Flyers CEO Dave Scott says he'll seek out an Overwatch arena in Philadelphia that's about a quarter the size of Wells Fargo Center.
(Editor's note: this story first appeared in SportTechie.com)
Philadelphia Flyers governor and parent company Comcast Spectacor CEO Dave Scott announced Wednesday that he’s building an esports team to compete in a new city-based league operated by Blizzard Activision meant to mirror the structure of conventional sports.
The Philadelphia-based team was named as one of the final three teams signed on to compete in Blizzard’s inaugural Overwatch League. The other two are Dallas-based Team EnVyUS, a veteran esports organization, and Houston-based OpTic Gaming, a leader in first-person-shooter esports.
In July, the Overwatch League added a number of other franchises operated by conventional sports team owners to the 12-team league, including New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and New York Mets Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon, who will operate the Boston and New York-based teams, respectively. Stan Kroenke, owner of teams including the Los Angeles Rams and Denver Nuggets, purchased a Los Angeles team along with his son, Josh.
The league will be comprised of franchises representing major cities around the world from Asia, Europe and North America. Preseason is set to kick off Dec 6, with the regular season running from Jan.10 through June, with playoffs and finals scheduled for July.
While this isn’t the first time we’ve seen traditional sports owners dabble in esports, the Overwatch League is meant to be the closest such league yet to mirror the structure of traditional sports. The league will have a commissioner and offer team support and revenue-sharing agreements. Like conventional sports, its city-based team headquarters are meant to foster fan engagement and drive local ticket, concessions and merchandise sales.
“I love the idea of the city-based model. It’s kind of structured like a sports league and I think it’s going to add so much to it,” said Scott in an interview with SportTechie.
Scott believes Comcast Spectacor will be able to leverage its storied history in sports and venue management to build a team and fanbase seen as potentially mirroring the success of the Flyers, but on a smaller scale.
While all of the teams this Overwatch season will compete at the Blizzard Arena in Burbank, Calif., these teams will eventually (either in season two or three) expand their presence in their home cities with their own venues and events in an attempt to build fan bases.
Overwatch League hopes to engage more of these kinds of fans with the city-based model. “We’re partnering with many organizations that have venues and local infrastructure that plan to build businesses around these teams,” said Pete Vlastelica, who oversees the Overwatch League for Blizzard.
The Philadelphia Overwatch team (which has not yet been fully built or given a name) would likely compete in a space that has a capacity for 3,000 to 5,000, which would be a quarter of the capacity of the Flyers’ Wells Fargo Center. But Scott said that they’d build “something pretty cool” to attract fans.
“We know how to build a fanbase and we’re in the live entertainment space with Wells Fargo Center and through Comcast Spectacor with 150 facilities in North America,” he said. “That’s what we do, we bring live events to life.”
These nontraditional sports fans are attractive not only because of their age (the vast majority of esports players range in age from 13 to 34, according to statistics cited by Scott during the interview), but also because they are fans of competition, despite stereotypes claiming them to be loners that sit alone in dark basements playing video games.
Overwatch is a multiplayer shooting game
“I think the connotation that these people who play games are not traditional sports fans is correct, but there’s a lot of data showing they still watch sports, just not for three to four hours,” Scott said. These league games are closer to 90 minutes, which Overwatch fans can more easily get behind.
“I was surprised as we started to look at this seriously a few months ago, just the number of gamers worldwide being in the hundreds of millions,” he said. “It’s amazing when you really get into it — 350,000-plus Overwatch players in this market.”
Vlastelica said the city-based model is something “that’s been missing from esports” because it will help to drive demand for esports overall simply by stationing popular teams in major cities.
“We saw how well it worked in traditional sports and felt it needed to be applied to the world of esports,” he told SportTechie. “For those who don’t watch esports today, we think having a team situated in a city near them gives them a reason to follow. Teams are great for creating fans. There’d be a lot fewer baseball fans in Houston (for example) if it weren’t for the Astros.”