Activision Blizzard’s high-profile Overwatch League franchise competition ended late last year due to pandemic-related difficulties and clubs’ financial struggles. A new Overwatch competitive league has emerged, centered on the popular hero shooter Overwatch 2, but it is anti-crypto.
The Overwatch Champions Series, a more open competitive format controlled by famous esports tournament operator ESL FACEIT Group, debuted last week. On Wednesday, the league released its formal rulebook, which included some limits for team sponsors.
Teams competing in the official new Overwatch esports league are not permitted to have sponsors affiliated with “cryptocurrencies and cryptocurrency exchanges,” NFTs, or “artificial intelligence/machine learning.” The limits were discovered by The Esports Advocate editor James Fudge.
Decrypt’s GG contacted Blizzard Entertainment and ESL FACEIT personnel for comment, but neither answered by the time of publication.
The esports and cryptocurrency industries have been increasingly interwoven in recent years, with crypto businesses lavishing teams and leagues with lucrative sponsorships.
The most significant of these came from FTX, which negotiated a 10-year, $210 million naming rights agreement with Team SoloMid (TSM). FTX also signed a seven-year sponsorship contract with Riot Games for the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) league in the United States, which was later revealed to be worth almost $100 million.
However, since the fall of FTX in late 2022, such trades have been less common. That could be due in part to less crypto money being thrown around during a down market that lasted until 2023, but it could also signal reluctance on the side of esports firms in the face of economic challenges in the gaming sector.