LONDON Spitfire are going to have some serious competition if they want to hold onto the Overwatch League trophy next season – Blizzard has confirmed it has sold eight more franchises for the 2019 season, bringing the league total up to 20.
The three Chinese teams — Chengdu, Hangzhou and Guangzhou — are the most notable signs of the league’s ambitions of international domination. They’re joined by a new team in Paris, two Canadian teams in Toronto and Vancouver, with two new US teams in Washington, D.C and Atlanta rounding out the set.
While prices paid for the new slots in the league have not been officially confirmed, it was reported in February they would be being sold for between £27 million and £46 million. This compares to the £15 million buy-in for owners in the inaugural season.
The Canadian team has been bought by Aquilini Group, owner of NHL team the Vancouver Canucks and Vancouver’s 20,000 capacity Rogers Arena.
The rest of the new owners all come from the world of eSports, game streaming and the like.
SportsBusiness Daily reports that Overactive, owners of the Toronto franchise, are bringing on Chris Overholt, long-time CEO of Canada’s National Olympic Committee, to head up their new team.
What is Overwatch?
Overwatch is a team-based first-person shooter developed by Blizzard Entertainment.
Unlike many other shooters, characters in Overwatch have one of three roles: damage-dealers, support, or tanking.
Damage-dealers do the traditional job of trying to outgun the opposing team’s members. Tanks are there to draw fire and soak up damage while protecting objectives or their team-mates, while support characters can heal other players, boost their damage output, or protect them.
The Overwatch League is one of the flagship eSports competitions, with millions of pounds in prize money up for grabs.
12 teams competed in the inaugural season: New York Excelsior, Los Angeles Valiant, Boston Uprising, Los Angeles Gladiators, London Spitfire, Philadelphia Fusion, Houston Outlaws, Seoul Dynasty, San Francisco Shock, Dallas Fuel, Florida Mayhem and the Shanghai Dragons.
All the players are full-time professionals, and all the teams are currently physically based around Blizzard’s Arena in Los Angeles, though there are plans afoot to move them to their respective cities with their own arenas in the next couple of years.
“We are thrilled to add eight new outstanding team owners from Europe, China, and North America to our Overwatch League ownership group. We now have 20 of the very best owners in professional sports,” said Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, the league’s parent company.
All the teams will still be based and compete at the Blizzard Arena in Anaheim, California, for the 2019 season, but it is hoped that they will be based in their home cities for 2020.
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Other details of the 2019 season including dates, exact format, prize money, and the like are yet to be confirmed.
The league signed a broadcast deal with Disney/ESPN at the end of last season, and confirmed a secondary broadcast deal for highlights with Twitter shortly after London walked away with the inaugural season title.
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