The watch is beginning for seven esports teams in the U.S. and Asia, and it’s going to have an impact on an industry that research firm Newzoo expects will grow 41.3 percent to $696 million in 2017. Let’s just hope that this doesn’t mean another championship for New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Wednesday, Blizzard announced the first seven cities for its Overwatch League: Boston, New York, Miami-Orlando, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seoul, and Shanghai. You’ve got some big esports names like The Immortals and NRG in the mix, but you also see Craft and New York Mets owner Jeff Wilpon involved as well — showcasing how pro sports are intertwining more with competitive gaming.

Overwatch is one of Blizzard’s biggest games, with more than 30 million people who’ve bought the team-based shooter on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One — and it’s achieved this success in just a little more than a year. Now, you may think that Hearthstone’s 70 million registered players is a bigger sign of success, but remember that Overwatch folks plunked down $40-$60 a pop for a disc or a download, while Blizzard’s “wizard poker” is free-to-play.

The shooter is in the top 10 on Twitch in terms of viewers, ranking No. 6 in May (according to Newzoo). And that’s even without much esports support from Blizzard. And that’s part of the problem that Overwatch faces — competitive gamers are worried about how the Warcraft studio is handling the esports side, but part of this could be folks are waiting to see how Blizzard was going to handle the Overwatch League.

But I also see another problem with the Chinese team — one of trust. NetEase runs Blizzard’s games in China, but it’s also getting an Overwatch esports team. Imagine if the Shanghai team goes on to dominate, a scenario could raise a conflict of interest. I think it’d be better if other Chinese esports groups were involved instead of NetEase to prevent even an appearance of a conflict of interest.

Although I’d probably still prefer a messy conflict-of-interest scandal over the Kraft-owned team winning the championship! He’s got enough Super Bowl rings as it is.

For PC gaming coverage, send news tips to Jeff Grubb and guest post submissions to Rowan Kaiser. Please be sure to visit our PC Gaming Channel.

—Jason Wilson, GamesBeat managing editor

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