Nearly 14 months after it was first announced, the much-anticipated start of Overwatch League (Owl) is finally here. 12 teams will contest the league, with the regular season running from 10th January to June. The Playoffs and Finals will be held in July. The buzz surrounding Owl has been huge, thanks to the investment from several notables from regular sports: Robert Kraft, who is the owner of the New England Patriots, and Stan Kroenke, who owns Arsenal FC, are among those who have bought teams for the inaugural Owl season. This has led to an increased exposure and a huge prize fund of $3.5 million dollars available for the teams.
The big money involved has obviously attracted some of the best Overwatch players in the world to the league. Ryu Je-hong (ryujehong), ranked as the world’s number one Overwatch player in terms of earnings, will undoubtedly be the star player of Seoul Dynasty. He will be joined in his team by the likes of Gong Jin-hyuk (Miro) and Kim Joon-hyuk (zunba), both of whom are ranked in the top 20. As might be expected for Overwatch, South Koreans make up the majority of the players. However, top players from countries as diverse as Ethiopia, Russia, Denmark and the United States are also represented.
London Spitfire the Betting Favourites, with Dynasty Close Behind
Despite Seoul Dynasty having arguably the world’s best Overwatch player in their ranks, it is London Spitfire who start as favourites with eSports specialist bookmaker Betway. Their team includes Joon-yeong Park (Profit) and Jae-hee Hong (Gesture). The current odds have them at 2/1, with Seoul Dynasty close behind at 11/5. Those two are set to have their first clash on Friday 2nd February, which should tell us a lot about each side’s winning credentials. Incidentally, all matches will be held at the Blizzard Arena in Los Angeles, so there will be no ‘home’ advantage for either of these two teams.
Other teams predicted to do reach the Playoffs at least are New York Excelsior and Dallas Fuel, priced at 15/4 and 11/2 respectively. If you fancy a long shot punt, Boston Uprising are the outsiders at 50/1. If you wan to learn more about betting on Owl and other eSports, such as DotA and LOL, check out http://www.freebets.co.uk/esports-betting/ to find free bets and more.
Owl Could be Precursor to eSports Hitting Mainstream
It is no coincidence that billionaire sports team owners like Kraft and Kroenke have thrown their considerable weight behind Owl. They are well aware that eSports has a massive potential to be every bit as lucrative as NFL or Premier League. They have pushed to structure the Owl season like other sports too, making the regular season schedule and Playoffs resemble baseball or American football. It is clear that their ultimate goal is to open up Overwatch, and eSports in general, to more viewers than ever before.
For those of us who love gaming, it doesn’t really matter if Owl is a hit with the mainstream public or not. However, the sheer amount of money involved has ensured that we are going to be seeing the best players in the world do battle over the next six months. For many of us, that means that Owl is already a big success.