The Overwatch League announced today that two new teams will join the world's first major global city-based esports league, one in Atlanta, Georgia, headed by Atlanta Esports Ventures, and the other in Guangzhou, China, operated by financial and entertainment conglomerate Nenking Group, owner of the Chinese Basketball Association's Guangzhou Long Lions. Paul Hamilton, the president and CEO of Atlanta Esports Ventures, told us ahead of the announcement that existing teams will come into season two with the benefit of experience, but he expects his Atlanta outfit to be competitive right from the start.
"I think we're at a disadvantage, but that's because we have lot of things that we need to do. But we've also been able to watch what's worked and what hasn't worked for [other teams]," Hamilton said.
"What's so neat is watching different owners come at this in a different way. The four or five teams that were successful were such a blend of from-scratch and endemic teams, so I think that we're just slightly behind. But we're not at a major disadvantage."
Pete Vlastelica, president and CEO of Activision Blizzard Esports Leagues, echoed that sentiment, saying that the ownership behind roughly half the teams that took part in season one did not have previous esports experience.
"When we announced them, a lot of people said these guys were going to get destroyed by the endemic teams that we were working with. But if you look at these finals, one of the teams is a long-standing endemic organization—Cloud9, that's behind the London Spitfire—and the other group is Comcast, which is an organization not that different from [Atlanta Esports Ventures partner] Cox Enterprises," Vlastelica said. "When we announced Comcast, people thought they didn't have a chance to compete and here they are at the Grand Finals. I think that speaks to the fact that we are very early in this industry, and there's not 'one way' to do anything."
Hamilton said the Atlanta ownership group is focused on "creating the best team" rather than picking up big-name individual players and hoping they mesh, and it is already working on "a litany of ideas" to cultivate and engage the fanbase in Georgia. He also dismissed a suggestion that the Atlanta Curse, which has taken a toll on the Braves, the Falcons, and the Hawks, will strike the city's Overwatch League team too.
"I don't believe in curses," he said. "We're going to create a great deal of love between the city and our sports organization, and we're going to do everything we can do win."
Names for the new Atlanta and Guangzhou teams, along with colors, logos, and rosters, will be announced later, but Hamilton teased us with a hint, saying that it will include the word "Atlanta."