When Overwatch released in 2016, it immediately struck a chord with players all around the world who were looking to dive into a game that not only entertained them, but offered a variety of choices and pushed them to improve. Two years on, Blizzard hasn’t slowed down at all, in fact they’re ramping up, turning their latest hit game into a massive spectator sport. Overwatch League seeks to break down barriers that have existed in the esports industry, create long lasting teams and brands, and build a platform that’s engaging for even the most casual player.
Big Name Buy-In
Starting a new franchise is never cheap, and in the case of starting a new Overwatch League franchise, it’s so far from cheap that it’s almost unbelievable. For a franchise to participate in Overwatch League requires a minimum buy-in of $20,000,000. That’s twenty million dollars. And when you take into consideration that there won’t be any revenue sharing until 2021, it makes it a spectacularly huge risk for teams that aren’t fully committed. But this is what makes the Overwatch League so ground-breaking. Due to the exceptionally high buy-in cost, there’s more onus on the owners to create long-lasting brands and teams for fans to support.
While a team typically consists of 6-12 players, the support and guarantee behind the name is comparable to other sports. This helps breakdown a lot of the stigma that has surrounded esports as not being a “real sport”. This is especially true when you consider the likes of the Kraft Group, owners of the New England Patriots, has started their own team called Boston Uprising – it helps underline the importance that esports has in modern society.
Following on from the buy-in is the fact that Blizzard has set up the teams in a similar way to how other sports have done it throughout the years: by city. How this works is that teams that compete in the Overwatch League aren’t known by their regular team names, instead, they represent an entire city.
For the Overwatch League, OpTic Gaming will be known as the Houston Outlaws, and will be based in, you guessed it, Texas. This creates a whole new sense of ownership for the fans. You’re supporting your own team, your own city, and your city is obviously better than another city. But even if you’re not from said city, you will still be able to recognize the team behind the franchise name. It’s a massive deviation from how esport teams usually handle their branding, and an excellent way to penetrate the general public and garner more attention.
Better for the Player
With such a massive buy-in, the League has established itself as a professional sport, and as such, will have a lot of benefits for the pro players, such as an annual salary. In a recent post, Blizzard outlined what teams would be required to provide for their players, including: a minimum annual salary of $50,000, health insurance and retirement savings, as well as housing and practice facilities that meet professional standards.
Blizzard is ensuring that players are respected, have an income, and are taken care of by their teams. This offers players so much more security, and allows them to not only focus on the game, but their dedicated fans.
Digital Purchases Support Team
Another ground-breaking approach Blizzard is making in order to support teams and players is through digital purchases. Every team in the League has special in-game skins which you can purchase in order to show your support.
But the support isn’t just limited to showing your colors. Part of the money you spend purchasing a skin to support the Houston Outlaws goes directly to the team. Buying skins financially supports the players! This is true even if your team doesn’t manage to win the championship – every dollar along the way counts.
More At Stake
Some of the most exciting moments in esports are when everything is on the line for your team. Back in the CWL Championship 2017, when OpTic Gaming were plunged into the Loser Bracket, it was a harrowing moment for the players and the fans – but our seats got a work out from all the jittering and excited bouncing as the GreenWall cheered on. These are the stakes we all love, and with the Overwatch League, the stakes have never been higher.
A $20 million buy-in means serious business, and everyone must bring their A-game. While losing won’t get you kicked out, you will invariably be earning less, making it all the more important to fight tooth and nail for top billing, which in turn creates some intense moments for the fans at home.
For someone trying to get into esports for the first time, the entire industry can be extremely daunting. There’s so much jargon along with a lot of fast talking and even faster action – but Blizzard are pulling out all the stops to make Overwatch League as spectator-friendly as possible.
Teams will have home and away skins to help contrast them against the other teams. There are at least four spectator cameras, all of which assist in keeping the action in focus and providing the best angle for a given moment. There are even pre-game, mid-game, and post-game talks, just like you’d see on ESPN. Furthermore, the talent you can expect to see in these talks is truly astonishing, with the likes of MonteCristo and Crumbz bringing their years of expertise to the table.
Overwatch League App
Finally, an element which absolutely cannot be undersold is Blizzard’s incredible Overwatch League app for mobile. This app is perfect for someone who’s on the go but wants to stay connected to the action. The Overwatch League app shows you all the teams, past records and results, who’s playing the next few matches, you can even set alerts to inform you when your team is playing next, there are VODs of previous matches, the list goes on. It’s one of the best companion apps out there, and an absolute must-download for anyone following the Overwatch League.
Blizzard continues to kick goal after goal with their games, and Overwatch is no different. It’s no surprise that Blizzard has been able to deliver such a quality platform for the Overwatch League to launch on, and just goes to show the dedication and attention to detail that they’re able to achieve and maintain. We can’t wait to follow this season of the Overwatch League!