E-sports is maturing at a rapid pace. What once was only found on a Twitch stream here and there is now becoming the new favored spectator sport for an entire generation of gamers.
A few weeks ago, Blizzard announced the very first city-based e-sports league for the ultra-popular game Overwatch. In fact, the game and its spectator following even garnered the attention of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, as well as NY Mets COO Jeff Wilpon. (Kraft will own the Boston team and Wilpon will own the New York team.)
As a follow-up to that announcement, Blizzard has outlined some of the standards that will be used for signing and employing professional players in the Overwatch League.
For one, the minimum salary for any player in this league will be $50,000, which is a considerable amount considering that many of these players got their start as teenagers. Teams will sign players to at least a one-year contract, with the option to extend for an additional year.
These players will also get health insurance and receive a retirement savings plan, as required by the league rules.
And finally, teams will be forced to hand over at least half of their team performance bonuses (such as cash from winning playoffs or other league events) directly to the players. This means that the total available bonus for teams through the season is $3.5 million, with a minimum of $1 million going to the Season One champions.
Teams are made up of at least six players, with a maximum of 12 players. That means that one person on a lean team of six that wins each possible bonus would make a minimum of $750K.
Teams are also required to provide team housing and practice facilities during the season.
Even more interesting, established Overwatch players are not necessarily guaranteed a spot on an Overwatch League team. Blizzard has built out a scouting report, and all 30 million Overwatch players are currently being considered as free agents. The signing window is from August 1 to October 30, so best start grinding if you want to make the league.
Thus far, the following cities have teams: Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Miami-Orlando, San Francisco, Shanghai and Seoul. There is also the option for other city-based teams to join the league before/during the signing period.
Part of the problem with e-sports as a mainstream spectator sport is that its hard to determine where your team loyalties lie. Football, for example, is a game where you know who your team is by the age of 10, as you root for your home team.
This Blizzard league may make it easier for average video game fans to get into the action by simply rooting for locals.
Season One starts before years end.