The Overwatch community has been waiting for this day since the announcement of the Overwatch League back in November 2016 at Blizzcon. The first seven teams have been revealed today. They are Boston, New York, Miami-Orlando, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seoul, and Shanghai. This is not just a major announcement for Blizzard and Overwatch, but for the entire esports world.
What does this mean?
Esports has always needed to establish itself outside of just the online world. This began when LAN tournaments first starting popping up and continued on to full blown sold out stadiums for major tournaments and events. To many though, this was not enough. People still believe that esports are just a fad that will eventually die out, as most games can only stay popular for a few years. What esports have needed was a way to show that they were here to stay and today’s announcement signifies that Overwatch is the first game to answer that call.
Having teams play in cities will do many things for the scene. To start, it will allow for people who are already fans to view more games. Instead of tournaments and games just being held in one city every couple weeks, or online, these teams will play in multiple cities on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays for however long they decide to make the season. League of Legends has already set up this method by playing Thursday through Sunday for EU and NA. As a side note, League is also franchising, so it will be interesting to watch how they react.
Also, when you ask traditional sports fans who their favorite teams are, they normally answer the teams in closest proximity to where they live or grew up. While esports fans have grown up with certain teams that may not be near them, new fans will be able to become more attached because they will be able to say, “I am a fan of the Los Angeles Immortals”. How great is that? People also have deep pride for their cities, which in turn translates to their sports and now esports teams. Naturally, people who live close to these cities and who have any interest in competition or video games will gravitate towards their closest team.
The Team Owners
The announced team owners such as Robert Kraft (owner of the New England Patriots), Jeff Wilpon (COO of the New York Mets), and even Noah Winston (CEO of Immortals) show that this league has a lot of promise. People like them do not invest without doing their research and the reported price of up to $20 million in major cities is not inexpensive.
Most, if not all, of the new owners have experience in owning teams either in sports or esports and thus they understand what it will take to make these teams successful. It also shows the trend of traditional sports owners, business individuals, and former players getting involved in esports is growing as well. If you would have told me a year ago that Robert Kraft was going to get involved in esports I would have told you, not a chance.
What these owners signify most importantly is that esports are here to stay. Owners would not invest in a league that was not well planned out and one that they thought would not make them money in the long run.
What Teams Go Where?
So far we know that Immortals will be based in Los Angeles. Also it looks like that NRG will be in San Francisco as that spot was grabbed by Andy Miller and Misfits will be in Miami-Orlando due to Ben Spoont’s buy-in.
As for the other four teams, one can only guess for now. I believe that some established teams will either be bought up or completely new ones will form. For established esports brands such as Team SoloMid, Team Liquid, Cloud9, and many others, one can imagine that they would either have to team up with one of the current owners or find a way to come up with the millions of dollars and establish their brands in their own cities.
For teams like Immortals, NRG, and Misfits, their establishment in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Miami-Orlando respectively means that if they buy into any other leagues (League of Legends) they will most likely have first dibs on these cities. Wouldn’t it be odd if Immortals had their Overwatch team based in Los Angeles and their League team somewhere else?
The league will not only consist of seven teams. As was seen before, this league will be global and consist of many different teams. It is most likely that they will start with a minimum of 10. If the league succeeds, then more will buy in and possibly at the locations that are pictured.
What is next?
There has yet to be an official date announced for when the Overwatch League will start. Many believe it will begin sometime in 2018 and all of the first season’s games will be played in Los Angeles until proper arenas have been built or at least teams have the rights to use certain arenas in the city.
With esports arenas going up around the world one can only hope that we will see esports continue to grow. I have time and again compared what is happening now to the beginning of traditional sports like the MLB, NFL, NBA, etc. For esports fans this is just the beginning. We are at the dawn of stability and major growth for esports as our children will grow up with tradtional sports and esports teams to cheer for.
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Information Courtesy of: overwatchleague.com