The benefits of being the Overwatch League are starting to slim out after a recent announcement from Blizzard stating team owners and franchise buyers will have to create new and original team names which will be exclusive to the league, according to League Commissioner Nate Nanzer in an interview with Sports Business Daily.
“We’ve seen that best practices in several major traditional sports leagues involve keeping team brands exclusive to the league the teams belong to, and we see the value to the league, teams, and fans in following that precedent for this particular aspect of the Overwatch League.”
A number of brands who have become franchise owners will now need to find new identities for their teams within the League, and while some of them will remain unaffected by the news, teams like Cloud9, NRG Esports and Immortals will have to leave behind their well-known names within esports and find new trademarks. This will, of course, hurt their fans and the brand they’ve built over the past few years competing in various titles under their banner. It’s important to note that for some of these teams Overwatch is still a relatively small part of their brand and their fanbase is still growing. This could work in their favour, but their other teams may lose some fans who have crossed over.
Nanzer’s explanation makes sense, in a way, since the teams are regional which means they’re hoping to gain popularity within their regions and build new fan bases accordingly. This has worked in traditional sports, which the Overwatch League is modelled on. It’s a rational fear that teams who have already created a well-known brand within the esports industry may be affected, but Blizzard is reassuring franchise owners that the success of the league and creating a new brand will work hand-in-hand like it has for other regional based franchises like the NBA, NFL and others.
NRG is rather new, and their owner (Shaquille O’Neal) is familiar with the way these franchises work. The issue is Cloud9 and Immortals who have existed for quite some time as Multiple Gaming Organizations (MGOs) and the fear is that this may usher in a new era of single-title organizations in esports. The franchise owners who are not MGOs have already taken a liking to the new rule, with the Kraft Group team already being dubbed “Overwatch Boston.” This is just a placeholder name, for now, but it’s the right idea in line with what Blizzard is asking.
Blizzard is pushing hard for the Overwatch League, and it makes sense after the noted downfall of Starcraft II and the struggling Hearthstone environment which doesn’t offer what the League might. It’s the right idea, but the League is still in its early phases and moves like this may cause further issues for Overwatch teams who were considering becoming franchise owners as the final few spots are still up for grabs. It’s a bold move, and could work out in the long run, but it’s still risky this early on in the league.
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Last Updated: August 28, 2017