Blizzard’s ‘Overwatch’ League is scaring off esports teams
The Overwatch League is already casting a shadow over the competitive Overwatch scene, causing organizations to drop their Overwatch teams as the dawn of Blizzard’s ambitious esports league approaches.
In the past week, five esports team organizations have announced that they have either dropped their Overwatch rosters indefinitely or stopped looking to fill their incomplete roster. CompLexity Gaming and Team SoloMid both specifically mentioned the Overwatch League as a reason why they were done with the competitive Overwatch scene. At least for the time being.
Blizzard is modeling its Overwatch League after more traditional sports leagues like The NBA or NFL where teams are tied to cities (although the Overwatch League is global) and team owners have to purchase franchise spots if they want to compete. It’s angling itself to become the preeminent competitive league in Overwatch, but it’s proving to be a bit too big for traditional esports team organizations to find their way into.
CompLexity’s general manager Kyle Bautista said in a statement yesterday that the Overwatch League was one of the main reasons the organization dropped their team.
Anticipation of Blizzard’s upcoming Overwatch League and an uptick in mainstream esports attention means that now more than ever, we have to be confident we’re making the best investments in each game. The decision to part ways with long-term members of our organization is never one that we take lightly, but ongoing roster instability has resulted in inconsistent performances in an already narrow field of events
The “narrow field of events” he references is arguably a symptom of the Overwatch League. Outside of the occasional premiere-level weekend tournament or OGN’s recurring Overwatch Apex league, the scene is pretty barren at this point.
This very well could be because tournament organizers aren’t willing to invest money in events if the Overwatch League is just going to take over — not just pulling eyeballs away from other tournaments but also popular players who’d rather compete at the top level — basically, Blizzard’s league.
Another organization that released its Overwatch roster last week, Red Reserve, mentioned this tournament scarcity in its announcement.
“After having spent enough time in the Overwatch scene, we haven’t seen the growth we were prospecting for Overwatch,” the organization said, mentioning Europe specifically.
If major Europe-based tournament organizers like ESL and DreamHack are hesitant to put too much effort into building their own circuits because of the Overwatch League, then the homegrown scene doesn’t really have a chance at becoming an early success.
Splyce, a third organization with a pretty successful Overwatch team, announced today that it, too, is backing out of the competitive scene. The main reason cited is the lack of tournaments, which again points toward tournament organizers’ resistance to committing to the game.
Denial Esports also released its Overwatch roster, although the organization has not yet released a statement nor responded to our request for comment.
Another deterrent for teams in this weird transitional phase is the Overwatch League’s rumored cost of entry — $2 million.
A scout and player who was trying to gather a team to compete under Team SoloMid said last week that the organization was done trying to field an Overwatch squad for the time being, citing a semi-vague reference to learning more about the Overwatch League and its associated finances.
“Unfortunately (due to circumstances outside of our control) the team isn’t going to come to fruition,” Taylor “B1am” Forrest wrote. “After learning more information about the [Overwatch League] ($$$), TSM decided that it’d be better for the organization to stay out of the competitive scene, at least for now.”
More rumors that surfaced Monday give a potential glimpse at the kinds of organizations that can afford to own a franchise in the Overwatch League — owners of the NFL franchises New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins have allegedly bought team spots in the Overwatch League.
If this is the case, it’s a clear example of what the Overwatch League’s exclusivity will look like. Traditional esports organizations are being edged out by the potential high price of entry (which seems to be at least partially confirmed by Team SoloMid’s former Overwatch scout). The Overwatch League will likely look completely different from every other esports league out there.