It can be a bit overwhelming to get into any new sport, let alone one of the biggest eSport league in the world. In an attempt to get you up to speed, I will be presenting a five part series to introduce everyone to the Overwatch League, the four different game modes, the basics of Overwatch’s heroes, some common terminology, and a look at the Boston Uprising’s roster. In this article, I’ll be looking at an introduction to the Overwatch league.
Overwatch is a team based, first person, hero based shooter released by Blizzard in 2016. Blizzard announced the Overwatch League at their annual Blizzcon convention later that year. Overwatch League follows the format of other US sports leagues. City based teams face off over the course of a regular season. Additionally, a seeded playoff and a championship match follows the season.
For us Boston fans, we can be proud to know that the Kraft family was one of the first in the door. Jonathan Kraft and LA Rams owner Stan Kroenke were first to pony up the reported $20 million franchise fee to join the league. With two well known sports team owners on board, the league gained credibility and snowballed to getting to the initial season’s 12 teams.
What makes the Overwatch League unique is the teams are from all over the world. In the first season, the league featured teams from the US, China, England, and South Korea. Additionally, season two added teams from Canada, France, and another from China. Future seasons will likely see other internationally based teams (reportedly Australia and other European countries).
Matches for the first season were all played in LA at the former site of The Tonight Show. Blizzard Arena featured all regular season and playoff matches until the championship. The Barclays Center, home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, played host to the championship final. As a result, a sold out crowd saw the London Spitfire take home the inaugural Overwatch League title, and $1 million prize. In addition, season two will also follow this format. Three separate weekends testing matches in other teams’ home markets are schedule for this year. Season three plans to play home games in each teams’ city.
One unique feature of the standard regular season schedule is the introduction of stages. Seasons have four 5-week stages, culminating in a short playoff to crown a stage champion and a share of the $125,000 prize. A meta change will occur between stages by Blizzard patching the game.
Player contracts are different in the Overwatch League. For example, players have a minimum of a $50,000/year contract. Teams also must provide health insurance, living/training facilities in-season, and at least 50% of any in-season earned winnings. Players are also subject to a code of conduct. Typical pro athlete issues such as interactions with fans and media, drug testing, and cheating can happen. However, Overwatch has a unique and common infraction called player boosting. This is when players sell their services to the Overwatch community. Players log onto accounts and level them up to top tier contention for a fee.
Overwatch League has all the accoutrements that other major sports have. For example, Twitch is the official streaming platform of Overwatch League, and select matches are being broadcast by Disney XD, ABC, and ESPN. Major sponsors of the league include Toyota, Spotify, T-Mobile, and Intel. Fans can purchase player jerseys, team apparel, and in-game character skins to reflect their favorite team.
2019’s season will see several changes to the league. For instance, eight expansion teams have been added to the league. Regular season matches dropped from 40 to 28. Lastly, there will be three separate away series played outside of Blizzard Arena. Games are played Thursday through Sunday with a better daily schedule for non-American fans. Overwatch League has plenty momentum after its first season. As a result, it’s poised to continue to grow into the premiere eSports league in the world.
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