Four months ago, the 18,600-capacity Rogers Arena was packed to the rafters when it hosted the world’s largest video game tournament, the International Dota 2 Championships. Now, the Aquilini Group—the owners of the Vancouver Canucks—are bringing professional eSports team to the city.
The team, named the Vancouver Titans, is a franchise in the Overwatch League. A highly popular video game that boasts more than 40 million worldwide players as of last May, Overwatch is a first-person shooter played by two squads of six. The Overwatch League’s inaugural 2016-2017 season wrapped in July, with the playoff finals averaging nearly one million viewers per minute.
The Titans will be one of eight teams to join the international league in an expansion. The competition currently features squads from cities in the U.S., the U.K., South Korea, and China, with the development adding Canada to the list. As well as Vancouver hosting the Titans, Toronto will be home to a team named the Defiant, and squads from Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Paris, Chengdu, Guangzhou, and Hangzhou will round out the roster.
The Titans is one of the first of the expansion teams to reveal its lineup. The players are former members of the RunAway team, a Korea-based club with one of the biggest Overwatch fanbases in the world.
ESports is a growing business worldwide. In the Overwatch League, players make a minimum of $50,000 USD a year, with the top figures raking in over six figures. The Aquilini family began to look seriously at the prospect of purchasing an eSports franchise after its younger members urged the Canucks owners to consider it.
“We felt very comfortable that this would be the right place for us to enter this fascinating new industry,” Adrian Montgomery, president of Aquilini Entertainment and head of the new team, told the CBC. “We can’t wait to launch the team in Vancouver.”
The Vancouver Titans will begin by playing its matches at Activision studio in Burbank, California, with plans to relocate the team to Rogers Arena in 2020. The move will boost the number of events at the stadium, as the owners expect the venue to host Vancouver Warriors games as well as Vancouver Canucks within the next two years.
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