‘Overwatch’ Esports League Bans Crypto, NFT, and AI Sponsors – Decrypt

Activision Blizzard’s high-profile Overwatch League franchise competition collapsed late last year after pandemic-related setbacks and teams’ economic struggles cut short its ambitions. Now, a new Overwatch competitive league is spinning up around popular hero shooter Overwatch 2—but it’s taking an anti-crypto stance.

The Overwatch Champions Series, a more open competitive format overseen by prominent esports tournament operator ESL FACEIT Group, was revealed last week. On Wednesday, the league revealed its official rulebook, which put some restrictions on team sponsors.

Teams competing in the official new Overwatch esports league cannot have sponsors that are associated with “cryptocurrencies and cryptocurrency exchanges,” as well as NFTs and “artificial intelligence/machine learning.” The restrictions were first spotted by The Esports Advocate editor James Fudge.

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Decrypt’s GG reached out to Blizzard Entertainment and ESL FACEIT representatives for comment, but neither responded by time of writing.

The esports and cryptocurrency industries have been substantially intertwined in recent years as crypto companies lavished teams and leagues with valuable sponsorships.

The biggest of those came from FTX, which signed a 10-year, $210 million naming rights deal with Team SoloMid (TSM). FTX also inked a seven-year sponsorship deal with Riot Games for its League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) league in the United States, with the agreement later revealed to be valued at nearly $100 million.

But following the collapse of FTX in late 2022, such deals have been less common. That may be due in part to less crypto money being thrown around amid a down market that persisted throughout 2023, but may also indicate hesitance on the part of esports firms despite economic struggles across that gaming industry.

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Edited by Ryan Ozawa.

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