Blizzard Entertainment Unveils Plans For Worldwide "Overwatch" Pro E-Sports League
SPANNING THE GLOBE: In the coming three to four months, “Overwatch” league execs will conduct a road show around the world evaluating the potential for teams. They have no set number of team slots, or precise plan for the geographic distribution, but do intend to have teams across multiple continents. “The goal is to find the best operators we can,” Nanzer said. Blizzard wants to create new teams rather than involve existing "Overwatch" teams. The company will host a combine for players to try out for new teams before the first season begins, and any player picked up by a team during the signing period will be given a contract that includes a guaranteed salary and benefits package.
PERFECT FIT FOR E-SPORTS: Blizzard execs believe “Overwatch,” launched in May, is uniquely suited to a successful e-sports business. Unlike many popular games that were originally released as pure diversions and saw competitions develop organically among fans, Blizzard has had designs on a league from the beginning. Fan response has been strong; 20 million people now play the game, Blizzard says. “We’re able to think about scheduling in a really smart way, and where we’re placing the league, and the international component,” said Activision Blizzard Media Networks Chair Steve Bornstein. "And we weren’t stepping on anybody’s toes when we’re doing it, because the game is relatively new and was designed with eSports in mind." "Overwatch," Blizzard’s fourth major franchise, is a multiplayer, first-person shooter game, in which two teams of six compete to secure and defend positions on a map or escort goods from one point to another. Players act as one of several hero characters with different skill sets.
TELEVISION DEAL COMING? Activision Blizzard has not decided how league events will be distributed, but Bornstein hinted at a television deal in the future, though it will probably be viewed primarily online. “I’m not particularly hung up on what the platform is, I just want to make sure we have broad reach. I would not be surprised if there is terrestrial distribution,” he said. Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick said the “Overwatch” league is expected to make money in its own right, not merely act as a marketing tool for the publisher. A key goal of the league is to turn players into marketable celebrities. “If you’re going to celebrate your players, you’ve got to start by being able to pay them,” he said. “And we want our players to make a real living doing this, and be appropriate compensated for their skills. And also you can’t get owners to invest in infrastructure, in local marketing, and local ticketing capabilities and arenas if there’s not a prospect of profits of those owners." They hope for league play to begin in Q3 ‘17.