Blizzard unveils details on Overwatch League, including team owned by NetEase

Blizzard has unveiled details on its Overwatch League, with a list of team owners putting an end to a lot of speculation regarding who will be competing, but the lack of a date giving more fuel to the burning questions about when, exactly.

Teams will be based in Boston, Los Angeles, Miami-Orlando, New York, San Francisco, Seoul and Shanghai, creating one of the first fully international leagues in esports, if the press release is to be believed.

Let’s get to it. The new team owners, with their home locations in brackets, are:

  • 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)

It’s worth noting that Overwatch is published in China by NetEase, which is a problematic conflict of interest. 

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick said in the press release:  “Overwatch already connects over 30 million players worldwide. The Overwatch League will celebrate and reward our most accomplished players and give fans more opportunities to engage with each other. We’re excited to be working with leaders from esports and traditional sports to celebrate our players and to establish the Overwatch League.”

Mike Morhaime, Blizzard’s CEO, co-founder, and a fan of esports himself, has said: "Overwatch is a game about a diverse group of international heroes who fight for an optimistic vision of the future, and the Overwatch League is an extension of that spirit. We’re building this league for fans – esports fans, traditional sports fans, gaming fans – and we’re thrilled to have individuals and organizations who are as passionate about professional competition as we are, and who have extensive experience in all three fields, representing our first major international cities in the league.”

It’s a strong reveal for Blizzard’s beleaguered esport, which has been hit recently by several organisations dropping their teams and walking away from the sport, citing decisions made by Blizzard and the lack of competitive prospects. With the Overwatch League, there’s definitely competitive prospects, although whether this will tempt teams back or if the financial barrier to entry that has been alleged in several previous reports, with slots going for up to $20m in some cases, will keep enthusiastic teams away.

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