Blizzard’s upcoming esport format for Overwatch aims to be very different from the existing and popular esport organizations. The new format is based on Blizzard’s own experience with esports and the ‘time-honored traditional sports’ like soccer, basketball, and football.
Blizzard has had a lot of experience with esports, beginning with Starcraft in the late 90s. Since then they’ve had widespread success with competitive gameplay in most of their titles. Now, it looks like Blizzard wants to change how esports work with Overwatch.
The Overwatch League will build a competitive community on the local level before it expands. Each new team will represent a major city. Eventually, Blizzard wants teams from Europe, China, Korea, and Asia Pacific to join the Americas in a world cup-like competition.
On the player level, the Overwatch League will require prospective players to participate in the “combine.” Players will compete in challenges and smaller tournaments in order to be picked up by a city’s team. This way Blizzard can continue to support the existing tournaments that have already risen in the first year of the game’s launch.
A global competitive community would be great for esport fans. People could root for their home city, get to know the players of their team, and actively visit and participate in the community.
Overwatch League’s other major shift from traditional esports is all about the reward. Instead of prize-pooling tournaments, Blizzard will want players to have contracts with their team managers to include a monthly salary and benefits.
Check out Blizzard’s introduction to the Overwatch League.
Prize-pool championships are attractive. They are also a natural starting place for a competitive bracket. There is a low barrier to entry and less organization. However, it is not stable. Players and teams may not make it to the competition every year. This is difficult for players who want to play professionally and for the fans who want to root for their favorite players.
As I mentioned earlier, Blizzard’s Overwatch League is ambitious. It may not work. Blizzard wants esports to grow into something as big as a mainstream sport. The community of esports is on the rise. It has made incredible strides in the past decade, but is the support there for Overwatch League to become something as big as American football?
Blizzard is certainly talented. They’ve pulled off some amazing things in the past. One thing is for sure, the success or failure of the Overwatch League will be very interesting to watch.
Overwatch League begins late in 2017.