ByAna Valens, writer at Creators.co
Writer and games critic. As seen at the Daily Dot, Waypoint, Kill Screen, Bitch Media, and ZEAL.
Ana Valens

There's good news for Overwatch fans that want to go professional. Blizzard is laying out some pretty serious terms that will give players job benefits for playing in the upcoming Overwatch League. That includes health insurance. And a $50,000 minimum salary.

In a blog post on the official Overwatch League website, Blizzard explained that the Overwatch League Player Agreement has several benefit stipulations for players signed onto a team. Here's some of the highlights:

  • Teams sign players with a one-year contract, guaranteed. Teams can extend contracts for an additional year as well.
  • There's also a $50,000 salary minimum. Keyword here is minimum. Players can earn more than that depending on their contract's stipulations.
  • When teams sign on players, they must also provide health insurance and a retirement savings plan.
  • Teams that win performance bonuses from playoffs and League events have to distribute 50 percent of their bonuses to players. There's $3.5 million in total for Season 1 bonuses, with a minimum of $1 million awarded to the Season 1 champion.
  • Teams provide player housing and practice facilities, which must meet the minimum criteria set by the Overwatch League.

Housing, health insurance, a solid minimum salary, and a retirement savings plan are all huge perks for professional players. It turns an esports career into a livelihood. You can play in the Overwatch League and make a living.

This is a big deal. And it's an important one well beyond the Overwatch League. By setting clear guidelines for living and working conditions, Blizzard is developing the basic system needed to turn esports into a fully established competitive sporting field. Overwatch may just be esports's tipping point.

Some Are Cautious For The Future, But Blizzard Is Ambitious

Not everyone is convinced that the Overwatch League is set for success, though. In his piece for Compete on the Overwatch League's player benefits, Nathan Grayson argues that Overwatch's eSports scene is "still young and awkwardly stumbling through a mess of growing pains," and that the entire Overwatch esports community "hasn't even had time to develop personality, stars, or much of a culture" before becoming a brand.

Clearly, that's a problem for myriad reasons. For the Overwatch League to work, players need to feel invested in the industry. Centering teams around local cities, such as New York or Shanghai, solves part of that problem. But viewers also need to understand the skills and decisions that go into Overwatch plays, especially on a high level. There needs to be an established competitive meta, in other words, that makes the Overwatch esports world exciting.

That said, Grayson isn't giving the Overwatch community enough credit. The game has been out for well over a year now, and there's a lot of analysis around the internet about competitive Overwatch. Players have come to understand how Overwatch heroes work and where their strengths and weaknesses lie.

Tiimeline for the Overwatch League's future. [Credit: Blizzard]
Tiimeline for the Overwatch League's future. [Credit: Blizzard]

Many players, viewers, and aspiring professional competitors also have a strong handle on team composition for that reason. One hero classification chart from Reddit user u/sommervt, for instance, breaks down hero roles pretty well for competitive Overwatch players. The chart labels heroes as healers, flankers, DPS, tanks, off tanks, and specialists. It's an extremely complex meta that teaches players how to properly build a team composition. And it shows that there's a lot of thought and strategy underscoring the competitive Overwatch community.

Grayson isn't completely wrong, though. Overwatch isn't fully established yet. It's a game where heroes are still being added, gameplay is still being tweaked, and the competitive culture is still forming. Announcers, stars, coaches, and commentators are still building a name for themselves. For that reason, the Overwatch community still has a long way to go.

But the naysayers should give Blizzard a chance. If the Overwatch League succeeds, it could become one of the most success esports ventures around. And that would mean a lot for establishing esports as a real, legitimate sporting industry. So embrace Overwatch's baby steps. Blizzard may just have the future wrapped up.

Are you excited for the Overwatch League? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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