When the Overwatch League was announced last November, it seemed clear that Blizzard intended to offer a consistent and stable base for the professional esports side of the game's community, albeit one with a franchise system that would be potentially expensive for prospective teams. Think more NBA or NFL than much of the current esports set up. But that plan, and recent rumors about the costs for those franchises, have stirred up controversy.
Esports teams CompLexity Gaming and Team SoloMid have stepped away from Overwatch and cite the league as one of the factors. ESPN published an article in which "multiple sources" said Blizzard is asking for $20 million franchise fees to be part of the Overwatch League. Meanwhile esports tournament host Richard Lewis reported earlier this week that the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins have already signed multi-million dollar deals with the League, and that Activision CEO Robert "Bobby" Kotick set up the deals personally. "Bobby has been really busy on this one making personal house calls and constantly talking up the league. He spends about half of his working hours on this project alone and has been happy to finally land some big names for the league," an unnamed source told Lewis.
Blizzard provided us with a statement addressing the controversy and those rumors, and you can read it in its entirety below.
"We appreciate that there's a lot of enthusiasm about the Overwatch League, which has translated into months of speculation – including reports circulating unverified and wildly ranging rumors from anonymous sources about purported deal terms, team pricing, and other details. We understand the interest in the rumors, and we feel it’s important to clarify some things for our community.
First, we want to be clear that our ultimate goal is to create an exciting Overwatch esports ecosystem, the pinnacle of which will be the Overwatch League, that's accessible to a wide audience, sustainable, and rewarding for everyone involved. We're doing our best to take great care with building this ecosystem, and as with much of what we do, we don't release information until we're at a place where it makes sense to do so.
Second, we'd like to dispel any rumors that we're ignoring endemics. Anyone who knows Blizzard understands how deeply we care about the communities around our games. The league is built upon the best elements of endemic esports programs and traditional sports, and we’re in active discussions with many teams and owners from both worlds because it will take a village to stand up a league with such an unprecedented structure. Those conversations have been going well and there’s a lot of excitement around our ambitious plans.
Finally, it's important to think twice about statements from unnamed sources, who may try to leverage the media to deliberately spread misinformation as bargaining tactics or for other competitive reasons. We look forward to officially sharing real details about the league and the ecosystem as a whole as we continue the development process. In the meantime we are staying focused on our goal of creating an awesome Overwatch esports experience for players, partners, and fans, and we want to thank everyone for their continued support."