On January 10, the Overwatch League will begin its inaugural season, bringing professional esports to several major cities around the world and pitting the best players in Blizzard’s popular hero shooter against each other in a multi-stage competition. Unlike the structure of other esports leagues, the Overwatch League’s 12 teams each represent particular regions, giving fans a chance to root for their hometown favorite as they would in traditional sports, and it’s set to be among the most high-profile esports leagues in existence. Here is everything you need to know about Overwatch League.
What is the Overwatch League?
Overwatch League is developer Blizzard Entertainment’s own professional esports competition, pitting 12 teams from 11 cities around the world against each other in a 20-week season that is capped off with playoffs featuring the top six teams and a grand final in July. All matches will be held at the Blizzard Arena in Los Angeles for the first season.
Twelve matches will take place during each week of the season, with each team playing twice from Wednesday through Saturday for 40 matches per team, per season. This is substantially longer than other esports leagues such as the North America League of Legends Championship Series, which only runs for nine weeks per season.
At the conclusion of each five-week stage of the regular season, title matches will take place between the top four teams with a prize pool of $125,000. All players will receive, at minimum, a $50,000 salary during the season, and the top team will take home at least $1 million in prize money. Players will take home at least 50 percent of team bonuses, as well.
These figures are nowhere close to the cost of joining the league, however. According to ESPN, smaller-market teams can join for around $15 million, while those in bigger cities could pay even more.
Each team must have at least six players on its roster in order to compete in an Overwatch match, with no more than 12 allowed in total. Thus far, most team rosters have at least a few substitute players available, though Florida Mayhem only features six. Each player will be signed to a one-year contract with a second-year option.
Though the impact that The Overwatch League will have on competitive Overwatch overall remains to be seen, it could pave the way for more international focus on esports as a whole, where South Korean players dominate the current landscape. According to Cloud9 president Daniel Fiden — behind the London Spitfire — the regional approach will help cultivate top-level players around the world (and specifically beyond Seoul).
The Overwatch League consists of 12 teams across the United States, Europe, and Asia, divided into two divisions: Atlantic and Pacific.
Head coach: Dae hee “Crusty” Park
Head coach: Vytis “Mineral” Lasaitis
Head coach: Tae-Yeong “TaiRong” Kim
Head coach: Beoum-Jun “Bishop” Lee
New York Excelsior
Head coach: Hyun Sang “Pavane” Yu
Head coach: Yann “Kirby” Luu
|Simon Ekström||snillo||DPS (inactive – underage)|
|Su-min Kim||SADO||Tank (inactive – suspended)|
Head coach: Kyle “KyKy” Souder
|Jonathan Tejedor Rua||Harryhook||Support/DPS|
Los Angeles Gladiators
Head coach: David “dpei” Pei
|João Pedro Goes Telles||Hydration||DPS|
|Luis Galarza Figueroa||iRemiix||Tank|
Los Angeles Valiant
Head coach: Joshua “dzMins” Kim
|Indy Halpern||SPACE||Flex (inactive – underage)|
San Francisco Shock
Head coach: Brad Rajani
|Daniel Martínez Paz||dhaK||Support|
|Jay Won||sinatraa||DPS (inactive – underage)|
|Matthew DeLisi||super||Flex (inactive – underage)|
Head coach: Baek Kwang-jin
Head coach: Chen “U4” Congshan
Uniforms and in-game currency
The uniforms for each team in The Overwatch League are designed with the team’s logo in the center, as well as the league’s logo in the bottom right corner (for those wearing it.) An example can be seen below:
So they can be easily identified during matches, each team will also have special in-game skins for every character available in Overwatch, corresponding to the colors of their real-life uniforms. To aid the spectator experience, in-game user interface and particle effects have also been altered to match team color schemes. These correspond to each of the uniforms worn be teams’ players, and will be available for purchase by everyone using a special, new in-game currency. The proceeds from sales will go to support the corresponding teams, though Blizzard will give enough tokens for every player to purchase one complimentary skin in early 2018 when the league launches.
What about existing Overwatch tournaments?
The Overwatch League is only possible because Blizzard’s premiere shooter already has a globally popular tournament scene, atop which the new league will sit. Anyone who rises sufficiently in the game’s Ranked competitive play mode will be eligible for the Open Division, which will be divided into several tournaments for top-level amateurs who may hold professional aspirations.
The winners of these Open Division tournaments will go on to compete in Overwatch Contenders tournaments in seven regions around the world. In addition to the current Contenders tournaments in North America and Europe, this will include three existing, previously non-Blizzard tournaments in Korea, China, and the Pacific, as well as new regional tournaments in South America and Australia. Performing well in Contenders tournaments will be the best shot that aspiring pros have of being scouted by Overwatch League teams.