in casual viewers. I may be old as hell when it happens but I can't wait for the day when I can have a party around whatever the eSports version of the Super Bowl is.

Ohhhh, I hope the future version of Lady Gaga performs at the half time show! :)

2 • 
Avatar image for v8p
V8P

123

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 4

User Lists: 0

Edited By V8P

@d9000: media consumption at its worst, and Esports party sounds like an utopia. Nailed it with Lady Gaga. Enjoy

Someone's dream, another one's nightmare.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for d9000
d9000

519

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@v8p: Lol, and yet we all get along so well on this one planet.... Well, some of the time.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for ooozephyrosooo
oooZEPHYROSooo

17

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 6

User Lists: 5

As if I couldn't care even less about this game than I already do. Now they're trying to have rich douchebags attach themselves to a dying if not dead game to make it, what, seem legit? Overwatch was great when I first played but the HORRIBLE way Blizzard manages the competitive matches, the cheaters they still allow to play the game with no consequence and the head scratching way they decide what level you're going to start at for competitive (I ended last season at 1950... I won 6 out of 10 placement matches with the current season and this stupid game starts me at 520 for the new season??? Eff you Blizzard) and the fact that it's virtually impossible to level up considerably when playing competitive with matchmaking makes this game unplayable and unenjoyable. No one I know that has it plays it anymore. It's a complete, infuriating waste of time.

3 • 
Avatar image for girlusocrazy
GirlUSoCrazy

8693

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 0

Thanks to everyone for paying full price to beta test their new venture

4 • 
Avatar image for LethalBurst
LethalBurst

137

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

While it's cool to see esports becoming more legitimate, I have as much interest in esports as I do in traditional sports, which is none.

8 • 
Avatar image for dattwood
Dattwood

16

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

This is hilarious. A bunch of rich white guys buy a thing they don't understand for a game that's NOT a good e-sport. Idiots.

8 • 
Avatar image for Kezzy123
Kezzy123

525

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@dattwood: ikr hahahaha

probly the worse esport game they could have invested in.

3 • 
Avatar image for CptJohnnyRico
CptJohnnyRico

378

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Overwatch is already dying, no thanks.

10 • 
Avatar image for thomasn7
ThomasN7

461

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 5

If Blizzard would hammer down on cheaters this game would be a blast but as of right now it is frustrating to play in either casual or competitive modes.

3 • 
Avatar image for SerOlmy
SerOlmy

2369

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 34

User Lists: 0

Edited By SerOlmy

Have fun losing money on this one. The viewer numbers for OW have always been low, but have recently been dropping even faster. The primary reason is that both the previous double tank double support meta and the current dive meta are not fun to watch (many pro gamers are saying the dive meta is also no fun to play). The game is too chaotic to follow for most people who would be interested. And Blizz being Blizz has refused to make any balance changes resulting in 1/3 of the roster being viable and the rest being garbage. So every match ends up being mirror comps of the same 6 heroes, which makes it even less fun to watch.

6 • 
Avatar image for dattwood
Dattwood

16

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@SerOlmy: Yup.

2 • 
Avatar image for atopp399
atopp399

2283

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Edited By atopp399

It's interesting that news like this makes me care less about the game. There are so many games that are much more fun to watch than Overwatch. Knowing these rich bastards are getting in on this to try to milk people for more money really disinterests me in this game.

3 • 
Avatar image for ThePlantain
ThePlantain

747

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@atopp399: You're mad that people with money are trying to make more money?

2 • 
Avatar image for Daian
Daian

2809

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 5

User Lists: 0

How exactly would this work? How can they play against each other regularly if they're from different cities and countries? Online from where they are? That would be lame. Not interested in Overwatch just curious.

2 • 
Avatar image for P00DGE
P00DGE

496

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@Daian: Well, in games like League of Legends, they would actually have finals at a stadium where the final teams (wherever they may be from) would face off in the middle of the stadium, and giant screens would highlight the action going on for the audience. I imagine that we will see something similar for this. Teams getting flown out to various cities to compete in some kind of facility with a crowd to watch and television (or streaming) coverage. There are already a couple of cable channels that provide some epsorts coverage.

2 • 
Avatar image for Daian
Daian

2809

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 5

User Lists: 0

Edited By Daian

@P00DGE: those are a few international events, the regular seasons are played in one place in each region. This doesn't have regions, just a bunch of teams from different continents playing together. How exactly is the question.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for byof_america
byof_america

1937

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 6

User Lists: 0

Good ole Makuch, copy and pasting like a motha fuckin champ.

4 • 
Avatar image for fishlore
fishlore

36

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

As someone who doesn't play, I have to say that Overwatch is by far the most mind numbing, boring and ugly game I'd never, ever want to watch someone play. I don't play CS or MOBAs but enjoy watching them. Overwatch... never.

4 • 
Avatar image for P00DGE
P00DGE

496

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@fishlore: I get bored watching it too (even though I thought the game was fun to play when it came out). I don't think it is ugly though, I really like games with vibrant colors, and this game is popping with them.

2 • 
Avatar image for jerusaelem
jerusaelem

236

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@fishlore: Congratulations. You're really cool.

4 • 
Avatar image for Richardthe3rd
Richardthe3rd

3674

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 0

Because money and investment in a player league has always made things better.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Prats1993
Prats1993

1098

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Prats1993  Online

@Richardthe3rd: Well yeah.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for fatal1ty
Fatal1ty

1

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

Edited By Fatal1ty

Big surprise, a bunch of teams full of players known to take Piratall. They really need to come up with a way to test for Piratall and ban it.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for P00DGE
P00DGE

496

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@fatal1ty: If esports ever become something bigger, and steps like this indicate that they might, then I think we can expect the same level of drug enforcement to occur as what happens in pro-sports organizations.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for deactivated-5bda06edf37ee
deactivated-5bda06edf37ee

4675

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 0

@computernoises: Don't worry about it. Your comments won't get upvoted.

Upvote • 
  • 58 results
  • 1
  • 2