Overwatch League is on, and here’s what you may be missing
By Chris Ventra
Over a few short years, esports have taken off to a global level and have since become one of the fastest growing industries in the world. It all started with just a few popular online multi-player video games, like League of Legends, who pioneered and led the movement. This quickly caught the attention of gaming companies and players. Now there’s a plethora of games created specifically that have become staples within the esports landscape.
For those of you who are still new to esports, it’s essentially the organization of highly promoted and recognized leagues consisting of professional gamers. Online multi-player juggernaut League of Legends are the pioneers and leaders of this booming industry. Not only are there pro leagues for many of these games, but also major tournaments have been established in live arenas internationally. Fans of esports watch their favorite pro gamers play at live Esports events, as well as through online media outlets.
There are many games making headway in esports from various genres including fighting games, first-person shooters, real-time strategy, sports games, racing, MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) etc. One of the most prominent to enter the space is the 2016 first-person shooter Overwatch. The Overwatch developers, Blizzard Entertainment, established a professional league in which players will receive a base salary and win money for achieving different accolades throughout the season. Blizzard has drawn the attention of pro sports organizations and companies around the world. Almost every team created for the Overwatch League, or OWL for short, is backed financially by a major sports team or figure.
A most impressive display.
Check out some of our favorite plays from @OverwatchLeague‘s opening day!
— Overwatch (@PlayOverwatch) January 11, 2018
OWL consists of 12 total teams separated into two divisions of six in the the Atlantic and Pacific divisions. Most of the teams are home-based in the United States except for three; London Spitfire, Seoul Dynasty, and Shanghai Dragons. The inaugural regular season began on Wednesday night wit three matches. You can find specific scheduling details, rules, and regulations at Overwatchleague.com. You can find live streams of each contest on Twitch, MLG.com, and on the OWL site or new app.
Not only has Blizzard Entertainment created OWL, but they’ve held an Overwatch World Cup each year since its release in May of 2016. In each of the two Overwatch World Cups, 32 countries qualified to the group stage, with South Korea dominating and winning in both. The Cup is structured exactly like the FIFA World Cup, starting with a group stage, then knockout rounds to follow. Having 32–plus countries attempting to qualify for the Overwatch World Cup in both its first and second years since being released is truly a testament to how popular the game is around the globe.
Overwatch is just one of many games that’ve established a tremendous following. The fanbase for all these esports games is growing exponentially as well, making esports an unprecedented phenomenon in the sports realm. No wonder why prominent figures within the sports and entertainment world are jumping all over the opportunity to be part of it. Some high-profile investors and owners who are involved include New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft (owns the Boston Uprising), Shaquille O’Neal, Alex Rodriguez, Jennifer Lopez, Marshawn Lynch, and Kroenke Sports & Entertainment (owners of the LA Rams & Denver Nuggets).
As mentioned earlier, the esports revolution is still only in its very early stages and has already outpaced every sports/entertainment industry that came before it. Let’s face it, gaming is a lot of fun and there’s a deep variety of genres for everyone to get into. Even if you don’t have what it takes to endure the rigorous and time-consuming training involved to succeed in pro esports competitions, you can always be a fan of the pro teams who represent your city/state and get involved with it just as much.
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