The Overwatch League draws nigh. Blizzard announced that slots have been purchased for Philadelphia, Dallas, and Houston, bringing the total number of teams participating in the league's first season to 12. The company also revealed that the preseason will start on December 6, with the first legitimate season kicking off on January 10, 2018 and running until June, with championship playoffs and finals taking place in July.
The number of teams participating in the Overwatch League is impressive, especially considering the reported $20 million buy-in price. Even more impressive is the diversity of organizations Blizzard has convinced to invest in the league. Just look at the three slots announced today:
Philadelphia's slot was purchased by Comcast Spectacor, which owns the Philadelphia Flyers and manages "hundreds of stadiums, arenas, and other venues in the U.S., Canada, and Singapore." Details about the Philadelphia team, or who will manage it, were not revealed.
Dallas' slot was purchased by Team EnVyUs, an incumbent esports organization with teams for Overwatch, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, and other games. EnVyUs is undefeated in the first season of Overwatch Contenders, the minor league to the Overwatch League's... um, major league. It's also raised a "multi 8-figure investment" from the Hersh Interactive Group backed by oil magnate Ken Hersh.
Houston's slot was purchased by OpTic Gaming, another well-established esports organization with teams in Halo, Call of Duty, and others. OpTic doesn't have an Overwatch team, but its pedigree in other esports and spot in the Overwatch League will allow it to quickly build a roster.
Just to drive the point home: In these cities alone, you have a combination of old money (Comcast Spectacor and the Hersh Interactive Group) with some of the most famous esports organizations (Team EnVyUs and OpTic Gaming) coming together to participate in a totally unproven league. And these cities aren't the exception—the nine other slots have been snapped up by traditional sports orgs and esports mainstays alike.
Perhaps most exciting is the announcement that the preseason will start on December 6. Blizzard has repeatedly said the Overwatch League would debut this year, but the slow pace with which the company released news about the league sparked concerns about its ability to follow through with that promise. Now we know that we'll at least get a taste of what the league has to offer. Blizzard said:
The preseason begins on Wednesday, December 6, 2017 at Blizzard Arena Los Angeles with a series of exhibition matches featuring all of the teams—the world's first chance to see Overwatch League professionals in action. The inaugural season proper kicks off on Wednesday, January 10, 2018 and will continue into June, followed by championship playoffs and finals in July. We look forward to announcing more information about the league's schedule and format in the coming months, including how to get tickets to the preseason and regular-season matches.
It will be interesting to see how these investments pay off. If the reported $20 million buy-in is accurate, Blizzard has amassed $240,000,000 for the Overwatch League's first season. The company has also demonstrated its commitment to the league by building that Blizzard Arena Los Angeles mentioned above, making sure players are fairly compensated, and convincing titans of the entertainment industry to give it a shot.