As the Overwatch League begins this week some of the trappings of traditional sports, fantasy sports, and gambling, have come along with it in nascent forms. Fantasy has come in the form of weekly leagues, season-long leagues, and pick’em leagues. Gambling outlets have come out as well and published team odds for winning the inaugural season.
Weekly and season-long leagues are something that I expect the Overwatch League to run themselves in the future, but for now, the first-mover has been Winston’s Lab. Additionally, on the back of the hard-work of an independent developer, we have gotten pick’em leagues from High Noon Pick’em. While numbers on all of the entries aren’t publicly available, Winston’s Lab does post publicly the number of entrants for its weekly league, which has over 4500 entries at the time of this posting for week one. It’s clear from these numbers that fans are excited for the opportunity to compete in fantasy Overwatch League and it’s only a matter of time before we see more mature options start to pop up.
We’ve already seen the gambling industry jump in and start putting odds on teams for winning season one. Gambling has been a part of traditional sports and it’s no surprise to start seeing this industry follow along with the upward trend of eSports. What we haven’t seen yet are any fantasy sports with cash prizes. Sites like Draft Kings have had a huge impact on sports gambling in recent years, and while they’re newer, they’ve yet to make a move on Overwatch.
I expect the fantasy landscape to change dramatically once Blizzard releases its stats API. Blizzard will likely release an excellent, non-gambling fantasy product that will probably dominate the market there. They will, similarly to traditional sports organizations, shy away from any form of gambling. Similarly to how we are seeing first-movers get some early market share in Fantasy before Blizzard comes in and dominates the Fantasy market, I expect to see first-movers on Daily Fantasy with cash prizes before giants like Draft Kings move in and dominate that market as well. General gambling will become more sophisticated with the improved data as well, and I think we’ll be seeing spreads on games before too long.