Is Overwatch Dying?
Let’s ask a very serious question – is the Overwatch competitive scene dying? In recent years, fans have been debating whether or not Overwatch is experiencing a slow and drawn-out death. While this is a common enough trend for most competitive titles, it seems that there’s an ongoing debate as to the popularity and status of Overwatch in particular that has lasted for more than two years.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an avid player or the most casual fan, you may find yourself asking, is Overwatch dying? Once upon a time, there were rampant concerns that the Overwatch League was falling to pieces, or that the rise of Valorant would overtake Overwatch’s success. We may be mere months from the release of Overwatch 2, but that doesn’t mean the Overwatch ecosystem at large is in a stable place.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down the state of play within the game and determine once and for all if Overwatch is dying.
To answer the question, we’re examining a wide of aspects. From the esports scene to the social media following, we’re taking into consideration every angle possible to determine if Overwatch is dying. For instance, there are still a lot of franchised teams within the Overwatch League, which is an active tournament. But does that necessarily mean that viewers are tuning in to the gameplay, placing bets, and supporting their favourite teams and players?
There may be a large number of people still playing Overwatch, but are they even enjoying it? What do the prospects look like for the upcoming release of Overwatch 2?
Is this just media noise, with content creators trying to gain clicks by claiming Overwatch is dying? Or, is Overwatch dying, and the community at large is refusing to get on board with that fact? Join us as we dive deep into the conversation and determine once and for all if Overwatch is about to meet its doom.
Is Overwatch Still Popular?
It’s a tough thing to ask, ‘is Overwatch dying’, but it’s slightly easier to ask, ‘is Overwatch still popular?’ There’s less to tackle, and with this question, we’re mostly looking at sheer facts and figures, rather than the opinions of the community as a whole.
According to ActivePlayer.io, Overwatch (across all platforms) enjoys an average count of around 7 million players per month. Typically, there will be a peak daily player volume of around 620,000 players, which is a huge sum for any game, and it shows that Overwatch is still quite popular. In February of 2022, Overwatch peaked at around 6.9 million, which is considerably less than one of its closest competitors, Valorant. In the same month, Valorant peaked at 13 million players.
However, the company behind Overwatch, Activision Blizzard, has found itself in hot water over the course of the last year or so. There have been several scandals that have cast a remarkably negative light on the company and its operations, and that alone has pushed players away from Overwatch. That, combined with some technical issues, concerns surrounding certain Heroes, and the handling of the Overwatch League has certainly caused the player count to drop.
In terms of Overwatch’s popularity on streaming platforms like Twitch, we’ve seen a massive and consistent drop that started in 2019. Once upon a time, Overwatch enjoyed an average peak viewership on Twitch of around 45,000 – now it’s lucky to reach 15,000.
Is Overwatch dying? It certainly isn’t as popular as it once was.
What Do People Mean When They Ask, “Is Overwatch Dying?”
Let’s put it this way – almost every game has its lifecycle. Typically, a game will be developed, released, updated, and then it will slowly slide into the abyss. For some games, such as ‘live service’ titles, this lifecycle will be expanded by several years as more content is delivered to an ever-present, persistent platform. While this traditionally includes MMORPG titles, other great examples would be CSGO, League of Legends, or Dota 2. These games have all existed for many years.
For some games, a sequel will revitalise the franchise while the first game inevitably dies out. With Overwatch, it seems that the first game is dying (or has died) long before the sequel has even hit the shelves. When we say ‘die’, we’re referring to a few things, such as:
- Social media interactions subsiding
- Player count dropping
- Esports tournaments showing low viewership
- Esports betting markets drying up
- Content creation slowing down
There are many areas to examine when trying to figure out if a game is truly dying. It may be that one area is falling thin while another remains strong and consistent. However, where Overwatch is concerned, almost every area on that list has taken a hit in the last year or two. There are some claims that Overwatch was dying as far back as 2017, just one year after the game was released.
If we look back at trending searches, people were asking, ‘is Overwatch dying’, months after the game launched. It’s a bizarre concept, but there always the fans that worry about the popularity of their favourite games. This year, in 2022, Overwatch celebrated its sixth birthday, which is a remarkable feat for a game that has remained mostly unchanged. Sure, new heroes, maps, mechanics, and modes were introduced over the years, but it was never anything groundbreaking.
These days, most Overwatch news sources are discussing the imminent collapse of the platform. Even the Overwatch League isn’t exempt from the struggles, with players actively abandoning the League to join the Valorant uprising.
So, that’s what we mean when we ask, ‘is Overwatch dying?’
Is Overwatch Already Dead?
According to the numbers we’ve revealed, Overwatch isn’t already dead. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not going to die at all. It is inevitable that Overwatch will one day plummet past the point of no return, but it isn’t there already.
If you venture online into circles such as Twitter and Reddit, you’ll see plenty of memes and discussions suggesting that Overwatch is a dead game. In some cases, it’s nothing more than a harmless trend – how can a game with millions of monthly players be considered dead? There are many titles out there with far fewer players that aren’t considered abandoned and broken.
Let’s look at it like this – Overwatch is still receiving regular updates, and there are constant attempts by Activision Blizzard to balance the game. There are events that take place on a regular enough basis to keep fans entertained, and above all else, there is a sequel coming in 2022. If this was a dead and forgotten platform, there’d be no call for a sequel, right?
While there have been issues surrounding the Overwatch League, it is still an active tournament. For a while, there were concerns regarding sponsorship around the Overwatch League, and while this is still a problem, it hasn’t really uprooted the League at large. For the most part, viewership has remained relatively stable, as has coverage.
But does the fact that the Overwatch League is clinging on mean that the game itself isn’t dying?
Overwatch’s Main Problems in 2022
From 2021 into 2022, Overwatch and the infrastructure that supports it has been experiencing several issues, controversies, and scandals. It has been a rocky time for both Activision Blizzard and its games, such as Overwatch. Here’s a breakdown of the biggest issues impacting Overwatch’s stability in 2022:
Overwatch Development Staff Problems
As far back as the start of 2021 and as recently as March 2022, Activision Blizzard has faced a slew of allegations and scandals. While we won’t delve into these issues on a granular scale, we will point out that they’ve caused huge issues in terms of internal development at Activision Blizzard. Sadly, one of the games most impacted by these controversies was Overwatch. Now, while that doesn’t mean the game is dying, it has driven the player count down and is likely to have a lasting impact on the ongoing lifecycle of the game.
For instance, Overwatch 2 experienced an issue whereupon the director of the title disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Furthermore, it was revealed that a particular character in Overwatch was named after an employee that was later disgraced in the midst of the allegations. Again, while these things aren’t necessarily killing Overwatch, they’re not doing anything to particularly help the popularity issues that the platform is suffering from.
Overwatch League Sponsorships Problem
Relatively soon after Overwatch launched, a vibrant esports scene emerged. Within just one year, the Overwatch League was founded, and almost overnight, the platform became a competitive success. There were multi-million-dollar tournaments backed by key partnerships, thousands of viewers, and sold-out stadiums. It was a boom for Overwatch, and as the years wore on, the esports scene surrounding the platform became much more valuable.
However, according to Statista, the cumulative Overwatch prize pool (globally) peaked in 2019 at almost $10 million, and since then, it has declined remarkably fast. This was the first indication of issues circulating within the Overwatch League, up until the point where sponsors began dropping out of partnerships. Unfortunately, while viewership remains relatively high, there has been a noticeable drop, and the Overwatch League just isn’t as popular as it once was.
In 2021, a fresh tournament structure was introduced, and it didn’t instantly win over fans and partners alike. As the Overwatch League is the beating heart of the game’s esports ecosystem, it’s understandable that huge concerns are presented by the apparent failings of the League.
If you’re a follower of the OWL, it’s easy to see why you might be asking, ‘is Overwatch dying?’
In-Game Problems and Frustrations
At its core, Overwatch is a relatively simple concept. It’s a hero-based first-person shooter, which is by no means an unfamiliar genre to gamers. For a while, many of the game’s fans insisted that it was built with too much of a focus on esports and competitive players, with little support being present for the more casual or less-skilled fan. Fortunately, as a result of its simplicity, Overwatch enjoys a large player base – and it always has. However, even this has led to issues, with extensive queues building and widespread issues impacting thousands of players.
As of 2022, in-game events were regular, but for the most part, they were repeats of older, past challenges. For that reason, fewer ‘veteran’ players found themselves returning to Overwatch, given that there was nothing new to really explore. Sure, there may have been new skins and the odd new character here and there, but it wasn’t anything groundbreaking, and it certainly wasn’t worth re-installing the game.
Is Overwatch Waiting for Overwatch 2?
It’s easy to palm off all the issues in Overwatch and just say, ‘wait for Overwatch 2’, but it’s a far fetched thing to assume it’ll fix everything. For instance, as the beta stages have opened up with Overwatch 2, many fans have been claiming that it’s more… Overwatch 1.5. There hasn’t really been a meaningful update between the two titles, and so far, it seems to be the same game just with new maps and one or two new heroes.
Should the Overwatch community continue to drop in terms of overall popularity and opinion, there may be very little left by the time Overwatch 2 launches. There are bold promises from Activision Blizzard that Overwatch 2 will reinvigorate the esports community, but is it too little, too late?
Read also: Are Esports Dying?
An Eternal Question for Overwatch
As time goes on, we’ve issued updates to this page in keeping with the developments of Overwatch in general. With each passing year, it’s important to identify how the industry is reacting to changes within Overwatch and the Overwatch League. If you’re asking, ‘is Overwatch dying’, there’s no better indicator than reviewing past information and identifying trends.
Overwatch Esports Was Dying As Early As 2017
In 2017, three of the biggest and most important Overwatch teams dropped their rosters. There was something of an ongoing trend concerning a lack of investment in Activision Blizzard’s competitive shooter. There was a hefty buy-in for organisations seeking to break into the Overwatch League, with a franchised position carrying with it a $20 million price tag.
In 2017, three teams pulled out of the OWL almost back-to-back, leaving a gaping hole in the Overwatch League’s structure. There were complaints that Activision Blizzard wasn’t paying enough attention to the competitive scene, neglecting players, teams, and fans alike. There were concerns raised regarding funding, tournament format, and an overall lack of interest.
However, moving out of 2017, some of these concerns were addressed by Activision Blizzard and effectively acted upon and put to bed.
Teams Leaving Overwatch in 2017
In June of 2017, Ninjas in Pyjamas announced a departure from the Overwatch ecosystem. As an explanation, the organisation stated that its roster had potential, but the Overwatch scene as a whole had failed to evolve as expected. It was no longer sustainable for fresh investors and posed a concern for existing investors.
Shortly after NiP’s departure, Evil Geniuses also announced a withdrawal from Overwatch esports. Reportedly, this was the result of a mutual decision between the organisation and the players, with the latter wanting to simply part ways with Evil Geniuses. It was stressed by the org that this wasn’t a complete abandonment of Overwatch esports, but the team never returned.
Toward the end of 2017, Team LCDC gave up on the Overwatch League. They claimed that it was due to poor competitive performance, but in a statement, LCDC directly referred to Activision Blizzard as the driving reason behind their departure. There were claims of mismanagement and poor funding.
Was Overwatch League Dying in 2019?
When it first launched, Overwatch became a massively popular title in a remarkably short period of time. In fact, it became the fastest-selling game to reach 20 million players in Activision Blizzard’s history. It was a complete success story for the company, and for a while, Overwatch was coasting on total, unbridled victory.
There was something of a slowdown in terms of new users, but by May of 2018, Overwatch still counted more than 40 million active players. However, it was reported that Activision Blizzard was pumping up these numbers; artificially inflating the counts to make Overwatch seem more popular. They did this by including the numbers of unplayed, temporary, or free trial players in the total active player counts.
However, the fact still remained that Overwatch was greatly popular, and by extension, it boasted a popular esports scene. In 2019, the Overwatch League peaked, selling out the Barclays Centre during the regular season. For a time, Overwatch had drawn a bigger audience than some traditional sports events. If you’re wondering if Overwatch was dying in 2019, just take a look at these figures. This was the height of the Overwatch League, and it wouldn’t have pulled in the viewership that it did if it was dying.
In the first year that it was released, Activision Blizzard racked up more than $1 billion in revenue. Overwatch rapidly became known as one of the best-selling games for PC, PS4, and Xbox One, and the Overwatch League reflected this value – at least in the earlier days of the competition.
Overwatch 2 – Is Overwatch Dying in 2020?
Despite delays, Overwatch 2 is expected to launch in 2022. However, as far back as 2020, there were expectations that ‘a sequel’ could save Overwatch. Unfortunately, it would be months until anything even resembling a sequel would emerge, with beta testing taking place at the start of 2022.
As a sequel, Overwatch 2 will bring all-new content to the Overwatch ecosystem, despite not changing much in the bigger picture. Reportedly, with Overwatch 2, we’ll see a more ‘fleshed out’ PvE mode, hosted alongside the typical competitive offering. For some, the concept of Overwatch 2 is nothing more than an over-glorified story mode expansion or ‘DLC’. While it’s not a sign that Overwatch is dying, it isn’t a symbol of anything truly progressive.
There are some blockers that will prevent Overwatch 2 from being an instant boost to the Overwatch ecosystem in general. For instance, players will need to invest their hard-earned cash once again, parting ways with the full value of the game to simply play the game. This can be a blocker, especially considering how many of the most successful competitive titles tend to be free-to-play. For example, League of Legends, Dota 2, Fortnite, or Call of Duty: Warzone.
This news was first covered in 2020, and by 2022, fans are still awaiting the arrival of Overwatch 2.
Theories That Attempt to Explain Why Overwatch Is Dying
Is Overwatch dying? It might be – but we need to understand the theories that explain why. At the start of 2019, Activision Blizzard laid off more than 800 members of staff. This was reportedly due to stagnating player bases across all of Blizzard’s franchises, such as Hearthstone, World of Warcraft, and, you guessed it – Overwatch.
However, in the world of game development, it isn’t unusual for vast swatches of staff to come and go. For instance, if a new project surfaces, there will be a mass drive to hire as many people as needed. Then, when the project is completed, these staff will depart the company. It’s harsh, but it’s how the world operates.
There’s another theory driving the assumption that Overwatch is dying, and it’s related to the drop in the overall value of the game. Firstly, there’s the fact that sales dropped over time – this is a typical concern in the gaming industry. However, by a certain point, Overwatch sales became almost inexistent, with everyone who wanted to buy the game having already bought the game. Then, there was the abandonment of the Overwatch League by organisations and sponsors. Furthermore, there was a drop in the popularity of Overwatch in the content creation markets.
Ultimately, there are many theories hiding behind the claim that Overwatch is dying. There’s the list of scandals surrounding Activision Blizzard, the age of the game, the delays of Overwatch 2, and the fact that, under the surface, Overwatch is a niche title. It stands to reason that there isn’t a non-exhaustive collection of players bursting at the seams to enjoy Overwatch.
Is Valorant Killing Off Overwatch?
When Valorant launched in 2020, it was seen as a direct competitor to Overwatch. It was another overnight sensation, with player numbers flying up the charts with reckless abandon. It immediately threatened Overwatch, standing as an attractive, new, and exciting alternative to Activision Blizzard’s hero shooter. It became massive on social media, dominating platforms like Twitch, and many Overwatch creators suddenly began switching over to Valorant.
Although Valorant seemed Overwatch-like on the surface, it also took inspiration from Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. It was essentially a unification of the two, igniting fast-paced, first-person combat with hero characters. There was no doubt that Valorant would be a firm competitor for Overwatch, and over time, the latter lost the race. Within a year or two, Valorant’s numbers in terms of players and viewership began rising up and above those of Overwatch.
As professional players began leaving the platform, the Overwatch power rankings began changing dramatically. It was a huge hit for Overwatch betting, too – new talent was rising to fill the gaps and not many people knew the players stepping up.
Ultimately, adding Valorant into the ‘is Overwatch dying’ debate is key. It was certainly the driving force behind a mass exodus and contributed to the downfall of Overwatch – at least for a period of time. For the most part, the situation is blown out of proportion, with many high profile gamers stoking the fire and claiming that Overwatch is dying.
While it might be slowing down as time goes on, we don’t think it’s dying just yet.
What Can Blizzard Do to Stop Overwatch Esports From Dying?
Even if Overwatch isn’t dying, there are certainly a few things that Blizzard could do to ensure that they retain their player base and continue to attract new gamers. Obviously, the release of Overwatch 2.0 with new maps, new heroes and even seasonal events will be nice, and fans are looking forward to the official release date.
Many Overwatch fans have stated that Blizzard would benefit from more community involvement in the game’s development. Although the likes of lead developer Jeff Kaplan did a great job in keep us all updating during the Overwatch Beta testing, these updates became scarcer and the resultant isolation that fans felt quickly turned to that ‘toxicity’ that everyone complains about.
The habit of releasing newer versions of Overwatch initially seemed like a cool thing. But constantly having to wait hours to download and install the next patch quickly got boring, and the whole thing quickly felt like another money-making project.
Hopefully, Blizzard can just fix the problematic things and not go down the ill-fated route of a solo story mission or – heaven forbid – a mobile version of Overwatch. Experiments such as the Overwatch PTR quickly proved to be a waste of time, and the feature had a negative effect on the release of each new update.
Other things that could be improved include providing players with more in the way of statistics. Although it’s pretty easy to keep track of the movements of the opposite team, it would be great to have more information about the amount of healing received, and the same goes for DPS and tanking.
Overall, Blizzard Entertainment did a great job with Overwatch, and it’s easy to see why it smashed sales figures upon its release. But the fact that people have been asking if Overwatch is dying pretty much as soon as the game came out does pose big questions about the future of this first-person shooter.