At BlizzCon today, Blizzard announced a new e-sports league designed for Overwatch: Overwatch League.
It is designed with some novel approaches to the handling of current e-sports with its design mainly focusing on region impact and team stability.
Borrowing from professional physical sports, Overwatch League is focusing on having teams represent cities around the world with team franchises bidding on cities to be located in. These teams are also forcing player locks and what appears to be strict contract agreements.
Overwatch League will begin with a combination of professional talent that team owners will be able to watch and judge a player’s relative skill before choosing to sign that player during a signing period. After rosters are locked, the teams will compete against each other in LAN play during the regular season before a season finals is played in a live playoff.
Blizzard’s tournament and league design goes against much of what the current e-sports market uses. Instead of focusing on prize pools, Blizzard is more interested in a stable community. In an interview with Kotaku, Gio Hunt said, “Nobody talks about what the prize pool is for the World Cup or the prize pool for the Super Bowl… Everybody knows that the athletes are very well compensated… That’s because a much more stable ecosystem for players and athletes is where they have contracts and guaranteed compensation and benefits and everything else. That’s more along the lines of the approach that we’re taking.”
Overwatch League will be released sometime in Q3 of 2017 with an abbreviated test season, with a full roll-out in 2018. Seasons are expected to run from spring to summer with finals in August. The off-season will be in the fall and winter.