Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch League gained two new teams this month as Stan and Josh Kroenke, owners of the Los Angeles Rams and numerous other professional sports franchises, and Jack Etienne, founder and CEO of American eSports organization Cloud9, each acquired a team in the expanding league. The team acquired by Stan and Josh Kroenke will be based in Los Angeles, and the team acquired by Jack Etienne will be based in London.
Overwatch League now has nine teams based in Asia, Europe, and North America, and the buy-in fee to acquire a team is said to be $20 million. The league hopes to expand to 28 teams and is expected to start by the end of 2017. Notably, the league and teams have agreed to new regulations regarding player signing and salaries—a marked step forward for the eSports industry.
The leagues and teams have agreed to pay players a minimum of $50,000 per year and provide employer-sponsored housing, health insurance, and retirement savings plans. During the first season, there will be $3.5 million in bonuses available, of which players will be entitled to 50%. While $20 million represents much more than the buy-in to acquire a team in any other eSports league, the willingness to pay the fee by numerous individuals in both the eSports and professional sports arenas demonstrates the undeniable potential of eSports on a global stage.