Overwatch Series Bans Crypto, NFT, and AI Sponsorships

Overwatch Series Bans Crypto, NFT, and AI Sponsorships

The Overwatch Champions Series has banned teams from having sponsors related to cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and AI following the collapse of the previous Overwatch League. The rulebook, revealed by ESL Faceit Group, aims for a cleaner esports environment. 

Team sponsorship regulations have changed with the launch of the Overwatch Champions Series, the new competitive arena for Overwatch 2. The league, run by ESL Faceit Group, published its formal rules last Wednesday, Feb. 7. Among the clauses is that participating teams cannot work with sponsors involved in cryptocurrencies, NFTs, or AI/ML.

This decision comes in the wake of the difficulties the Overwatch League faced recently when Activision Blizzard’s high-profile franchise tournament collapsed due to pandemic-related complications and financial strains among participating teams.

Announcing the multi-year agreement

Last week, Blizzard Entertainment announced a multi-year agreement that will bring the next chapter of the game’s eSports to life through the Overwatch Champions Series (OWCS). Blizzard Entertainment is the maker of the massive free-to-play first-person shooter Overwatch 2 and the leading esports and video game entertainment company known as ESL Faceit Group.

A historic new era for Blizzard’s first-person shooter is ushered in by the OWCS by providing an open, always-on, and global eSports circuit. Players from North America, Europe, the Middle East, North Africa (EMEA), and Asia are welcome to participate in the international competitive circuit.

According to Jared Neuss, the Executive Producer of Overwatch 2, a thriving esports scene is essential to a game as competitive as Overwatch 2, and they are very excited to enter this next era for the franchise with EFG.

Also, this agreement gives Blizzard Entertainment access to all of EFG’s properties, allowing it to build a competitive community that is accessible, open, and long-lasting.

eSports and cryptocurrency

The eSports and cryptocurrency industries have become increasingly entwined since cryptocurrency businesses showered teams and leagues with costly sponsorships. The largest came from FTX, which agreed to pay Team SoloMid (TSM) $210 million over ten years for the right to name products.

However, the $210 million sponsorship was the biggest publicized agreement that FTX secured amidst a surge of sports sponsorships in 2021 and early 2022, including deals with Major League Baseball, the NBA’s Miami Heat and Golden State Warriors, and Formula One team Mercedes-AMG Petronas.

Though the TSM contract is a cryptocurrency company’s most significant eSports endorsement, the team insisted that it won’t matter if the exchange doesn’t support it.

Riot Games and FTX also signed a seven-year sponsorship agreement for FTX’s League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) league in the United States. It was later disclosed that the contract was worth nearly $100 million.

However, such high-value agreements declined after FTX collapsed in late 2022. Notwithstanding the gaming industry’s economic difficulties, analysts link this fall to the larger decline in the bitcoin market during 2023 and surmise that eSports organizations are exercising caution.

Ultimately, only time will tell if this prohibition from NFT, AI, or cryptocurrency trends applies to other series or games. In a related report, some big changes to Season 9 of Overwatch 2, kicking off next week, are about to happen.

Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney, Unsplash.