The Overwatch League currently has 12 teams, including the Boston Uprising, Houston Outlaws, London Spitfire, New York Excelsior, Los Angeles Gladiators, Los Angeles Valiant, San Francisco Shock, Seoul Dynasty and Shanghai Dragons. (Bago Games/Flickr)

Vancouver’s Aquilini Group acquires Overwatch League esports franchise

Territory in expansion franchise also covers Seattle and Portland

In acquiring an Overwatch League franchise for Vancouver, the Aquilini Group has planted its esports flag in a hometown rich in video game development.

As a bonus, the Vancouver franchise’s territory covers Seattle and Portland, also fertile gaming grounds.

The International Dota 2 Championships recently filled Vancouver’s Rogers Arena, proof of the appeal of esports.

“It’s hard to pack our building for six straight days and generate the noise and the enthusiasm and passion for six straight days,” said Adrian Montgomery, the Aquilini Group’s president of entertainment.

“It’s hard for anyone to do that and we saw it firsthand with these folks.”

Vancouver and Toronto were among six expansion franchises announced Friday for the Overwatch League.

READ MORE: Ex-Canadian Olympic Committee boss to lead Toronto esports franchise

“Overwatch,” a team-based first-person shooter with its own quirky style, has spawned a blue-chip esports league backed by big names and big money. Esports forecasts call for world viewership numbers to skyrocket.

“The numbers are unbelievable, quite frankly … I’ve rarely seen something this blue-ocean before,” said Montgomery, whose company has been looking for almost a year for the right esports opportunity.

The Overwatch League currently has 12 teams: Boston Uprising, Florida Mayhem, Houston Outlaws, London Spitfire, New York Excelsior and Philadelphia Fusion in the Atlantic Division and Dallas Fuel, Los Angeles Gladiators, Los Angeles Valiant, San Francisco Shock, Seoul Dynasty and Shanghai Dragons in the Pacific Division.

Other expansion franchises for 2019 are Washington, D.C., Paris, and Chengdu and Hangzhou, China. Atlanta and Guangzhou, China, joined the fold last month.

The Toronto group is headed by tech entrepreneur Sheldon Pollack, venture capitalist Adam Adamou and the Kimel family led by Michael Kimel as principal owner. Kimel is a co-founder of the Chase Hospitality Group and an investor in the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Those already holding Overwatch ownership stakes include New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, New York Mets COO Jeff Wilpon (New York) and Kroenke Sports & Entertainment (L.A. Gladiators), whose sports empire includes Arsenal, the Los Angeles Rams, Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche and Comcast Spectacor which owns the Philadelphia Flyers (Philadelphia Fusion).

The original cost of a franchise was pegged at US$20 million with reports suggesting the next round would go for a minimum of $35 million.

The London Spitfire won the inaugural league championship — and $1 million — in July, defeating Philadelphia 3-0 at a soldout Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Philadelphia collected $400,000 as runner-up.

The league is the brainchild of Overwatch developer Blizzard Entertainment, whose gaming portfolio also includes “World of Warcraft” and “StarCraft.” Blizzard says Overwatch is the fastest of its titles to reach more than 30 million players.

The league plans to continue staging its games at Blizzard’s esports arena in Burbank, Calif., in 2019 with plans to stage games in the franchise cities in 2020. Rogers Arena would be a likely Vancouver venue.

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Kitimat resident is Conservative choice for fall election

Claire Rattée is a former Kitimat councillor

Pacific Traverse Energy to start community engagement

The company will reach out to key stakeholders

RCMP again warns public not to drink and drive

New legislation allows police to breathalyze with drivers’ consent

Rio Tinto donates $50K for Shames Mountain chairlift upgrades

The money was used to purchase the chairlift’s bull wheel replacement last summer

Broken axle caused New Hazelton train derailment: TSB

It could happen again without a different way to inspect trains

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

Pope’s sex abuse prevention summit explained

It’s A high-stakes meeting designed to impress on Catholic bishops the global problem

B.C. ticket holder winner of $25.9-million Lotto Max jackpot

Next draw set for Mar. 1 with an estimated jackpot of $10 million

Girl heard saying ‘Help my Dad’ in suspicious radio message on Vancouver Island

Police asking for help following mysterious signals from somewhere between Comox and Sayward

Reports of rashes prompt closure of all Harrison Hot Springs pools

Public pool available after Fraser Health shut down all five mineral pools until further notice

No treatment for highly infectious measles, says doctor

10 cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver as of Friday

Two more measles cases confirmed in Vancouver

It brings the number of total cases within the city connected to the outbreak to ten

B.C. Special Olympics officially underway in Vernon

Athlete’s Oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Vancouver Aquarium wants your help to name a baby killer whale

The public helped name Springer’s first calf, Spirit, and is being asked to help with the second

Most Read