Blizzard Entertainment released a statement Thursday responding to reports surrounding its upcoming Overwatch League and seeking to clarify rumors that the $43 billion company is ignoring franchises endemic to esports in favor of deeper-pocketed traditional sports team owners.
"Anyone who knows Blizzard understands how deeply we care about the communities around our games," read the statement. "The league is built upon the best elements of endemic esports programs and traditional sports, and we're in active discussions with many teams and owners from both worlds because it will take a village to stand up a league with such an unprecedented structure."
Several recent reports have emerged as Blizzard has been courting owners to join its upcoming Overwatch League, including an article on ESPN on Wednesday. Sources told ESPN that Blizzard was seeking $20 million for a buy-in price, with revenue sharing beginning after 2021 and as long as Blizzard meets certain internal criteria. Additionally, if a team was to sell their slot, they would be required to forfeit 25 percent of the sale to Blizzard, sources said.
New England Patriots and New England Revolution ownership Robert Kraft and the Kraft Sports Group reportedly have a handshake agreement with Activision Blizzard and its CEO Bobby Kotick to obtain a spot, but sources said no other spots in the league have been sold.
"We want to be clear that our ultimate goal is to create an exciting Overwatch esports ecosystem, the pinnacle of which will be the Overwatch League, that's accessible to a wide audience, sustainable, and rewarding for everyone involved," read the statement.
The Overwatch League was first announced in November at Blizzard's annual BlizzCon convention in Anaheim, California. The league is set to be an unprecedented movement in esports, geolocating franchises to specific cities, similar in kind to traditional American sports leagues, such as the NFL, NBA and MLB. Blizzard has said it intends to launch the league in fiscal quarter three of 2017, but several sources expressed doubt that it will launch at that time due to a "slower than expected" negotiation period between Blizzard and ownership parties.
Read the full release below:
We appreciate that there's a lot of enthusiasm about the Overwatch League, which has translated into months of speculation -- including reports circulating unverified and wildly ranging rumors from anonymous sources about purported deal terms, team pricing, and other details. We understand the interest in the rumors, and we feel it's important to clarify some things for our community.
First, we want to be clear that our ultimate goal is to create an exciting Overwatch esports ecosystem, the pinnacle of which will be the Overwatch League, that's accessible to a wide audience, sustainable, and rewarding for everyone involved. We're doing our best to take great care with building this ecosystem, and as with much of what we do, we don't release information until we're at a place where it makes sense to do so.
Second, we'd like to dispel any rumors that we're ignoring endemics. Anyone who knows Blizzard understands how deeply we care about the communities around our games. The league is built upon the best elements of endemic esports programs and traditional sports, and we're in active discussions with many teams and owners from both worlds because it will take a village to stand up a league with such an unprecedented structure. Those conversations have been going well and there's a lot of excitement around our ambitious plans.
Finally, it's important to think twice about statements from unnamed sources, who may try to leverage the media to deliberately spread misinformation as bargaining tactics or for other competitive reasons. We look forward to officially sharing real details about the league and the ecosystem as a whole as we continue the development process. In the meantime we are staying focused on our goal of creating an awesome Overwatch esports experience for players, partners, and fans, and we want to thank everyone for their continued support.