NFL Owners Continue Buying Into 'Overwatch' League

Blizzard announced that two more teams, one in Los Angeles and one in London, have joined the Overwatch League. The Los Angeles slot was purchased Stan and Josh Kroenke, who own the Los Angeles Rams (NFL), Colorado Avalanche (NHL), and Colorado Rapids (MLS), among other teams. London, meanwhile, went to the Cloud9 esports organization.

To continue trotting out this comparison: The Overwatch League is something like the MLB for Blizzard's popular team-and hero-based shooter. Organizations pay a reported $20 million for a slot that allows them to compete in the league, host their own events, and receive a cut of revenues, among other benefits. That's a steep amount for an unproven esport, but so far at least nine organizations have proven willing to bite the bullet.

This is actually the second team announced for Los Angeles. The first slot went to Immortals, an esports organization that has rosters for League of Legends and Counter Strike: Global Offensive as well as other titles. Now the city will play host to what's sure to be a rivalry in the making between Immortals and the Kroenkes' team.

The interest from the Kroenkes highlights traditional sports organizations' interest in the Overwatch League. Boston's slot was purchased by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and New York's was acquired by the company that owns the New York Mets. Support from these established organizations will be critical to Blizzard's efforts to give professional Overwatch the same prestige as professional football or basketball.

But the company also has to cater to organizations already participating in Overwatch's esports scene, and that's exactly what it did by announcing that Cloud9 has purchased the spot in London. Cloud9 is already well established in Overwatch and other esports titles, which means it already has a fan base that could follow it to the Overwatch League, much like other participating esports organizations such as NRG Esports and Misfits.

Cloud9 is also the first organization to buy an Overwatch League spot in Europe—which is a little strange, considering that it's an American company. We suspect that Blizzard simply didn't want Los Angeles to have three teams when an entire other continent went unfilled. Europe's lack of representation was a glaring issue for the league, especially since one of the game's best Western teams, Rogue, is based in France.

This brings the number of teams confirmed to be participating in the league to nine—six in the U.S., two in Asia, and one in the UK—and more are on the way. Blizzard said in its announcement that "our latest new owners won’t be the last" and reaffirmed that the Overwatch League will debut this year. Teams have until October 30 to sign players—who are guaranteed minimum salaries, a portion of winnings, and other benefits—so we expect more teams to be announced in the coming months. There's no point in paying $20 million for a slot if you can't sign players, after all.

One of those yet-to-be-announced organizations could be EnVyUs, a leading Overwatch team in the West, which is reportedly set to receive a $35 million investment from oil magnate Kenneth Hersh. EnVyUs is also said to be negotiating for a Dallas-Austin slot in the Overwatch League, presumably because Hersh doesn't want to invest tens of millions of dollars in an esports organization that plans to stay in North Carolina.

Nathaniel Mott
Freelance News & Features Writer

Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.

  • 80-watt Hamster
    Stories like this serve to reinforce the fact that I apparently don't understand money and economics.
  • thundervore
    So sitting on a couch and playing a game is now official a career?

    So when parents told their kids sitting on the couch playing video games will get you nowhere in life they were how times have changed.