This past Thursday, Blizzard Entertainment announced the first official team for their highly anticipated Overwatch League: the Shanghai Dragons, representing Shanghai, China. The announcement was made on Blizzard’s overwatchleague.com, and was accompanied by posts from the team’s newly created social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook. Included were the official logo and team colors, as well as a red and yellow “jersey” skin for Mei.
Although all the team owners in the Overwatch League had already been made public prior to this announcement, Blizzard had made it clear that all teams, including existing esports orgs with a spot (such as NRG representing San Francisco), would have to be rebranded to create an Overwatch League exclusive brand. In other words, an existing team like NRG would have to create a new team name and logo to represent their city in the League. The Shanghai Dragons is the first to announce their official League branding, and it is likely that more teams will follow suit in the weeks leading up to Blizzcon.
Even more interesting is the reveal of a team specific skin. Blizzard has confirmed that all teams will receive skins and other cosmetic content related to their teams and that a percentage of the profits from these items will directly support the team. Although no purchasing model has been revealed, Blizzard has several potential options to choose from, such as creating League specific loot boxes, offering the skins for a direct purchase, or even utilizing Twitch.tv’s “cheering” system to generate drops for players, a tactic used to boost tournament viewership that has already worked well for them with Heroes of the Storm.
Team branded skins and cosmetic content will undoubtedly play a key role in making League spectatorship appealing to Overwatch’s massive casual playerbase, a goal that has been stressed as a priority by Nate Nanzer, Commissioner for the League. Although only one skin has been revealed so far, it is speculated that each team will have branded skins for every hero in the game. This means that matches will potentially be played “in uniform,” with each team using their appropriate team skins as in-game jerseys.
Such a feature would greatly improve the spectating experience for viewers, as one of the chief complaints regarding Overwatch spectatorship right now is the difficulty in distinguishing teams from one another. Whatever the result, however, it is clear that Blizzard (and the team owners) are invested in putting their best foot forward as the League moves closer and closer to the start of its inaugural pre-season on December 6th.