With Overwatch releasing on the 24th of May, many people have the same question on the lips: Will it become the next big eSports?
My answer: certainly!
First, if you don’t know what Overwatch is (yes, I thougth this wasn’t possible too a while ago), all you need to know is that it’s the next Blizzard game. It will release in about a week, Thursday to be more precise, and the hype is currently at its maximum. What is so exciting about that game is that it’s a team-based FPS shooter, a new style for the company and the first new universe they create since Starcraft in 1998. That’s almost 20 years with only 3 different universe, and yet the company is still of actuality and every of their game is an example to follow in their own genre. Blizzard will try to conquer a new category of gamer with Overwatch.
I used the word “try” just to be fair, since the game isn’t even out yet. But most of the gamers right now know the game is already a sucess, with more than 9.7 million different players during the open beta, which started on May 3rd and concluded on May 10th. The total playtime during the week is as big as 81 million hours, that makes about 8 hours per player. Being a PC gamer myself, I can safely say that every gamer literally vanished from the surface of the planet for a whole week to play Overwatch. Everywhere I went, people were talking about the game, mostly positive words, some still didn’t like and it is completely normal.
This might only have been because the first beta events were closed one (like very closed) where only certain (mostly chosen) people could play. With Overwatch, we’ve seen one of the biggest promotion campaign (if not the biggest) in years. Many people complained they couldn’t play for months, while streamers who didn’t even liked the game could. But I think it was all part of their plan to build a never seen before hype around a game. And I must admit it worked. Everybody is waiting for the game release, and I’ve seen people only two days after the game was gone again complaining about the impossibility to play Overwatch. Blizzard can only say the betas were a success, not only was the reaction positive, but it was a huge promotion campaign.
The competitive side
As we’ve seen in the past few weeks, there is already a pro scene in the game. This hasn’t happened in a lot of games, but the game is in beta and there is already a lot of big organizations who invested in an Overwatch team. Currently, there is Cloud 9, EnVyUs, Luminosity Gaming and Team Liquid, many more should join soon after the launch of the game. During the beta, the competition was pretty much alive, but the prize pools were very small. We’ve seen the Overwatch Weekly in both NA and EU region with about 500$ in prizes every week. But the big one for the moment was the Overkill, the event closing the Overwatch Beta League, with a prize pool of 5000$. This was also the biggest event where the different regions were battling together and it was a huge success. The event was watched on Twitch by countless viewers and we’ve seen some pretty awesome plays in those days of competition. We’ve also seen the crowning of the beta champions: Cloud 9.
There is also many events to kick off the official Overwatch eSports scene. We’re talking about the Agents Rising LAN for NA, featuring a prize pool of 10 000$, already 2 times bigger than last one, as well as Winterwatch for the Australia/New Zealand region. If we navigate through the web, we can also see many amateurs or semi-pro tournaments being scheduled, showing people really want to get competitive fast, and that at any skill and involvment level.
On the same note, Blizzard also announced that there would have a competitive system in the game. It seems to be a system that mixes the good things of Hearthstone and League of Legends ranked games.
Well, this point needs to be discussed in an article to show if whether or not the game will be an eSports. Blizzard is known for pushing the competitive scene of a game. I don’t see why they wouldn’t do the same thing with Overwatch. World of Warcraft has been one of the big games for years, even though he is now very small. Starcraft doesn’t have the same fan base it once had, but it’s still the biggest RTS, and pretty much the one keeping the genre alive. Hearthstone is so big it’s always top five on Twitch and it completely erased Magic from eSports. Now, you could say their last game wasn’t the biggest success in terms of eSports, I’m talking about Heroes of the Storm here. In terms of viewers, the game isn’t that big, even when there is big events, it doesn’t even break into the top 5, but it could be due to the fact that everybody who wanted to play when the game wasn’t finished could do it. Many of them didn’t like it there and didn’t try again after. I’m not saying the game isn’t good now, but many people think that since it was their first impression.The game was also a MOBA, competing directly against both LoL and DOTA 2.
This time, Blizzard did a whole different thing. Making the beta very limited made people only be able to play the game at it’s full potential. This way, it gives the game a chance to grow instead of starting already dead. Blizzard also stated that they would implement a permaban system for cheaters, also helping the competitive scene a lot. Blizzard is also giving a lot of content outside the game to please the people who loves the lore, giving much more depth to the game, making more people love the universe, therefore making more people stay addicted to the game.
I won’t write long about that point, but the gameplay is also something favorising a pro scene. Not only is the game really fast-paced, but coordination and communication is also the biggest key to success in the game. It’s also the reason why doing competitive games alone might get tricky and frustrating. But the game is better played in group, and I can assure you it gets way faster, and you get way better. Finally, the fact that games only takes a couple of minutes is also the biggest point. You always have time for a game of Overwatch, and while you are at it, why not one more, and another one. You get addicted to the game and it’s hard to stop playing it. That way, many people will get very strong, very fast. Having 21 differents characters and a dozen maps to master is also another incentive to not stop playing until you are the best with all of them (or at least a couple).
Conclusion: the game WILL become one of the biggest eSports in the following months or years. They do not have direct competition since the other popular shooters are CS and COD, which have a much different gameplay, and the infrastructure around Overwatch is already starting to get big, even before the game launches. However, the real question is: Will Overwatch be able to dethrone the big three of Twitch?(Dota 2, Counter Strike and League of Legends if you didn’t know)