At Blizzcon in November, Blizzard Entertainment President Mike Morhaime announced an ambitious project to launch a developer-run esports league around its newest title, Overwatch. The announcement may not have been a total surprise for its fans, but it was still a huge step forward in Blizzard’s commitment to Overwatch, as well as a major push to increase the momentum of esports in the mainstream. Since the announcement, however, Blizzard has been virtually silent on the details. Even industry insiders have been left out in the cold in regards to the specifics, causing established teams and interested investors to sit on their hands and wait. According to Sports Business Daily, that may be changing.
Early Monday morning, SBL posted an article on their website citing an interview on March 2nd, in which the Global Director for Overwatch Esports, Nate Nanzer, assures us that everything is on schedule for a September launch of Season One and that the lack of information was a legal matter, stating “In terms of the actual nuts and bolts of the league in 2017, and content production, all that, there’s no delays there at all. You probably understand the amount of legal work that goes into doing this, and that time between BlizzCon and today has been spent finalizing legal documents.”
The article also states that initial hopes of high-ranking Blizzard Executives that a bidding war would push the cost of acquiring an Overwatch League Franchise to somewhere between “$2 million to $5 million in smaller markets and three times that in Los Angeles, a focal point of esports activity”. SBJ is quick to point out that this may be a bit unrealistic, as Overwatch is a very young title whose fan base is not as established as bigger esports titles like League of Legends and Counter Strike: Global Offensive.
There are also a lot of unanswered questions that possible investors need to be addressed about before devoting millions of dollars on this venture. Most notably, questions regarding player contracts and revenue sharing. For that, Blizzard will be meeting with potential team owners in a “Franchise Road Show”. An opportunity for Blizzard to answer these questions directly with interested parties and to build hype around team ownership to facilitate the bidding war it is looking for. Such meetings are private and answers will need to be leaked for fans to get any sort of idea of the process.
For now, fans can be comforted in knowing that progress is being made and that we will see Overwatch League action in 2017.