“Huge step for esports,” as Activision plans to move Overwatch League out of LA

Esports is drawing closer parallels to the world of traditional sports, following news that Activision is to uproot its Overwatch League’s 20 franchises to new homes across the globe.

From 2020, most of the league’s franchises will leave Los Angeles, their home for the last two years, and set themselves up in New York, Paris, Shanghai and other cities, it was detailed at this year’s South by Southwest conference.

Reports suggest that this has been Activision’s plan all along, in order to turn its league truly global, but none expected it to be this early on for the sport. When Activision originally sold investors on franchises, each team got the exclusive rights to a major city or a region.

“This is a step that brings the business model for esports teams closer to the business model of traditional sports teams,” said Nate Nanzer, the league’s commisioner.

Bloomberg writes that the Overwatch League shares revenue similarly to the NFL, on a smaller scale. It splits national money, from sponsorships and media-rights, among the teams. Each team also keeps most of its local revenue, including ticket sales, local sponsorships and merchandise sold at its home venue.

Each franchise will have a home venue by 2020. Nanzer suggests that franchises will be settling on spaces with 3,000 to 5,000 seats that can also host small concerts or grassroots esports events.

In the same interview he also stated that each team’s ability to cultivate local fans around a central venue should ‘also help with merchandise sales.’ The League has a partnership with the e-commerce giant, Fanatics.

“If you look at the business model of traditional sports teams, so much of the value is driven by the fact that, if I am an LA Dodgers fan, no matter where I’m from in the world, there’s a place I can go to celebrate that team with other fans,” said Nanzer.

“Bringing that to esports, we think, is not just a huge step for Overwatch League, but a huge step for esports.”

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