It’s a less-than-ideal way for Blizzard’s long-awaited esports league to begin.
The Overwatch League preseason began this week, although not with all of the expected players. Philadelphia Fusion had to withdraw from the league at the last minute due to “logistics issues,” leaving Blizzard scrambling to rearrange the schedule around this hole. Blizzard Watch theorizes that it Philadelphia’s problems may be related to visa issues or a player suspension. In any case, the studio said that it expects the team will be back to compete in the regular season.
To draw in the larger Overwatch community into the excitement, Blizzard teased the addition of league uniforms next year as in-game skins. The studio also hired painters to create large murals for the game in cities lately, which you can see below.
Blizzard continues raking in the big bucks for its grand vision of Overwatch League, adding three new teams to its roster this week: one from Philly and two from Texas. They’ll bring the final total to 12, where it will stay for its “inaugural season.” The new teams are:
Comcast Spectacor (Philadelphia), leader in sports and entertainment and owner of the Philadelphia Flyers
Team Envy (Dallas), veteran esports organization with experience across multiple genres
OpTic Gaming (Houston), established esports organization known for its passionate global fan base
They’ll join venture capitalists from all over the world, including reps and owners of Cloud9, the LA Rams, New England Patriots, New York Mets, Immortals, Misfits Gaming, NRG Esports, Netease, and Kabam, which superficially secures the League’s future on three continents.
Blizzard has further announced that the season is “just a few short months away” — in fact, preseason play will begin on December 6th, with the season beginning January 10th and concluding with playoffs in July of 2018. This year, at least, all pre- and regular-season games will be held at Blizzard’s shiny new e-sports arena in LA.
Everybody knows that if you are truly serious about being a legitimate force in the e-sports industry, you have to own your own arena. It’s just common sense. And soon enough you can marvel at Blizzard’s games in the studio’s own venue in Los Angeles.
On October 7th, the Blizzard Arena Los Angeles will open as “a cutting-edge live-event destination” for e-sports players and fans. The arena is situated in Burbank Studios and features several sound stages, practice areas, and control rooms. Its first showing will be the Overwatch Contenders Season One playoffs from the 7th through the 8th. The arena is also expected to be the center staging ground for Blizzard’s anticipated Overwatch League later this year.
CEO Mike Morhaime explained the decision to open up an e-sports venue: “We’re at a tipping point for e-sports and we look forward to helping usher in a new era of competition-based entertainment. As we open the doors of Blizzard Arena Los Angeles and welcome fans from around the world, we’re honored to bring the best in Blizzard e-sports to the same stage that some of the biggest names in entertainment have called home.”
He may not be old enough to vote, but 17-year-old Jay Won is already making more money than you. Probably.
Won, an Overwatch player who goes by the handle “sinatraa,” just landed an $150,000-per-year contract with NRG Esports. He will be playing for the e-sports firm on its Overwatch League team, enjoying revenue-sharing options and team bonuses above and beyond his annual salary. Which, again, is $150,000.
Apparently Won is such a good player and in such great demand that there was a bidding war between teams to grab him. He’s also part of the North American Overwatch World Cup team, which will be competing in early November at BlizzCon.
This is merely the latest drop of wild news to fall into the bucket of Overwatch League craziness. The fledgling league is expanding aggressively as it seeks to establish itself and the game as a legitimate e-sports outlet. Last month, the OWL expanded to include teams from London and L.A.
. Thanks Sally!
Blizzard continues raking in the big bucks for its fledgling Overwatch League, adding two new teams to its roster: a London team purchased by Cloud9 founder Jack Etienne and a Los Angeles team picked up by Stan and Josh Kroenke, well-known to sports fans here in the US for having their fingers in multiple meatpies, and by meatpies I mean actual sports teams like the LA Rams. Etienne and the Kroenkes will join venture capitalists including reps and owners of the New England Patriots, New York Mets, Immortals, Misfits Gaming, NRG Esports, Netease, and Kabam, which superficially secures the Leagues’ future on three continents.
We’ve previously reported on the structure of the League and its absurd $20M ante, which at least one gaming industry analyst firm has deemed unlikely to achieve much success, given its assessment that Overwatch is difficult to watch, unapproachable, expensive, in competition with Amazon’s Twitch, and on a collision course with antitrust law. Whee. Major League Baseball is also disputing Blizzard’s right to OWL logo.
Here’s some news that should make you feel special. As of right now, as long as you’re over 18 years old and play Overwatch, Blizzard considers you a “free agent” who can be signed on to the developing Overwatch League and its teams. And why wouldn’t someone want you? You’ve got mad skills, or so we hear from our street sources.
An official signing window is about to open between August 1st and October 30th for teams to scout and sign players to contracts. This will only happen for the first season, as the league will be established in the future and will go through a different process.
If you are signed on to a team (and we’re rooting for you, chum), you’ll be agreeing to a one-year contract with a minimum salary of $50,000, health insurance, a retirement plan, and a percentage of team performance bonuses. Overwatch League teams will be made up of between six and 12 players from any region who must be housed and offered training facilities by the team owner.
A world as intricate and fanatically followed as Overwatch is bound to spark a question or two about its mysteries and secrets. In a new Ars Technica video, the dev team tackled over 11 minutes of community queries about lore, game design, double-jumping, and which hero took the longest to make (that would be Genji).
Moving over to the competitive side of things, the Overwatch League commissioner announced that the studio is sending out a survey to some of the top teams and players to help with the preparations of the launch of the league this year. The recipients of this survey come from a “scouting report” of potential (but not assured) candidates for league participation.
This survey may come as a hopeful sign to players and professional teams that are seriously concerned about what they perceive as a stagnated and decimated e-sports scene around the game.
Learn about all of the “unsolved mysteries” of Overwatch after the break!
Remember how Blizzard started to focus MLG in on Overwatch as an e-sports venue at the same time well-known teams started fleeing the scene? What was all that about? It seems it might be as simple as money; according to teams looking to take part in Blizzard’s heavily hyped Overwatch League, teams need to buy in to the tune of $20 million. That’s without any promises of profit sharing until 2021 and with no real certainty about the long-term. In other words, it’s just not a good investment for the teams.
Blizzard’s official response is that certain parties may be spreading misinformation about the fees and contract terms to aid in negotiatons, and the studio remains committed to supporting the game as an e-sports platform. Of course, it’s going to prove rather impossible to make any headway in that field if no one actually wants to get in on the competitive scene in the first place, so we’ll see if those professional teams were a blip on the radar or bespoke a larger trend.
It’s time to get past the faux-surprise over Sombra’s official announcement at BlizzCon to start getting prepped for her arrival. The newest Overwatch hero will take neon-tinted hacking and stealthy infiltration into the already-competitive battlefield.
While Sombra will land on the public test realm next week, you can check out her introduction via the short film “Infiltration.” Get a feel for Sombra’s personality and ability toolset with the animated videos below, and then stay tuned for a look at the new Overwatch League, which is coming in 2017.