Sources close to Activision Blizzard’s upcoming Overwatch League (OWL) have informed us that they have already secured the involvement of two big US sporting brands. It has been communicated internally that the owners of the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins, Robert Kraft and Stephen Ross, have both purchased slots in multi-million dollar deals. At this time it isn’t clear if the teams will compete under their existing brands or whether new ones will be created but with the focus on regional franchises it’s clear which territories the teams will cover.
The deals come after a sustained campaign by Blizzard to try and entice sports franchises to their league. This has not only involved near constant communication with journalists about the league itself, but multiple meetings with sports brand owners. This has led to some seemingly grandiose claims by Activision Blizzard, such as the one that there are 75,000 professional standard players among a 30 million player base but, for the most part, sports brands had been cool when it comes to commitment.
One of our sources said these deals were secured directly by Bobby Kotick, who has been one of the staff members actively pitching for investors. “Bobby has been really busy on this one” the source informed us “making personal house calls and constantly talking up the league. He spends about half of his working hours on this project alone and has been happy to finally land some big names for the league.”
For months there has been speculation as to whether any sports brand would want to buy in for the prices that Blizzard had been touting behind the scenes. With key territories being valued as high as $15 million by the games developer, many felt that this was too high given that there was no proof of concept, Overwatch’s viewing numbers remained modest and that other similar leagues, such as the Championship Gaming Series, had been expensive flops. However, to compliment Blizzard’s sustained campaign came a report by Morgan Stanley, which claimed that a strong market could see the league generate up to $720 million a year. That scenario, which it must be said certainly was based on a general look at esports trends and some fairly bold predictions, may have played a part in convincing some big names to take the plunge.
However, endemic esports brands still think that they are being priced out the market and also believe the Morgan Stanley report is not to be believed. “The report is a joke that we’re all laughing about” one esports owner told us in confidence. “Having been involved in esports for as long as we have we don’t understand that projection, especially when you consider how little you make on something as big as having a team in [Riot Games League of Legends Championship Series] LCS.”
They also went on to add that most of the endemic esports brands were not being approached for their investment. “Blizzard doesn’t see us as having the money and that seems to be their focus” they continued. “It’s brands such as ours that have helped Overwatch take hold in the competitive community but now we’re being pushed out. You’re unlikely to see 90% of esports brands involved if things continue this way.”
We are reaching out to Blizzard for comment.