Months ago at BlizzCon 2016 Blizzard announced that the future of professional Overwatch would be morphed into the “Overwatch League” consisting of teams based in cities around the world.
Clearly aimed to becoming more akin to traditional sports teams (the logo itself is essentially an emulation of the Major League Baseball logo) the idea is that OWL would give fans something more to cheer for as they follow their ‘home team’. With the system as it is now, you typically follow one particular player and whichever team they’re currently on due to how unstable rosters are from tournament to tournament.
Recently at The Leaders Sport Business Summit in New York a photo was posted highlighting sixteen proposed cities for the league. While at first these were assumed to be the actual cities for the league, later Nate Nanzer, Director of Overwatch Esports, clarified that these cities were simply being used as an example.
Nothing to see here guys. A slide I made for the audience here to illustrate the vision. The word "illustrative" is in the bottom corner… https://t.co/8pZAtFzka7
— Nate Nanzer (@natenanzer) March 22, 2017
With little solid information about the future of the Overwatch League, here are five cities in the USA we theorise have the potential to house teams for the OWL.
This is the first of a series of OWL Cities features with our ideas for Europe and more coming soon.
Probably one of the most obvious choices for a team as Blizzard’s headquarters are barely an hour away in Irvine, CA. Overall the West coast has become the hub of esports stateside, with most major events being held in and around the Los Angeles area. The West coast can also be considered somewhat of an incubator for new esports concepts. That’s become apparent with the boom of Esports Arena and similar facilities popping up all around California and most recently, Las Vegas.
Vegas has slowly but surely become another West coast option for esports. The city has already hosted a list of events including DreamHack: Masters at the MGM Grand, regional events for Heroes of the Storm and this April will host the finals for Heroes of the Dorm.
They’ve also just opened a state of the art 15,000 square foot esports studio and arena at Neonopolis in downtown that, so far, has been a booming success.
While gaming in the South is sparse compared to the rest of the country, it is indeed growing. Atlanta just became the headquarters of ELeague that has been home to an ongoing CS:GO League but also hosted a brief Overwatch tournament. Atlanta would be the ideal city to hold an Overwatch team to represent the South. It also doesn’t hurt that the city has a long list of strong traditional sports teams themselves.
With the popularity of DreamHack and SXSW, Austin would be a strong location for an Overwatch team. As Texas is already home to a solid fan base for their traditional teams, adding esports to the mix shouldn’t be difficult at all. Texas would also be another strong southern choice as it’s fairly centrally located.
As the city’s sports and conventions authority, Events D.C. have recently sponsored NRG Esports, and Washington D.C. will soon become the go-to location for esports on the East coast of the country. However, NRG Co-Owner, Andy Miller, previously dismissed claims that this mean they would become the D.C. team for the OWL. Along with the sponsorship, D.C. also announced plans for a $65m (£52.3m) arena in late 2018. While the facility will primarily be the home of the Washington Mystics, it’s said to be “fully tailored and wired for esports”; a perfect home arena for an Overwatch team.
According to Sports Business Daily, the buy-in for teams could reach upwards of $2 – $3m (£1.5 – £2.3m) and even triple that for a city like Los Angeles. Overwatch is still such a young game and it’s unlikely that this figure could accurately hold true considering the holes of information currently about the league. The buy-ins (and possible qualifiers) also solidify the teams in the league meaning there will unlikely be any sort of relegation.
Regardless, the assumption of this buy-in cost is astronomical for most current esports organisations. Few are able to even house their players right now let alone completely relocate them in a new city they represent. However, traditional sports organisations continue to merge with esports organisations left, right and centre meaning that investments are on the rise.
While the city based league appears to be an innovative approach to esports, this has been attempted before with the Championship Gaming Series ten years ago. It lasted barely a year.
For those who asked: 10 things we learned from CGS. pic.twitter.com/fZiP7rhoQQ
— ReDeYe (@PaulChaloner) March 22, 2017
That said, esports was outrageously different ten years ago and as it continues to progress the Overwatch League could be the perfect ‘guinea pig’ for attempting this format again.
Esports Insider says: This new league format is such a bold move by Blizzard, with little in the way of concrete facts as of the time of writing. If it’s successful, the OWL will likely change the entire esports sphere. If it fails, it will be a brief speed bump through the success of Overwatch.