The Lunar New Year has begun, and soon, so will the second season of Blizzard’s esports pride and joy, the Overwatch League.
After the successes of last year, Blizzard have been expanding their branding and their reach. The League itself has expanded, from 12 teams to 20. Teams from Atlanta and Washington DC are in the mix, as well as two new Canadian teams repping Toronto and Vancouver. Three Chinese teams from Chengdu, Guangzhou, and Hangzhou join the infamous Shanghai Dragons. No doubt they hope to make more of an impression on the League than the Dragons record breaking season-long losing streak. The roster is rounded out by only the second team from Europe, Paris Eternal.
Eternal, who boast an entirely European roster, will start their season on February 16th by taking on the Overwatch League Champions London Spitfire. Spitfire have retained the South Korean line-up that helped them soar to the heights of the League in its inaugural year. Will the teams different strategies and relatively local rivalry make for a firecracker of a game?
London Spitfire also have the privilege of opening the season on February 14th by facing the runners up from last year’s League, Philadelphia Fusion. Will the Fusion’s diverse team come together to ensure victory and gain some semblance of closure after being vanquished in straight sets over two days? Or will it be more heartbreak in the City of Brotherly Love, on Valentine’s Day of all days?
This year, as well as broadcasting digitally in English, French, Korean, and Chinese, Blizzard are opening up Portuguese coverage, available on Twitch. The streaming giant has retained rights for streaming League footage in all territories except China. Blizzard can hardly be blamed for wanting to tap into the Portuguese-speaking market. 59% of all online Brazilians watch video game content, and there are over 75 million Portuguese-speaking gamers in Brazil alone.
Meanwhile, in what must be a sweet deal for Activision-Blizzard, Coca-Cola has become the official non-alcoholic beverage of the OWL. According to Blizzard insiders, it’s a three year deal which encompasses all the teams of the League, as well as Blizzcon, the Overwatch World Cup, and other official Blizzard-operated Overwatch competitions. Coke will be served at teams’ home venue games, when those occur. Just another step towards esports competitions having the same recognition and budget as traditional sports leagues. It certainly can’t have hurt that Activision-Blizzard’s CEO, Bobby Kotick, has been a director for Coca-Cola since 2012. Perhaps we can expect to see D.va and Reaper on Coke cans some time this year?
Unusually, this year’s League does not feature a pre-season. Currently, a selection of exhibition matches are taking place to promote the League. Some lucky Overwatch streamers have been chosen by Blizzard to rebroadcast the matches so that they can provide commentary and content for their subscribers. Jayne, coach for Dallas Fuel, is one of the few.
Who’s your favorite for the new season? What do you think the new teams will add to the competition? Let us know your thoughts.