What is eSports you may ask? Well it stands for electronic sports, basically competitive gaming, which has been around for years. To give perspective, in the year 2000, World Cyber Games and Electronic Sports World Cup were launch. In 2002, Major League Gaming (MLG) launched, which now competes with physical sports games by having better ratings sometimes. The game Pokemon has had regular video game tournaments since 2003, giving out scholarship money as the prize. Video games like League of Legends & Dota 2 have huge prize pools ranging from $1 million to $10 million This has contribute with gaining the general public’s interest into electronic sports, attracting sponsors and companies to buy/support competitive eSports teams. Even NBA and NFL teams have invested in eSports teams. But none has been enough to propel the electronic sports into the mainstream. Well maybe until now, with the launch of Blizzard Entertainment’s Overwatch league.
Overwatch is a FPS Objective-based game where 2 teams are pitted against each other and have to work together to achieve the objective. There are 12 total players, with 6 on each team, that compete in each game. This year, Blizzard launch their own eSports league called, The Overwatch League. The Overwatch League runs just like the NFL, with it’s own city based teams, and a commissioner. The teams are international as well as there are two parts of the league; Atlantic and the Pacific divisions. . There’s of course jerseys for each team. Texas has two teams, the “Houston Outlaws”, & the “Dallas Fuel”.
The Overwatch League season is divided in 4 parts; pre-season, regular season, post-season, and the all-star weekend. The pre-season is during December 6th through 9th, where all teams will compete in a series of exhibition matches to prepare for the regular season. The regular season is then divided into 4 stages (parts), each with 5 weeks, and stage title matches. The London Spitfire won stage 1, which all title matches have a prize pool of $125,000,000. This all will be run between January 10th through June 16th. In the postseason is between June 17th through July 28th, in which the top finishers of each division will compete in championship playoffs, and then the top finishers of that will compete in the grand finals. That is when the winner will be crowned the Overwatch League Champions (this season is the first), “claiming glory, the Overwatch League trophy, and a USD $1 million bonus”. Then comes the really fun part, the All-Star Weekend, during August 10th through 12th. The Overwatch community’s favorite players from the season will kick back and face off in unexpected challenges.
All of this is live streamed through Twitch.tv/overwatchleague.
Overwatch League is the first eSports league that have gotten major mainstream sponsors ranging from Toyota to Sour Patch Kids as well as the first global eSports league. It is also a big risk for Blizzard Entertainment. However, if it succeeds, eSports will grow like never before. Right now, Overwatch League is only staged in a studio at Los Angeles, but Blizzard wants it to grow and play across the world, similar to what happens in the NFL when teams travel to each other’s cities as well as travel to the UK and Mexico. Blizzard hopes that the inaugural season will be a massive success (so far it has been, going into week 3 of stage 2 at the time of writing this), in that will propel other people across the world to invest into making teams in their cities and competing in the league.
Blizzard entertainment has provided professional players , “with a USD $50,000 minimum base salary, healthcare and retirement savings plans, and housing provided during the season, the Overwatch League pro players are able to pursue a sustainable career that celebrates their passion, dedication, and skill.” and also provided them with a chance to win $3.5 million USD in bonuses. Blizzard’s hope is to create a global premier eSports league that will provide a permanent environment for teams and players to thrive and succeed in.
All of this might contribute to the rise of eSports into the mainstream as well as attract a general audience. Time will tell. You can watch the Overwatch League and support your city (hint hint, wink wink : Dallas has its own team) or favorite teams here : www.twitch.tv/overwatchleague
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