Investors, the news media, and academia are all beginning to recognize that interactive gaming lies at a confluence of evolving technology and shifting demographics that is transforming entertainment.
Published March 20, 2018
BURBANK, CALIF.––Brady Girardi smiles as the next fan in line hands him a poster to sign. “You were so good tonight!” the woman gushes as Mr. Girardi scrawls his name across the page. He murmurs a thank-you and poses with her for a selfie.
The fan, whose shock of yellow-green hair matches Girardi’s jersey, walks away with a wide grin. Girardi resumes his place with his eight teammates around a marker-strewn table set up in the middle of the same arena where earlier that night they pulled a spectacular upset against a league front-runner. The line of fans waiting for photos and autographs winds all the way up into the stands.
The trappings of the postgame meet-and-greet might sound familiar to the average sports fan. But Girardi and his team, the Los Angeles Valiant, probably won’t. That’s because the Valiant isn’t a basketball or baseball team. It’s an esports team whose players compete at the world’s highest levels in a video game called Overwatch.
The match they just won against top contender Seoul Dynasty kicks off the closing week of the first stage of contests in the inaugural Overwatch League – a pioneering global tournament that brings together 12 teams from Asia, Europe, and the United States to compete for $3.5 million in prize money. The league’s goal: to raise competitive gaming to a level of professionalism and recognition that may one day rival that of baseball or football.
“The vision here is that someday it’ll be no different to come home and grab the family to watch an Overwatch game than it is today to grab the family and watch a Major League Baseball game,” says league commissioner Nate Nanzer, an executive for Overwatch publisher Blizzard Entertainment.