Since the release and even the beta stage of Blizzard’s newest IP, Overwatch, players and pundits have been going back and forth on the game’s prospects as a leading eSport. It’s been agreed that a lot of it was to depend on whether eSports organisations and tournament organizers chose to go in and build the scene from the ground up. Well, even though the game still has a Spectator mode that needs to be spruced up for Overwatch to appeal to general eSports fans, it’s been agreed that all of the above-mentioned things would be for naught if Blizzard Entertainment didn’t take the right steps to actually prop up Overwatch as a serious eSport.
Well, it certainly looks like Blizzard is taking the whole Overwatch eSport matter seriously. Very, very seriously. Granted, there are barely any proper details about the plans, however, Blizzard took the first step when they revealed their master plan on November 4. It’s called Overwatch League. To reiterate, there are no real details as of yet, so this is purely speculation, however, if the Overwatch League actually become as big of a thing as Blizzard wants it to, eSports are going to be changed for ever.
Okay, let’s get into the thick of it. What is Overwatch League? Just like the name suggests, it’s a league, where… people play Overwatch. That’s it! kthxbye.
Seriously, though, Blizzard’s vision is to have the League become a worldwide thing, which functions in a manner similar to the NBA and NFL. The league will be made of teams, which will represent a big cities, just like in the NBA, for example. Currently, there’s nothing like that in eSports. Teams are not tied to geographic locations with the exception of Regional Qualifiers, however, those are continent-wide. Once developed, the Overwatch League should have American, European, Chinese, Korean, and Asian Pacific teams compete, representing their home cities. As a sidenote, many eSports pundits talk about their hopes to see eSports teams have their own arenas with no plan on how to achieve this. The Overwatch League could be it. If it works.
Team owners will be responsible for the infrastructure of their own team, being responsible for developing their roster, providing the players with everything they need to focus and win games. To this effect, players and owners will have to sign contracts, guaranteeing fair compensation and benefits like health insurance. Gone are the days of pro players being independent contractors instead of staff.
The next interesting point revealed in the announcement was the fact that team owners and players will receive a revenue share of the league they play in. That is not something provided by the League of Legends Championship Series, ran by Riot Games. It’s one of the big points of criticism that’s been hurled at Riot over the recent months. They are trying to fix the situation, however, sharing 25% of the revenue from relevant skin and player icon sales. We’re glad to see that Blizzard is starting the whole thing off on a good foot.
Up next comes one of the most exciting things about the whole venture. Once prospective owners have bid for their location, say, Kansas City, and successfully joined, their place in the League becomes PERMANENT. There will be no relegation. Provided that the team has a big enough fan following and media reach, it should have a much easier time talking to sponsors than a team of TSM’s caliber has in League of Legends, currently. As a rule, sponsors are vary of relegation due to the danger of their investment becoming obsolete in half a year, if the team they sponsored gets relegated. Just like everything else concerning Overwatch League, the potential for success is awesome.
Blizzard also has a plan on how to connect wannabe owners with wannabe players. Early in 2017, before the next season starts, Blizzard will hold a Combine, where invited high-ranking players will be able to impress owners with their skills. Once the Combine is done, there will be a signing period for teams to finalize their rosters, followed by a Regular season on LAN and live Playoffs.
In the introductory video, Blizzard provided their vision of the progression from Solo Queue Scrub to Pro Player. According to them, first comes high rank in Competitive, then you should go to Online leagues. After that, you should compete in 3rd party LAN events and finally, once you’re good enough, you are supposed to become a Pro.
The whole thing is intriguing. It sounds almost too good to be true. People on the Internet pointed out that while the idea is great, it comes too late. A year ago, this would have been amazing. Now? Let’s see… EnVyUs has a team, Liquid has a team, Fnatic has a team, in fact, everyone has a team. A big chunk of top Overwatch talent is already signed to one org or another. What’s supposed to happen with those teams? Do their owners apply for ownership in the League, picking a city to represent and just continue doing business as usual? What happens with the Combine? The best already have contracts, the Combine is quite pointless for them. The only organizations, which would stand to gain something from it would be new ones, but the problem is that the unsigned players generally aren’t as good as the current pros, so the resulting roster would be a third-rate joke when compared to the best. All of this needs to be talked about.
As a final note, how long until we start seeing announcements about Paris Saint-Germain looking to enter Overwatch? The announcement about the formation of Philadelphia 76ers OW or Golden State Warriors OW? Both NBA teams already have an eSports organization apiece in their portfolio, the infrastructure is already there. With many traditional sports organizations looking to enter eSports, the Overwatch League is the natural place for them to compete. Why would they? Read our article about the subject right here: CLICK ME.