IRVINE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Overwatch League™ is expanding again. Last month, franchises representing Atlanta and Guangzhou joined the Overwatch League, and now six more new teams—Chengdu, Hangzhou, Paris, Toronto, Vancouver, and Washington, D.C.—will compete for the 2019 Overwatch League championship. With a roster of 20 total teams—nine of them outside of the United States—the Overwatch League has further strengthened its position as the premier global city-based esports league.
The ownership groups for the new franchises are:
- Aquilini Group—A diversified family business that owns the National Hockey League’s Vancouver Canucks and Rogers Arena, and manages a global conglomerate portfolio will operate the team in Vancouver, Canada
- Bilibili—A leading online entertainment company for young people in China, covering a wide array of genres and media formats including: videos, live broadcasting, and mobile games will operate the team in Hangzhou, China
- DM Esports—A global company focused on esports entertainment and investments will operate the team in Paris, France
- HUYA Inc.—A leading game livestreaming platform in China will operate the team in Chengdu, China
- OverActive Media—An integrated company delivering esports and video game entertainment to the Canadian market will operate the team in Toronto, Canada
- Washington Esports Ventures—A sports organization founded by Mark Ein, owner of the Washington Kastles of World Team Tennis, to build and promote esports enterprises will operate the team in Washington, D.C.
“The Overwatch League’s inaugural season was a great success,” said Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard. “This past season alone, fans spent 160 million hours watching the leading Overwatch players in the world compete. We are thrilled to add eight new outstanding team owners from Europe, China, and North America to our Overwatch League ownership group. We now have 20 of the very best owners in professional sports.”
“We just capped an amazing inaugural Overwatch League season, crowning our first-ever Grand Finals champion in front of a sold-out crowd of dedicated and passionate fans,” said Pete Vlastelica, president and CEO of Activision Blizzard Esports Leagues. “Now, as we look forward to the 2019 season and beyond, we’re adding eight new teams that will help us grow our league in important regions around the globe. We know that the difference between a good league and a great league is its owners, and we set a high bar for our first season with the caliber of ownership groups. Every one of these expansion franchises cleared that bar and will make our league even better.”
“Esports has seen extraordinary success and continues to be one of the fastest growing industries in the world,” said Francesco Aquilini, managing director of the Aquilini Group. “The Overwatch League has visionary leadership, strong franchises, and connects with millions of players globally. We’re pleased to have the opportunity to expand into esports and we can’t wait to launch the team in Vancouver, which will also represent fans across the Pacific Northwest, including Seattle and Portland.”
“We’re very excited to compete in the upcoming season of the Overwatch League with a team in Hangzhou,” said Mr. Rui Chen, chairman of the board and CEO of Bilibili. “Esports is one of the most popular livestreaming content types on Bilibili, attracting and engaging millions of users on our platforms. We’re excited to combine the great growth potential of esports with the blockbuster power and quality of Overwatch. We look forward to delivering highly competitive and entertaining gameplay to the China Overwatch fan group, CNOW, in the years to come.”
“I’m thrilled to join the Overwatch League with a franchise in one of the world’s most iconic cities,” said Drew McCourt, owner and founder of DM Esports. “As a global investor in traditional sports, watching the growth of esports and the Overwatch League in particular has been remarkable. I’m excited to bring a team to Paris and to help grow the league throughout France.”
“We’re delighted to establish a deep partnership with the Overwatch League,” said Henry Sha, CFO of HUYA Inc. “We’re excited by the growth potential of esports, and we’re looking forward to leveraging our gaming expertise and capabilities. As a leader in China’s game livestreaming industry, we think we can help grow the popularity of the Overwatch League by providing unique resources and a large viewer base. We believe our team in Chengdu will demonstrate HUYA’s focus on the global esports industry and will further expand esports awareness and participation of Chinese gaming enthusiasts.”
“We look forward to growing the reach and influence of the Toronto franchise and the Overwatch League in Canada, and around the world,” said Chris Overholt, president and CEO of OverActive Media. “We’ll achieve this with the help and passionate support of our fans, who are already declaring their allegiance for our team. Our owners are fiercely committed to building a team of professionals and an organization that we know will quickly be considered a best-in-class sports and entertainment company.”
"We’re thrilled to bring an Overwatch League team to the Washington, D.C. community,” said Mark Ein, owner of Washington Esports Ventures. “There’s a rich tradition of sports and deep fan engagement in our region, and I believe in the power of those connections to inspire and bring communities together, and to serve as an impactful platform to give back. We think city-based global esports is the perfect model to grow esports and ideal for engaging new and younger audiences.”
Further details about official team names, marks, and rosters will be announced soon by each franchise in conjunction with the Overwatch League. Information about the 2019 season schedule will be released at a later date.
About the Overwatch League™
The Overwatch League™ is the first major global professional esports league with city-based teams across Asia, Europe, and North America. Overwatch® was created by globally acclaimed publisher Blizzard Entertainment (a division of Activision Blizzard—Nasdaq: ATVI), whose iconic franchises have helped lay the foundations and push the boundaries of professional esports over the last 15 years. The latest addition to Blizzard’s stable of twenty-two #1 games, Overwatch was built from the ground up for online competition, with memorable characters and fast-paced action designed for the most engaging gameplay and spectator experiences. To learn more about the Overwatch League, visit www.overwatchleague.com.
About Aquilini Group
The Aquilini Group is a diversified family business founded more than 50 years ago by Mr. Luigi Aquilini. The Group is now run by his three sons Francesco, Roberto, and Paolo Aquilini. The Vancouver-based organization owns the National Hockey League’s Vancouver Canucks, Rogers Arena, and manages a global conglomerate portfolio that includes commercial, industrial, and residential construction and developments as well as properties, food and beverage, hospitality and entertainment enterprises, diverse agribusiness operations, and sustainable aquaculture and renewable energy ventures. In the community, the Aquilini Group launched the Canucks Autism Network and supports the Canucks for Kids Fund, the Boys Club Network, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Since the Aquilini family became owners in 2004, the Canucks for Kids Fund has raised more than $45 million to provide vital resources and life-saving care to families across British Columbia.
Bilibili represents the iconic brand of online entertainment with a mission to enrich the everyday life of young generations in China. Bilibili is a full-spectrum online entertainment world covering a wide array of genres and media formats, including videos, live broadcasting, and mobile games. Bilibili provides an immersive entertainment experience and high-quality content that caters to the evolving and diversified interests of its users and communities, and has built its platform based on the strong emotional connections of Bilibili’s users to its content and communities. For more information, please visit: http://ir.bilibili.com.
About DM Esports
DM Esports is a global company focused on esports entertainment and investments. Drew McCourt, owner and founder of DM Esports, is also the president of McCourt Global—where he’s responsible for strategy, investments, and management of the firm’s real estate assets and venture portfolio.
About HUYA Inc.
HUYA Inc. is a leading game livestreaming platform in China with a large and active game livestreaming community. The Company cooperates with esports event organizers, as well as major game developers and publishers, and has developed esports livestreaming as one of the most popular content genres on its platform. The Company has created an engaged, interactive, and immersive community for game enthusiasts of China’s young generation. Building on its success in game livestreaming, Huya has also extended its content to other entertainment content genres. Huya’s open platform also functions as a marketplace for broadcasters and talent agencies to congregate and closely collaborate with the Company.
About OverActive Media
OverActive Media began operations in November 2017 with a mandate to build an integrated company delivering esports and video-game entertainment to the Canadian market for the first time. The company combines team ownership with audience engagement to better connect with current fans and to introduce the exciting world of esports competition to new fans in Canada and around the world. To learn more about the team please follow @TorontoOWL on Twitter.
About Washington Esports Ventures
Washington Esports Ventures was founded to purchase an Overwatch League franchise and to develop other esports teams that will represent a thriving region that includes Baltimore, Richmond, Washington, D.C., and the entirety of Maryland and Virginia. The Company is led by Mark Ein, a Washington-area businessman, civic leader, philanthropist, sports team owner, and native Washingtonian. Mark and his ownership group believe in the power of sports as a platform to inspire people and bring communities together. The Company's esports assets, including the Overwatch League franchise, will be part of Mr. Ein’s existing sports platform that owns the Washington Kastles, one the most successful teams in the 45-year history of World Team Tennis. Under Mr. Ein’s guidance the Kastles have been embraced by the capital region since its founding in 2008. Joining Mr. Ein as investors and board members are lead financial partner Artist Capital Management, a New York-based growth equity firm, and Dyson Dryden, Mr. Ein’s business partner and Baltimore native. Events DC, the official convention and sports authority for the District of Columbia, is an anchor supporter of the franchise. The Overwatch League team name, additional investors, and corporate sponsors will be announced soon.
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Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-looking Statements: Information in this press release that involves Blizzard Entertainment's expectations, plans, intentions or strategies regarding the future, including statements about the 2019 Overwatch League season are forward-looking statements that are not facts and involve a number of risks and uncertainties. Factors that could cause Blizzard Entertainment's actual future results to differ materially from those expressed in the forward-looking statements set forth in this release include unanticipated product delays and other factors identified in the risk factors sections of Activision Blizzard’s most recent annual report on Form 10-K and any subsequent quarterly reports on Form 10-Q. The forward-looking statements in this release are based upon information available to Blizzard Entertainment and Activision Blizzard as of the date of this release, and neither Blizzard Entertainment nor Activision Blizzard assumes any obligation to update any such forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements believed to be true when made may ultimately prove to be incorrect. These statements are not guarantees of the future performance of Blizzard Entertainment or Activision Blizzard and are subject to risks, uncertainties and other factors, some of which are beyond its control and may cause actual results to differ materially from current expectations.