Activision-Blizzard has revealed where the first seven teams competing in its ambitious Overwatch League will be located, and who will own them. The news comes with a renewed vow that the league's inaugural season will get under way later this year.
Five of the teams will be located in the US, in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Miami/Orlando and San Francisco. The other two teams will be based in Shanghai and the South Korean capital Seoul.
The owners of each team include Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, and Noah Whinston, CEO of established esports team Immortals. A full list is below.
Additional teams based in the UK, Europe and around the world will be announced in due course, with negotiations ongoing.
The Overwatch League represents a very different kind of esports competition for Blizzard's successful and ever-growing first-person shooter.
Unlike conventional esports, teams will be based in cities in the hope of generating local support in a similar fashion to traditional sports.
Each team will have its own home venue, with the goal being to host home and away fixtures around the world. Activision-Blizzard will also guarantee Overwatch League players professional contracts with perks and benefits.
The aim is to make professional Overwatch play a viable and stable career for prospective players.
Home and away fixtures won't happen straight away. When the league's first season kicks off this year matches will play out at an arena in Los Angeles.
"As teams develop their local venues for formal home and away play in future seasons," read an official statement. "Matches will be played each Thursday, Friday and Saturday. A full schedule and information about ticket sales will be announced closer to launch."
CEO and co-founder of Blizzard Entertainment Mike Morhaime said in the statement: "Overwatch is a game about a diverse group of international heroes who fight for an optimistic vision of the future, and the Overwatch League is an extension of that spirit.
"We're building this league for fans - esports fans, traditional sports fans, gaming fans - and we're thrilled to have individuals and organisations who are as passionate about professional competition as we are, and who have extensive experience in all three fields, representing our first major international cities in the league."
Robert Kraft said: "We have been exploring the esports market for a number of years and have been waiting for the right opportunity to enter. The incredible global success of Overwatch since its launch, coupled with the League's meticulous focus on a structure and strategy that clearly represents the future of esports made this the obvious entry point for the Kraft Group."
The seven team's owners are:
- Robert Kraft, chairman and CEO of the Kraft Group and the New England Patriots (Boston)
- Jeff Wilpon, co-founder and partner of Sterling.VC and COO of the New York Mets (New York)
- Noah Whinston, CEO of Immortals (Los Angeles)
- Ben Spoont, CEO and co-founder of Misfits Gaming (Miami-Orlando)
- Andy Miller, chairman and founder of NRG Esports (San Francisco)
- NetEase (Shanghai)
- Kevin Chou, co-founder of Kabam (Seoul)
Overwatch has amassed 30 million players since its launch in May 2016, and continues to grow thanks to the regular updates and free new content added by its developers. Very shortly the game's 25th playable hero, Doomfist, will be added to the game.