Reading about the Overwatch League of late has felt like watching a tense action movie: you’re hoping the hero can pull themselves back over the cliff edge, but their grip is slipping. Just as they’re down to their fingernails, however, they seem to have got a boost: Blizzard have secured six agreements of intent to participate in the League from both mainstream sports franchises and more traditional esports outfits.
Here's everything we know about the Overwatch League so far.
The news comes via ESPN, who cite sources close to the future participants. Among these are New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft (whose interest was rumoured a while ago), and Sterling Equities, who own the New York Mets. As well as Shanghai and Seoul, ESPN say the OWL will have slots for four American cities, two of which will be taken by Immortals (Los Angeles) and NRG Esports (San Francisco).
That's good to hear, as Immortals CEO Noah Whinston was expressing doubts about his Overwatch team's future as recently as May. Yet now, ESPN's sources say that Immortals and NRG have paid $20 million each for the privilege of playing in the League (by contrast, a slot on the League of Legends Championship series cost $1.8 million last year). It's a sum they can only afford as they're owned by business moguls from the world of media and traditional sports, and there's been some concern that Overwatch's 'grass roots' esports scene is struggling under the spectre of the OWL, a tournament that eclipses all others, in which they can't afford to compete.
Evil Geniuses are the latest established esports outfit to disband their Overwatch team, and after only two months. Still, it's good to see both Immortals and NRG getting involved, as they each have some esports pedigree.
But Blizzard are clearly counting on the continued interest of mainstream sports franchises, and today's news suggests it's working. Last we heard from Blizzard, everything was going as planned, and “endemic” esports teams will not be neglected.