Blizzard is making it mandatory for every team participating in the Overwatch League to represent itself as a new brand. What this means for endemic organizations like Cloud9, Immortals, Misfits, and NRG Esports is that they must take on new names. The surprising rule is to ensure that everyone starts off equally, without non-endemic teams feeling left out.
“The Overwatch League is an entirely new endeavor in esports, combining a brand-new IP with a city-based team structure and other components that strongly distinguish it from other initiatives and programs in competitive gaming,” commissioner Nate Nanzer told ESPN. “Our team owners are all as enthusiastic as we are about starting with a clean slate and developing branding that is built from the ground up to reflect and enhance the innovations of the League as a whole.”
That being said, it is just about branding and the organizations are not entirely forced to put aside a separate workforce for the Overwatch League. In other words, staff members are expected to overlap and that is fine as far as Blizzard is concerned.
The developer believes that new identities in the Overwatch League will not harm the original brand for established esports organizations. This is based on the fact that traditional sports groups already operate in a similar manner.
“There is nothing preventing teams with established endemic esports brands from using their experience and resources to promote Overwatch League teams to their existing fan bases,” added Nanzer. “Just as a sports ownership group may own separate team brands in different sports leagues and use the same marketing or sales team to support both, so the same can happen with teams in the Overwatch League.”
The first season of the Overwatch League was previously slated to begin this month. It is now expected to kick off before the end of the year, perhaps around BlizzCon 2017. Nine teams have already announced participation. Only four of them are endemic but this may change by next year.