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Reported $20m franchise fee is putting esports teams off Overwatch

Update: Blizzard dismisses "unverified" rumours, suggests reports are "misinformation" spread as "bargaining tactics"

Update: Blizzard has dismissed reports of the high price of its Overwatch League, framing them as "unverified and wildly ranging rumours" borne from "enthusiasm" for Overwatch as an eSport.

In a statement issued to Gamespot, Blizzard emphasised its commitment to building a sustainable eSports ecosystem around Overwatch that is "accessible" to a wide audience. "We're doing our best to take great care with building this ecosystem," the company said, "and as with much of what we do, we don't release information until we're at a place where it makes sense to do so."

Blizzard also implied that the "statements from unnamed sources" that featured in ESPN's original report were given by those wishing to "leverage the media to deliberately spread misinformation as bargaining tactics or for other competitive reasons."

Original Story: Reports are circulating that major esports teams and organisations are steering clear of Blizzard's official Overwatch League (OWL), thanks to extremely initial high costs for the franchise ownership needed to take part, and subsequent earnings clauses which are perceived to be heavily weighted in favour of the publisher.

If true, it's a bad start for Blizzard's newly integrated MLG business, which will be focusing on both Overwatch and Call of Duty's official competitive professional leagues

The report, courtesy of ESPN, indicates that several sources have cited a $20 million franchise fee for the city-specific official Overwatch teams required for participation in the OWL, with that cost rising even higher for more desirable slots in major cities such as New York.

In addition, ESPN's contacts report that, even once the fee has been paid, teams aren't guaranteed any revenues at all until 2021, and even then only if Blizzard is able to meet certain financial criteria. On top of that, there's rumoured to be a clause which would see Blizzard recoup 25% of the revenue from any sale of a franchise to a third party after the initial purchase.

If reported correctly, the cost would represent an enormous price-hike over the barriers to entry in analogous tournaments for other leading esports titles. League Championship Series participation - the Riot-run tournament for the world's most popular game: League of Legends - costs just $1.8 million.

Over the last few weeks, several teams and organisations have expressed reservations and concerns about Overwatch's professional play structure, with teams like Splyce, Reunited and SoloMid reportedly balking at the cost of official leagues. If rosters aren't filled soon, the OWL's planned 2017 launch date may well see revision.