Blizzard Tries to Fix Esports With Overwatch League
To the uninitiated – and, frankly, even to many of the devoted – the world of esports seems wild, wooly and inscrutable. The structures that give traditional sports shape are a rarity in this world, and the things that make participation viable for players and owners – like salaries and assurances of permanence – differ from league to league and game to game, when they exist at all. Blizzard is aiming to fix all that with the Overwatch League.
Set to debut next year, the league will take cues from traditional sports, right down the fundamentals. Teams will be based in cities around the world (so get ready for funny names, and hope that owners know better than to rely on internet polls), and crucially, the league is making a few basic assurances for players: Team owners will have to abide by minimum salary requirements, and players will be guaranteed benefits. As for the team owners, Blizzard says it's courting organizations who already have skin in the esports game – the likes of Evil Geniuses, Cloud 9 – as well as those with roots in traditional sports. It's not unheard of – retired Lakers forward Rick Fox made a big investment in esports last year with the purchase of a League of Legends team, and just last month, the Philadelphia 76ers picked up two. It's a bold and admirable move by Blizzard, and it's important that it happen this early in Overwatch's lifespan, before its competitive scene has fully coalesced. Though Blizzard has assured there's a place for third-party tournaments during the league's off-season, the news has already proven controversial to those invested in the nascent scene.