The Overwatch League (OWL) registered an impressive uptick in viewership with 30% more people tuning in to watch in this year’s opening games.
Sold Out Arenas and Busy Streams, Overwatch Popularity Continues to Grow
The Overwatch League reported 30% more viewers year-over-year for the launch of its 2019 season.
With the Blizzard Arena Los Angeles completely sold out for February 14, the opening week tickets were completely sold out. Online, viewership also grew by 14% with the average number of spectators hitting 440,000 viewers.
According to the official press release, people from 190 countries tuned in to watch the games broadcast in six languages. Overwatch has been quickly expanding its format and reach, with 20 teams signed up for this year’s competition.
Blizzard have signed a series of broadcasting deals around the world, including with the latest arrival of a Portuguese broadcast and the company teaming up with Sport1, a German TV channel which broadcasts in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.
The achievement in itself is quite impressive, with the 2018 finals drawing 10.8 million viewers as opposed to the 13 million tuning in to see the opening week of Season 2.
Toronto Defiant were among the handful new teams to join the franchise, making a fairly impressive entry, winning 2 out of 3 games. Amid the OWL’s expansion, though, Blizzard has laid off hundreds of employees while some of the executive had retained their yearly bonuses, drawing criticism from the community.
A few months ago, employees in Cork, Ireland, were also encouraged to accept voluntary severance packages, reportedly offering them 12-month salary to leave voluntarily, though not threatening to fire them.
Overwatch’s Franchise Model Sets Example for Others
Overwatch’s franchising has served as an inspiration for others, including Riot’s League of Legends. The idea of a franchised competition was developed with the help of MLG co-founder Mike Sepso who has since moved to work out of Blizzard.
A franchised model has also been confirmed for Call of Duty, though more details are yet to be announced. Blizzard had to do quite a bit of tightening around the belt in the past few months, dropping their Heroes of the Storm (HotS) esports format amid what the company considered a tepid player involvement.
The game has since been shedding players at a rapid pace despite Tempo Storm’s good intentions to preserve the community.
Win Some, Lose Some
Increased viewership for Overwatch League (OWL) is good news. Blizzard have had to make tough decision to keep their company rolling. Even if we personally aren’t fans of the strategy and feel the sinking of HotS as a wrench, we understand the business decision behind the latest moves.
Besides, an increased Overwatch League and a changing competitive format for Hearthstone at least sweetens the pill a bit.