Information surrounding the Overwatch league has been building recently with reports of an initial six investors secured, as well as the launch of their official OWL Twitter yesterday. Today, Sports Business Daily released an article detailing the initial seven cities and their owners, along with a torrent of new information on the format of the initial season of OWL.
The announced seven city slots and their respective owners are:
- 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
The report also confirmed that all matches for the first season are to be held in a single location at an esports arena in Los Angeles, to give teams time to prepare 3,000 - 6,000 seat venues for home and away games in future seasons. An announcement from Overwatch League Commissioner Nate Nanzer made it all official:
In combination with the official post on the overwatchleague.com website, these announcements have shed more light on who will be in the league and how it will work. Of the seven spots only three are held by endemic esports organisation owners - NRG, Immortals and Misifts - while the rest will presumably be looking to the scouting report being produced by Blizzard to fill their rosters.
There were several key parts to the announcement aside from the teams involved. The most pleasing is that the Overwatch League will launch by the end of 2017, putting previous rumours of a June 2018 release to bed. Alongside this, each team will receive licenses to run five local events a year to compliment the Open Division and Contenders, potentially opening the door for local talent to impress and be picked up, furthering Blizzard's desire to build a path from the amateur to professional level. There is also, of course, the added benefit of helping build their local fan bases.
The press releases also gave an insight into how the finances behind the league will work with net revenues from Overwatch League being shared between all participating teams:
We’re keen on making sure that teams will be able to share in the Overwatch League’s overall financial success and be rewarded for investing in their home cities. With that in mind, teams will all receive an equal share of net revenues from league-wide advertising, ticketing, and broadcast rights deals; at the same time, they will keep all local revenues up to a set amount each year (past that amount, a portion of the local revenues will go back into the league-wide shared pool for teams). Overwatch players will be able to support the collective teams via special in-game items, as 50% of the revenues from these items will flow into the shared revenue pool. These arrangements will help ensure that teams have the resources to establish and grow their local Overwatch communities for years to come.
It is so far unclear how this information meshes with the ESPN article by Jacob Wolf, wherein it was reported that teams would not be guaranteed revenue sharing until 2021 and only after certain undisclosed conditions were met.
Blizzard are clearly committed to the league succeeding as a whole, and shared profits will also give all members security about their investment and funds to build their local presence. This announcement is well timed with the Overwatch World Cup starting this weekend in Shanghai, as Blizzard moves the hype train into full gear. With more details of participating cities and league structure coming soon it is an exciting time as we see the Overwatch League take form.
For those hungry for even more information and clarification on key points, Nate Nanzer is scheduled to expand on his brief interview below with overwatch.majorleaguegaming.com at 12:00 EDT / 18:00 CEST / 01:00 KST.