Recently the sensational news broke that players who are competing in the Activision-Blizzard Overwatch league are set to be paid a minimum US$50000 + health and retirement benefits for their time. On top of this players are assured to receive a split of amounting to at least 50% of the bonuses their team makes for participating, projected to be at least $3.5m of which a cool $1m will be guaranteed to the eventual champion.
Such figures clearly demonstrate both the incredible rise in popularity and subsequent rapid monetization of e-sports. The ramifications of this are set to see e-sports enter the realms similar to what some professional athletes earn. For example, the MSL minimum wage currently stands at just $3000 more than what this league is offering as basic, with a less impressive bonus structure and none of the associated perks that professional gamers are set to enjoy. The league even intends to offer complimentary travel while also covering lodgings and personal expenses of every player!
Contractually speaking it"s also arguably better to be an elite Overwatch player than a squad member on a soccer team. All initial players are offered a set one year contract with an option for a second, yet upon expiry of their deal, they are free to switch teams - most likely for a hefty signing up bonus. However, for the time being, they are technically employees of Activision (much like MSL players are contracted to the league).
Contracts prohibit players from forming any kind of players association or collective union - which suggests that this time next year "free agents" are going to be demanding and negotiating their own personal terms - again just like how many athletes do.
Yet incredible as this may be from the players perspective, there are a few catches. Contracts prohibit players from forming any kind of players association or collective union - which suggests that this time next year "free agents" are going to be demanding and negotiating their own personal terms - again just like how many athletes do. Plus there"s the small matter of an estimated 30 million other players desperately trying to improve to a standard whereby they can make the professional grade. For all but the biggest name players, this may not be the most secure employment in the world!
However, for many players, it's an opportunity to make decent money while the good times roll. The standards expected by the top teams are incredibly high. Players need to have the reactions of the sharpest Platinum Play slots enthusiast while constantly developing new tactics.
Remember that Overwatch only has six players on each team, so besides maybe one or two reserves, teams are going to be extremely difficult to earn a place on. Ranking will literally mean everything - long gone are the good old days of players joining clans for casual fun. Now the money machine is coming into play e-sports is very much a business.
All this being said it's not as if Activision is short of enough capital to bankroll their new league. The seven ownership groups each pay a $20m franchise fee, and they are due a third share of all revenue generated via the broadcasting and commercial rights (the rest of the income being split between players and teams).
So what can we expect to come from this groundbreaking development in e-sports? Overwatch is one of the most popular games in the world, but you can bet many other popular titles with competitive leagues will soon be following in this format. But even though this will open up even more lucrative professional positions, given the tens of millions of people you"re competing against it may not be wise to give up the day job just yet.