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New Overwatch league shakes up the eSports scene

By Quinten Kilborn
On February 6, 2018

ESports have been popular for the better part of the last decade, but things have taken off in the past few years. What started off as tournaments with a few thousands of dollars in cash prizes blew up to millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of spectators on the video game streaming service Twitch.tv. But something has changed this year: the inception of the Overwatch League.

If you are reading this, chances are you have heard of Overwatch. A first-person shooter released in 2016, Overwatch quickly became a worldwide phenomenon. Like other eSports, there were soon college clubs dedicated to the game. Former EagleTech employee and Kirkwood alumni Robert Netolicky who has since started his bachelor’s degree at the University of Iowa is now part of an Overwatch team there that competes nationally. Some other colleges even have scholarships specifically for eSports teams sponsored by the colleges themselves, similar to other collegiate athletic teams.  But Netolicky’s eSports club team is no small commitment either.

“Last semester we had practice 8-10 p.m. every day,” Netolicky said, “so I spent 14  hours a week on top of personal practice time. I probably spent around 25 hours a week practicing.” Netolicky also competed in the nation-wide college Tespa league that offered $1,000 in scholarships per player.

Blizzard, the company that developed Overwatch, knew that they had something special, and in 2017 they announced the Overwatch League. Unlike the tournaments that came before it, the Overwatch League is more akin to traditional sports leagues like the NFL or NBA. 

It’s organized into seasons, and the players get paid a salary and travel with athlete visas. The twelve teams, split into Atlantic and Pacific divisions, are named after the cities they come from and are backed by investors such as Shaquille O’Neal and Robert Kraft — the owner of the New England Patriots. Attention from these and other high-level names means that eSports are finally something to be taken seriously. And it’s only going to get bigger as each team upgrades from the one custom-built arena in Los Angeles to their own home arenas over the next several years.

While Overwatch will eventually go the way of other video games as newer and better games come out, one thing’s for sure: eSports aren’t going away any time soon. If you’re interested in watching the inaugural season of the Overwatch League, all past and live games can be viewed at www.overwatchleague.com.

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