Overwatch League Adds Two New Franchise Cities in Bid to Raise Global Appeal

Atlanta and Guangzhou are the latest franchise cities to join the expanding Overwatch League in 2019, according to The Esports Observer.

While prices were not disclosed for the expanded slots, the Atlanta team is owned by Atlanta Esports Ventures. Guangzhou's team is owned by Nenking Group.

Atlanta Esports Ventures is a new joint venture from Cox Enterprises and Las Vegas-based advisory from Province Inc. This makes the joint venture the second U.S. communications company to own a team after Philadelphia Fusion (owned by Comcast).

As for Guangzhou, the Nenking Group is a financial and entertainment conglomerate owned by billionaire Zhong Naixoing. The Nenking Group also owns the Guangzhou Long Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association.

Sources familiar with the Overwatch League's expansion initiatives said the prices were at least $30 million, though the number may have doubled based on how competitive the bidding became on the desirability of certain cities. In 2017, the 12 charter spots in the league sold for $20 million each.

In the future, the Overwatch League is looking to add four more expansion cities. Atlanta may well be the only American city added, as the second-year plan calls for two North American slots. One of those slots may come from outside the U.S., according to Activision Blizzard Esports Leagues CEO Pete Vlastelica.

As of the moment, 9 of 12 teams are U.S. cities and 11 of 12 teams are American-owned, but the Overwatch League is hoping to shake that up. "When all is said and done this year, we'll have a more balanced league around the globe than we have today," Vlastelica said.

Atlanta will be overseen by Paul Hamilton, a principal at Province. Hamilton is eager to bottle the magic gamers bring to the table. "From a very basic level, the fact that my twin 7-year-olds and 10-year-old stop everything they're doing when I get online and play, no matter what it is — whenever I do business it has to speak to me on that basis," Hamilton said.

As for a second team in China, this is especially valuable to the League considering that over half of all Overwatch League viewership comes from China. The first season included just one team, the poor ol' Shanghai Dragons who finished with a dud of a season at 0-40.

"China is a priority market for the Overwatch League," Vlastelica said. "With another Chinese team in the Overwatch League, we expect viewership to increase. Adding teams will grow the audience and give us more commercial opportunities there."

Expansion teams may sign free agents from Sept. 9 to Oct. 7, with team identities to be announced later.