A Good Omen: HP, Intel Sponsor 'Overwatch' League

Blizzard announced that HP and Intel have signed a multi-year deal to sponsor the Overwatch League. Intel will also support future Overwatch tournaments, Blizzard said, which means the popular team-based shooter will be backed by one of the industry's biggest companies for a while.

The Overwatch League is Blizzard's attempt to franchise esports to make it more like traditional sports. Companies have purchased slots in specific cities—New York, Los Angeles, and other population centers—where they will host matches and their own local tournaments. Each slot cost a reported $20 million, and spots have been picked up by endemic esports organizations and traditional sports magnates alike.

In exchange for those investments, orgs will split revenues garnered from merchandise sales as well as in-game purchases. Blizzard also built a new esports arena in Los Angeles where the first Overwatch League season will be held. (Future seasons will see teams travel between all of the participating cities.) To say Blizzard and the other companies in the league have made significant investments would be an understatement.

Now HP and Intel will also invest in Overwatch's future as an esport. Games will be played on Omen by HP systems and monitors, with the former being equipped with an Intel Core i7 processor. (Blizzard didn't name a specific model.) Intel's CPUs will also be used in "future Overwatch competitive events." We suspect that's referring to the Overwatch World Cup, which is like the game's Olympics and is played on LAN. Overwatch Contenders is played remotely, but the semifinals and finals could also be part of this deal, as could events that have yet to be revealed.

Blizzard said in a press release:

“We’re thrilled to be joining forces with HP and Intel to ensure that the teams competing professionally in Overwatch are equipped with top-end technology,” said Pete Vlastelica, president & CEO of Blizzard Entertainment’s Major League Gaming division. “Multiyear collaborations such as this illustrate the momentum behind the Overwatch League as well as a long-term commitment by us and our partners in what we see as the future of esports.”

This partnership comes hot on the heels of many Overwatch League announcements. Many of the participating teams have finally revealed their names, logos, and rosters in the last few weeks, and more information is expected to be revealed ahead of BlizzCon 2017, which runs November 3-4. You can find all of the team announcements and other information about the Overwatch League on its official website.

Blizzard also revealed changes to Overwatch itself that should make it easier to watch the game. Spectators have been given a new "smart" third-person camera that automatically frames the action, a top-down view that makes it easier to suss out players' positions on the map, and detailed statistics that can help track teams' performances. Those updates should make broadcasting the fast-paced game a little less hectic.

Behind the Scenes: “Evolving Overwatch Esports” | Overwatch

Other changes will be much more obvious to viewers. Perhaps the most significant is the introduction of in-game "jerseys" that modify each hero's appearance to match their player's team. The game previously relied on simple blue and red coloring to differentiate between teams, but teams would sometimes end up switching colors between maps, which could make it hard to figure out who exactly you were spectating.

Blizzard also changed in-game effects, like the colors of rays and explosions, to match team colors. Each team will also have "home" and "away" colors to make them even easier to differentiate. (Many of the teams use some kind of blue in their color scheme, which could get confusing quickly. Making Overwatch easier to, um, watch is an important step in setting up the Overwatch League and other tournaments for success.

These changes will make their debut at the Overwatch World Cup finals at BlizzCon this weekend. The schedule can be found here.

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