The death of the Overwatch League is a necessary evil to decouple Blizzard’s shooter from Activision’s logic.
The teams accepted and the agreements were signed: after five years of competition, the Overwatch League will cease to exist at the end of the year and this is excellent news. Overwatch started out as one of the most promising competitive shooters of all time, so competitive that it won the Game of the year in 2016. Its strategic dynamics that mix skill tactics, cooldown management and team movements have been a magnet for fans of the genre who still populate the Blizzard video game today.
The original sin of its esports scene, however, was trying imitate traditional sports and being motivated by the insatiable greed of Activision management. For those who don’t remember, already in the beta phase Overwatch saw the birth of competitions, tournaments, teams and wonders from nowhere, in an absolutely organic way and with extraordinary public success. The Outlaws (later Huston’s team) could keep tens of thousands of people glued to the screen when they played.
Bobby Kotick, the evil Activision CEO responsible for the hellish years Overwatch endured between 2019 and 2022, however, had other plans. Given the resounding success of the first electronic sports, it was proposed to recreate a competitive system similar to the NFL or NBA with city teams and localized and traveling events like those of traditional sports. All this, obviously, with a franchise system with exorbitant costs and absolutely uncertain returns. However, given the staggering numbers, many wealthy investors thought it was a good idea. invest figures of the order of 20 million dollars To participate.
The first year (2018) started off quietly, limiting itself to a single location in Los Angeles that, after a sold-out opening weekend with hundreds of thousands of viewers online, almost never managed to fill its seats with Activision executives. who gave away tickets. to school groups so as not to show an empty arena live. 2019 was supposed to be the year of the turning point, of the homestands (the traveling competitions from city to city) and the takeoff of the format as Activision had imagined, but perhaps you too remember what happened in January 2020.
The pandemic destroyed any hope of making this model work with a few events that managed to get off the ground (we had everything booked to watch Paris Eternal play at home when everything was cancelled) and a lukewarm reception of the format. The League then moved online, and in addition to the lack of a live audience, new in-game content also began to disappear after Blizzard announced Overwatch 2 (with a now-defunct PvE campaign) moving all of its game resources there. development.
An increasingly less popular game, online-only e-sports competitions, and an unfun meta to watch have slowly undermined the competition. keeping the entire circuit below in the shade of the Contenders who, by being open, managed to inject some freshness into the game and the matches. The release of the sequel, after an initial audience resurrection, did nothing to stop the hemorrhaging of gamers and enthusiasts, and since the return on the monstrous initial investment never came, it is only natural that League teams have voted to end operations. and receive $6 million in compensation to close the deal.
Overwatch esports, however, is far from dead. “We are transitioning the Overwatch League to a new third-party format,” organizers said shortly after the vote was announced. “We are grateful to everyone who made the OWL possible and remain focused on building our vision of a revitalized esports program. “We are excited to share the details with all of you in the near future.” This news fills us with hope because, waiting for the stars to align, we can aspire to an open system that rewards merit, not stratospheric budgets.
Now Overwatch, along with Blizzard, is owned by Microsoft, whose head of the gaming section, Phil Spencer, is known for his extremely laissez faire approach. and confident in the potential of the studies under its umbrella. Blizzard is a continually simmering hotbed that has had its wings clipped by Activision in the name of profit for the past few years, with every decision having to go through dozens of approvals and changes before moving forward. Blizzard CEO Mike Ybarra, speaking precisely about this pachydermic and conservative slowness, has already said he is enthusiastic about the freedoms that the new administration has promised.
The players are there, the numbers on Twitch too. There is talent among the casters, analysts and professionals, and the game continues to have good numbers: 25 million active players monthly according to Activeplayer. The only thing missing is a competitive system that provides a professional outlet for those who have invested years of sweat and practice; a generalized structure is missing in Asia, America, Europe and the Middle East (Saudi Arabia won the last World Cup). and there is no organizational vision to return to the community-based, frenetic roots of Blizzard’s shooter release that has enchanted a generation of enthusiasts. Give Overwatch an open, meritocratic competitive systemThe numbers will come by themselves.