Like any professional sports league, the upcoming Overwatch League is gearing up to sell plenty of merchandise. But unlike, say, the NFL or NBA, you’ll be able to buy both real-world and virtual versions of each team’s uniform.
Today, Blizzard announced some of the merchandise that it will start selling tomorrow, and it includes the usual suspects, like New Era caps and a range of apparel including league-branded sweaters and jackets. Fans will also be able to support each of the league’s 12 teams by buying the T-shirt-style uniforms players will wear during games.
But, as an e-sports league, Blizzard’s upcoming pro circuit also includes digital uniforms for in-game characters, so that viewers can tell who is shooting at who. Starting early next year, fans will be able to purchase the home-game uniforms (known as skins) of the league’s teams for each of the 26 in-game characters. Players will then be able to use those skins when they play, as a way of showing support for their favorite Overwatch League club.
Blizzard’s Overwatch already sells a range of different skins in Overwatch, available through loot boxes, and regularly releases new ones around special events like holidays. But the new pro league jerseys work a little bit differently. Blizzard will be introducing a new in-game currency called “league tokens” that can only be used to buy Overwatch League skins. The company says the decision was made so that the profits from purchases can be properly split between the developer and each of the league’s teams. The company will be giving each Overwatch player enough tokens for one free league skin.
The Overwatch League will kick off its first season in January, and it represents an ambitious attempt from Blizzard to meld the worlds of e-sports and traditional sports. It features a city-based structure, with some of the biggest owners from leagues like the NBA and NFL, and offers players contracts with guaranteed salaries, health insurance, and retirement plans. Meanwhile, its roster of clubs is more global than most traditional sports leagues, with teams in Seoul, London, and Shanghai, in addition to the United States.
It’s a big gamble on the mainstream potential of e-sports, and it starts very soon: the Overwatch League pre-season starts tomorrow, while the first proper match will be on January 10th at Blizzard’s new e-sports arena in Los Angeles.