eSports' Overwatch League expands to six cities

The Overwatch League Finals Between The Philadelphia Fusion And The London Spitfire on July 30, 2018.
The Overwatch League Finals Between The Philadelphia Fusion And The London Spitfire on July 30, 2018.PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

SAN FRANCISCO • It is time to defend your city from attack.

Over the weekend, Activision Blizzard added six teams to its Overwatch League, including one in Paris, as the city-based approach to eSports headed into its second season.

The league is already profitable, filling a stadium during championships in July, which had matches broadcast on Disney and its ESPN channels in the United States, according to Activision eSports league chief Pete Vlastelica.

New teams in Chengdu, Hangzhou, Paris, Toronto, Vancouver and Washington, DC for the 2019 season bring the total number in the Overwatch League to 20.

"Having been in the traditional sport space, it certainly catches your eye when anything is as explosive, fast-moving and exciting as this," said Mr Drew McCourt, whose company, DM Esports, owns the rights to the Paris team.

"It has massive potential. There is huge latent demand for this in a turbo-charged demographic that feels this in an incredibly emotional way."

Mr McCourt is president of McCourt Global, an investment firm boasting interests ranging from real estate and finance to sport and media.

His father, Global chairman Frank McCourt, bought French football club Olympique de Marseille several years ago and formerly owned the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team.

Audiences for traditional sport broadcast on cable or television channels are getting older.

But the Overwatch League provides an opportunity to connect with the Internet generation, who get their entertainment online, Mr Drew McCourt reasoned.

Since its launch in January, the Overwatch League has developed its own stars and legions of fans who follow the tournament either virtually or at live events.

Fans spent 160 million hours watching leading Overwatch players compete, according to Activision Blizzard chief executive officer Bobby Kotick.

Launched in January, the competition comprises franchises representing cities on three continents.

The league's models are the major US professional sport leagues such as the National Football League and National Basketball Association.

Overwatch is a first-person, shooter video game which features teams of six players battle rival teams in a fast-paced, futuristic setting.

The game was developed by Blizzard, the California-based company best known for creating the World Of Warcraft online phenomenon.

The vision is for Overwatch League to become a truly global competition, expanding to 28 teams and featuring regular matches between teams on opposite sides of the world, such as Paris taking on Beijing.

Hot eSports games such as battle-royale style Fortnite and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds are global sensations, but do not have the city-based league structure being built by Blizzard.

"There will always be games of the moment, but great leagues sustain games," Mr Vlastelica said. "We learnt from traditional sport leagues."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 10, 2018, with the headline 'eSports' Overwatch League expands to six cities'. Print Edition | Subscribe