“Endemic to esports” redefined by Blizzard

Blizzard unveils the first seven Overwatch League teams on PC Gamer, bringing an interview with Overwatch League Commissioner Nate Nanzer:

[…] And while Nanzer declined to confirm or comment on Overwatch franchise fees, which have been rumored to be $20 million or more, he did say reports that Blizzard has had difficulty attracting teams to its new league are “just not true.”
“We’ve had a tremendous response. Case in point is the seven teams that we’re announcing today, three of which are endemic to esports — Who better to validate the opportunity than brands that are competing in esports today? They see the opportunity that the Overwatch League presents,” he said.
* Emphasis mine

This feels like public-relations-mumbo-jumbo. While three of the seven teams operate in esports today, I would hardly call them endemic.

Here’s the seven teams announced by Blizzard this week:

- 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)

The three esports teams that “validate the opportunity” according to Blizzard:

Started in October 2015 by “venture capitalists and executives including Peter Levin (investing on his own), president of Lionsgate Interactive Ventures and Games; Steve Kaplan, Oaktree Capital principal and chairman and co-owner of the Memphis Grizzlies; Allen Debevoise, chairman of Machinima; Gregory Milken, March Capital Partners managing director; Paul Rappoport, chief operating officer of the Xprize; Brian Lee, cofounder of Legalzoom; Akinobu Yorihiro, U.S. CEO of Japanese media company Yoshimoto Kogyo; and Machine Shop Ventures, the venture arm of rock band, Linkin Park”. (Source)
NRG Gaming
Started in December 2015 by Gerard Kelly and Sacramento Kings co-owners Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov in December 2015. On March 18, 2016 the team announced that Alex Rodriguez, Shaquille O’Neal and Jimmy Rollins were joining as investors. (Source)
Misfits Gaming
Started in May 2016, announced investment by NBA franchise Miami Heat in January 2017. (Source)

So, yes, these three teams operate in esports today. I am not sure that makes them endemic, especially not if the context is a Blizzard PR voodoo priest trying to reference these teams as “regular esports teams, that validate the opportunity.” These are teams with investors and access to considerable capital.

If anything I would argue that this list of seven teams, including the three team names from esports, is an argument for OWL’s high pricing structure shutting endemic esports teams out completely.