— Overwatch League (@overwatchleague) January 11, 2018
Six teams from the OWL’s 12-team league roster played in the day’s three matches: In the inaugural game, home team Los Angeles Valiant soundly defeated San Francisco Shock 4-0, Los Angeles Gladiators swept Shanghai Dragons 4-0, and Seoul Dynasty beat Dallas Fuel 2-1. From photos and footage, it looked like the teams played to a packed house at the LA eSports arena. But far more tuned in on Twitch, which officially announced on Tuesday that it would be the only broadcaster (besides Blizzard itself) streaming the first two years of OWL.
Blizzard has been investing a lot in the OWL — and to be fair, so have the deep-pocketed backers of each team, which had to pay an alleged $20 million per to secure a slot in the first year. The league is a huge stab at pushing eSports into the mainstream, and it’s been designed to appeal to traditional sports fans: Teams are based in cities, games have been pushed to reasonable nightly (North American) hours and there’s plenty of merch in-game and IRL to represent your squad. Blizzard’s investment extends to players, too, justifying a $50,000 minimum salary as a stabilizing force so the players can focus on playing.
The OWL’s first season will proceed every week, with three games every night from Wednesday to Saturday until June 16th. Then the top six teams enter the six-week postseason culminating in a championship match on July 28th. Every game streams free on Twitch on OWL’s page. Whether viewers tune in for the rest of the league’s first season will be another story, but even on the second night of OWL play, its stream is dominating Twitch, according to TwitchMetrics: