Can The Overwatch League Succeed?
The potential dangers and benefits of Blizzard’s new Overwatch League and why the high buy in for teams may result in the experiment being a flop. Compare it to the League of Legends city competitions. (up to 15 mill per spot, highest being in LA). Blizzrad will have to battle to make this good idea become successful.
The Overwatch League: A Hopeful Ambition
Despite only being about a year old, Overwatch has proven to be a smash hit for Blizzard as well as gamers. Taking what gamers like best in League of Legends and other MOBAs—the depth that comes with diverse characters and unique abilities—and the frantic style which FPSs such as Call of Duty offer, Overwatch is satisfying in many ways. Blizzard has been exceptionally proactive in incorporating their game into the eSports scene. One of the ways they are doing this is through a program called Overwatch League. What makes this so different is they plan to use a variety of popular cities to host teams just like traditional sports. This differs from the League of Legends pro scene, which uses only two venues, both in the LA area, to put on their NA LCS matches.
The New Kid on the Block
Imagine you’re in high school and there’s this kid who everyone knows makes music. It’s actually pretty darn good, but he’s only been doing it for a year. On the other hand, there is another guy who has done the same thing but in a different genre, and he has been making music for nine years. It’s also the best music you’ve ever heard from anybody in any high school. If both of them ask me to choose between their album, which one do you think I’m gonna buy? This is the situation investors are looking at with League of Legends, which has been around for a long time. Confidence is necessary to be comfortable making agreements with companies or teams. Overwatch has not been out for long, and that alone gives enough reason for skepticism around its future ability to corner the market. Overwatch wholeheartedly supports their professional scene, and want to deeper develop what it has to offer. They must, however, develop a reputation of consistency over time. It is possible that the Overwatch League may be coming too early; hopefully they will not have to halt the project and revisit it.
Uncertainty still abounds, however, as this was announced back at BlizzCon 2016 and very little information has been given to the public since. You would think, with this big of an idea, that constant communication would come from Blizzard. But, the goal is to work with both eSports and traditional sports organizations to invest in stadiums for spectatorship. In good news, owners of NFL teams the Patriots and Rams have seen discussing business with Blizzard for potential Overwatch investments.
Justifying Going All-In
For some, investors are finding it hard as of right now to justify the large buy-ins for spots. It is projected that to get an Overwatch League team started in L.A., it will be a whopping fifteen million dollars. The buy-ins are more expensive than that of a League of Legends team, which is both understandable and not. This makes sense because the league is grand in scale, so large amounts of money will be needed to get it started. As mentioned earlier, competing games, particularly League of Legends, have been out for much longer than Overwatch, and it can be understood why it may be scary to enter a market for a game that has only been out for a year. On the Blizzard website they have posted jobs for management and much more to get the gears turning. With all this time passed and little information, we can only hope that Blizzard is hard at work getting everything situated to announce a start date sometime soon.
Other eSports such as League of Legends, when comparing them, have a much better time as a spectator sport. Overwatch has a tough hurdle because it is a first person shooter game. Right now, the experience is good for its genre, but it needs to find a way to be more fun. In Overwatch, there is frequently so much going on that the camera struggles to keep track, and it can be quite jarring.
League of Legends is also starting up their own city competitions, but not in the scale that Overwatch is dreaming of. However, League of Legends is not seeking the same resources from investors, and less up-front cost will translate to an easier time getting the league started. If we were three or four years into the game’s cycle, it would be more sensible to do something like this.
The League’s Goals
Blizzard’s ultimate goal for 2018 is to have a consistent schedule for teams competing and 2017 will see Blizzard still figuring out the fine print. Overwatch is a clear beacon of hope for us gamers, as Blizzard has been vocal about taking our feedback and doing something about it. It should be clear that although they will make the best decisions for the company and Overwatch League to start, listening to those who watch and play it will shape how it will become a great spectating experience. This game is a unique gem, and getting everything out of it for us is how it will be a successful esport in its own regard.
Overwatch League is aggressive in every way because it aims to show its guns as a traditional sport with a stadium-like experience recruiting local players, while still being an eSport. With professional gamers, it almost feels like a club, and this is the first to open the doors of possibility to everyone. So next time you rage for someone picking Hanzo in hero selection, know it’s because they are legitimately just trying to become a “pro Hanzo”.