The Vermont Cynic

New eSports league kicks off

Locria Courtright, Assistant Sports Editor

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As spectators took their seats in anticipation, the athletes they had come to watch took their positions as well. They were also sitting in chairs.

The fans in Blizzard Arena in Burbank, California, saw the beginning of a new eSports league Jan. 10.

eSports is a form of organized competitive online gaming that is often televised, with spectators filling up arenas.

The Los Angeles Valiant and San Francisco Shock played in the first game of the inaugural Overwatch League. The Valiant rolled to a 4-0 win.

Overwatch is a first-person-shooter video game, where teams of six play.

Unlike other eSports leagues such as the League of Legends Championship Series, Blizzard’s new league modeled itself after sports such as the NFL and NBA, with franchised teams based in major cities.

The league almost had issues right out of the gate. Many eSportst teams thought Blizzard’s $20 million buy-in fee was too high.

However, some eSports teams did buy in, such as Cloud9, owners of the London Spitfire, and Team EnVyUs, who started the Dallas Fuel.

Other franchises were purchased by professional sports team owners. Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, founded the Boston Uprising, while Comcast Spectacor, who owns the Philadelphia Flyers, owns the Philadelphia Fusion.

Even as the season approached there were issues and concerns. The Fusion could not make the preseason due to “logistical issues.”

However, when the first games started being played, all these issues were put in the rear-view mirror. The games were streamed on the popular video game streaming website Twitch.tv.

Viewership numbers were strong. Opening Day Jan. 10 saw an average viewership of around 400,000 viewers, peaking at around 430,000 during the game between the Fuel and the Seoul Dynasty at 10:30 p.m. that night, according to eSports news website Dot Esports.

The Dynasty managed to hold Dallas to a tie on the final map and eked out a 2-1 win.

Meanwhile, those “logistical issues” seemed to be behind the Fusion as they opened against the Houston Outlaws a day later, which saw the first tiebreaker round of the league. Each team took two maps, which forced a tie-breaking fifth map, which Philadelphia took to win the match.

Through two weeks of gameplay, three teams remain unbeaten at 4-0: the Dynasty, London Spitfire, and New York Excelsior. Meanwhile, the Fuel join Shanghai Dragons in the winless column at 0-4.

Only time will tell if the league will maintain its momentum and change eSports.

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New eSports league kicks off