Overwatch League is set to kick off in a few months, and we might now have a slightly clearer idea of the kinds of names that will be fielding teams in Blizzard’s inaugural event.
The owners of the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins, Robert Kraft and Stephen Ross respectively, have each spent millions to land a spot in the Overwatch League, according to a report citing sources close to Activision Blizzard. The company has been actively courting major sports brand owners to sign up for the event and, according to e-sports journalist Richard Lewis, those efforts have paid off with the company apparently striking deals with Kraft and Ross.
— Scotty (@ScottyTidwell) May 8, 2017
Overwatch League has seen Blizzard engage in constant dialogue with journalists as part of its promotional push, according to Lewis, as well as several meetings with the owners of top sports franchises. The details of how the Overwatch League will work are still sparse. For instance, it’s not clear whether the teams of Kraft and Ross will compete under the brand names of their respective owners’ franchises. However, Lewis notes, since the league is expected to center on regional franchises, it’s obvious which parts of the country that those two teams will relate to.
Bobby Kotick, the CEO of Activision Blizzard, is said to have landed these Overwatch League deals directly and he has been involved in making pitches to sports franchise owners. One of Lewis’ sources claimed Kotick “spends about half of his working hours on this project alone and has been happy to finally land some big names for the league.”
As part of the promotional push for Overwatch and the league, Blizzard has been talking up the standard of play in the game, such as claiming that around 75,000 of the game’s 30 million player base are playing at a professional standard, which some have suggested is an overblown figure, but one designed to increase potential interest in Overwatch League from major brands.
Bobby Kotick: we have 75,000 players of 32 million on overwatch who are professional level. #MIGlobal
— Paresh Dave (@peard33) May 3, 2017
One of the major sticking points to any potential deal for a spot in Overwatch League is the price tag Blizzard has apparently placed on it. The figure has reached as much as $15 million for certain territories, a figure which would cause many to balk at, particularly when it’s a risky endeavor and the viewing figures for Overwatch has some way to go to match, for instance, those of Leagueof Legends.
Yet Blizzard has an ace card in its back pocket with a recent report from Morgan Stanley suggesting that Overwatch League can potentially generate $720 million per year, based on optimistic projections and e-sports trends. That report may have proven critical in convincing Kraft and Ross to sign up.
— erik lonnquist (@ggDoA) May 4, 2017
But while there’s apparently some interest from major figures in the sporting world, professional Overwatch teams and long-standing e-sports brands may be completely priced out of Overwatch League. One e-sports owner suggested to Lewis that the Morgan Stanley estimates don’t make sense given a team’s current earning potential. An Overwatch tournament contested this past weekend with some of the top professional teams in North America had a prize pool of just $5,000.
The e-sports owner who spoke with Lewis also claimed that Blizzard had not approached them or other legacy e-sports brands regarding an investment in Overwatch League. The owner said that Blizzard doesn’t expect those brands and teams to have the kind of money they’re seeking for a spot. A consequence of that is that should more sports franchise owners invest in Overwatch League spots, they may end up recruiting some of the best players from professional Overwatch teams.
Overwatch League is scheduled to begin in Q3 2017, perhaps as soon as July.
[Featured Image via Blizzard Entertainment]