Last night we learned more about how the Overwatch League will work and why Blizzard is setting it up, thanks to ChanmanV’s interview on Twitch with their global eSports director, Nate Nanzer.
If you're the competitive type, you'll probably enjoy some of the other best multiplayer games on PC.
Importantly, we learned about the problems Blizzard diagnosed in the way that eSports has been done in the past. “Players could universally be treated better. We wanted to get rid of the bad contracts,” says Nanzer.
“In eSports right now there's no clear path to the top. There should be a more structured way for people who are super good at esports to get noticed. And once they are there they should be treated more like traditional athletes. We want to create an ecosystem where the best players are celebrated the way they should be. The best way to ensure that that happens is to ensure that the team owners make money - they won't be able to pay players better unless they are making money."
Blizzard looked to traditional sports to find a model that could achieve this, concluding localisation was the answer: “It became clear that in all of the sports leagues that the global sponsorship money only accounts for a fraction of what teams take in,” whereas at a local level, fans spend big on tickets to watch live games, and more on merchandise at the venue. “We hope that by having these local teams that in a few years every team has home games. There's millions of kids around the world that would love to go to an esports tournament and buy merch, but can't because of travel costs. These localized teams will unlock lots of local revenue.”
On Reddit, user ImaTracerManLuL asked “does Blizzard intend to breakup every existing team and implement a full draft for Season 1 of OWL?”
The answer seems to be “no”. Nanzer says: “we aren't going to be ignoring existing teams - we absolutely are trying to include everyone. The way we will break this down is in a team sales process that we can't share more details on just yet." The first teams for the Overwatch League "will come as a result of this process", and Nanzer says existing team owners will be able to buy in, alongside sports investors and anyone else who’s interested - provided they have the expertise to run an eSports team. “We want to make sure all the owners we work with are best in class operators. People who have capabilities in terms of local venues and activations, advertising - a broad range of areas."
The ultimate goal is for teams to travel to both home and away games, but obviously, none of this is going to happen overnight. Some venues will be up and running next year, Blizzard hopes, so games "won't all be in one location", but "we won't have home games in the first year". Expect more details towards the beginning of 2017.