The league is already profitable, filling a stadium during championships in July that saw matches broadcast on Disney and its ESPN channels in the US, according to Activision eSports league chief Pete Vlastelica. New teams in Chengdu, Hangzhou, Paris, Toronto, Vancouver, and Washington DC for the 2019 season bring the total number in the Overwatch League to 20.
"Having been in the traditional sport space, it certainly catches your eye when anything is as explosive, fast-moving, and exciting as this," said Drew McCourt, whose company DM Esports owns the rights to the Paris team. "It has massive potential. There is huge latent demand for this in a turbo-charged demographic that feels this in an incredibly emotional way."
McCourt is president of McCourt Global, an investment firm boasting interests ranging from real estate and finance, to sports and media. His father, global chairman Frank McCourt, bought French football club Olympique de Marseille several years ago and formerly owned the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team.
Audiences for traditional sports broadcast on cable or television channels are getting older, while the Overwatch League provides opportunity to connect with the internet generation who get their entertainment online, Drew McCourt reasoned.
Since its launch in January, the Overwatch League has developed its own stars and legions of fans who follow the tournament either virtually or in person at live events. Fans spent 160 million hours watching leading Overwatch players compete, according to Activision Blizzard chief executive Bobby Kotick. Launched in January, the competition comprises franchises representing cities on three continents.
The league's models are the major US professional sports leagues such as the National Football League or the National Basketball Association. Overwatch itself is a first-person shooter video game which sees teams of six players battle rival teams in a fast-paced, futuristic setting.
The game was developed by Blizzard, the California-based company best known for creating the World Of Warcraft online phenomenon. The vision is for Overwatch League to become a true global competition, expanding to 28 teams, and featuring regular matches between teams on opposite sides of the world, such as Paris taking on Beijing.
Hot eSport games such as battle royale style Fortnite and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds are global sensations, but don't have the city-based league structure being built by Blizzard.
"There will always be games of the moment, but great leagues sustain games," Vlastelica said. "We learned from traditional sports leagues." – AFP Relaxnews