Overwatch League (OWL) is the premier Professional Esports League for Overwatch, organized by Blizzard Entertainment. The league is touted as the first 'truly global professional esports league' , featuring franchised teams representing cities from all around the world.
The League began with 12 teams for the Inaugural Season, which started on January 10th, 2018.
Overwatch League was announced at BlizzCon 2016. A trailer was released, detailing the career of fictional player 'Krusher99'. The league was revealed to be using a franchising model for its teams, with each team spot representing a city.
First Seven Teams
On July 12th, 2017, Blizzard announced the first 7 Cities and Team Owners participating in the Overwatch League. The Cities and Owners announced were:
- Boston, owned by Robert Kraft, Chairman and CEO of the Kraft Group, owners of the American Football team the New England Patriots.
- New York, owned by Jeff Wilpon, COO of the baseball team The New York Mets.
- Los Angeles, owned by Noah Whinston, CEO of Immortals.
- Miami-Orlando, owned by Ben Spoont, CEO and Co-Founder of Misfits.
- San Francisco, owned by Andy Miller, Chairman and Founder of NRG Esports.
- Shanghai, owned by NetEase, a Chinese Internet Technology company that distributes Blizzard games in China.
- Seoul, owned by Kevin Chou, Chairman and CEO of KSV eSports.
Season 1 Player Salaries and Signing Period Announced
On July 26th, 2017, Blizzard released details on player salaries and signing procedure and timelines for the inaugural season. It outlined, among other things, that the minimum player salary would be USD$50,000, and that initial contracts would be for a minimum term of 1 year. All teams will be required to provide health insurance, a retirement savings plan, and provide player housing and practice facilities for their players.
Teams would also be required to distribute at least 50% of their team performance bonuses to their players directly, and that the total bonuses available for OWL teams in Season 1 will amount to USD$3.5 million, with a minimum of USD$1 million awarded to Season 1 Champions
The announcement also outlined the Official Player Signing Window for Season 1: from August 1st to October 30th 2017. Teams will be required to have at least 6 players, and no more than 12 total.
Further Teams Announced
- Los Angeles, owned by Stan Kroenke and Josh Kroenke, owners of several American sports franchises, and founders of KSE Esports.
- London, owned by Jack Etienne, Founder and CEO of Cloud9.
- Dallas, owned by Mike Rufail, Owner and CEO of Team EnVyUs, the spot is also co-owned by nV investor Hersh Interactive.
- Houston, owned by Hector Rodriguez, Owner and CEO of OpTic Gaming.
- Philadelphia, owned by Comcast Spectacor, sports and entertainment company, manages hundreds of stadiums in North America and Singapore.
Season 2 Teams Announced
On August 2nd, 2018 the cities and owners of the first two expansion teams were officially revealed:
- Atlanta, owned by Cox Enterprises, a leading communications, media, and automotive services company. The team will be operated by Atlanta Esports Ventures, a partnership between Cox and Province, Inc.
- Guangzhou, owned and operated by Nenking Group, a financial and entertainment conglomerate, and owner of the Guangzhou Long Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association.
On September 7th, 2018 the cities and owners of the six final expansion teams of season 2 were officially revealed:
- Vancouver, owned by Aquilini Group, a diversified family business that owns the National Hockey League’s Vancouver Canucks and Rogers Arena and manages a global conglomerate portfolio.
- Hangzhou, owned by Bilibili, a leading online entertainment company in China, covering a wide array of genres and media formats including videos, live broadcasting, and mobile games.
- Paris, owned by DM Esports, a global company focused on esports entertainment and investments.
- Chengdu, owned by HUYA Inc., a leading game livestreaming platform in China.
- Toronto, owned by OverActive Media, an integrated company delivering esports and video game entertainment to the Canadian market.
- Washington D.C., owned by Washington Esports Ventures, a sports organization founded by Mark Ein, owner of the Washington Kastles of World Team Tennis, to build and promote esports enterprises.
The current teams in Overwatch League are:
|City||Team Name||Owner||Team Announced||First Season|
|Atlanta||Not yet announced||Cox Enterprises||2018-08-02 ||2019|
|Boston||Boston Uprising||Robert Kraft||2017-07-12 ||2018|
|Chengdu||Not yet announced||HUYA Inc.||2018-09-07 ||2019|
|Dallas||Dallas Fuel||Mike Rufail||2017-09-20 ||2018|
|Guangzhou||Not yet announced||Nenking Group||2018-08-02 ||2019|
|Hangzhou||Not yet announced||Bilibili||2018-09-07 ||2019|
|Houston||Houston Outlaws||Hector Rodriguez||2017-09-20 ||2018|
|London||London Spitfire||Jack Etienne||2017-08-10 ||2018|
|Los Angeles||Los Angeles Valiant||Noah Whinston||2017-07-12 ||2018|
|Los Angeles||Los Angeles Gladiators||Stan and Josh Kroenke||2017-08-10 ||2018|
|Miami-Orlando||Florida Mayhem||Ben Spoont||2017-07-12 ||2018|
|New York||New York Excelsior||Jeff Wilpon||2017-07-12 ||2018|
|Paris||Not yet announced||DM Esports||2018-09-07 ||2019|
|Philadelphia||Philadelphia Fusion||Comcast Spectacor||2017-09-20 ||2018|
|San Francisco||San Francisco Shock||Andy Miller||2017-07-12 ||2018|
|Seoul||Seoul Dynasty||Kevin Chou||2017-07-12 ||2018|
|Shanghai||Shanghai Dragons||NetEase||2017-07-12 ||2018|
|Toronto||Not yet announced||OverActive Media||2018-09-07 ||2019|
|Vancouver||Not yet announced||Aquilini Group||2018-09-07 ||2019|
|Washington||Not yet announced||Washington Esports Ventures||2018-09-07 ||2019|
|Season||Date||Prize Pool||Champion||Runner-Up||Regular Season Winner|
|2018||2018 (2018.01.10 - 2018.07.28)||$3,500,000||London Spitfire||Philadelphia Fusion||New York Excelsior|
|2019||2019 (2019.??.?? - 2019.??.??)||$???||TBD||TBD||TBD|
|Nate Nanzer||League Commissioner||2016-11-04|
|Jonathan Spector||Director of Franchises & Competition||2016-??-??|
|Alchemist||Jason Baker||Lead Observer||2017-10-01|
|CaptainPlanet||Ben Trautman||Live Stats Producer||2017-11-28|
- From the Overwatch League Office | Welcome Our Initial Seven Teams by Blizzard Entertainment 2017-07-12 |
- Robert Kraft Calls Upstart Overwatch League The "Future Of Sport In Many Ways"
- OWL First Seven team owners announced
- OWL Announced BlizzCon 2016
- OWL announced to start Q3
- PLAYER SIGNINGS, SALARIES, AND MORE IN THE OVERWATCH LEAGUE™
- "THE OVERWATCH LEAGUE WELCOMES LONDON, SECOND LOS ANGELES TEAM.". Blizzard. 2017-08-10.
- "THE OVERWATCH LEAGUE WELCOMES FINAL TEAMS FOR INAUGURAL SEASON". Blizzard. 2017-09-20.
- "ATLANTA AND GUANGZHOU TAKE THE STAGE". Blizzard. 2018-08-02.
- "OVERWATCH LEAGUE TO OPEN 2019 SEASON WITH 20 TEAMS". Blizzard. 2018-09-07.