Overwatch 2 was released on October 4th all around the world. Players are now getting to play the long-awaited game that was initially announced in November 2019. It is the sequel to Overwatch, a team-based game that helped form the hero shooter genre.
Overwatch 2 makes a few changes to the game while keeping the charm that gives it that familiar Overwatch feel. The significant changes include removing a player from each team, making the game 5v5 now, and removing the loot box system that some critics equated to an online casino. The game also is free, making its availability much wider to the general public.
Activision Blizzard hopes that the new game gives a spark to the Overwatch League, with fans skeptical of how much longer the league will be able to last with the declining viewership that has been plaguing the league this season. Activision Blizzard hopes the new game attracts new fans who may have never heard of Overwatch in what may be Overwatch League’s last strong effort at relevancy.
History of the Overwatch League
Overwatch launched in May 2016 and has had an esports scene since it was in beta. Even before the public could play the game themselves, Activision Blizzard (Overwatch’s publisher) had given access to former esports players who were interested in the game, and an esports scene quickly spawned.
In 2017 Activision Blizzard announced it would be running a franchised esports league around Overwatch that they named the Overwatch League (OWL). Many esports fans saw potential in the league as it aimed to do things not seen by any league prior. The first thing OWL did was start as a franchised league, a feat practically unheard of in the esports scene at the time as the League of Legends was the only other game out there with a franchise league, and that was after eight years of the game being around.
OWL launched in January 2018 with 12 teams. Each team represented a city around the world though all teams were based in Los Angeles and played all their games there. Each team had considerable backing considering the price for a spot in the league was $20M.
With major brands buying league sponsorships and the seeming success of the new league, the OWL decided to expand to 20 teams. However, this time the rumored prices ranged from $30-60M a spot.
Current State of Overwatch League
OWL saw a huge decline in viewership when comparing numbers from 2021 and 2022. Though many believe that a significant reason for why that is due to the fact that the 2022 season was played on Overwatch 2.
The fact of the matter is that Overwatch is a hard esport to watch if you’re not familiar with the game. It’s unlike other titles like Rocket League, where the game’s concept is easy to grasp. Even among shooters, Overwatch stands out as an incredibly hard game to watch as a viewer, as everything is fast-paced, and often players are unsure of everything that is happening at any given second.
Take the inherent complexity of the game and add in the fact that there were new maps, game modes, and characters that the public couldn’t play, and the result is a lousy viewing experience for casuals and fans alike. It’s like watching a sport where you don’t know the rules confusing and boring.
Overwatch 2 launched on October 4th, and the public couldn’t wait to get on the servers and play the new game. Many found themselves in queues of up to 40 thousand people waiting to play. As players familiarize themselves with the free game, I expect many to watch some OWL in their spare time.
Overwatch 2 should bring many eyes to the OWL, but it will be up to the league and Activision Blizzard to take advantage of the newfound hype and strike while the iron is hot. Only time will tell if the OWL will be successful. It may be OWL’s last shot at turning the declining viewership trend around.