The Overwatch League kicked off yesterday evening, but continues for the rest of the weekend. Billionaires in the sporting world have invested heavily in the Overwatch League, which may be the most high profile esports initiative yet. Blizzard has a certain knack for theatrics and the Overwatch League is no different. I have already recieved two emails in less than 24 hours from Blizzard asking me to sign up for Overwatch League news and letting me know that “The Action Starts Now!” But what is the Overwatch League and should you care?
Even if you don’t like Overwatch, you should probably care about the Overwatch League. Blizzard has a long history of esports. StarCraft’s success on the competitive scene really propelled the company towards a heavy investment in marketing the longevity of their products. If Blizzard games have one common theme, its that they can be played for a very long time and almost exclusively. Overwatch was built with this philosophy in mind, and was designed for the future of esports.
Previously Blizzard has produced a robust league for the Heroes of the Storm video game. The schedule included regional tournaments, online qualifiers, and world class championships with hefty prize packages to the winners. Heroes of the Storm has not had the same level of success that Overwatch currently enjoys, which begs the question if the Heroes of the Storm Global Championship was just one big dress rehearsal for the Overwatch League.
There is a lot to say about the Overwatch League, but the most important thing to keep in mind is the league is still a work in progress. Numerous things will change from season to season, and we may even see changes within the first season. The Overwatch League is exciting because it brings structure to competitive video games, something that has been rare outside of large invitational taking place all over the world a few times a year. The Overwatch League promises to bring viewers multiple competitive matches every week for about seven months. This could have the potential to rival the MLB, NFL, or NBA in American sports.
First let’s look at what you can expect from the next few months:
There are currently 12 teams in the Overwatch League, with 6 in the Atlantic Division and 6 in the Pacific Division. The teams are based in real world cities, something that could generate a regional following for fans of the sport.
The Atlantic Division
The Pacific Division
The logos are fine, nothing to get too excited for…> OH WAIT, the Shanghai Dragons logo is awesome! I will also give props to the Houston Outlaws fun design. Can we take a minute and just agree that the New York Excelsior logo is not very good. They should have just named themselves after an energy drink, I think the Red Bulls would be a much better fit here.
And now you know more about the Overwatch League. Pick a favorite team, or the team closest to your region and start watching. We don’t know much about the playoff structure yet, (outside of the $3.5 million in performance bonuses) but with games going every week for 7 months someone could probably make a pretty good weekly podcast about the Overwatch League….
Check out the schedule for the weekend and watch a match or two just to see what all the hype is about.
Check out Blizzard’s official Overwatch League website for additional information and videos and recaps. You can also watch matches on twitch.tv/overwatchleague
One last thing that is important to note, these players are professional athletes. Blizzard made a big deal last summer about the minimum salaries players receive ($50,000/year), health insurance, retirement benefits, and a one year contract. In addition to housing and practice facilities during the season. It is great to see such a high standard being set by Blizzard and hopefully we see this model creep into other areas of esports soon.
If you can believe it, I’m actually about to play some Overwatch, wish me luck.
Jake “prettyboyplaid” Fredericks