In barely more than a year, Overwatch has outpaced gaming mainstays such as Call of Duty, Halo and Battlefield to become one of the most popular shooters on the planet.
But starting today (July 12), Overwatch is entering a new stage of development with the announcement of the first seven teams in its upcoming esports organization: the Overwatch League. Here's everything we know so far about Blizzard's plan to bring pro Overwatch to the mainstream.
What is Overwatch?
Overwatch is a 6-on-6 team-based first-person shooter from Blizzard, the same folks who make World of Warcraft, Diablo and StarCraft. Teams battle across a variety of maps in order to complete an objective such as capturing a point or pushing a payload to a destination.
Currently, there are 25 playable heroes for each player to choose from, ranging from offensive heroes like Tracer and Pharah, to tanks like D.Va and Winston and even support heroes like Mercy and Lucio. For a deeper look at the game, check out our primer.
What is the Overwatch League?
The Overwatch League is an international competitive esports organization run by Blizzard (the makers of Overwatch) and is comprised of franchised teams who will battle it out to determine which team reigns supreme.
The biggest difference between the Overwatch League and other esports competitions is that Overwatch League teams will be tied to specific cities or locations, both in the U.S. and abroad.
Who are the teams in the Overwatch League?
It's still early, but there are already 7 teams officially committed to joining the Overwatch League. However, there are sure to be more additions to the league as the organization matures.
Right now the 7 teams and their owners are:
Boston: Owned by New England Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft with a roster that is still to be determined.
New York: Owned by Jeff Wilpon, COO and son of the New York Mets principal owner Fred Wilpon. Roster is still TBD.
Los Angeles: Owned by Noah Winston, CEO of the Immortals esports organization, which will bring its existing Overwatch team to the Overwatch League.
Miami-Orlando: Owned by Ben Spoont, CEO of Misfits Gaming, which will bring its existing Overwatch team to the OL.
San Francisco:Owned by Andy Miller, chairman and founder of NRG esports, which will bring its existing Overwatch team to the OL.
Shanghai:Owned by the NetEase corporation, an internet communications and gaming services company who operates networks for playing games such as Hearthstone, StarCraft II and others in China. Roster is still unannounced.
Seoul:Owned by Kabam, an interactive entertainment company and makers of mobile games including Marvel: Contest of Champions and Transformers: Forged to Fight. Roster is still unannounced.
How will competitions work?
Initially, games will be hosted and broadcast live at a shared venue in L.A. while each team prepares its own arena in its host city. Once those individual arenas are ready, the idea is to have home and away matches much like in traditional sports, with teams flying to other cities according to a predetermined schedule.
Who is paying for all this?
The idea is for each Overwatch League team to generate revenue through ticket sales, advertising, merchandise and broadcast rights. Teams will be responsible for paying each player an as-of-yet unspecified base salary in addition to covering travel costs.
Blizzard will also sell team-based Overwatch content inside the game, with 50 percent of the proceeds going to a shared revenue pool split across all Overwatch League teams.
There have also be rumors of Overwatch League owners paying Blizzard up to $20 million to franchise a team, but these reports have not been confirmed.
How long will the Overwatch League last?
The goal is to have the Overwatch League run forever, similar to traditional leagues like the NFL, MLB and NHL, where it seems like there will always be a "next season."
When will Overwatch League start?
While there is still no set date for the first Overwatch League match, but the first competition should take place sometime later this year.
That's about all we know for now, and there are still a ton of unanswered questions such as: When will more teams be added? What do you get for winning Overwatch League? Will this even work?
As for the last question, there's no guarantee that the Overwatch League will take off like other esports titles such as League of Legends or DOTA 2, but with big name investors such as Kraft and Wilpon, it's clear people are taking this seriously.
Image credit: Blizzard