Blizzard’s Overwatch League will bring professional eSports to cities worldwide

Overwatch League

Blizzard have revealed details of their rumoured Overwatch League at BlizzCon today, which will create teams for cities around the world and draft players in a similar structure to the NFL.

To find out more of what was announced at BlizzCon 2016, check out our event hub.

The Overwatch League, to be launched in 2017, will create a “path to pro” for any player to earn a place on a professional team by first ranking highly on the competitive ladder for their region, or performing well at third-party esports events and being invited to the player combine.

Player combines, similar to the NFL draft, will put the best players through a series of tests while scouters for major teams in the league pick out who would be the best additions to their squad.

Blizzard is hoping to maintain stability in the scene by providing teams, based around geographical locations like cities, a secure place in the league they will keep between seasons. Players themselves will also be provided security through professional contracts stipulating benefits and minimum salary packages, as well as revenue shares with the team owners.

The plan is much bolder than many were expecting from Blizzard, who appear to be taking the lack of established eSports ecosystem in the game as carte blanche to try something new, tying teams to locations despite the transnational nature of teams that have already formed.

“We definitely envision a world where if you live in a city where there’s an Overwatch League team, you have regular opportunities to go see that team live,” global director of Overwatch eSports Nate Nanzer told ESPN. “We think by localizing esports we can unlock [local] revenue streams for esports teams that exist for traditional sports teams but don’t exist in today’s esports ecosystem. … We also think [localization] is going to create a stronger bond between the fans, the teams and the players.”

The Overwatch World Cup, set to crown its victor at BlizzCon tomorrow, seems far closer to Blizzard’s vision of eSports – with its teams made up of players from each participating country – than it originally appeared as an exhibition.

We’ll find out more about the league as it nears its launch window next year.