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

Environment Canada warns of strong winds Monday

Monday ferry sailing from Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii has been cancelled

Investigating change to B.C.’s licence and quota system

MP Ken Hardie hears from fish harvesters how corporations are favoured under current regime

Bad weather delays next Prince Rupert/Haida Gwaii ferry

Stormy weather will delay the next ferry sailing from Prince Rupert to… Continue reading

Number-one bud: Q.C. cannabis store could be the first on Haida Gwaii

A local business owner is looking to open the first licensed cannabis… Continue reading

B.C. chiefs show solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs

Chiefs from around B.C. outside the Coastal GasLink pipeline route in Smithers show support.

REPLAY: B.C’s best videos this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at the replay-worth highlights from this week across the province

World economy forecast to slow in 2019 amid trade tensions

For Canada, the IMF’s estimate for growth in 2019 was 1.9 per cent, down from expected global growth of 3.5 per cent

2-for-1: Total lunar eclipse comes with supermoon bonus

On Sunday night, the moon, Earth and sun lined up to create the eclipse, which was visible throughout North and South America

‘Gotti’ leads Razzie nominations, Trump up for worst actor

The nominations were announced on Monday, Jan. 21 with some movies earning up to six nominations

Patriots make 3rd straight Super Bowl, beat Chiefs 37-31 in OT

New England will meet L.A. Rams in NFL title game

Pettersson returns to lead Canucks to 3-2 win over Red Wings

Vancouver’s super rookie has 2 points in first game back after knee injury

Skaters stranded in Saint John, NB, amid storm on last day of championships

More than half of the flights out of the city’s airport were cancelled due to the weather

Call for tighter bail rules after Saudi sex-crime suspect vanishes

Mohammed Zuraibi Alzoabi was facing charges related to alleged sexual assault, criminal harassment, assault and forcible confinement of a woman

12 poisoned eagles found on Vancouver Island

Improper disposal of euthanized animal suspected

Most Read