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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Lord Tweedsmuir tops Tamanawis in all-cat fight for Surrey RCMP Classic title

Panthers’ Jaeden Reid was named MVP at all-Surrey boys tournament

Surrey students donate 2,000 pairs of socks

Initiative part of the Leo Club program

Surrey hosts grand-opening ceremony of North Surrey arena complex

‘Accessible’ facility features three sheets of ice

Trade to hometown team a ‘blessing in disguise’ for Surrey Eagles defenceman

Kieran O’Hearn gets to play in front of family, who live just minutes from South Surrey Arena

White Rock solid waste open house scheduled

Event to take place next month

After cashing in on QB gambles, Chiefs and 49ers to clash in Super Bowl

KC beats Tennessee, San Francisco dispatches Green Bay to reach NFL title game

VIDEO: SPCA and RCMP remove several animals, including pig, at private animal rescue in Langley

Home at 5500 block of 216th Street has undergone multiple seizures over the past five years

B.C. VIEWS: Few clouds on Horgan’s horizon

Horgan’s biggest challenge in the remainder of his term will be to keep the economy humming along

Victoria family focuses on ‘letting go, enjoying time together’ after dad gets dementia

Walter Strauss has developed an interest in music and now takes line dancing classes

B.C. forest industry grasps for hope amid seven-month strike, shutdowns, changes

Some experts say this could be worse for forestry than the 2008 financial crisis

Northern B.C. RCMP investigating alleged sexual assault in downtown Smithers

One person was transported by ambulance to hospital following RCMP investigation at Sedaz

Vancouver police probe second homicide in less than 24 hours

Woman was found dead in her Gastown home

UBC, Iranian-Canadian community create memorial scholarship in honour of victims

The Jan. 8 crash killed 176 people, including 57 Canadians

Most Read