One of the nice things about esports, at least in theory, is that they can be played from anywhere. But in practice, the most competitive matches often take place at LAN events where tournament organizers can (or at least should) ensure the best networking conditions possible. It makes sense, then, for the Overwatch Contenders playoffs and the first season of the Overwatch League to take place in the new Blizzard Arena in LA.
We already knew that the first season of the Overwatch League would be hosted in LA. Teams are expected to build their own stadiums for later seasons, but at least to start, Blizzard is keeping costs down by hosting every match right in California. We just didn't know if the company planned to build its own space or to use an existing venue. Now it's revealed more information about how it will host its esports tournaments.
Here's what Blizzard said in its announcement:
Multiple broadcasts and events can be run out of Blizzard Arena simultaneously, thanks to the multiple sound stages, control rooms and player lounges throughout the facility. The on-site Blizzard store will open during events and feature a rotating selection of gear and goods based on the event taking place at the time.
The company also said that the Blizzard Arena will play host to the Overwatch Contenders playoffs from October 7-8, the Summer Championship for the Hearthstone Championship Tour on October 13, and the first season of the Overwatch League later this year. We expect tournaments (or one-off events) for games like Heroes of the Storm and StarCraft to also be hosted at the venue despite not appearing in the announcement.
Still, it's clear that Overwatch's tournaments are the main focus here. Blizzard has spent a lot of time and money as part of its efforts to cement the shooter as a leading esport. It's also convinced many others to do the same: Esports companies such as Immortals, Misfits, and NRG have all signed on, and more impressively, so have traditional sports magnates behind the New England Patriots, Los Angeles Rams, and New York Mets.
Blizzard pushed this blend of esports and traditional sports in a news update on the Overwatch League website:
Throughout history, the fields where great sports competitions take place develop a story and history of their own. They become the backdrop for breakthrough moments, heroic triumphs, and deepest heartbreaks. Arenas and stadiums are not just for the players, though. For fans, whether they travel once a season or every week, these locations become a second home. It’s where they meet up with their friends, spend time with their families, and celebrate being part of a larger community with a shared passion.
That might sound grandiose, but the company has a point. Many people do care deeply about their local sports teams and stadiums. If esports are going to become anywhere near as popular as traditional sports, which is exactly what Blizzard wants to prove with the Overwatch League, then teams are going to have to capture that same feeling. This new Blizzard Arena is the start of the company's ambitions, not the end.