Overwatch is aiming for the top, says Nate Nanzer
Nate Nanzer, the commissioner of the Overwatch League, has high hopes for his game. Overwatch is, of course, one of the most popular esports in the world already, but it’s definitely not the most popular – in fact, there are a few that are more popular, including League of Legends, Dota 2 and Counterstrike: Global Offensive.
Despite this, Overwatch execs have hope that their game might end up taking the top spot and become ‘the’ esport – the game synonymous with the entire industry. While that is a tall order on its own, these aren’t unfounded dreams. There is a very real basis for them, and it’s a strong one at that – money.
Well, money and viewership numbers. The Overwatch League that kicked off in January gathered over 10 million viewers in its very first week. By the time the finals rolled around in July, the League had a global audience of over 860.000 viewers per minute across both TV and streaming platforms.
In other words, the first week’s views would have only taken some 12 minutes during the finals – that’s a spectacular increase in interest and, as it turns out, also in revenue. For its next season, the Overwatch League has added a total of eight new teams – though numbers haven’t been made public exactly, the owners of the winning teams are said to have bid between $30 and $60 million to get their cities into the League.
Esports in general are expected to near the $2 billion in revenue mark in the next three years – that is a spectacular increase only mirrored by certain technology sectors at the moment. This revenue increase goes hand in hand with a steep increase in viewership numbers as well – this year, there were said to be about 395 million fans watching. By 2021, this number is expected to cross the 580 million mark.
Already, the 395 million are more than the entire population of the US, the third biggest country in the world by population, and still, the numbers are expected to nearly double, as access to a steady network connection and streaming services enables new audiences to get into esports.
As for Overwatch – the Overwatch League is specifically modelled after ‘traditional’ sports, what with its matches, city-based teams and elimination systems. That is a big part of its appeal as it makes Overwatch an ‘easy-to-understand’ esport for those new to the genre.
This deliberate setup also means that traditional sport fans are more likely to take an interest in the game as well, giving the game a wider appeal and a bigger target audience. While it’s impossible to say whether or not it really will take over as the biggest esport in the world, that dream is not quite as outrageous as it may seem at first glance. Good luck, Blizzard!