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Video game giant Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick said that its Blizzard Entertainment division would announce more teams soon and formally launch its Overwatch League later this year.
The league is the company’s big dive into esports, as Overwatch local team franchises are reportedly selling for $20 million each. The drive to create a professional esports league for the popular game (which has more than 40 million users) represents one of the biggest efforts in the game industry to create a spectator sport on the scale of the NFL or the NBA.
“The next round of team announcements will continue the momentum,” Kotick said during an analyst conference call. “We’re off to a really great start and you will hear more about future teams over the balance of the year.”
Blizzard announced its first seven Overwatch teams in July. The franchise owners included Kevin Chou and Kent Wakeford, the former leaders of mobile gaming firm Kabam; Noah Whinston and Clinton Foy, owners of the The Immortals esports team in Los Angeles; and Robert Kraft, chairman and chief executive officer of the Kraft Group and the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots in Boston.
“We are assembling the very best owners for all of esports,” Kotick said, noting the interest from professional sports teams such as the Patriots. “We think we have organized the league in the best way to celebrate our players and our fans.”
And Blizzard promised Overwatch pro players at least $50,000 a year. Blizzard is spending money on the infrastructure for the league, such as setting up broadcast distribution, sponsorships, and competitions. It also expects revenues to come in for the local owners through ticket sales, concessions, and local merchandise sales.
Spencer Neumann, chief financial officer of Activision Blizzard, said on the call that the company is positioning the league for long-term success. It plans to share 50 percent of the revenues between the league owners and the teams.
“We have plenty of work to do as we will launch later this year,” he said.
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