Is the Overwatch competitive scene dying?

Is Overwatch dying? 2019’s biggest story in Overwatch competitive news

‘Is Overwatch dying?’ is one of the strangest yet commonplace questions that keeps cropping up all over the internet. From conspiracy theories on the Blizzard forum to Reddit pages wondering why Overwatch is dying, it seems that this game is constantly on the brink of an early grave.

is overwatch dying

© Blizzard Entertainment

But is this just another example of the internet getting worked up over nothing or is Overwatch dying for real? We’re going to help you understand what people are really referring to when they ask is Overwatch dying, and we’ll even see if the first-person shooter is actually already dead.

Plus we’ll look at the questions of ‘is Overwatch League dying?’, and ‘are its esports stars in trouble?’. 2017 saw many big-name teams drop out of Overwatch competitive gaming, and it looked like Blizzard’s professional tournament was in real trouble.

But if you are still asking is Overwatch dying, 2019 presents a very different picture with League and Contenders tournaments looking in pretty good health. So let’s take a closer look at why Overwatch is dying or whether the rumours of its demise have been greatly exaggerated.

What do people mean when they ask ‘is Overwatch dying’?

When people talk about a video game dying, they are usually referring to the fact that it’s a game that nobody else wants to play. Most games have pretty short shelf-lives, and so it’s only natural that people would start asking is Overwatch dying within three years of the game coming out.

What’s weird is the fact that people started asking this question almost at the same time as Blizzard released Overwatch in May 2016. A quick look at Google Trends shows that this question has been roughly as frequent in 2016 as it is today in 2019.

Gamers are well-known for their relatively short-attention spans. Although CSGO and LoL have managed to stay hugely popular, it seems that there’s something about Overwatch that people just love to hate. So even though the game is generating lots of content on our Overwatch news page, it seems that people could be growing tired of the first-person shooter.

Is Overwatch already dead?

You’ll have probably seen lots of memes that claim that Overwatch is a dead game. This is actually far from the truth, as a game can only be considered ‘dead’ if it’s not being supported by the developers.

Thankfully Blizzard Entertainment have constantly been knocking out new patches and updates for the game, and there is even talk that we might see an Overwatch spin-off in the next few months. Plus the Overwatch League and Contenders tournaments are going from strength to strength, and the betting on Overwatch phenomenon is also showing no signs of slowing down.

It’s important to remember that people have been saying the Overwatch is dying ever since the game is launched. There were even claims that saw Overwatch esports dying in the first-ever season of the Overwatch League. Here’s a look at one of the first times that people starting asking if the Overwatch League is dying.

2017 saw Overwatch esports dying for the first time

In 2017, three fairly large Overwatch teams have decided to drop their competitive rosters. This follows the consistent theme of organisations hesitating to invest in Blizzard’s popular shooter game, many of which did previously invest, wish to pull out.

blizzard lays off 800 staff memebers

© Blizzard Entertainment

Throughout 2017, orgs have been dropping out slowly, and fairly subtly. However the short burst of three teams pulling out in only two weeks is something of grave concern. It likely signals there may soon be a boycott of the competitive Overwatch scene until Blizzard addresses their issues, which multiple teams have brought up over the past couple of months in their departure statements.

Teams and the organisations sponsoring them have been long complaining that Blizzard has failed to pay enough attention to their competitive scenes, especially Overwatch.

They have stated that there is not enough funding, proper structure and an overall lack of interest and focus on Blizzard’s part. While Blizzard early last year pleaded teams to invest in the competitive scene and assured them of a stable environment along with strong focus from their part, they failed to do so.

Teams leaving Overwatch in 2017

Earliest of the three teams, Ninjas in Pyjamas announced late June 2017 that they would be renouncing their support of the Overwatch scene. The organisation mentioned that while the roster they had signed initially had very good potential, NiP stated that ‘the scene has failed to evolve’ to be sustainable for investors, which they reiterated concerned a number of teams, not only theirs.

This not only puts blame on Blizzard for their decision to discontinue investment, but is also somewhat passive aggressive due to the mention of potentially having more teams abandon the scene.

NiP: ”Today we announce that we will be joining the growing list of organizations placing Overwatch as one of the titles to observe but not to be involved in, given the uncertainties of the scene.”

Around the same time, Evil Geniuses also announced that they would be parting ways with their Overwatch roster. While they had publicly stated that the parting was due to the org and roster wanting to go their separate ways mutually agreed upon; you have to think, was this really the reason?

EG: “As a team, Evil Geniuses would like to stress that this is not the end of our interest in competitive Overwatch, and we will be looking on to how the scene continues to develop.”

Team LCDC was the latest team to abandon the scene in 2017. While they did mention their poor result at the Overwatch Contenders as being a factor for dropping the roster, LCDC directly blamed Blizzard for their decision in departing the scene. They mention that Blizzard’s previous management of the scene is extremely poor and has done worse for the scene than good, an extremely harsh statement on LCDC’s part.

LCDC: “Moreover, our results during the Overwatch Contenders and the strategic choice of Blizzard Entertainment, which don’t help clubs like ours to continue to invest in this game, make us decide to stop the story.”


Is Overwatch dying in 2019?

Upon its release, Overwatch became the fastest-selling game to reach the 20 million players mark in Blizzard’s history. Obviously these figures have plateaued in the past couple of years, but there were still 40 million active players as of May 2018.

The game has earned Blizzard Entertainment in excess of $1 billion and it is still one of the biggest-selling titles for PC, PS4 and Xbox One. The fact that there are ongoing rumours that we could see Overwatch 2 on the horizon also adds weight to the idea that this game is far from done.

Is Overwatch League dying or are less people playing the game?

The latest Overwatch competitive news suggests that there was an average of 440,000 viewers every minute in the opening week of the 2019 Overwatch League. This covered 190 countries across the world and it is thought that 160 million hours was watched of the esports tournament each year. In addition to this, it is thought that over $1 billion had been spent on Overwatch in-game spending as of July 2019.

When you add in the fact that Twitch have paid $90 million to have the rights for the Overwatch League, it also suggests that the game’s demise is not yet imminent. Plus we can’t help from mentioning that some of the biggest names in American sports such as the owners of New England Patriots have invested in franchised teams for the league.

It’s probably fair to say that most hardcore gamers get tired of new releases fairly quickly after they have been released. Although there might be some truth in the fact that Blizzard make too many changes to heroes and the game’s lore is pretty thin, it seems that Overwatch is still hugely popular amongst many casual gamers.

Some theories that attempt to explain why Overwatch is dying

The most common thing that people point to when they suggest that Overwatch is dying is the fact that Blizzard Entertainment laid off 800 staff at the start of 2019. It was rumoured that this was a result of games like Overwatch, Hearthstone and World of Warcraft having stagnating player bases.

blizzard-fires-employees

© Blizzard Entertainment

However, there was also gossip that the redundancies were made so that Blizzard could focus on its core titles such as Call of Duty, Candy Crush and Overwatch. Blizzard is renowned for keeping things close to its chest, but apparently the games developer have already cancelled a project for a new StarCraft game to focus on either Overwatch 2 or Diablo 4.

It’s hoped that something more might be learned about these rumours at BlizzCon 2019 in November where the developer usually unveils its next big release. But as Blizzard cancelled the pro gaming tournaments for Heroes of the Storm without any prior warning, it’s going to be unlikely that they tell fans if and when they are going to pull the plug on Overwatch.

Above all, it looks like the whole ‘is Overwatch dying’ debate has come around due to the fact that a few very vocal gamers have decided to voice their opinions. In the echo chambers of Reddit and the Blizzard forum, this might add up to a lot of noise. But for the majority of gamers in the real-world, it seems that most of us enjoy playing Overwatch just the way it is.

Key things Blizzard needs to do to stop Overwatch esports 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 would be nice, but it’s still unclear as to whether this is likely.

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.