The massive success of esports in recent times has led to us believe that it’s going to be a constant upward trajectory. This meant that the cancellation of the Overwatch League came as a surprise. Why did this happen and how does it affect the future of competitive gaming?
What Happened to The Overwatch League?
We need to go back im time to earlier this year to see how this story developed. Activision Blizzard – who ran the league – pointed out that it was struggling to keep the Overwatch tournament going. They went so far as to say that they might not manage to keep it going in the future. This turned out to be the case, as the company confirmed at the start of November that it was walking away from the project.
In fact, the Overwatch League is going to transition into a new type of competitive gaming in Overwatch, according to Activision and the details revealed PC Gamer. Their statement thanks everyone who took part in it and said that they’re looking forward to “building our vision of a revitalized esports program”, with details to be released in the future.
What Went Wrong?
This league was created in 2016 as their attempt to profit from the rising profile of competitive gaming by creating a type of franchise system for the teams taking part. The fact it went so badly wrong can be seen in the fact that they apparently had to pay $120 million to their 20 teams to end the agreement.
The popularity of Overwatch wasn’t the problem, as it remains one of the most widely played games and a huge part of the esports scene. However, the idea of having city-based teams with $20 million franchise fees just didn’t take off as they expected it to. A raft of legal issues and other problems means that the league simply never got up and running in the way they’d hoped it would.
What Does This Mean For The Future of Overwatch in esports?
At first glance, it might have seemed that the failure of the Overwatch League was a sign of the slowing down of the esports business. Yet, this isn’t really the case at all, Competitive gaming continues to grow at an impressive rate and the problem appears to be that there were specific structural issues with this ambitious project.
It was based on the franchise model of American sports like football and basketball. While this has proved to be an enormous commercial success in those sports, the model perhaps simply isn’t suited to competitive gaming. Another opinion is that it was the timing that let them down, as the Covid-19 crisis battered their early plans and they never fully recovered.
While we wait to see what direction Activision Blizzard will take their Overwatch gaming in, there are plenty of other leagues that fans can enjoy. The annual Overwatch World Cup returned in 2023 and was won by Saudi Arabia, who defeated the US team 3-2 in the final.
Tellingly, this final was played on the new Overwatch 2 game that was released in 2022 to replace the original. The move to the new game has been largely successful and one of the few bright spots in the defunct Overwatch League was when the switch to Overwatch 2 led to a temporary surge in viewing figures.
What Other Games And Leagues Remain Popular?
The healthy state of esports in general can be seen when we look at the number of popular teams and high-profile competitions on the go. By checking the https://thunderpick.io/en/esports site and looking at the latest esports betting, we can see the latest odds on upcoming events. Among them are tournaments for teams playing CS2, League of Legends, and Dota 2. Live betting odds are also listed with the likes of the EPL World Series: America Season 8 available at the time of writing.
The biggest events in the esports year include the League of Legends World Championship – with a prize pool of up to $3 million – the PUBG Mobile Global Championship, and The International, which is for Dota2 teams. These are just a few of the major events to grab our attention in 2023.
The Land of Heroes grabbed the headlines earlier in 2023, as this massive event held in Saudi Arabia had the biggest prize in esports history. With $45 million up for grabs across ten tournaments featuring games as diverse as Rocket League, Dota 2, and FIFAe, it was a powerful sign of the good state of health the industry is currently enjoying.
The failure of the Overwatch League was hugely disappointing for everyone who was looking forward to the games and to those who had invested so heavily in it. Yet, this seems to be just a relatively minor blip in the continued success story of pro gaming.