[toc]The moment Blizzard announced players could get their hands on Overwatch, millions wanted in.
The initial beta tester phases were limited to a select few gamers, but the hype revolved around this fresh new shooter grew to crazy new heights.
When the floodgates finally opened, 9.7 million users worldwide accessed the game’s 5-day open beta. And when the game officially launched, it soared to the top of the sales charts and even stands on its own as one of Twitch.tv’s featured Top-5 – an achievement most games lose after their second day of life.
With that said, let’s get this out of the way: Overwatch is made by Blizzard Entertainment, a company with a global reputation for quality. And this is the company’s first foray into First-Person Shooters (FPS).
Let’s just say fans are curious and were surprised to learn there’s something for everyone. A successful initial launch pleased gamers, unique characters captivated the audience, and the gameplay attracted everyone from the hardcore to the casual. Blizzard nailed it with Overwatch.
But why stop there? Blizzard isn’t just known for quality games, but is also one of esports’ most prominent advocates.
Blizzard is on a hot streak
Globally, Blizzard helped set the stage for Starcraft, Hearthstone, and Heroes of the Storm and in January announced a $46 million investment in the purchase of Major League Gaming, North America’s most prominent producer of live esports events.
The company noted a record breaking 1.6 million concurrent viewers for the Counterstrike event MLG Columbus. We’re talking 71 million video views across just four days, not to mention the event itself sold out and seated 10,000 attendees.
Now that Overwatch is available to the public, we all know what’s going to happen. And it’s probably going to happen whether nay-sayers like it or not.
Fans immediately tied together ‘FPS’ with ‘competition’ and being a Blizzard title, the next question became not is but when is Overwatch going to be an esport? Ever since the game’s announcement at Blizzcon 2014, the esports titan has meant business when it comes to bringing its glorious new FPS to the world stage.
Overwatch breaking some of the rules
Fast forward to today, and you’ll find the game featured on several online melees, there are plans for a handful of LANs, and already hosts some of esports biggest names the likes of Liquid, Envyus, Cloud9, and more. Even Team SoloMid recently announced they’re seeking a team. Again, it’s been two weeks.
In the blink of the eye, the world glanced at Overwatch as the next big thing and just like that, the game matches, and even surpasses, some of the current esports titles. It felt like it happened overnight, and that’s rare.
Esports scenes do not simply just grow overnight. Most are built on the foundations of a supportive community. That scene is then nurtured and blossoms into something bigger after being given a chance on larger stages.
That’s not the case for Overwatch. Sure, the community supports it, but the name “Blizzard” alone can do more for an esport than most are willing to bet.
After all, Blizzard’s long-term strategy involves building up a long tail-end based around community instead of relying solely on intermittent product releases. We’ve seen the company utilize this tactic with StarCraft II and the ever-growing Hearthstone community.
With all the success the game has seen, Overwatch is primed to have a long-lasting and ever-expanding community.
Overwatch’s first major LAN suggests a bright competitive future
On the weekend of May 28 and 29, The Agent’s Rising Overwatch tournament took place. This small, compact event offered a $10,000 prize pool and was open to the public at the Esports Arena in Santa Ana, CA.
This $10,000 prize pool was the largest in the esports community for Overwatch, but expect that number to inflate exponentially once a steady, competitive community emerges around the game.
Sure, $10,000 may be small in comparison to the million dollar prize pools of the League of Legends World Championships, or DOTA’s The International, but teams from all across the country flew in to fight for glory.
To the teams attending, and the audience watching, this event had one purpose. It was a test to see if Overwatch would work if given the opportunity on a larger stage. For the most part, it did quite well.
Agent’s Rising held more than 45,000 concurrent viewers and featured four of NA’s top teams, and a mash of well-known talents scattered across various pick-up squads. The event was organized on the fly, announced only 20 days before taking place. But many A-list companies know about Overwatch’s potential.
“Dolby sponsored Agent’s Rising,” Esports Arena COO Tyler Endres said on the tournament stream. “Many sponsors made this possible, and it just shows Overwatch is here to stay.”
Overwatch is fun. And yes, that’s enough to generate an audience that’ll attend and watch events featuring the game. The only question now is will the esports community grow?
All signs point to yes.