Blizzard formally announced the owners of the first seven teams for their much-anticipated new city-based professional eSports league. The Overwatch League is set to launch later this year with teams based in major cities around the world. Overwatch launched last year and now has more than 30 million players worldwide.
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and New York Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon are among those who have signed agreements to participate in the league, and they will own Overwatch League team in Boston and New York, respectively. Andy Miller, the co-owner of the Sacramento Kings (NBA) and the chairman of NRG eSports will own the league’s San Francisco-based team. The other new team owners and cities include Noah Winston (Los Angeles), CEO of the AEG-backed eSports franchise Immortals, which also has funding from the owner of the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies; Ben Spoont (Miami-Orlando), the CEO and co-founder of Misfits Gaming; Kevin Chou (Seoul), the co-founder of mobile gaming company Kabam; and, the Chinese internet company NetEase, which will run a team based in Shanghai.
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“The Overwatch League will celebrate and reward our most accomplished players and give fans more opportunities to engage with each other,” Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick said in a statement. “We’re excited to be working with leaders from eSports and traditional sports to celebrate our players and to establish the Overwatch League.”
The Overwatch League will be the first major eSports league to be built like a traditional professional sports league, with each team attached to a specific city or region in order to build a local fan base.
eSports as in industry is expected to take in $700 million this year and that could double by 2020. A Morgan Stanley report earlier this year estimated that the league could pull in more than $100 million annually.