Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Overwatch League

You have to hand it to Blizzard. They went full-bore into eSports with the Overwatch League. Paid rosters, teams associated with cities, branding, professional sportscasting, even allowing fans to purchase team skins. They're really treating Overwatch League as a true professional sport.

The question, of course, is if this will work out. So far, it looks to be doing okay. I think they had 400,000 viewers for the first matches, and future matches seem to be about the 110,000 viewers mark. The real test is if they can attract significant advertisers and sponsors. That is what will make OWL profitable.

I've only seen part of one match: the last three games of the Los Angeles Gladiators versus the Philadelphia Fusion. LAG came back from being down 2 games, and won the last 3 games to win the match. It was reasonably interesting, more or less like watching regular sports on television. Blizzard integrating the stream into the Battle.net app was an excellent decision, as it made it very easy to check out.

The only issue I had with the actual broadcast is that it was sometimes hard to keep track when the camera switched to a different player. Adding a fast wipe or transition there would be really nice.

The structure of a match is pretty interesting. It's technically best-of-five games, but teams play at least 4 games. This gives it a similar feel to halves and quarters of a football or basketball game, with one possible period of overtime.

One thing I noticed is that OWL really validated Blizzard's decision to allow hero swapping in Overwatch. On the last game, LAG started with an unorthodox 3-damage lineup including a Widowmaker. They then switched to a 3-tank lineup when the Fusion reacted. It reminded me of matching lines in hockey. I was impressed by that, and am considering using my free currency on an LAG skin.

(Everyone gets some free OWL currency, enough for a skin for one character.)

I'm unlikely to really follow OWL, but it's definitely an intriguing experiment. I hope it proves successful for Blizzard. If you haven't seen a match, it's worth catching one just to see the league in action.


  1. The production qualities for such a young esport are excellent. Great anchors, great screens, and the camera tools at their disposal really do drag you into the action. A great first effort that should only get better with time and experience. Pick a team to follow (there's one for most parts of the community) and pull up a chair!

    1. Heh, glad to see that you are excited about it. But I agree with you. It was a lot higher quality than I was expecting.

  2. The main Overwatch question I have these days doesn't necessarily deal with the OWL but the in-game atmosphere of the community. I may not be able to play (headaches when playing a shooter) but I'd really like to know whether Blizz has made strides to rein in the toxic atmosphere. Because at least one mini-Red is interested in playing, and its hard to recommend buying Overwatch if the asshats are running amok.

    1. I find quick play to be usually pretty tame, as long as League of Legends isn't down or it's not in-between a competitive season, at which point all the toxic players migrate into quick play.

      Having Deathmatch available as a mode has helped pull some of the non team players out of quick play as well.

      You'll still get the occasional asshat, but for me that was basically only one in fiveish games, and even then it was mostly just salt and not trolling.

    2. Toxicity in Overwatch is a bit overblown, I find. Arcade is not toxic, and neither is quick-play. Even the competitive bits I played in were not very toxic.

      That being said, I think it does matter what level you play at. I play at a very low level, so pretty much everyone is bad and is reasonably chill about it. I think it's a lot worse when you get into the gold and platinum layers. Those players are getting good, and competitive, and that's when the toxicity shows up in force.

      I do believe that you can turn off chat (both voice and text) entirely. That might be an option for your mini-Red if he/she is very young.

    3. Thanks for the info, Talarian and Rohan. I'll have to consider it, but I think I'll still wait for it to go on sale.