Is Overwatch Changing eSports?

This is a guest post written by JoppE.

The professional gaming scene is constantly growing with new releases taking a turn towards eSport and tournament prize pools reaching higher amounts than ever before. Although the eSport industry has a long way to go before reaching the size of traditional sports, it’s growing at a rapid speed, which really makes you wonder how the future for professional gaming may look.  
 
One of the most popular eSport games today, which have taken the industry by storm and is showing a very promising future is Overwatch. In the following article we have taken a closer look at this game.

So what is Overwatch?

It’s the fourth major title of the world famous game developer Blizzard Entertainment; a company behind bestsellers such as Starcraft, Diablo, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm and World of Warcraft. If you’ve ever played Team Fortress 2, you could say that Overwatch is an upgraded version of this game. It’s a first person shooter that combines elements from the MOBA genre.

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The game is played in teams of two where every player gets to pick a unique hero from a pool of 25 different ones. These heroes are categorized into four different types; Offense, Defense, Tank and Support. Every hero has several unique abilities to use and a powerful ultimate one, whereas the goal of the game is to complete different missions, such as capturing or defending a point. It’s a highly strategic game where players have to put together a team of heroes that work well together, counter pick enemy heroes and adapt to tricky situations. 

The MOBA elements in Overwatch is an interesting addition to the FPS genre, which has been dominated by more traditional shooters such as CS:GO and CoD. There are many people who like to compare Overwatch with these shooters, whereas CS:GO vs Overwatch has been a very hot topic lately. As the two games are very different from each other, it’s a silly discussion with no definitive answer, but nonetheless fun to follow.

Since the game was released in May 2016, a total of 30 million copies of the game has been sold. It’s been a huge success praised by both players and critics. It’s not because it has a unique gameplay since there are other games alike it, but because there is no other game in the hero FPS genre that is as authentic and well polished as Overwatch is.

A Game Revolutionizing the eSport Scene

When the developing team behind Overwatch was creating the game, they were actually not doing this with any dedication towards eSport. There were however always planned features for it, which were meant to be implemented if the competitive community would respond well to the game. With several professional eSport organizations, such as Fnatic, Team EnVyUs, NiP and Cloud9 nowadays having a competitive team in Overwatch, it’s safe to say that the competitive community indeed fell in love with the game. 

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Up until today there have been a total of 473 competitive tournaments held for the game, 24 of them with a prize pool of $50,000.00 or more. The biggest one has been “Overwatch Open” with a $300,000.00 prize pool. Even though these amounts fade compared to eSport games like Dota 2 and LoL that have tournaments with several million at stake, the eSport scene in Overwatch is really taking an interesting turn. Blizzard has announced an Overwatch league that is supposed to change the way we look at eSport forever. 

This league is not only promising a stunning prize pool of $3.5 million in the first season, with a minimum prize of $1 million to the winner, but also has some unique requirements of player contracts. Blizzard has demanded the following:

  • Teams must be signed to a one year contract with the option to renew it for another year.
  • The players in all the teams must be given a minimum salary of $50,000.00 a year.
  • Every player must be provided with health insurance and a retirement plan.
  • At least 50% of the money won in the league must be distributed directly to the players.

These are some pretty stiff requirements, which is taking professional gaming to the next level, becoming more similar to traditional sports.

In addition to the innovative Overwatch league, there’s a yearly World Cup hosted for Overwatch. Instead of eSport organizations consisting of players from several different parts around the world battling it out, 32 different countries are competing in a tournament. This is yet another similarity to traditional sports, which is bringing the eSport scene in Overwatch to the next level.  
 
Another interesting thing is that it’s possible to bet on Overwatch. Whether you like this or not, it’s in fact supporting the growth of Overwatch as an eSport. Bookmakers are sponsoring eSport teams and events in the same way as they’re sponsoring traditional sports like soccer and tennis.

Overwatch-World-Cup-2016-Betting-odds-on-bet365

The future of Overwatch as an eSport

If we were to look at how long traditional sports have been around compared to the professional gaming industry, the eSport scene is still in a very early and developing phase. The industry (betting not included) is worth about $700 million according to the market research company Newzoo. This is a 40% increase from the previous year’s worth, whereas it’s expected to increase to $1220 million by 2020.  
 
This is clearly showing in what direction eSports is heading. Such an increase will benefit all games with developers that put an effort into making their game succeed as an eSport. Overwatch is not only one of these games, but with their unique Overwatch league and huge player base, Blizzard Entertainment is one of those leading the pack.  
 
It’s yet not announced when this league will kick off, but as it’s been announced that anyone turning 18 before April next year can be signed to a team, it looks like the date will be Spring/Summer of 2018. How this will affect the eSport scene in reality, we just have to wait and see, but with a game as popular as ever and a unique league that on papers looks very promising, the future of Overwatch as an eSport is looking extremely bright.

What do you think of Overwatch as an eSport? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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