Activision Blizzard has announced the sale of the first Overwatch League teams for major global cities to seven entrepreneurs and leaders from traditional sports and esports. The Overwatch League is the first major global esports league with city-based teams.
The new team owners include:
- Robert Kraft, Chairman and CEO of the Kraft Group and the New England Patriots (Boston)
- Jeff Wilpon, Co-Founder and Partner of Sterling.VC and COO of the New York Mets (New York)
- Noah Whinston, CEO of Immortals (Los Angeles)
- Ben Spoont, CEO and Co-Founder of Misfits Gaming (Miami-Orlando)
- Andy Miller, Chairman and Founder of NRG Esports (San Francisco)
- NetEase (Shanghai)
- Kevin Chou, Co-Founder of Kabam (Seoul)
Overwatch is a video game created by Blizzard Entertainment. Among Blizzard’s stable of twenty #1 games over the past two decades, Overwatch is the fastest to reach more than 30 million players. Overwatch was built from the ground up for online competition, with memorable characters and a fast-paced action designed for the most engaging gameplay and spectator experiences.
The Overwatch League, slated to begin later this year, is a unique opportunity for owners and players. As the first major esports league to feature a city-based structure, the league will drive the development of local fan bases.
For the first season of the league, regular-season matches will be played at an esports arena in the Los Angeles area, as teams develop their local venues for formal home and away play in future seasons. Matches will be played each Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. A full schedule and information about ticket sales will be announced closer to launch.
The league will create value for team owners through advertising, ticketing and broadcast rights revenues, with teams receiving an equal share of all league-wide net revenues. Teams will also keep all local revenues generated through their home territory and venue up to a set amount each year, unprecedented in esports; above the set amount, a percentage is sent to the league’s shared revenue pool.
In addition, teams will have a license to operate and monetize up to five amateur events in their home territory each year, and to benefit from the sale of league-affiliated fan items in Overwatch, with 50% of the revenues going into the net shared revenue pool for all teams.
Activision Blizzard Media Networks (ABMN) has announced the launch of new content, broadcast experiences, and distribution partners for its MLG.tv streaming platform. It will deliver live eSports tournament coverage both through MLG.tv and also through Facebook.
This announcement was made at the IAB Digital Content NewFronts 2016 event. MLG.tv debuted its Enhanced Viewing Experience (EVE) at the event. EVE is a high-definition video stream with a built-in algorithmic system that provides viewers with match statistics, up-to-the-minute leaderboards, and situational insights based on the competition they are watching.
Activision acquired Major League Gaming, one of the biggest eSports leagues, in January of 2016. The mission of MLG.tv is to promote eSports through premier competition and to deliver premium gaming content to viewers anytime, anywhere, through the MGT.tv global streaming platform.
To start, ABMN will launch eSports content during MLG Anaheim Open, which is a two-day Call of Duty: Black Ops III tournament that will start on June 10, 2016. The event will also be the inaugural event as part of a deeper collaboration between ABMN and Facebook. The collaboration will allow MLG.tv to broadcast live competitions and deliver ESR content to the 1.6 billion people on Facebook.
Activision is the creator of the Call of Duty series of games. Blizzard is the creator of StarCraft, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and the very popular Overwatch (which is currently in beta). All of these games are ideal for eSports.
Are eSports a “legitimate” sport? This question has been argued on social media ever since ESPN began including eSports events on its channel. You can tune in to watch teams of people compete against each other in video games like League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm, or Hearthstone on the same channel that brings you baseball, soccer, and other traditional sports.
There is a petition on We The People (the White House’s petition website) that is asking the United States government to recognize all eSports as “legitimate” sports. The goal of the petition is not simply to win the “Twitter war” about whether or not eSports is are valid as basketball. The petition is also asking for international eSports players to be able to get a permit that allows them to compete in the United States.
The petition is called: “The USCIS Should Recognize All Esports As “Legitimate” Sports So International Players Can Come to the US on P1 Visas”. The USCIS the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. The petition says:
This petition arises from an ongoing situation regarding one of the best Super Smash Bros. Melee players in the world, William “Leffen” Hjelte. In 2015, Mr. Hjelte was deported from the United States because he was sponsored by an American company while using a tourist visa, when he needed a work visa. After applying for a P1 Visa, which is what professional athletes use to come to the US, he was denied due to Super Smash Bros. Melee not being recognized as a “legitimate” sport. Competitors in other eSports, such as League of Legends, have been approved for P1 Visas in order to travel to the US and compete. Given the precedent set with League of Legends, other eSports should be considered “legitimate” sports in order to let players come and compete in the United States.
There are two types of P1 visas. I’m going to assume the petitioner is thinking of the P 1A which is for internationally recognized athletes. It is for a person who is “coming to the US temporarily to perform at a specific athletic competition as an athlete, individually or as part of a group or team, at an internationally recognized level of performance.”
The petition must get 49,667 signatures before May 29, 2016, in order to receive a response from the White House. A response does not guarantee that the petition will be granted or acted upon. At the time I am writing this blog, the petition has 50,333 signatures.