Philadelphia OWL Team Finds Esports Fans Among Football and Basketball Fanatics

Blizzard's big bet that location-based franchises would garner hometown pride appears to be paying off, at least in Philadelphia. In a city of football and basketball fanatics that number in the tens of thousands, the Overwatch League (OWL) is carving out a faithful following of esports enthusiasts.

Around 500 locals ditched the Phillies' home opener on April 5 to watch the city's newly-established esports team, Philadelphia Fusion, compete in the Overwatch League. They gathered at a packed viewing party at Revolutions Bowl, an upscale bowling alley near the Delaware River.

Fans dressed in team t-shirts chanted “F-U-S-I-O-N” as star players on their team entered the Blizzard Arena. Their enthusiasm demonstrates there is never enough outlets for sports pride in the city, and gamers were waiting for their own style of team fanaticism to arrive.

Philadelphia Fusion CEO Tucker Roberts says he was shocked by how quickly locals attached to the team. Roberts says the team went from zero to 20,000 fans in a single day once the team formed and the league began. It may sound like a lot, but Blizzard stats show as many as 500,000 people in the Philadelphia area play Overwatch.

The first OWL watch parties in Philadelphia were announced without any idea of how many fans would be interested. In January, they outstripped the capacity of bars and other host locations. Now the groups pick bigger venues – Revolutions Bowl had ample room for the more than 500 attendees that showed up on April 5.

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