After nearly a year of building up its ambitious e-sports league for the colorful shooter Overwatch, Blizzard has finally announced a start date for the competition. The Overwatch league’s debut season will start on January 10th and will last until June, with playoffs following in July. Meanwhile, teams will be getting an early start with a series of pre-season exhibition matches that start on December 6th.
Along with the start date, Blizzard also announced the final three teams that will be joining the e-sports circuit. They include a team in Philadelphia, owned by the same group behind the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers, as well as teams in Dallas and Houston, operated by e-sports groups Team Envy and OpTic Gaming, respectively. The new groups bring the total number of teams to 12. And while most are based in the United States — including two teams in Los Angeles — there are also a handful of clubs around the globe, representing London, Seoul, and Shanghai.
Blizzard first announced the Overwatch league last November. While there are plenty of existing professional e-sports leagues, Blizzard is looking to differentiate its offering by emulating traditional pro sports leagues. That includes featuring city-based teams with a dedicated local fanbase, as well as offering players contracts with guaranteed salaries, health insurance, and retirement plans. The plan has attracted big-name ownership groups from traditional pro sports leagues, and reports claim that new franchises cost a hefty $20 million each.
As part of its efforts, Blizzard recently unveiled plans for a new dedicated e-sports arena in Burbank, California, which will be home to the pre-season competition for the new league.