Blizzard has announced the names of the owners of its first seven Overwatch League teams and some of them are big players in traditional sports.
Overwatch has been a massive success for Blizzard, but it is clear that the company is hoping to do something special with Overwatch League. Blizzard's approach to the Overwatch League is very similar to the one used by professional sports teams. The franchises are city-based and several of the team owners have ties to traditional teams such as Jeff Wilpon who owns the New York Mets.
The owners of the first seven franchises can be seen below.
- Boston: Patriots Chairman/CEO Robert Kraft
- New York: Mets COO and Sterling VC co-founder Jeff Wilpon
- Los Angeles: Noah Winston, CEO of Immortals, whose backers include AEG, Grizzlies owner Stephen Kaplan and Lionsgate
- Miami-Orlando: Ben Spoont, CEO/co-founder of Misfits Gaming, backed by the Miami Heat
- San Francisco: Andy Miller, chairman/founder of NRG eSports and a minority shareholder in the Sacramento Kings
- Shanghai: NetEase Inc., the distributor of Overwatch in China
- Seoul: Kevin Chou, co-founder and former CEO of mobile game developer Kabam
Most of the teams are located in the United States, but there is one in China and the other in South Korea. This is one area in which the Overwatch League will differ from traditional sports. Teams from multiple different countries will occasionally compete in events against one another. From an American perspective, it might seem a bit strange, but it's really no different than the World Cup.
As for the cities themselves, Blizzard told Gamespot that they wanted to focus on cities that had a high amount of Overwatch players.
"We looked at major cities around the world and came up with a list of cities that wasn't just based on population size but really the concentration of Overwatch players," Overwatch League commissioner Nate Nanzer said. "And once we had our cities identified, we set out and were talking to who we thought would be great owners. We wanted to make sure we were partnering with partners who, first and foremost, had a proven track record of building and growing a fan base."
Is Overwatch League The Future Of eSports?
Overwatch League is the first competitive eSports league to feature a traditional city-based structure. That, combined with the fact that several of the owners have ties to traditional sports, brings Overwatch League closer in line to traditional sports organizations such as the NBA. This isn't the first time that Blizzard has embraced the model of traditional sports. It's annual Heroes of the Storm tournament, Heroes of the Dorm, is based around universities competing for scholarship money.
It remains to be seen how successful Overwatch League will be, but if it does succeed, then we may see this model replicated in other eSports.