Overwatch League adds Guangzhou, China and Atlanta, Georgia Franchises
Last week the Overwatch League announced two new official franchises in Guangzhou, China and Atlanta, Georgia.
The newly confirmed franchises represent teams number 13 and 14, in what is expected to be an 18 team league by the beginning of season two. While not officially confirmed, additional reports indicate that a team in Paris will also be joining the league.
There has been a lot of speculation surrounding the OWL roadshow and how many new teams will be confirmed – and we now have our first confirmations. The expansions are through ownership groups Cox in Atlanta and the Nenking Group in Guangzhou and rumors have indicated the slots to be priced at $30M-$60M — a significant increase from the $20M price tag teams paid last year.
After an impressive inaugural season, the expansion signals Blizzard’s continued prioritization of Overwatch Esports and indicates external ownership groups desire to invest the league. With a reported $200M in sponsorship and media sales in the books, few other esports properties provide investors the opportunity to tap into a codified and commercially successful product. And although the entry fee is dramatically higher than other leagues — the NA LCS buy in in last year was $13M for new teams and $10M for incumbents — ownership groups are showing that strong financial results, solid digital viewership, excellent production value, and the backing of Activision-Blizzard is enough to warrant a big check.
While the final four expansion cities are not yet finalized, Blizzard has started following through on its statement to expand the league internationally by adding a second city in China. We anticipate more international cities to follow, with roughly three of the remaining four teams to be announced calling somewhere outside the United States home. This move will further reinforce the unique nature of the Overwatch League, which is perhaps the only sports league in the world that can have a final match played between Philadelphia and London.
The biggest remaining question is how regionalization will work in a league that has teams across the globe and what sort of regional audience sizes local teams can develop. While early indications are optimistic, with numerous teams hosting viewing parties in their respective regions, relying on regular in-arena attendance at esports events is an unproven model. That said, Activision-Blizzard has proven an ability to defy expectations so if anyone can do it, OWL can.
2018 Evolution Championship Series (EVO)
This past weekend the 2018 Evolution Championship Series, EVO, took place at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Competitors across the fighting game community (FGC) squared off in 8 games in a 3 day long event culminating in Championship Sunday.