The argument over whether the city format can work in esports, and specifically in this instance in Overwatch, rumbles on. Examples from history suggest it won’t work, and some point to the basic global nature of esports as evidence that feasibility aside it’s undesirable. The fact is the Overwatch League is happening. But another is that we’re still very much in the dark when it comes to any concrete details.
We’ll avoid commenting on pure speculation and instead look to Europe to see which cities are well placed to form part of the inaugural Overwatch League.
Berlin remains the esports capital of Europe. Teams such as G2 Esports (for League), mousesports, Penta and BiG call it home as do companies including DOJO Madness, TEO, Bitkraft Holding and Level99. It would be incredibly strange for the German capital not to be allocated a slot in the Overwatch League.
G2 is a major esports organisation which has had an Overwatch roster, but with its key HQ in Madrid in addition to a base in Berlin, it is one of a few which would have options should it come to bidding for an Overwatch city slot.
Fnatic has its main HQ in Shoreditch in the English capital, and with Gfinity around the corner and Riot having opened an office in the city, not to mention the O2 hosting the Vainglory championship, the hope is that esports in the UK can flourish. Wembley Arena has also hosted the LCS quarter finals so tried and tested venues are no issue.
The assumption will be that Fnatic get involved, but the team is said to be basing itself in L.A. after a stint in Korea so this could throw a spanner in the works.
Of course the London spot will be notably more affordable (not to mention less contested) than Los Angeles so it could prove the more attractive option.
The French capital hosts ESWC Paris Games Week (1 – 5 November 2017) which last year featured an Overwatch component, the likes of Webedia (owners of Millenium) and Hurrah are based there and in turn it’s the home of PSG Esports.
Then there’s PMU Esports, Orange which has sponsored and continues to sponsor esports tournaments and teams, and Canal Plus. As with Berlin, any list of global Overwatch League cities that doesn’t feature Paris would seem incomplete.
Movistar Riders is a Spanish organisation with an active Overwatch roster in addition to CS:GO, Hearthstone, FIFA, Call of Duty and League. Backed by Movistar and Telefonica, Spain’s largest broadband and mobile network, it has some clout. Telefonica signed a ”strategic agreement’ with ESL at the beginning of 2016.
The Spanish capital would likely demand some representation; it has hosted the LCS Spring Finals, it has a population of over three million and it has a Meltdown.
Home of DreamHack, Stockholm is a strong base for esports in Scandinavia. With Misfits’ Overwatch roster (who won the Overwatch Open in October 2016) based there it’s a solid call for the Blizzard title too. The Misfits team has been an all Swedish lineup since December 2016.
Stockholm has its own esports venue, companies such as Orlando John which represents NiP, Rekkles, Olofmeister and more are based there as is Challengermode, a start-up which recently saw over £1.03m in investment from the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and more.
Sweden is the highest ranking European nation when it comes to player earnings in Overwatch. When the Overwatch League cities are announced, put your bottom dollar on Stockholm being one of them.
The Copenhagen Games, North and Astralis. Need we say more?
Copenhagen warrants a place in the Overwatch League.
The Overwatch tournament at this year’s Games was sponsored by Dr.Oetker Pizzaburger, and saw local side Team Singularity defeat Helsinki REDS in the final proving that the Danes are more than just Counterstrike. That said Singularity’s CS:GO roster is ranked 22nd at the time of writing but the org does have twice as many Overwatch rosters; known as the Ninjas and the Gorillaz respectively.
Copenhagen Flames Founder Steffen Thomsen said of his city’s potential: “Through the past few years Denmark has been at the forefront of almost every major esports title and has an immense amount of talent.
“Five of the world’s top 30 CS:GO teams are Danish, more than 10% of the players in the EU and NA LCS are Danes, and 2 out of the 3 past FIFA World Champions were Danish. More and more schools and places of study have integrated esports in their programs as Denmark continues to strengthen their position among the top 5 esport nations in the world.
“When it comes to Overwatch, not only does Denmark have strong teams competing amongst the European top, but also on an individual level they excel with players like Dafran of Selfless, Fischer of Hammers Esport and Zaprey formely of Misfits.”
In 2016 the Finnish Esports Federation was officially accepted into the Finnish Olympic Committee. As such, in Finland esports is recognised as a sport by the powers that be.
Moving away from esports a little, Finland’s game development industry is flying. Midway through 2016 the amount of Finland’s GDP that the gaming industry accounted for was just half a percent, In 2017 this has surged to 7%.
Head up North from Helsinki and from June you’ll find the Nordic Esports Academy. This is a month long intensive bootcamp for teams and players which is backed by the University of Kajaani.
In Blizzard terms, one of the top Overwatch players in terms of earnings is Finnish. Timo ‘Taimou’ Kettunen currently plays for Team EnVyUs, and the local hockey team IFK Helsinki launched the Helsinki REDS in late 2016. Currently they only operate one roster. Yes, it’s in Overwatch. Ninjas in Pyajamas’ Overwatch team is also Finnish. Helsinki is definitely in with a shout when it comes to a global city league.
Other potentials in Europe include Cologne which is a favourite of ESL (it’s where the company HQ is based), and of course Moscow which has Epicenter and is the home of one of the largest esports companies in ESForce. Esports are also recognised as sports in Russia, and Spartak Moscow just announced their move into Dota, League and CS:GO.
Did we miss any?