The esports system in the United States has taken another big step towards setting up a system akin to that used by other sports with the news that Activision Blizzard, developers of the Overwatch World League and Call of Duty League, have struck a deal for an Overwatch Collegiate League.
The deal was struck with UMG Media, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Torque Esports, and the series, called the UMG Overwatch Collegiate Clash, will be contested over an eight-week period, with the schools competing for a prize fund of $40,000.
The cash, however, will be available to the victors in the form of esports scholarships.
The importance of collegiate esports
As we already alluded to in a recent article, collegiate esports is a key developmental step in the establishment of the esports industry and there are already hundreds of colleges across the United States, and at similar educational establishments in other countries, that have an active and thriving esports scene.
Currently, hundreds of colleges across the United States have their own Overwatch team and across the first seven weeks of the tournament, teams will be selected from this group to compete against each other, with the aim of earning a place in the finals, which take place on the eighth week of the tournament.
The UMG Overwatch Collegiate Clash will be streamed live at Twitch.tv, to further enhance the exposure for the next generation of esports talent.
It is abundantly clear that this development is another key step towards setting up a parallel system for potential esports professionals as exists for young wannabe football, basketball or baseball stars, who move through the school system before the very best are eventually drafted onto professional teams.
“Becoming the Development League”
Speaking about the agreement, Torque’s Esports President and CEO Darren Cox clearly outlined their decision to echo how many sports operate in America in particular.
“Esports observers have highlighted colleges in the USA as a big opportunity for publishers and brands alike, and Torque will use this huge opportunity with Overwatch to prove the value to all parties.”
“Like stick and ball sports, college competition is becoming the development league where young esports stars of the future are honing their skills and preparing to become professional gamers. It is a clear step to the ‘big leagues’.”
An exciting development for OWL and Call of Duty Leagues
This news is also exciting news for the teams participating in Activision Blizzard’s other two big franchises, the Overwatch World League and Call of Duty League. In addition to this year, Coronavirus concerns notwithstanding, seeing teams play home and away fixtures in the leagues, matching the ‘sports model’ of competition, we now see clear signs that underneath this top-level, a collegiate level of competition is being developed.
It would be hugely surprising, once the Call of Duty League is a little more established if the same process is followed in setting up a collegiate level feeder for this professional competition too.
For esports gamers, it is also a fantastic opportunity to develop their skills at a secondary level of gaming, in what will be a highly competitive environment against competitors of a similar ability.
The first UMG Overwatch Collegiate Clash is expected to start in late March 2020.