Overwatch League Teams Must Create New Names Exclusive To That Property
Activision Blizzard is requiring all franchises in its new Overwatch League to create new team names exclusive to the league, Commissioner Nate Nanzer confirmed. That means that esports stalwarts like Immortals and Cloud9, who compete in numerous game titles under an increasingly valuable brand, must start fresh with new identities in Overwatch. It is less of a concern for esports newcomers like the Kraft Group or Jeff Wilpon’s Sterling.VC. Since the earliest days of organized competitive gaming, esports organizations have fielded multiple teams on a single brand platform, but Overwatch is following the lead of established traditional sports leagues, Nanzer said. “We’ve seen that best practices in several major traditional sports leagues involve keeping team brands exclusive to the league the teams belong to, and we see the value to the league, teams, and fans in following that precedent for this particular aspect of the Overwatch League,” he said. Overwatch is the first esports property to grant franchises exclusivity to a given geographic area, and building regional loyalties is a key part of the plan. The Kraft Group is already using the term “Overwatch Boston.” Team owners contacted about the rule declined to speak publicly on the subject, but Intersport Exec Dir of Esports Kurt Melcher said it is a major concession for an existing team wanting to participate in Overwatch. “What’s the bigger brand? I think Overwatch thinks they’re the bigger brand and that will carry the day, and endemic weight of Cloud9 or of an Immortals is less important, and they can put that forward more prominently,” Melcher said. “But it’s a little presumptive, and I think it’s a little disruptive.” Activision Blizzard has sold at least nine Overwatch franchises, including to the ownership groups of at least four existing esports franchises.