Pro-gaming took one more step toward sports dominance today with the unveiling of the first league of city-based professional teams.
The Overwatch League unveiled teams this morning based in Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Orlando, San Francisco, Seoul, South Korea and Shanghai, China.
With more than 30 million players and a growing, passionate fan base, the Blizzard Entertainment-developed hero shooter didn't seem to struggle finding monied backers for the official teams. Overwatch is the fastest game to reach the 30 million player count among Blizzard's stable of twenty number one games over the past decade. Other popular Blizzard titles include World of Warcraft, Hearthstone and Diablo.
Among the backers are Robert Kraft, chairman and CEO of The Kraft Group and the New England Patriots; Jeff Wilpon, chief operating officer of the New York Mets; the co-founder of esports team the Misfits; and tech companies in China and South Korea.
The pro-teams will receive an equal share of net revenues from league-wide advertising, ticketing and broadcast rights deals. They'll also keep all local revenue up to a set, but not announced, amount, according to Blizzard.
"We have been exploring the esports market for a number of years and have been waiting for the right opportunity to enter," Kraft, said in a statement. "The incredible global success of Overwatch since its launch, coupled with the league's meticulous focus on a structure and strategy that clearly represents the future of esports made this the obvious entry point for the Kraft Group."
Initially, the regular-season matches for the Overwatch League will be played at a yet-to-be-named arena in Los Angeles on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. More details on scheduling the tickets will be announced at a later date, according to Blizzard.
Each pro-team also has the rights to run up to five amateur events in their home territory each year.
The Overwatch League is "on track" to kick off later this year, according to the release.
"Overwatch is a game about a diverse group of international heroes who fight for an optimistic vision of the future, and the Overwatch League is an extension of that spirit," Blizzard Entertainment CEO and cofounder Mike Morhaime said in a statement. "We're building this league for fans–esports fans, traditional sports fans, gaming fans–and we're thrilled to have individuals and organizations who are as passionate about professional competition as we are, and who have extensive experience in all three fields, representing our first major international cities in the league."