Overwatch League assigns final franchises, confirms launch dates

US video game developer Activision Blizzard has awarded the final three franchise spots for its new Overwatch League to the cities of Philadelphia, Dallas and Houston.

The Philadelphia team has been picked up by sports and entertainment company Comcast Spectacor, which owns the city’s NHL ice hockey club, the Flyers. Earlier this month, the company also purchased a National Lacrosse League franchise in Philadelphia.

The Dallas-based team will be run by esports organisation Team Envy and its investor Hersh Interactive Group, while Houston’s team will be established by esports outfit OpTic Gaming.

The three additions complete the line-up for the inaugural Overwatch League season. Preseason will begin on December 6 at the new Blizzard Arena in Los Angeles, where a range of exhibition matches will be played featuring all the teams.

The season itself will begin on January 10 next year, running through to June before the championship playoffs and finals are held in July.

As well as the US, the league will feature teams from Asia and Europe. US esports organisation Cloud9 last month secured the rights to a London team and the Kroenke family landed a second franchise in Los Angeles.

In July, Activision Blizzard announced the sale of the first seven franchises for the Overwatch League, with high-profile sports executives Robert Kraft and Jeff Wilpon among the owners of teams based in the US, China and South Korea.

Touted as the world’s first major global professional esports league with city-based teams, the Overwatch League is based on the popular multi-player shooter game that was released in May 2016. Kraft, chairman and chief executive of the New England Patriots NFL American football team, will take control of the Boston-based franchise, while Wilpon, chief operating officer of the New York Mets Major League Baseball franchise, will own the New York team. 

Elsewhere, Noah Whinston, chief executive of the Immortals esports team, secured a Los Angeles franchise, while Ben Spoont, chief executive and co-founder of Misfits Gaming, and Andy Miller, chairman and founder of NRG Esports, have acquired franchises in Miami-Orlando and San Francisco, respectively.

Outside of the US, Chinese internet technology company NetEase has acquired a franchise in Shanghai, while Kevin Chou, co-founder of Canadian interactive entertainment firm Kabam, has secured a team in Seoul.