The Overwatch League, Blizzard’s ambitious attempt to create a global esports league for its popular hero shooter game, has officially come to an end after six years of operation. Blizzard confirmed to IGN that it is transitioning from the Overwatch League and evolving competitive Overwatch in a new direction.
In a statement to IGN, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said the following:
We are transitioning from the Overwatch League and evolving competitive Overwatch in a new direction. We are grateful to everyone who made OWL possible and remain focused on building our vision of a revitalized esports program. We are excited to share details with you all in the near future.
The statement did not provide any specifics on what the new direction for competitive Overwatch will be, or how it will affect the existing teams, players, and fans of the Overwatch League.
The Rise and Fall of the Overwatch League
The Overwatch League was launched in 2017 with 12 teams from across the world, each representing a major city. The league aimed to emulate the structure and format of traditional sports leagues, with regular seasons, playoffs, and championships. The league also boasted a lucrative broadcasting deal with Twitch, and later with YouTube, as well as sponsorships from major brands like Coca-Cola, Intel, and T-Mobile.
The Overwatch League was initially a success, attracting millions of viewers and generating hype and excitement for the game and its esports scene. The league expanded to 20 teams in 2019, and introduced a home-and-away model, where teams would travel to different venues to play in front of live audiences. The league also hosted several international events, such as the Overwatch World Cup and the Overwatch Contenders.
However, the Overwatch League also faced several challenges and controversies throughout its run. The league struggled with maintaining a consistent and balanced meta, as the game underwent frequent changes and updates. The league also faced criticism for its handling of player conduct, diversity, and inclusion issues, as well as allegations of sexual harassment and abuse within the organization.
The COVID-19 pandemic also had a significant impact on the Overwatch League, forcing it to cancel all live events and switch to online matches. The pandemic also delayed the development and release of Overwatch 2, the sequel to the original game that was supposed to revitalize the franchise and the esports scene. The Overwatch League also suffered from declining viewership and interest, as well as team departures and layoffs.
The Future of Competitive Overwatch
While the Overwatch League is officially over, Blizzard has indicated that it is not giving up on competitive Overwatch entirely. The Overwatch 2 team has previously stated that it is working on improving the game’s competitive features, such as a new role queue system, a revamped ranked mode, and a tournament mode. The Overwatch 2 team has also promised to deliver more frequent updates and communication with the community.
Blizzard has also hinted that it is planning to create a new esports program for Overwatch, but has not revealed any details yet. Overwatch League commissioner Sean Miller had said in a statement that Blizzard is “committed to a competitive ecosystem in 2024 and beyond,” but it is unclear what that ecosystem will entail. It is possible that Blizzard will adopt a more open and grassroots approach to esports, similar to how other games like Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive operate.
The Overwatch League may be gone, but Overwatch is not dead yet. The game still has a loyal and passionate fan base, as well as a talented and dedicated pool of players and content creators. The game also has a lot of potential to grow and evolve with Overwatch 2, which is expected to launch in 2024. The future of competitive Overwatch is uncertain, but not hopeless.