Well everyone, the time has come. It’s been over a year since Overwatch League was announced by Blizzard and now the time has come for the inagural season to start. This piece will be an introduction to the league for people new to eSports as well as people who are very familiar with eSports but not used to this new format. So the Overwatch League will be composed of 12 teams from all over the world. Instead of a region attached to each team their trying a more traditional (and in my opinion a more fan friendly) approach where each team represents a city. Overwatch League said that they wanted to do this to make it easier for fans to be attached to teams. Between you and me there are far too many eSports teams from too many different regions and I find it very overwhelming. What I want to accomplish with this article is giving everyone at least a rough understanding of the league, teams, and even the ownership groups. So lets get into it!
Overwatch League was a brain child of Blizzard Entertainment and was announced at Blizzcon 2016. The best part of this league is that “anyone” can join. I put anyone in quotations simply because obviously not everyone is good enough to get picked up by a team. That said, the team behind Overwatch League hosts a series of tournaments in which anyone can participate. Players move up the ladder of tournaments and are hopefully scouted and signed to one of the 12 teams in the league. Now the teams themselves were a hefty price tag for the owners to buy into the league. The average cost of an Overwatch League team was around 20 million dollars. That’s a lot of scratch. Upon entering the league the teams were in charge of employing their own staff as well as scouting and ultimately signing players to their rosters. Another thing that is different and I’m sure attracted playersto this league is the way the player contracts are set up. Each player is guaranteed a minumum salary of 50,000 USD as well as health insurance, and a retirement plan. Which I’m sure players like. I know that if I had that safety net to fall on it would certainly attract me to this league over others.
As I’m typing this article the preseason is underway. December 6-9th is the lenght of the preseason. Also during the preseason every player that is eligible to play, must play. One issue that took place already this season though was with the Philadelphia Fusion who had visa issues with their players and weren’t able to get their team to Los Angeles where every game during this inaugural season will be played. Luckily San Francisco Shock was willing to take their place during the preseason so the games will go on as schedueled. The regular season starts January 10th and continues till June 16th. The teams will be fighting for a 1.3 million championship prize as well as being the first every ever Overwatch League champions. The regular season will be broken into 4 stages. Stage 1 will go from January 10th-February 10th. Stage 2 will take place from February 21st-March 24th. Stage 3 will run from April 4th-May 5th. And finally stage 4 will go from May 16th-June 16th. Every match during the regular season will consist of four map sets and each stage of the regular seasonwill have its own 8 map pool.
If you’re new to eSports Overwatch can be a little bit overwhelming due to all the craziness taking place rather frequently but luckily Blizzard took this into account and created several new camera angles to make the game easier to watch and implemented probably my favorite thing as a fan, team jerseys for each character in the game. This not only looks awesome but makes it possible for people to know which team they’re spectating. Blizzard also recently announced that team jerseys in game will become available early 2018. You will have to use a new form of currency in the game called ‘League Tokens” which will cost actual money but the money goes right back into the league so if you’re a big fan like I am, you can get a sick skin for your favorite character and support the league itself. So I think I’ve covered enough of the league itself. Time to get into the teams? I think so.
Im going to break the teams down by division to make it easier for you guys as well. Lets do this!
Player to watch: Gamsu
Owner: Kraft Sports Group
Hailing from the capital of my home state Massachusetts is the Boston Uprising. The team is owned by Robert Kraft who is the owner and CEO of the New England Patriots as well as the New England Revolution. Christopher “HuK” Loranger is the President of Gaming for the team. Boston has been predicted to be one of the lowest ranked teams in the whole league because they do not have many big name players on the roster but much like their brothers on the New England Patriots, players who are told no often band together to make something special.
Player to watch: SPREE
Owner: OpTic Gaming
Coming from the great state of Texas is one of two teams from that state. The ownership group is a well known team from traditional eSports, OpTic gaming. OpTic is a major name in eSports across several games. I’m sure they’re going to be looking to make a big splash in the Overwatch League for years to come.
Player to watch: Gesture
Owner: Cloud 9
Another team with a large reach across the eSports universe is obviously Cloud 9. I’m sure you’ve heard their name more than once. They’re well known for their NA League of Legends teams and have a very recognizable logo. London’s team is made up of a lot of very talented players from the champion factory we know as South Korea. Look for London to be a powerhouse in the league this year.
Player to watch: Logix
Florida joins the ranks of the Overwatch League with Florida Mayhem. Owned by Misfits gaming and managed by Andy “Crazycaps” Walda. Misfits is based out of the UK and have teams in CS:GO, Hearthstone, Heroes of the storm and more. Also as of now Florida is the only team that consists strictly of 6 players but they still have time to sign more before the season starts in January.
New York Excelsior.
Player to watch: Meko
Owner: Jeff Wilpon
Jeff Wilpon is the COO of the major league baseball team the New York Mets. As another traditional sports team owner taking a chance on eSports in America its clear to see that eSports is rapidly growing. The Excelsior will be lead into battle by several players from the Overwatch World Cup champions South Korea. This is another team to keep an eye on.
Player to watch: Boombox
Owner: Comcast Spectator
Coming from the city of brotherly love is the Philadelphia Fusion. Owned by Comcast Spectator who also owns the NHL franchise the Philadelphia Flyers will look to make a splash in a city thats been starved for championships for a while now. As mentioned earlier the Fusion will not be participating in the preseason due to player logistical issues but look for them to come out swinging when the regular season begins.
Player to watch: Seagull
Owner: Team Envy
The other team in the fight for Texas supremacy. The Dallas Fuel are owned by Team Envy, another prolific name in eSports. Envy has a team for almost every eSport out there and have been around since2007. Envy will look to maintain their good name as well as sway some fans from the Houston Outlaws. Let the fight for Texas begin!
Los Angeles Gladiators.
Player to watch: Hydration
Owner: Kroenke Sports & Entertainment
One of the two Los Angeles franchises that are picked rather highly to make a run at the championship this year. The Gladiators are owned by the Kroenke Sports & Entertainment group for own several well know traditional sports teams such as Arsenal F.C., The Los Angeles Rams, Denver Nuggets and, The Colorado Avalanche. Look for the Gladiators to make a deep run this year with a very talented roster and stronger coaching and leadership.
Los Angeles Valiant.
Player to watch: Kariv
If you follow eSports at all I’m sure you’ve heard of or seen Immortals. Like the other big name eSports teams involved in the Overwatch League this year, Immortals also has a long history of eSports success and has teams involved in all major eSports. Immortals is a relativly new franchise in eSports but have made a name for themselves in a very short amount of time. Look for the Valiant and Gladiators games to very intense and engaging as each team will fight for “home field advantage” while playing at the Blizzard Arena in LA this year.
San Francisco Shock.
Player to watch: Babybay
Owner: NRG eSports
I was lucky enough to watch almost every San Fran game this preseason and I was blown away by this team. They have insane talent in Babybay and iDDqD. Babybay is one of the best Windowmakers I’ve seen ever and iDDqd played a ridiculous Tracer in their second preseason game. The Shock are owned by NRG eSports and much like I’ve said about the other teams, the eSports teams that have Overwatch League teams are all very well known teams with backgrounds in winning. NRG is no different. Look for the Shock to also make splash during the third stage of this season when Sinatraa turns 18 and is eligible to play on their roster, making this team all the more dangerous.
Player to watch: munchkin
Owner: Kevin Chou
With this team being the representative for South Korea they are obviously pegged as a top 4 team this year. If you’re new to eSports, South Korea dominates almost every game. Kevin Chou, the owner of the Dynasty works for Kabam. Kabam is an interactive entertainment company that markets freemium mobile games. The Dynasty roster is full of highly sought after players from South Korea. Some of whom played on the Korean roster for the Overwatch World Cup. Look for this team to be a heavy hitter this year.
Player to watch: Roshan
The representative from China is the Shanghai Dragons. The team is owned by NetEase. A Chinese internet company and Blizzard regional partner. China had several choices for their team and from what I’ve seen most people are surprised that they decided to choose this roster over other available ones but this team has strong leadership and some well established players. Look for this team to make a run at the playoffs this season.
So there it is folks. An overview of the league, teams, and ownership groups. I hope after reading this that you’re as excited as I am to watch the games. The preseason is in the books and now it’s time for the regular season to start in January. Also I want to let you know that the games will not be streamed on Twitch. To watch the games you will have to go to OverwatchLeague.com or MLG.tv. Also if you’re like me and want to buy team jerseys or merchandise you can go to Gear.Blizzard.com. They sell hats and jerseys so you can represent your favorite teams. Hope you guys are as excited as I am and remember to stay tuned to my blog for more news about the league!