Blizzard’s New Overwatch League Set To Launch In 2017

Published: Nov 8, 2016 - Last Updated: Sep 25, 2019

[toc]Blizzard Entertainment used the BlizzCon 2016 opening ceremony to announce details for its new Overwatch League.

In 2017, the first season will kick off with teams competing for spots.

Each team should represent major cities from different regions, a league arrangement that comes from professional sports leagues.

Game quickly became a triumph

Initially released in May this year, Overwatch has seen tremendous success in 2016. The game has garnered player growth like nothing ever seen before.

Blizzard announced last month that Overwatch has already reached more than 20 million registered accounts — a growth rate of roughly four million per month.

Overwatch has also greatly contributed to Blizzard’s revenues, helping the company reach record earnings during the second quarter this year.

Last month, the game developer introduced its first event tailored toward the popular product, the Overwatch World Cup. It started on Oct. 29 and was finalized this past weekend during BlizzCon.

Other Overwatch competitions have emerged since the game’s launch. ELEAGUE’s Overwatch Open and ESL’s Atlantic Showdown at Gamescom are two of the bigger ones thus far.

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Overwatch for sustainable esports

The Overwatch League model is somewhat different from the traditional setup of esports tournaments. Aiming to bring sustainability, the league will make sure that once teams get their spots, those spots will be secured. Also, players are promised to receive contracts with salaries, including benefits, upon being signed by league teams.

Said Blizzard Entertainment CEO and Co-founder Mike Morhaime in a press release:

“The Overwatch League represents not only the pinnacle of Overwatch competition, but also a genuine career opportunity for the most skilled Overwatch players.

We’re building a league that’s accessible to players and fans, sustainable, and exciting for everyone involved.”

The legitimacy of player contracts has been an important topic in the industry for awhile now. The industry is fairly young and still needs to catch up on regulation and standardization.

Riot Games, the company behind League of Legends, will supposedly also require participating North American and European League Championship Series teams to put players and staff on a contract in the 2017 season.

“Overwatch is a brand new game and a brand new ecosystem,” said Blizzard Vice President of Corporate Operations Gio Hunt in an interview with Polygon.

“We think having permanent spots for teams is really going to give team owners confidence—and not just team owners, but media partners, sponsors, everyone that’s going to be involved in the Overwatch league.”

Local Overwatch teams should emerge around the globe

By selecting teams that will represent major cities from different regions, Blizzard aims to support the growth and sustainability of local fan bases. This way, fans won’t have to follow their teams around as much and, instead can enjoy local events.

Explained Overwatch Esports Director Nate Nanzer:

“You typically see fans of esports teams are fans of individual players, and then they kind of stick with that team over the time.

But we think there’s an opportunity to bring in people who are interested in esports but maybe haven’t engaged much with it by adding that geographic element.”

After teams are established, Blizzard will hold an event where players will take part in tests of skill and drills to show off their abilities to coaches or scouts.

Those who did well during 2016, proving themselves online or during various competitions, will be invited to the event. This process will be carried out early next year, according to the announcement.

The season will be LAN format, where games will be played in front of live audiences. The locations are yet to be announced.

Image credit: Zarani aka Vanitea / CC BY-ND 2.0

Dejan Zalik
Dejan Zalik

Since: September 12, 2015

Dejan has been involved in gaming for over 10 years. Moving from classics like Diablo 2, Lineage 2, and Warcraft 3, he found his passion in Dota 2, which he’s been playing ever since. He also likes to keep up to date by reading and writing about whatever is happening in the industry.

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