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The Overwatch League should be the standard in modern eSports

By Christian Hollis Editor-In-Chief

Overwatch
Blizzard’s efforts in the Overwatch League is a great step in growing eSports by its more traditional league format and team oriented gameplay. As long as games stick to a well formatted league like this, growth in the eSports industry is imminent. (Image from geekscalvary.com)

Overwatch was first released for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC May 24, 2016, and is known for its colorful characters, well-balanced game play and its unique hero-shooter genre. These strong characteristics have created an engaged community in favor of Overwatch eSports. Developer and publisher Blizzard Entertainment and Major League Gaming (MLG), have taken their time to craft a well-structured league for Overwatch.

The first official season of the Overwatch League (OWL) officially kicked off in January and will run until June 2018 with a $3.5 million prize pool. As of now, there are nine North American teams and three international teams competing in OWL.

Similar to traditional sports in North America, organizations are stationed in major cities, creating a sense of pride for many residents. Teams like the Houston Outlaws (based out of Houston, TX) and Seoul Dynasty, (based out of Seoul, South Korea) break the traditional habit seen in other eSports that simply have a name. Efforts like this by OWL will help make eSports seem more professional.

It definitely seems to be working since OWL recently hit 10 million viewers on Twitch and MLG in its first week as well as reaching advertisers that haven’t been in eSports before, such as Toyota. However, as of writing, the official details between OWL and Toyota’s partnership have yet to be disclosed.

Organizations are sure to bring in more sponsors or sponsorships such as how the Houston Outlaws have brought Pepsi and Brisk into the eSport. Fans are able to purchase their favorite team’s merchandise from the official OWL store on gear.blizzard.com. Fans may also purchase skins in Overwatch to represent their favorite teams in-game.

There are still places to improve in OWL, however. According to Sports Business, Twitch is the only thirdparty site allowed to stream live OWL broadcasting thanks to a $90 million partnership between Twitch and Blizzard.

This is a major setback since mainstream sports outlets such as ESPN have been broadcasting eSport events on cable television since early 2016. Thankfully, the deal only has exclusivity for live events, so ESPN may still produce recaps for OWL, but it won’t reach larger mainstream audiences live.

The way Blizzard Entertainment and MLG have patiently crafted OWL really paid off in its success. Having mainstream brands sponsor city based teams will create engaging fan bases and highly produced tournaments. Hopefully, OWL is just the beginning for a more mature eSports industry.