Published: July 26, 2018 8:00 AM Updated: July 26, 2018 at. 16:30
NEW YORK (AP) – ESPN is set to make a big deal this weekend: LeBron for Lucio. Brady for the Bastion. Serena for Soldier: 76.
North America's largest sports platform is ready to embrace competitive games, and it is a fact that traditional sports fans are also.
Overwatch League, a three-continent squad of eclipse, will broadcast its initial championship in premier time at ESPN this Friday, with the Philadelphia Fusion facing London Spitfire. It will be the first time the Disney Discovery sports channel has competitive games in the track and it is likely to do more during a two-year agreement signed with Overwatch this month.
It's an important achievement for Overwatch, a first-person shooter from Blizzard Entertainment, and the last indicator that esports is ready to edge into the US mainstream. The industry has converted a number of remarkable believers in recent years, including Overwatch franchise investors as owner of New England Patriots, Robert Kraft, New York Mets COO Jeff Wilpon and Los Angeles Rams owns Stan Kroenke.
Esports has been a popular pastime elsewhere for decades, especially in South Korea. But is the North American audience really ready to invest time and money to watch other people play video games? There is a billion dollar question, literally ̵
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Video players have competed for digital superiority that goes to Pong and Pac-Man, but competitive games these days are eschewing high scores in favor of multiplayer punches. First-person shooters, strategy games and match royales have become industry preferences, with athletes who compete either as individuals or teams to eliminate opponents and achieve goals – think about catching the flag, but usually with a twist. Although many players like to play on the Xbox or Playstation, most competing esports are played on PCs. League of Legends, DOTA 2, Counter Strike and Overwatch have been the most popular sports titles in recent years.
WHAT IS MONITORING?
Overwatch is a first-person shooter released by Blizzard in 2016 with esports in mind. It has teams of six players competing to protect designated zones from enemy capture or safely transfer payload across intricate maps. Players can choose between 27 characters – like Lucio, a roller skating DJ whose music can harm opponents and heal allies, or Bastion, a robot tank that can turn into a devastating centric gun.
Each game takes about 10 minutes, and the Overwatch League matches include five matches. The first team to win two matches in the final will be crowned champion.
WHY IS ROBERT KRAFT AND JEFF WILPON INTERESTED IN THE OVERWATCH LEAGUE?
Traditional sports investors like Kraft and Wilpon have seen great economic potential in Esports for a while but both stopped buying franchises to jump to Overwatch clubs in 2016. Blizzard convinced them to buy in by imagining esports scene, mostly by giving Overwatch League a structure known for North American sports fans.
Esport's circles in Asia and Europe have generally been club-based, with teams at risk of referring to smaller leagues. Overwatch League instead uses permanent city-based franchises – just like NFL or NBA – but globally. Currently, the league has 12 teams on three continents, and it plans expansion for season two.
The city-based structure was attractive to sports traditional, which meant that Kraft and Wilpon own their own franchises in Boston and New York, respectively. . Investors also liked the league's generous revenue sharing system.
IS OUR REALLY SPORTER?
It depends on who you ask, and frankly, it's not clear that it matters.
"It's a good semantic argument," Philadelphia Fusion president Tucker Roberts said. "Honest, yes."
Video games require physical skill. Even over the Overwatch League, there is a range of natural abilities, with some players boasting better responses and coordination. Overvatch is also heavy on cooperation and strategy. People in the industry like to compare esports with darts, billiards or chess.
"There is a difference between a sport, the most sporting sport, for sure," said Roberts. "But I think the big question is not the semantics of whether they are sports. It's about what does it mean to be a competition and how high are the bets in the competition? I think that the players on our team, I know, work harder than any athlete I have ever met. "
For industry, the argument is only important to the extent that it affects visibility. If traditional sports giants like ESPN are on board, who cares what you call them?
WHY IS ESPN WISHED?
For one, ESPN's definition of sport can be sparse. The network has exhibited events such as Scripp's National Spelling Bee, the World Series of Poker and the Drum Corps International Championships. ESPN has also sold football contests lately, just never live in prime time.
There is good reason to believe that people will set in. While video game viewing may be a new concept within the country, it is quite common in some other markets. For example, South Korea has full television networks dedicated to esports, and game events routinely draw tens of thousands of participants. Korean esports stars provide lavish, celebrity lifestyle, with top players achieving a status similar to LeBron James in America.
ESPN wants to attract several thousands and Gen-Z viewers, and competitive games seem like a clear point of contact. Between 100,000-150,000 fans set in every second of the Overwatch League season on Twitch streaming service, and 10 million viewers watched the league's opening weekend.
ESPN is not the only traditional sports pole that watches a younger audience through video games. The International Olympic Committee also explores ways to collaborate with the esport industry, even hosting a forum this month to bring together players, players, sponsors and event organizers. Overwatch League commissioner Nate Nanzer was among the panelists who spoke at the event.
HOW ARE YOU A PROGRAM?
Like everything else, it's mostly about talent and hard work.
Most game titles have multiple levels of competition including lower leagues, tournaments and invitations. Discovered varies over games. For example, Overwatch League has an "open" division where amateur teams can come in to compete for regional championships. One step above is the Overwatch Contenders League, which is like Triple-A. The Contenders League consists partly of what used to be the largest international overwatch circuits, such as APEX in Korea and the Premier Series in China.
Being a professional is a grinding machine. Exercise plans vary by team, but most players train six days a week, at least six hours a day, during the seven-month season.
WHAT SHOWES A OVERVATCH BROADCAST LIKE?
Chaotic, for the most part. And for those who have never played the game, the action can be difficult to follow. It goes fast, jumping from player to player, depending on the focus point of the action point. Even Wilpon, who has seen a few battles in person in Los Angeles, admits to being "usually half a step behind" the action.
Some want the league to develop two broadcasts – one for Overwatch experts, another targeting newbies. For now, however, the same coverage will run on ESPN and Twitch, which may allow a few new fans to feel over their heads.
HOW IS THE FAST INTO THIS?
Overwatch's emergence in North America this year has been overshadowed in many ways by Fortnite, a fight royal competition from Epic Games that has scared the industry. It has become the most popular video game in the world and Epic tries to convert all of these players to an esport audience by offering $ 100 million in prizes for fortnite tournaments over the next year.
A major challenge for games like Overwatch is to maintain visibility among competitors like Fortnite. Blizzard is, however, optimistic. It specializes in game-based games – such as World of Warcraft, Hearthstone and StarCraft – and plans to continuously update Overwatch with new characters, maps and other features to maintain fan interest for decades.
Commissioner Nanzer also suggests that Blizzard's investment in infrastructure in the league will be a resource. In fact, while Overwatch is breaking through on ESPN, Fortnite showed its first Ever Summer Skirmish activity almost unbeatable due to technical issues and conservative games.
"It takes much more than a press release to build an esport," Nanzer told The Associated Press after Epic announced its $ 100 million prize pool.
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