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The Overwatch League ruled esports. Then everything went wrong

Enlarge (credit: Sergio Flores/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Since its formation in 2017, the Overwatch League—the professional esports program for Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch hero shooter—has drawn frequent comparisons to traditional sporting institutions. Its stated aim, as WIRED put it in a 2017 feature, was to become the new US National Football League.

The two institutions certainly overlapped: The Overwatch League was the first major esports league to franchise local teams in major cities, and it features live spectator events with hometown crowds and salaried athletes. The goal was to offer esports fans a more traditional sports model, where they could go to a local arena or venue, see their hometown team play against an “away” team, and cheer during the event. The model offered local pop-up stores, team merchandise, ticket sales, media rights, and licensing.

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