The Overwatch League started this past week and it’s kind of a big deal. It’s the first real push to make e-sports into a viable, watchable event in the same vein as regular sports. Normally e-sports are focused around tournaments – a company or organization sponsors a particular team who will work together and compete in tournaments across the globe all year for money and prizes. One organization can sponsor teams for multiple different games – Cloud 9, for example, sponsors teams in Rocket League, Dota 2, Counter-Strike, and Overwatch among others. In certain genres, though, there aren’t teams and it’s just individual players who play at all the tournaments that are hosted at different conventions. Fighting games are a specific example – for tournaments like EVO it’s all individuals who are competing for the prize money.
Overwatch League is an attempt by Activision Blizzard to make e-sports more than just single tournaments that happen across the year. They’re specifically using the popularity of Overwatch as the game to launch their bid into a possible multi-billion dollar sports league that will generate revenue through thousands of fans watching the games. Like regular sports teams, the teams competing in the Overwatch League are based out of particular cities so there are “home” and “away” teams just like other sports. There are owners of teams who are forking up the cash to get the team in the league – Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, is the owner of the Boston Uprising team in the Overwatch League. If that doesn’t make you realize how big a deal this is and just what Activision Blizzard is attempting to accomplish with the Overwatch League, I don’t know what will.