Overwatch's Pro Gaming League Reportedly Struggling To Get Started, Blizzard Responds

Blizzard says people should be wary of those who "deliberately spread misinformation as bargaining tactics or for other competitive reasons."

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[UPDATE] Following the publication of this story, Blizzard Entertainment sent over a lengthy statement in response to the reports about the Overwatch League. The full statement follows below:

"We appreciate that there's a lot of enthusiasm about the Overwatch League, which has translated into months of speculation--including reports circulating unverified and wildly ranging rumors from anonymous sources about purported deal terms, team pricing, and other details. We understand the interest in the rumors, and we feel it's important to clarify some things for our community.

"First, we want to be clear that our ultimate goal is to create an exciting Overwatch esports ecosystem, the pinnacle of which will be the Overwatch League, that's accessible to a wide audience, sustainable, and rewarding for everyone involved. We're doing our best to take great care with building this ecosystem, and as with much of what we do, we don't release information until we're at a place where it makes sense to do so.

"Second, we'd like to dispel any rumors that we're ignoring endemics. Anyone who knows Blizzard understands how deeply we care about the communities around our games. The league is built upon the best elements of endemic esports programs and traditional sports, and we're in active discussions with many teams and owners from both worlds because it will take a village to stand up a league with such an unprecedented structure. Those conversations have been going well and there's a lot of excitement around our ambitious plans.

"Finally, it's important to think twice about statements from unnamed sources, who may try to leverage the media to deliberately spread misinformation as bargaining tactics or for other competitive reasons. We look forward to officially sharing real details about the league and the ecosystem as a whole as we continue the development process. In the meantime we are staying focused on our goal of creating an awesome Overwatch esports experience for players, partners, and fans, and we want to thank everyone for their continued support."

The original story is below

The Overwatch League, a competitive gaming league run by Blizzard and scheduled to launch this year, is running into problems before it has even started, it seems.

ESPN is reporting today that the League is having a hard time finding teams/franchises to participate, in part because of a whopping $20 million buy-in fee. The fee could be even higher for major markets like New York and Los Angeles, the report said. Another issue, it seems, is that franchises are not guaranteed a piece from the revenue-sharing until after 2021 and "only if Blizzard meets certain criteria."

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Another stipulation in contract, according to ESPN's sources, is that in the event a franchise sells their spot to another group, the League/Blizzard would get a 25 percent cut of the take.

ESPN points out that Blizzard's $20 million fee is very high when compared to the League of Legends Championship Series, which carries a franchise fee of $1.8 million.

More from the ESPN report:

"Sources said the price is the sticking point, but the game and league are still desirable to teams. Blizzard said earlier this year that Overwatch League was scheduled to launch in late 2017, but some organizations have expressed doubt whether the league will launch on time, given the current state of the negotiation."

You can read the full ESPN story here. Blizzard did not respond to ESPN's requests for comment.

GameSpot has followed up with Blizzard in an attempt to get more details. We'll update this post with anything we hear back.

The Kraft Sports Group, which owns the NFL's New England Patriots and MLS team New England Revolution, is reportedly interested in closing a deal for the Overwatch League. However, a source told ESPN that it was only a "handshake deal and includes a most favored nation agreement that allows the Kraft Group to buy in at the most favorable price given to another organization."

In its announcement of the Overwatch League last year, Blizzard described it as a "world-class sports ecosystem for professional Overwatch competition."

"Combining Blizzard's esports pedigree with the best practices of major professional sports, the Overwatch League will focus on long-term stability for teams as well as opportunities for players to establish the types of professional careers associated with traditional sports," the studio said.

Blizzard co-founder Mike Morhaime said he believes the Overwatch League "represents not only the pinnacle of Overwatch competition, but also a genuine career opportunity for the most skilled Overwatch players."

He added: "We're building a league that's accessible to players and fans, sustainable, and exciting for everyone involved."

Overwatch, which was released a year ago this month, now has 30 million registered players. An event celebrating its first anniversary might be on the way, along with a Game of the Year edition.

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