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Atlanta And Guangzhou, China, Selected For Esports Expansion Teams

More than 22,000 fans came out to watch the London Spitfire team win the 2018 Overwatch League Grand Finals in New York City on July 27. Atlanta and Guangzhou, China, are the two newest cities selected for esports expansion teams.
More than 22,000 fans came out to watch the London Spitfire team win the 2018 Overwatch League Grand Finals in New York City on July 27. Atlanta and Guangzhou, China, are the two newest cities selected for esports expansion teams.
Credit Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises is entering the world of esports or professional video gaming.

Esports often also involves people paying to watch others play video games.

The Overwatch League 

Fans watch the 2018 Overwatch League Grand Finals. Atlanta is one of the newest cities to get an esports expansion team. (Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment)

The game Overwatch is a popular science-fiction shooting video game played from a first-person perspective. It’s interactive and can be played with up to six players on each team.

A typical video game match between two teams is broadcast on a large screen in a Los Angeles arena, where more than 500 people watch.

Professional sports broadcasters, called shoutcasters, narrate for audiences streaming the match online or planning to watch later.

DJ Khaled performed at the 2018 Overwatch League Grand Finals in New York City. The Overwatch League has teams in more than a dozen cities worldwide. (Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment)

Since it launched in 2016, it’s grown in popularity. It now has more than 40 million players worldwide and even has its own league where players compete called the Overwatch League. It’s considered the first major city-based global esports league, with teams in more than a dozen cities worldwide.

Atlanta Expansion

Cox Enterprises is the newest owner of an Overwatch League team.

It announced the creation of Atlanta Esports Ventures — a partnership with Province Inc. — in Las Vegas on Aug. 2. Paul Hamilton, a principal at Province, was named the president of Atlanta Esports Ventures.

“Atlanta’s become a very cutting-edge city and has moved to the front on a lot of things including esports, all the way down to just walking the BeltLine,” Hamilton said. “The age demographic and the higher education all in that one spot has really driven us. The younger generation is really wanting esports and watching it more than traditional sports, and that trend line is only growing.”

Esports’ popularity has grown, and crowds are drawn to matches, like these fans watching the Overwatch League Grand Finals on July 27. A typical video game match between two teams is broadcast on a large screen. (Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment)

Hamilton says the companies have been watching the Overwatch League for nearly eight months. He said it was easy to decide to start the team in Cox’s hometown of Atlanta.

“It’s one of the fastest-growing cities, one of the most diverse cities, the second most-wired city, the most-traveled hub in the United States, so we always knew we wanted Atlanta, no matter what,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton said he’s now focused on hiring a coach and players for the 2019 season. Eventually, his group will look into investing in other esports leagues or tournaments.

The league also announced a new franchise in Guangzhou, China. Games will be played in Los Angeles for now, but the Overwatch League said it eventually plans to build esports stadiums in all of their home cities, including Atlanta.

Georgia Esports League 

Andrew Greenberg is interim commissioner of the Georgia Esports League and executive director of the Georgia Game Developers Association.

“The game development industry is $100 billion a year worldwide. I expect within our lifetime playing games will be a bigger industry than making games,” Greenberg said. “A lot of media companies see the opportunity here and realize that not only are they attracting a demographic that they’re not otherwise getting. But these are people who are dedicated and passionate and also understand social media. So when you get fans through esports you have fans who will do a lot of the promotional work for you. And this kind of supporter is invaluable for anyone.”

The London Spitfire team won the 2018 Overwatch League Grand Finals last month. Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises has partnered with Province Inc. to create Atlanta Esports Ventures, a new Overwatch League team. (Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment)

About 10 colleges in Georgia have had teams playing in the Georgia Esports League, which has awarded $20,000 in college scholarships to esports players in its past two tournaments.

Georgia State University unveiled its first esports team roster this year and is offering scholarships to supplement HOPE scholarship awards.

“The Overwatch League starting a franchise in Atlanta is a great opportunity for everyone in Georgia,” Greenberg said. “Georgia is already one of the premier destinations for esports having the Hi-Rez Expo, Blue Mammoth’s Brawlhalla Championship, DreamHack, Turner’s ELEAGUE, Georgia Esports League and more. And this just cements Georgia’s role as one of the pre-eminent spots for it.”