Following the announcement of the first seven city-based Overwatch League team owners last month, including New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Blizzard today announced two more. Jack Etienne, the owner of eSports organization Cloud9, bought the team for London. Additionally, Stan and Josh Kroenke of sports and media behemoth Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, purchased the second team based in Los Angeles.
There are now teams in Boston, New York, Miami-Orlando, San Francisco, Shanghai, and Seoul. Los Angeles now has two, as Immortals already secured the first LA spot as part of the initial Overwatch League team ownership announcement.
You might not know the Kroenke’s by name, but their Kroenke Sports & Entertainment company owns or has a significant investment in traditional sports teams like the Los Angeles Rams (NFL), Denver Nuggets (NBA), and Colorado Avalanche (NHL), as well as the professional football club Arsenal. So they are a very big deal, to say the least.
“The Overwatch League continues to have great momentum,”Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick said in a statement. “They will enhance our ability to celebrate and reward players and fans in Los Angeles, London, and beyond.”
Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime added: “Overwatch is a global game, with heroes–and players–from around the world, so it’s important to us that as many Overwatch League fans as possible have local or regional teams to root for.”
Josh Kroenke said in his own statement that he was blown away by Blizzard’s “vision and strategy” for the Overwatch League. Etienne, meanwhile, said he “couldn’t be happier” to be partnering with Blizzard for the London Overwatch League team.
The Overwatch League is the first major international pro eSports league with a city-based structure. This is a big step for competitive gaming, as it brings it more in line with traditional sports leagues, though Overwatch League is unique in that teams from different countries will compete in certain events.
Here is a rundown of the first nine Overwatch League team owners.
- 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)
- Stan and Josh Kroenke, Kroenke Sports & Entertainment (Los Angeles)
- Jack Etienne, Cloud9 (London)
As for the number of teams that Blizzard hopes to have in the Overwatch League, Nanzer wouldn’t give a specific number, though he said you can expect the league to grow in size to become similar to the size of traditional sports leagues. By comparison, MLB has 30 teams and the NFL has 32.
Announced at Blizzcon last year, the Overwatch League will kick off later this year. For the league’s first season, matches will take place at a venue in the Los Angeles area, as the local squads take the time they need to create their own local venues. There will eventually be home and away matchups, just as with traditional sports. Full details on the schedule and ticket sales opportunities will be announced later this year.
Overwatch League teams will make money through ticket sales, advertising, and broadcast rights revenue. According to Blizzard, this money will be shared evenly, though local teams get to keep all the revenue from their home territory and venue up to “a certain amount.” If/when this figure is eclipsed, a percentage will be given to a shared league revenue pool. Another element here is that franchises can operate and make money from five non-professional events in their home region every year.
Additionally, there will be league- and team-based Overwatch content sold in the game, with 50 percent of revenue going to a shared revenue pool for all teams.
The minimum base salary for Overwatch League players is $50,000. By comparison, under the structure of one new League of Legends league, players earn a guaranteed salary of at least $75,000.
For more on the Overwatch League, check out GameSpot’s interview with commissioner Nanzer.
In other Overwatch news, the game’s latest seasonal event, Summer Games 2017, is going on right now. You can see all of the new skins here in GameSpot’s gallery.