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Mr. Kraft's Latest Venture: The Overwatch League

overwatchleague

By now we all recognize that Mr. Kraft is more than just a man who turned a cardboard box company into an empire. Yes, he’s a dynasty builder. Media magnate. Real estate mogul. Deal maker. Philanthropist. Lover of beautiful women. Counselor to world leaders. Flip phone enthusiast. Sneaker designer. Close, personal friend of mine.

Well now he’s taking his talents into the competitive world of professional eSports. A report from eSports journalist Richard Lewis states that the Kraft Group has invested $20 million to buy a franchise in Activision Blizzard’s upcoming Overwatch League.

The OWL’s plan is for a 32 team North American league “whereby teams will hire the best players of Overwatch, one of Activision Blizzard’s most popular games, and play each other for fame and fortune while in front of fans — in live arenas and via internet streaming. Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick envisions salaries, health benefits and large followings for the ‘athletes'” that will eventually expand to cities around the globe.

Before you scoff at the idea that gamer nerds are going to put down their controllers, go out into the sun and buy tickets to watch other, better gamer nerds play an analysis by no less a source than Morgan Stanley says:

Blizzard Entertainment’s Overwatch League could bring in more than $100 million in annual base revenue … That’s not even the high number: Morgan Stanley’s bull case, a scenario that depends on a confident market, puts revenue at $720 million per year. That number would put Overwatch in the same sphere as the WWE and 20 percent larger than Major League Soccer.

Granted, other eSports leagues have failed. Or so I’ve read. Somehow they managed to get started, compete and then fold without my knowledge while I was too busy watching actual athletes do actual sports. But those other leagues didn’t have a Mr. Kraft. The man who bought the worst stadium in the history of sports surrounded by a parking lot that looked like the lunar surface and envisioned a retail and entertainment mecca with a 5-star hotel and a Bed, Bath & Beyond, then made it real should not be underestimated.

Laugh if you will. But the man has been laughed at before. And if he thinks there’s a hundreds of millions to be made charging people to watch other people cyber fight, I wouldn’t bet against him. And if OWL does make more than MLS, I’m going to deeply regret all those times I yelled at my kids to turn off HALO and do homework.

@jerrythornton1