Overwatch teams free to step into a new world of merch

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If there’s ever been a time to encourage your favourite Overwatch League team to show a little imagination where merch is concerned, now is it. And think of the possibilities. San Francisco Shock tasers. Dallas Fuel jerrycans. Shanghai Dragons komono dragons. London Spitfire airplanes. Los Angeles Gladiator leather codpieces. All options are open now that the Overwatch Teams and Fanatics are no longer locked into an exclusive deal.

For the first two years of Overwatch League’s existence, Fanatics was where fans had to go for merchandise. In its first move into esports, the Florida-based company struck up a multi-year partnership with OL to sell both clothing and other merch. In the past, Fanatic has partnered with such blue-chip leagues as the NHL, MLB, NFL, and NBA.

When the Overwatch League and Fanatics deal was struck in December of 2018, OL game developer Activison said this: “Our collaboration with Fanatics—the first between a major esports league and a global sports merchandising company—allows us to reach even more fans and to provide them with high-quality merchandise and a best-in-class retail experience where they can shop for all our great Overwatch League gear. Fanatics has a proven track record of success with major sports brands and we’re excited to work with them in expanding this part of our business.”

Fanatics was to produce jerseys, headgear, fan clothing, and related merch for the Overwatch League both in North America and overseas. But more than one critic has taken shots at the company for producing low-quality gear.

The exclusive deal between Overwatch League and Fanatics was not only disappointing for fans, it caught some teams flatfooted. The New York Excelsior was producing some of the most memorable gear in Overwatch League before it had to pivot to Fanatics.

Overwatch teams toss out the old

News that teams are free to now step outside of the Fanatics world was first broken by the San Francisco Shock. The team took to Twitter yesterday to announce that it had teamed up with Meta Threads to roll out a new line of merch. Read what you will into the Shock’s tweet of “Out with the old, in with the new…”

Things haven’t stopped there.

Florida Mayhem fans are being asked what they’d love to see from the team.

Check out this on the Mayhem’s Twitter feed:

This newfound freedom is easily explained. Last year was supposed to be a big one for the owners of the Overwatch League’s 20 teams, including lucrative homestands in stadiums.

Pack a bunch of fans into an arena and they’re going to buy merch to go with their hotdogs. Those revenue opportunities were lost when COVID-19 turned everything to online play.

Now Overwatch League teams have the opportunity to roll out the wildest merch they can think of. Hello Chengdu Hunters crossbows and Houston Outlaws getaway horses.

Mike Usinger once took the better part of two years to finish Grand Theft Auto. Over the course of his career he has written about everything from eSports to music to movies to travel.

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