The Overwatch Legacy: Is Overwatch Dying?
During Blizzcon of 2014, quite possibly the largest and most impactful announcement was made by Blizzard: the reveal of Overwatch. This announcement overshadowed the release of both Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm, both of which were Blizzard’s attempts to enter the market of competitive Card games and competitive MOBAs. With the introduction of not only the Overwatch League, but also the Overwatch Contenders, many felt like this is the time to shine. But, even now, it feels as if Overwatch is just a passing comment. Even with the numerous teams signing up to play in tournaments and Blizzard pumping up the crowds, Overwatch has not seen the same level of elevation as others have, such as League of Legends or Counterstrike. So why is this?
Before the Competition
Prior to the release of their three primary titles, Blizzard had fallen from the spotlight, getting muscled out by companies new and old, such as Riot and Steam. So, when Blizzard revealed Overwatch to the world, everyone jumped on board. Not only did players clamor to join the alphas and betas, but Blizzard themselves advertised and hyped up the release to the extent of promoting tournaments during the beta. Now, although promoting a game through beta development is nothing new in the industry, to the extent that the advertised product at the time of competition did not match what was actually given.
What’s going on?
Quite possibly the biggest complaint against Overwatch from a spectators’ view was how difficult it was to watch. During any First-Person Shooter, clarity is key for not only the players, but for the audience as well. Being able to grasp a large-scale area on screen to be able to capture all the action is essential, and that is exactly what Overwatch lacked. During the beta period, the spectator UI only allowed for a 1st and 3rd person view, with no swivel on the camera, meaning you would only have twelve points of view to choose from, which included the rapid swinging around of the player themselves. This made for some very awkward viewing spectacles, as watching a player spin their camera in multiple directions proved to just make people feel sick, and not enjoy the game.
Since then, Blizzard has taken massive steps to improving the overall spectator UI, allowing for broader usage, but the amount of information still feels cluttered and stuffed. Until Blizzard fully commits to offering great spectator UI, many will be left with a feeling of want.
Imbalance between Casual and Competitive
Not taking into account the spectator issues, which can be seen as a very simple issue in comparison, a major argument that has been brought up is the difference between the casual players and the competitive players. A major critique of Overwatch has been that Blizzard has pushed the competitive aspect too far. This can be seen in the way that the “Quick Play” feature has slowly become a non-ranked version of Overwatch, with many upset about the fact that they removed the stacking of playable characters, stagnating what many thought of as the fun and quirky side of Overwatch. Indeed, a core aspect of Overwatch was the freedom to create and manipulate characters to discover interesting and entertaining strategies and to always be able to adapt on the fly. With the limitations set onto even the casual play modes, Blizzard effectively cut out a portion of their player base, and although Overwatch recently hit 30 million players, it is a much lower number of daily players.
What does this mean for Competition?
We’ve touched on the casual and spectator issues, but what does this mean for the competitive aspect of Overwatch? In the grand scheme of things, the competitive areas of Overwatch would actually improve due to these changes. Because the focus of the recent changes has targeted the increase in competitive skill and team-play, competitive energy is easily boosted. The big downside is this is at the cost of casual players. But, Overwatch has always been marketed as the next big Esports competitor, so to many, this is seen as an okay shift. The limitation of duplicated heroes on a team and the fleshing out on point systems for competitive play enables for more accurate tournaments, as well as refinement of maps and gameplay, focus every aspect into increasing the skill caps of the players, and heroes used.
What does this mean overall?
In the end, Overwatch is not dying. Not as a whole, anyways. What is happening is a transfer in player base, from casuals being “weeded out” and making way for the more competitive players to play together. Although this is not exactly healthy for a game to continue being a major powerhouse in a general Esports sense, it does start to fall in line with how similar FPS Esports games have become popular, such as CSGO. Whether or not this trend continues will be up to Blizzard and how they deal with such issues and problems, and the solutions that they bring to the table.