With last week's announcement of the first seven teams participating in Blizzard's long-awaited Overwatch League, we wanted to take a look back at the short history of third-party Overwatch esports in both North America and Europe with a timeline that tracks the entries and exits of a number of high profile esport organizations in Overwatch.
While many popular orgs like G2 Esports and Cloud9 jumped into the fray early on, signing teams while the game was still in beta, the flood gates opened once the game released in May 2016.
Though the nascent scene thrived in its early months with big money third-party organized tournaments like ESL's $100,000 Overwatch Open in August 2016 and ELEAGUE's $300,000 Overwatch Open in September 2016, once Blizzard announced the OWL at BlizzCon 2016, teams and organizers collectively held their breath for more information.
However, after several months of waiting on additional information that never came and a slowdown in major tournaments outside OGN's Apex League in Korea, a number of orgs began dropping their rosters including Fnatic, Splyce and Ninjas in Pyjamas.
In fact, Rise Nation, an organization co-owned by NFL player Rodger Saffold, specifically cited the secrecy around the Overwatch League when they dropped their roster in June.
"The lack of information about the [Overwatch League] is the biggest reason for us backing out," Rise's co-owner Kahreem Horsley told ESPN Esports' Jacob Wolf in June. "We feel at the moment it isn't in our best interest to keep paying out to a team monthly that we don't know if we will be able to keep around."
After nine months of silence, Blizzard announced the first seven organizations to buy spots in the OWL on July 12. These organizations range from endemic esports organizations like Immortals, Misfits and NRG to major traditional sports figures like the New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and New York Mets COO Jeff Wilpon of Sterling VC.
While there still are a number of endemic esports organizations that have held onto their Overwatch rosters, it remains to be seen whether they have the will or funding to enter the OWL if reports that Blizzard are asking for $20 million per spot are true.
Sasha Erfanian is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.