The inaugural Overwatch League (OWL) is Blizzard's foray into bigtime E-sports. With a reported $10-20M franchise cost Blizzard has setup the first season into Four 5 Week Stages with 12 games (1 game = 4 maps) running Wednesday to Saturday from January to June where 12 teams fight for the 6 playoff spots. Over 270 maps in the Regular Season alone.
$3.5M USD has been allocated for the first OWL season of which at least 1.75M is guaranteed for the players.
- $500k USD for 4x Stage Playoffs
The 2nd and 3rd best teams of each of the four Stages play each other with the Winner playing the 1st seed for a $125k USD prizepool for the top 3 teams.
1st $100k USD
- $1.3M USD in prizemoney for final standings placement:
1st $300k USD
- $1.7M USD prizepool OWL Playoffs for top teams in the Atlantic and Pacific team qualify while the 4 next best teams regardless of Division qualify as Wildcards. The top 6 teams and Grand Finals which will be held in July:
1st $1M USD
In addition, all players receive a $50k USD base salary, health insurance, retirement savings, housing and are eligible for at least 50% of the team prizepool winnings.
For a team of 6 the highest possible salary could be $333k USD before taxes winning every stage, first place standing and winning the playoffs (assuming the owner takes a 0% cut, $191k for a 50% cut), on a team of 12 the lowest possible salary could be 51k. This is in stark contrast to Valve games where players are directly paid 100% of the winnings after taxes but there are no other frills.
Plans are for teams to have their own home stadiums and for teams to visit each other like the NFL system they are copying. For now most games are going to be played in Blizzard's own in-house Esports Arena with seating of around 300 in the stands.
There is also about 150 floor seats and custom high definition wall screens which change color and pattern for each team and act as monitors and reinforce team colors
- 12 Teams in 2 Divisions
- Teams consist of 6-12 players with no country restrictions.
- Players can be swapped out in between maps.
- Players must be 18yo to play, so some players are on rosters waiting for their birthdays.
- Jan 22 marked the opening of the mid-season signing period. Unsigned players can be signed to a new team for the start of Stage 2 (Feb 21).
- Teams can trade players starting on Feb 11 (when Stage 1 ends)
- The rosters will be locked Apr 3 until the end of OWL S1.
Owners: Cloud9, an American esports organization based in LA
What to know: The Spitfire epitomizes the ridiculousness of Overwatch League’s location-based branding, with owners based in California, a team name that claims to be from London, and a roster comprised entirely of South Korean players. The roster mashes together players from GC Busan and KongDoo Panthera, the latter of which has been one of Overwatch’s most successful lineups, particularly in APEX Season 3. If these two teams can figure out how to recombine their two lineups into new alignments, Spitfire could end up being the team that gives the Dynasty a real challenge this season.
Owners: Misfits Gaming, British esports organization
What to know: In yet another confusing location jamboree, this Florida-based team is owned by Brits and has a mostly Swedish roster. With only six pros signed, they’re the smallest team in the league, and in preseason, it didn’t seem like these guys could keep up. Most of the players appeared on Sweden’s Overwatch World Cup team, where they made it through the semifinals but got knocked out in the quarterfinals. Put them squarely in the “scrappy underdogs” category.
What to know: The Philly Fusion was the only team that had to bail completely on Overwatch League preseason. They pulled out at the last second, probably due to visa troubles. What’s more, the team’s tank player, Su-min “Sado” Kim, recently got a suspension for boosting, which is when a player levels up other people’s Overwatch accounts in exchange for cash. Philly’s got a decent roster, but we haven’t seen them play together yet, so we have no idea how good they are right now.
Owners: OpTic Gaming
What to know: With Jacob “JAKE” Lyon, Matt “coolmatt” Iorio and Shane “Rawkus” Flaherty all hailing from the USA’s Overwatch World Cup team, the Houston Outlaws are setting themselves up as the all-American Overwatch team this year. South Korea’s team eliminated the USA during the World Cup, so the narrative has already been set up for any showdown between the Outlaws and Seoul Dynasty. The Dynasty and the Fuel already beat the Outlaws during preseason, though, so these players have their work cut out for them.
Owners: Robert Kraft, New England Patriots owner
What to know: The Uprising has the opposite of the blueblood pedigree of its NFL parent. With a roster full of second-stringers and young unknowns, the Uprising came into preseason surprising everyone by not being that bad. The team managed to beat the Shanghai Dragons 3-2, and lost 3-1 to their natural rivals in New York Excelsior. Unlike most of the other teams, Boston has four support players, which should serve them well given how much of the current meta relies on multiple supports, with someone always on Mercy… although, that could change at any time.
Owners: Jeff Wilpon New York Mets COO
What to know: New York already had to play Boston during preseason, and they’ll open the regular season against each other. Unlike the Krafts, the Wilpons decided to go the route of only drafting South Korean Overwatchplayers, including most of the members of the team LW Blue. The team also signed Yeon-oh “Fl0w3R” Hwang, yet another player too young to compete yet; he won’t turn 18 until May, most of the way through the first season. He’ll be worth the wait, as shown by his versatility with multiple characters during Overwatch World Cup. In the preseason, they beat Boston and lost to Seoul.
Owners: Andy Miller, NRG Esports chairman and co-owner, Sacramento Kings co-owner. Plus, investments from Shaq, Marshawn Lynch, J.Lo, and more
What to know: Overwatch League player salaries start at $50K, but the SF Shock’s star DPS player Jay “sinatraa” Won negotiated a much higher paycheck than that. ESPN reported the 17-year-old pro will be taking in $150,000, but he can’t play in the league until he turns 18 this March. Even without their star DPS player, the Shock played better than expected during preseason. The team’s nine-man roster is dominated by DPS players, which means that the roster will be easy to fill in until Jay Won comes of age.
Owners: Immortals, an esports organization that went all in on Blizzard’s Overwatch League, only to then get the cold shoulder from Riot Games. Immortals’ 22-year-old CEO Noah Whinston told Venture Beat he hopes to “kick some ass on Robert Kraft” and plans to “deal out some tough blows to the traditional sports owners.”
What to know: The LA Valiant had a good preseason, including a win against the LA Gladiators (yes, Los Angeles has two Overwatch League teams, for some reason) as well as a win against the San Francisco Shock, the team they’ll face again on opening day. This time, the Valiant will have star DPS player Brady “Agilities” Girardi, who just turned 18 in December. By the way, the other LA team is owned by Stan Kroenke, so the LA residents who’d prefer to root against traditional sports billionaires should make sure to raise a flag for the Valiant rather than the Gladiators.
Owners: NetEase, a Chinese internet tech company
What to know: Shanghai Dragons have a stacked roster of talented Chinese players, three of whom appeared in the top 8 in Overwatch World Cup this past year. But the team fell flat during preseason, and its future seems a little rocky: their coach recently got fined for account sharing, as well as for communicating with other Overwatch pro players without getting permission from management.
Owners: Stan and Josh Kroenke, owners of Arsenal, the LA Rams, and so much more
What to know: LA Gladiators’ roster has a couple of notable standouts, like Lane “Surefour” Roberts, who helped bring Canada’s Overwatch World Cup team to grand finals. There’s also Aaron “Bischu” Kim, notable for playing pro in a totally different esport, League of Legends. Surefour’s sharp shooting should help elevate the team up from the middle of the pack, but Surefour’s also known for his hotheaded personality, such as in this post-match interview last year during which he claimed to have “played fine personally,” unlike the rest of his team. Way to be a cliche DPS player, guy.
Owners: Team EnVyUs, plus millions of investments from oil and energy magnate Kenneth Hersh, hence the “Fuel” team name
What to know: The Fuel have a stacked roster with a tendency for drama. DPS player Félix “xQc” Lengyel got hit with a week-long suspension from Blizzard thanks to some false reports he filed to troll people during a live Twitch broadcast. There’s also Timo “Taimou” Kettunen, who got fined for making a “lewd comment” about an interviewer, and who also appeared in a video (now removed) doing a dramatic reading of the leaked horny DMs of one of his esports rivals. Despite those two, the roster EnVyUs has collected was strong enough to attract the attention of Brandon “Seagull” Larned, former Team Fortress 2 pro and popular Twitch streamer. Seagull claimed he got multiple offers and chose the Dallas Fuel.
Owners: KSV eSports
What to know: The Seoul team is made up of the players from Lunatic Hai, three of whom appeared on the winning Overwatch World Cup team, taking home the trophy for South Korea. Lunatic-Hai has become renowned as the best Overwatch team in the world, with multiple first-place finishes at APEX. They were the only team to win three times during their preseason round. Good luck to everybody else!
Each team has in game skins(palette swap colors) for every hero.
The good news is the first one is free.
Physical goods are also on sale in person at the Blizzard Arena or online
iOS and Android can help you keep track of your favorite team on the go.
ESPN also does a nice job with short written recaps.
theScore Esports and Liquipedia list the results with no recap.
Ashkon is doing video ~10m game recaps and post-game interviews
You can watch the games live on Blizzard's OWL site or on Twitch.