The first match of the inaugural season of Overwatch is set for 4:00 pm PST to catch the kids on the West Coast as they get out of school, kids on the East Coast as they finish dinner and kids in Asia as they get up in the morning.
The two-year deal, which will include every. single. game. of the league’s first two seasons, includes every geography but China (no word about who the streaming partner will be there).
Twitch will be the third-party provider for everything from the regular season, through the playoffs and championship games and will broadcast in English, Korean and French.
The two partners are also working on finding ways to part fans from their money with different features and rewards that will give perks to fans, like in-game items and exclusives, the company said. Fans also can spend money for Cheering, a Twitch virtual currency, with exclusive Overwatch League Cheermotes.
“Our fans love to engage with content on Twitch, and we wanted to drive significant viewership of the Overwatch League in its inaugural season and beyond,” said Armin Zerza, chief operating officer of Blizzard Entertainment, in a statement.
The Overwatch League is a big bet for Blizzard/Activision, which has gone all-in to promote and support the league for its newest and fastest growing title (that “fastest growing” medal may be a function of the game’s novelty, or a function of the incredible spread of gaming since the launch of Overwatch in 2014 and the company’s last completely new game launch … in the 1990s).
The first season of the league will run from January to June, with playoffs and finals slated for July. Here is a list of the teams (and their owners) who have paid a reported $20 million dollars for rights to participate in the new league:
- San Francisco Shock – Team Owner: Andy Miller, co-owner of Sacramento Kings and CEO of NRG Esports
- Los Angeles Gladiators – Team Owners: Stan and Josh Kroenke, owners of LA Rams, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Rapids and Arsenal F.C.
- Los Angeles Valiant – Team Owner: Noah Whinston, CEO of Immortals (which recently received investment from Peter Levin, executive at Lionsgate Entertainment)
- Dallas Fuel – Team Owner: Mike Rufail, CEO of Team EnVyUs
- Shanghai Dragons – Team Owner: NetEase, a Chinese internet technology company
- Seoul Dynasty – Team Owner: Kevin Chou, CEO of KSV eSports
- Boston Uprising – Team Owner: Robert Kraft, owner of New England Patriots and New England Revolution
- New York Excelsior – Team Owner: Jeff Wilpon, COO of New York Mets
- Philadelphia Fusion – Team Owner: Dave Scott, president & CEO of Comcast Spectacor (Owner of Philadelphia Flyers and Wells Fargo Center in Philly)
- Houston Outlaws – Team Owner: Hector Rodriguez, CEO of OpTic Gaming (which recently received investment from Texas Rangers co-owner Neil Liebman)
- Florida Mayhem – Team Owner: Ben Spoont, CEO of Misfits Gaming (which recently received investment from Miami Heat)
- London Spitfire – Team Owner: Jack Etienne, CEO of Cloud9
“The Overwatch League is making a major impact on esports by reshaping the industry with city-based teams,” said Kevin Lin, COO of Twitch. “Given Overwatch’s consistent reign as a top viewed game by our community, we look forward to offering their pioneering style of league play to a large and passionate fanbase that will be able to bond over not only their favorite plays, but hometown pride.”
Hometown pride won’t be part of the first season of games, which all will take place at Blizzard Arena Los Angeles, in Burbank, California. The venue was custom-renovated for Blizzard Entertainment esports events and is housing all matches while local franchises get their own venues prepped for esports.
Activision’s decision to go with Twitch as a partner makes sense, given the massive reach Twitch has, but it does beg the question why it didn’t use mlg.tv (which it acquired)? That’s the exclusive platform for Call of Duty.
Perhaps with Overwatch as the new marquee title, distribution trumped acquisition.
No matter the reason, Twitch’s Overwatch deal is another step on the road to ensuring that Activision’s new league hits the ground running. Now we’ll see how far it can go.
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