It’s finally here. Following the conclusion of the pre-season portion of the Overwatch League (OWL) we are now a step closer to main event time come January. It’s been a long time coming but it is now within grasp.
Today we are going to talk specifically about the OWL – why it works as well as the steps taken by its organizers which we feel ensures that this venture is not just a one-off, but instead, a long-term project that will become the standard bearer for all professional esports tournaments in many years to come.
1. Overwatch Evolved Into an Esports Title Organically
As opposed to how every other game released nowadays immediately touting themselves as being THE NEXT BIG esports title, Overwatch took the rare and bold step in allowing its player community to decide and chart what the game is about and where it is headed before fully committing themselves to that esports label. By doing so, the progression is more organic and natural, allowing it to thrive right down to the most casual of viewers and players.
The OWL fans are players of the game and didn’t just jump onto the hype for the sake of its popularity. Heck, if they wanted a more popular game to get into, go to League or DotA. Even Counter-Strike is still strong if you’re talking about shooter titles. To build a solid fanbase, you will have to set up a strong foundation and that foundation is a complex mixture of a strong and dedicated community, high and constant playerbase as well as a thriving esports scene.
2. Franchise Approach
“Sports franchise” means that a contractual right is granted to any person or persons to own or operate a sports team in a specified location. In typical fashion, sports franchises adopt the name of the location they are based in, along with philosophies and unique traits associated with the locale.
The franchise approach allows OWL to thrive and build on its audience at a specific location while at the same time allowing itself room to move about to any city when the time is right. At any given time, the league can expand with the addition of more eligible teams located at other cities. Similar to the NFL and NBA, the presence of these teams in these cities encourages organic growth on lower-tier levels of competition which in turn generates excitement and long-term development of that sport, in that area. The franchises will feel obliged to develop the amateur scene as over a long-term period, will serve as a talent feeder to the top-tier teams.
Tying the teams to a particular locale ensures a steady support and revenue stream from the local fans, as well as from those outside of it. As seen in the introduction of in-game currency e.g tokens which allow fans to directly support their OWL teams via digital merchandising, expect many more unique avenues introduced to aid on the financial aspect as well.
The absence of relegation to a lower-tiered competition makes the league more attractive in the eyes of commercial partners, and expect to see more investments from non-gaming brands to pour into the league as time goes by. Leagues operating on a franchise model don’t get relegated and monetary bonuses are performance and merchandised-dependent, thus avoiding the risk of a huge revenue drop or even disbandment in case of relegation or a bad season.
By pooling all the best talent in Overwatch under one banner and creating the perception that only the best players get picked up by these franchises, the OWL builds itself as the ultimate pinnacle of the burgeoning scene. Not only focusing at the top, the multiple layers which OWL has formed with Overwatch Contenders and Challengers circuits shows transparency – that any aspiring pro-player can make it to the league, and now they know what it takes to get to the top.
The presence of three Korean-based rosters in OWL – Seoul, London and New York – each who were super successful teams in the Korean OGN APEX scene prior to the OWL is a testament that the best of the best compete here. It acts as a precedent for many more players and teams to migrate to the OWL in the future. While some detractors may claim it is a form of talent-drain; such move opens room for newer and younger teams to emerge and fill in these vacant spots such as RunAway in Korea and Miraculous Youngster in China.
Corralling the best players together also solves the biggest question of all – which is the best Overwatch team in the world? This creates intrigue and excitement that will attract even the most casual of viewers to hop onto the bandwagon.
4. Developer Support
The countless updates and tweaks to Overwatch’s heroes since launch led to a much more stable and balanced game; a feature that esports circuits thrive on. Of course changes of the meta and complaints about overpowered heroes crop up from time-to-time but it’s a good thing. The meta shifts ensures players and teams strive to improve and experiment with new strats, further adding to the unpredictability of each match.
The fact that the pros play on similar rules and conditions as casuals do adds to the game’s appeal at the highest level. Pro strats, while mostly unusable in a casual setting shows the public what is achievable in the tiop-tier regions of the game and aren’t actually rocket science to pull off.
So there you go. Four reasons why the Overwatch League works and you should be excited about it. The season kicks off on January 12th 2018 (Malaysian time) and you can keep up to date with all the news, analysis and scores here at Kakuchopurei.com.
For more info, check out these following features we created about the Overwatch League.