It is game on in Brooklyn!
New York’s first official professional esports franchise New York Excelsior (NYXL) of the Overwatch League is making its way to Brooklyn for competitive Overwatch tournaments, meet-and-greets with some of the country’s top gamers, and merchandise sales.
In Boerum Hill, the retail shop and gaming center opened by NYXL this holiday season at 472 Atlantic Avenue, will draw local gaming enthusiasts every weekend until Dec. 23.
Head of Events and Business Development at NYXL Ben Nichol told this paper he is excited to bring the slew of competitions and events to Brooklyn.
“It’s going to be great,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything really like this in Brooklyn and we know there are a lot of people in New York that care about esports and are excited about it. There’s this huge opportunity to connect with the fans and really have that one-on-one interaction that isn’t available in traditional sports, so it’s going to be so exciting. We’re stoked.”
On Fri., Nov. 30, there will be a meet-and-greet at 1 p.m. along with the opportunity to watch the professional team playing with and against the best amateur players in New York City at 6 p.m.
“We’ve been running weeks of qualifiers to find the best players and now we’re going to pick the best players against the pros and see what happens,” he said.
Sat., Dec. 1 will have a similar format (meet-and-greet at 11 a.m.), only the team will be playing against fans and professionals from Philadelphia at 5 p.m. Then on Sun., Dec. 2, they will be playing the Los Angeles Valiant at 7 p.m. following a meet-and-greet at 11 a.m.
In addition, there will be open computers to allow anyone to play in the shop.
There will also be events throughout the rest of December.
“We are going to be here every weekend until Dec. 23 so if you can’t come out this weekend, come out,” Nichol said. “We are doing high school college tournaments the next weekend and after that, cosplay. We are doing fun stuff every weekend.”
Esports have grown in popularity due to high quality gamers. NYXL, which was founded this year, is in the Overwatch League which is the first big developer-backed professional league in the world.
The franchise is owned by Sterling.VC, an early stage sports, media and real estate VC fund sponsored by Sterling Equities
“This was our first season and we had a spectacular one, Nichol said. “We were 34-6, but got upset by Philly so we didn’t get the chance to play at Barclays Center in July in front of 18,000, so that was a bummer.”
Nonetheless, he stressed, “We are proud of the team and everything we are doing around the team.”
The first season in the league, there were 12 teams. For the second season, they’ve added eight new franchises from around the world, including teams in China, Canada, all over South Korea, currently equaling to 20 in total.
The NYXL was founded November of last year, but began playing at the beginning of this year. The second season is slated to begin in February, 2019.
Nichol said the goal is to tap into the excitement of esports in the Brooklyn area.
“Our mission is to cultivate these guys in New York City and see if we can home-grow talent that can play in the Overwatch League,” he said. “Playing baseball was really important in my development as a young person. It taught me teamwork and overcoming adversity and being mentored by a coach. I also know there are a lot of kids that don’t care about sports. We have this really unique opportunity to create that grassroots community and mentorship. Kids play and want an outlet. It’s a great opportunity to connect with gamers. Competition is great. The reason it’s booming is because so many people are engaged with it globally and it connects a lot of people.”
Nichol said that the New York team is predominantly Korean, with members ranging in age from 16 to 25 years old, including “a 14-year-old girl from Brooklyn who’s a really high level player that everyone is excited to see compete,” he said.
The New York team is currently based in Burbank; however, the group hopes to host all its home games in New York City by 2020.
For more information on future events and to purchase tickets, visit www.homecomingweekend.splashthat.com.