The Overwatch League (OWL) may finally be taking shape, with reported buy-ins from the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins - two major US sporting brands.
Here's everything we know about the Overwatch League so far.
The news comes via Richard Lewis, an esports reporter, who cites “sources close to Activision-Blizzard’s upcoming Overwatch League.”
Those sources say “it has been communicated internally that the owners of the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins, Robert Kraft and Stephen Ross, have both purchased slots in multi-million dollar deals.”
Blizzard have been working hard to entice sports franchises to the OWL, with Bobby Kotick, president and CEO of Activision-Blizzard, personally involved in pitching. One of Lewis’ sources says “Bobby has been really busy on this one… making personal house calls and constantly talking up the league. He spends about half of his working hours on this project alone and has been happy to finally land some big names”.
If this turns out to be true, it’s a big win for Blizzard, as there’s no real proof yet that the OWL will make enough money to justify the huge valuations they’ve placed on league slots.
A report by Morgan Stanley in March may have gone a long way to helping their case: the firm estimated a best-case scenario of $720 million a year in revenues for the OWL. That’s comparable to the WWE, and 20% more than Major League Soccer.
That report is, however, based on some fairly bold predictions about the esports market - Lewis says an esports owner dismissed it as “a joke that we’re all laughing about”. One imagines that laughter must be tinged with bitterness, however, if the report is being used to court the money of NFL franchises, with which existing esports brands simply can't compete.
Indeed, today's news will only exacerbate concerns that traditional esports teams are being priced out of the market. Lewis says they aren't even being approached by Blizzard, and that they're being “pushed out” of the Overwatch competitive community.