Overwatch isn't a dying esport
Four separate international Overwatch World Cup events are on the horizon, with the massive finals event concluding at BlizzCon in November. Overwatch Contenders Season One will begin in August. The OGN Overwatch Apex is thriving in South Korea. The Overwatch League is coming.
Overwatch esports isn't dying. This is just the beginning.
Blizzard's progress thus far has been slow. Little information about Overwatch League has been released since it was announced at BlizzCon last year. The scene has felt stagnant as esports teams and tournament organizers wait for more information from Blizzard: Teams are being dropped, professional players are threatening to leave the scene, and the community is in a near-constant uproar. The Overwatch scene is quick to declare the game dead before it's really even begun.
That's not to say that frustration isn't warranted. But we need to understand that a system like Overwatch League doesn't emerge overnight. A lot of money is going into the new system—a lot of people are involved, and at its core, Blizzard is a corporation. It wants to ensure the system is stable. That takes time. Communication during this process, of course, could have been a lot better. Overwatch League's projected start date—somewhere between July and September—is likely to come and go without the league actually beginning.
"Overwatch League got delayed, and thus we entered the phase of a deserted landscape," Misfits player Jonathan "Reinforce" Larsson said in a Twitlonger post. "Organizations, rightly so, dropped their teams, as they were wasting more money on essentially only practicing with little to no exposure for the monthly cost of running an Overwatch team."
The teams that exited Overwatch did not have the scene's top-tier players or highest-performing teams—and many have admitted they're likely not out of Overwatch forever. Growth is coming. The drought is entering its end. "[The upcoming tournament schedule is] the consistency we've all been waiting for, the support we've wanted, and the exposure for organizations we have been missing in the equation," Reinforce added. "The bad times are behind us, so let's not gloom about the past and instead look toward the future."
But can Blizzard be trusted with the future of Overwatch League? Many don't think so, based on its other esports titles. "[Overwatch League" is basically their last chance of making their own esport succeed like Riot," Lunatic-Hai coach alwaysoov said in an on-stream Ask Me Anything event, translated by Reddit user TISrobin311. Alwaysoov pointed to Blizzard's involvement in the StarCraft 2 scene—how it lived and then died. Tournaments were hard to organize, and Blizzard struggled to make timely balance changes. Sound familiar? The community points to these two issues in Overwatch, too.
Overwatch has the potential to become bigger than League of Legends, alwaysoov added, but things need to change with Blizzard's need for control. Teams, tournament hosts, and Blizzard all need to work in harmony to ensure the success of the esport. Alwaysoov is of the mind that Blizzard is what's failing, but Reinforce posted that Blizzard's support is coming—just as we've asked.
"Blizzard won't let Overwatch esports die before it even began," Reinforce said. "We've just experienced the prelude."
Transparency has been an issue with Overwatch's developer, but that can change. Should Blizzard loosen its hold a bit, and continue to introduce both large-scale and small-scale events, Overwatch can thrive. The game isn't dying. Sure, it's been stagnant. This is just the beginning though. There's still time to change—and Blizzard appears to be changing.
The wait for Overwatch League has been frustrating. That's no secret. But let's see what it is before deciding the game's competitive scene is dead.