Overwatch League commissioner Nate Nanzer announced late Friday evening that he will be leaving Blizzard for a new opportunity.
Nanzer made the announcement on Twitter, telling fans that it was one of the hardest decisions he’s made in his life, and thanked the fans, Blizzard, and the members of OWL for all they’ve accomplished together.
Hey Overwatch League family. I wanted to share that soon I will be leaving Blizzard for a new opportunity. This has been the toughest decision of my life, because it means I won’t get to work with the best staff, players, teams, owners, partners, and fans in esports anymore. 1/4
— Nate Nanzer (@natenanzer) May 25, 2019
Prior to taking on the role of OWL commissioner, Nanzer worked as Blizzard’s global director of research and consumer insights. He’s credited by many as one of the OWL’s founding fathers, as he was one of the first individuals to pitch the idea of running their own esport league to Overwatch Game Director Jeff Kaplan.
“If we structure a league the right way and put the right investment behind it, we can actually monetize it in a way that’s not too dissimilar from traditional sports.” said Nanzer to Kaplan during his initial pitch. This insight helped Blizzard started craft the foundation for the Overwatch League.
ESPN reported that Nanzer will be taking a job with Epic Games overseeing competitive esports. Epic Games released a statement following Nanzer’s announcement.
“We’re excited to welcome Nate to the Epic Games team, where he’ll be working with us on competitive Fortnite,” the statement read.
During his time as OWL commissioner Nanzer helped bring on major sponsors such Toyota, HP, Intel, and T-Mobile, and penned a major broadcast deal with streaming giant Twitch, who reportedly paid $90 million for the rights to stream OWL matches. Opening day for OWL saw an average of 408,000 viewers per minute, peaking at 437,000 during the Dallas Fuel vs Seoul Dynasty match. At the end of its first week OWL had an average of 280,000 per minute.
The OWL grand finals saw an estimated global average concurrent for the event reached over 860,000 viewers. Due to the overwhelming success of the first season of OWL, Nanzer was named as one of Fortune magazine’s “40 under 40” to watch in 2018. He also helped the league expand during its second season, adding eight new times, many internationally based.
Thus it’s not hard to guess at why Epic Games stole Nanzer away from Blizzard. His contributions to the league undoubtedly helped build it into one of the foremost epsort leagues in the world.
CEO of Activision Blizzard Esports Leagues Pete Vlastelica will step in as Nanzer’s replacement.