Recently, Blizzard revealed a brand new idea that could bring new life to the world of Esports: The Overwatch League. In what is seemingly an attempt to make Esports less corporate and instead make them a more public and accessible environment, the Overwatch League is an upcoming international league in which teams of players will represent their cities in constant regular season matches all year long. The system that was presented wasn’t unlike an actual sports league, suggesting that over the course of a season, the best teams would prove themselves worthy of a spot in a playoffs, the winners of which would ultimately face off in a championship game. Unlike most pro teams in Esports, the members of these teams will be picked from groups of regular players invited to a combine (very similar to a sports draft). Once these team members are chosen, followers of the league will be able to view videos and read up on each player’s rise to their position, and individual player stats and records will be up for view on a website once the league is up and running. As stated by Mike Morhaime, the CEO of Blizzard, “We’re building a league that’s accessible to players and fans, sustainable, and exciting for everyone involved.
It’s not hard to believe that Blizzard isn’t just doing this out of the kindness of their hearts: other Esports leagues such as the Dota 2 and League of Legends leagues create millions in revenue for their respective owners, and with Overwatch quickly rising to become one of the most popular multiplayer games of all time, creating a league specifically for it is thinking far into the future on Blizzard’s part. While Blizzard has stated that each team will be independently owned in each city by specific owners, and that the schematics of the individual teams will be determined by said owners, the league itself is still owned and regulated solely by Blizzard, meaning much of the revenue goes straight to them. That doesn’t mean they’re the only ones benefitting, though: every player is guaranteed a contract with benefits and a minimum salary just for making it onto a team.
The Overwatch League has been released to a mixed reception, with some seeing the league as a great opportunity to get casual players more in touch with Overwatch’s competitive side, and to give already hardcore fans of the game something more to root for when following the competitive scene. On the other hand, several have criticized Blizzard for following the dated format of the National Football League, a nearly 100 year old league that has recently been undergoing a great decline in ratings. I’d have to say that I am suspicious of how the Overwatch League could go: I have serious doubts that it will become quite as large as Esports league like the Dota 2 league, and have some concern on how accessible to regular players it really will be. But with Blizzard’s track record for Overwatch so far, I can only say that we’ll have to see how it goes when the Overwatch League officially starts sometime next year.