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Overwatch League aims to turn eSports into the next NFL
by Staff Writer | Jul 14, 2017 | Comment Now
Blizzard turns to traditional sports models to take eSports to new heights.
Overwatch League aims to turn eSports into the next NFL

Overwatch developer Activision Blizzard has launched Overwatch League, the first eSports competition with locally based professional Overwatch teams. The move is a bid to bring eSports competitions to the masses in a manner that's more befitting of traditional sporting models.

Overwatch League bucks the trend of other eSports tournaments because, instead of private teams with names such as Fnatic, Team Dignitas and Evil Genius, Overwatch League plans to root them in physical locations like football teams. Overwatch League was announced last year during Blizzard's annual celebration BlizzCon. However, with the announcement that NFL New England Patriots' owner Robert Kraft has taken control of Boston's Overwatch team – and MLB New York Mets COO Jeff Wilpon is helming New York City – Overwatch League has shifted up a gear.

Teams have also signed up in Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, Shanghai and Seoul, and other teams are planned in other cities around the world. For now, Blizzard plans to keep the first season of Overwatch League centered in the US, with all matches taking place in an eSports arena in Los Angeles. Thankfully, due to the nature of eSports, this won't affect how many people can watch the match.

For those that haven't heard of it, Overwatch is easily the most popular competitive shooter on the market right now – a quick visit to the Overwatch hashtag on Twitter or /r/overwatch will show you just how avid its fanbase is. In the competitive scene, it pits two teams against one another in fast-paced, arena-based skirmishes where teams work to clear objectives or take down opponents while also bolstering their own teammates in the process.

Launched little over a year ago, Overwatch has gained impressive traction. In April this year Blizzard announced it had hit 30 million registered players – jumping up from 20 million in January 2017. Overwatch League aims to expand its reach to those who may have never even touched the game before.

By switching focus from private, regionless teams to locally based outfits, Blizzard hopes it can change the nature of eSports by making it more familiar to traditional sports fans. Fans can rally behind a local team rather than just a team they decided to align with.

On a business scale, Overwatch League plans to share revenue generated from league-wide advertising, ticketing and broadcasting rights – along with all locally generated revenue – with the participating teams. It's a model that apes the biggest sports in the world and really seems like a no-brainer. Activision Blizzard says Overwatch League is a venture for the fans and players, but it's also a lucrative business opportunity for the publisher – phys.org reports sources close to the matter claiming that each team signup costs $US20 million. For comparison's sake, a team signup for US Major League Soccer costs around $US200 million.

Cash grab or not, an established competition like Overwatch League will clearly have a huge impact on how people watch and perceive eSports on a global scale. In South Korea and East Asia as a whole, watching competitive video games has been popular for years. eSports is a fast-growing industry, and games like Call of Duty and DOTA 2 host huge regular competitions with prize pools reaching into the millions.

It's not clear how Overwatch League will impact the current model of eSports globally, as its approach is very different approach to ESL's – one of the largest eSports organisations. Whatever happens, it's clear that Activision Blizzard wants to take eSports to a new audience and it believes Overwatch has the chops to do just that.

We've reached out to ESL for comment and will update accordingly.

This article originally appeared at alphr.com



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