Blizzard Further Legitimizing eSports With New Overwatch League

$50,000 a year and medical coverage might not sound like much to the average working American, but for gamers looking to step into eSports as a way of making a legitimate living, it’s very welcome news.

By Robert Marrujo :: Blizzard Entertainment is making unprecedented moves in the worlds of both video games and eSports with its aggressive initiative to turn play of the popular title Overwatch into a proper competitive sports league.

Like Major League Baseball or the National Football League, Blizzard’s Overwatch League is designed to be placed within different cities around the country, where players will be recruited to join based on skill. What’s more, Blizzard has decreed that those who run the leagues within each city must offer retirement plans and pay 50% of all performance-based bonuses to each player. The result is a package that looks much more like a proper job than trying to eke money out of random competitions.

Indeed, going from competition to competition to earn money has been the norm for professional video game players for years now. In more recent years, many of these players have been able to monetize their skills and the throngs of fans that root for them via streaming services like Twitch and YouTube. The rise of game streaming has provided a steady source of income to those gamers who manage to both provide entertaining content on their respective channels while also luring in sponsors.

Still, as encouraging as this trend has been for players, it’s an imperfect system. Twitch tends to cater to those streamers whose followings are enormous, meaning that those with a much small fan base are left in the wind. For those players, gaming remains more hobby than profession. Furthermore, even those who manage to break into the upper echelon of pro gaming don’t often find themselves the recipients of common perks that those who work even retail jobs at stores like Michaels and Safeway receive, like time off and dental.

Healthcare and 401Ks are things that many pro and amateur gamers likely have never believed that their chosen profession could ever grant to them, yet here has come Blizzard to completely alter the traditional paradigm. Indeed, this move isn’t just unprecedented, it’s also a shot across the bow that is declaring the industry to be far more multifaceted than anyone could have ever imagined. While gaming is often seen as a form of entertainment and art along the lines of cinema, there’s no means at present for fans to be paid to sit and watch movies and TV shows.

Video games are not so passive as watching a film and in many cases the level of skill that players can develop while playing games are akin to what competitors in sports like golf or basketball develop. Some scoff at such an association given the comparative lack of physical exertion when comparing playing video games to swinging a tennis racket, but there’s no denying the skill, hand-eye-coordination, and strategy required by the most elite of players to compete at the highest levels of gaming. Skills that, frankly, warrant the same adulation and respect as getting behind the wheel of a race car.

Blizzard is going out on a limb to turn an even greater profit with Overwatch via this new league, but it’s also laying the foundation for future generations of gamers. Hopefully if this league prospers it will embolden other developers and publishers to make leagues for other popular, competitive video games and pave the way for players to turn their passion into a serious source of dependable inco

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About Robert Marrujo: A Senior Editor for Nintendojo.com and an Editor for San Leandro News. A lifelong Bay Area resident, you can usually find him puttering around writing, drawing, or playing video games. Check him out on Instagram @robert_marrujo!


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