One of the largest professional video game leagues is coming to Toronto…sort of.
Activision Blizzard is currently in the final negotiations process to sell a Toronto slot in its Overwatch League (OWL), according to a report from ESPN. The group that will be purchasing the slot is led by Michael Kimel, a Canadian entrepreneur that is most well-known for his restaurant endeavours such as the Chase, Kasa Moto and Colette Grand Café. Kimel also owns a minority stake in the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins as well.
The other members of the purchasing group include Michael’s family, which is Westdale Properties, owned by Michael’s uncle Ron Kimel; and the investor group OverActive Media.
OverActive invests in Splyce, an esports organization that will manage the Toronto Overwatch team. Splyce has teams in several other esports titles and is a mainstay in the industry. In total, Splyce will own 10 per cent of the Toronto team.
Overwatch is a video game created and managed by Activision Blizzard. It is one of the leading esports titles, and currently, there are 12 teams in the OWL. The OWL launched last summer and featured a $20 million franchise buy-in price.
Things have changed since then, as the game has seen rising viewer numbers and continued popularity. The reported price to buy into this new slot is a reported $35 million USD. This new slot is one of one of six total expansion slots available, bringing the total number of teams to 16.
The other expansion slots are reportedly going to Atlanta, Paris, and Guangzhou in China. Other owners of OWL teams include The Kraft Group, Sterling.VC, Comcast Spectacor and more. Many of these organizations already dabble in other professional sports, sometimes owning majority stakes in teams like the New England Patriots and the New York Mets.
The way the OWL works is that the Toronto team will have its own name and branding, and will not have Splyce attached to it. However, all of the teams in the OWL play out of a central location in Los Angeles, meaning that Canadian Overwatch fans will have to travel to the U.S. to see their team in person. Games are streamed online otherwise and regularly top 150,000 viewers—in fact, the Overwatch grand finals (seen in the header image) recently concluded and sported an all-time high viewer count of 441,000 on its opening day.