Blizzard has launched its own Overwatch e-sports organization, the Overwatch League (often referred to as OWL) with the signing phase for season one underway. Alongside an official logo embroiled in a legal battle, the terms and athlete benefits have been detailed.
The initiative has been under construction for some time now. We already know about the seven founding teams of OWL and the investors backing them, and there has been news of an amateur league, however no details about player payment or the like has been released until now.
Blizzard has taken a unique approach to signing players on the first season of OWL by getting rid of almost all restrictions. Any team can sign any player, be they a completely new arrival to the entire e-sports scene or a veteran. Members of official Overwatch teams that are currently active are not automatically signed, and previous team affiliation isn’t an excluding factor.
Additionally, there aren’t any regional restrictions, though obviously the teams will need to coordinate training and event participation themselves in the case of multi-national teams. The signing period for OWL Season One is between August 1 and October 30, 2017.
While this entirely open approach to professional e-sports signing is a rare system, it isn’t exactly a model for how the OWL will function in the future. Blizzard has made it clear that this unique approach will only be used in Season 1 in order to ensure a fresh lineup of athletes, but they will revert to more traditional methods in the future seasons.
Additionally, as unorthodox as this approach is, there is no obligation on teams to select new faces into their lineups. Some founders have already stated that they don’t plan on changing their existing rosters, so we’ll still see some familiar faces. The Immortals are among these teams.
Blizzard has outlined a set of rules for the teams getting into the OWL. Each signed team must have a minimum of 6 players, and a maximum of 12. Additionally, during the run of the season, all signed players, with a minimum contract of one year, must be provided with both housing and practice facilities which are up to Blizzard’s standards.
As for the players, they can look forward to some fantastic benefits. Beyond a guaranteed contract of one year with the option to extend for an additional year, the minimum salary for each player will be $50,000 per year. Minimum.
Teams will also have to provide health insurance and a retirement savings plan, and at least half of all player performance bonuses must be distributed to the players. This means victory prize pools and other monetary rewards.
The total of all those bonuses in Season 1 adds up to $3.5 million, with a $1 million guaranteed prize for the champion team at the conclusion of the season.
Season 1 is slated to begin before the year is out.