Blizzard revealed more information about the Overwatch League, its attempt to create a formalized sports organization for its popular team-based first-person shooter, and this time it focused on how participating teams will fill their rosters and how those players will be compensated.
One of the appeals of an esport like Overwatch is the idea that anyone who plays it could eventually go pro. For most people, this is like thinking you'll become a professional football player because you dominate in backyard pick-ups. But some players will have what it takes to join a team, and with the Overwatch League just now finding its footing, teams are going to be on the lookout for skilled gamers looking to start a career.
That's where esports have a distinct advantage over traditional sports. Nobody's scouting your backyard football games, but according to Blizzard, someone is keeping an eye on your Overwatch performance. The company said in today's blog post that it has "evaluated the world’s top Overwatch players to compile a stats-based scouting report," and that every single Overwatch player is eligible for signing.
Here's how the company's helping teams find players for the first season of the Overwatch League:
In preparation for the start of the Overwatch League, we are opening an official player signing window for Season 1 from August 1 to October 30, 2017. All announced Overwatch League teams will be able to sign players to contracts during this time, including teams that join the League during the signing window. It’s important to note that this system for selecting players will be unique to the League’s first season. In future seasons, the pre-season player signing process will be updated to serve the needs of an established league, its teams, players, and fans.
Blizzard didn't only explain how teams are finding their Overwatch League players, it also outlined some of the rights players will have. Those include a minimum $50,000 per year salary; one-year guaranteed contracts with the option to extend for another year; health insurance and a retirement savings plan; and at least 50% of "team performance bonuses (i.e. money from winning playoffs and other League events)."
Those benefits could be crucial to finding players for the Overwatch League. It's worth remembering that Overwatch is just over a year old—many people might be wary of professionally committing themselves to such a young game. Guarantee that people will be paid at least $50,000 per year for at least one year with additional health insurance and retirement benefits, though, and suddenly Overwatch seems like a "real" job.
Receiving some of the prize money helps, too. Blizzard said that it plans to offer a total of $3.5 million in bonuses to Overwatch League teams during the first season, with a minimum of $1 million going to the season champions. Split that up between a few players, combine it with the base salary, and consider all the other benefits and the Overwatch League could pique the interest of many potential professional players.
Blizzard outlined some other rules governing teams as a whole:
- Each team roster must have at least six players and no more than 12 total.
- There is no region locking in terms of the place of birth or home country of any player.
- Teams will provide player housing and practice facilities during the season which will meet professional standards set by the Overwatch League.
The Overwatch League is set to kick off later this year. We still don't know exactly how the league will play out, and Blizzard has said before that this first season will differ from later seasons. Teams will eventually be tasked with creating their own Overwatch stadiums, for example, and will have the opportunity to host local events in their regions. We'll learn more about the Overwatch League over the next couple of months.
For now we know the first seven teams participating in the league—which are owned by a mix of traditional sports magnates and esports mainstays—and how those teams will try to woo players. You can learn more about the Overwatch League on the organization's website.