Six years after its glitzy launch, Blizzard’s grand experiment appears to be over. Blizzard has confirmed in a statement to IGN that it is “transitioning from the Overwatch League,” seemingly spelling the end for the competition once billed as the future of esports.
“We are transitioning from the Overwatch League and evolving competitive Overwatch in a new direction,” an Activision Blizzard spokesperson told IGN. “We are grateful to everyone who made OWL possible and remain focused on building our vision of a revitalized esports program. We are excited to share details with you all in the near future.”
Blizzard’s statement follows earlier reports of a vote that would determine the league’s fate at the end of the season, which wrapped on October 1 with a Grand Finals that Kotaku described as “beautiful and depressing.” Teams were given an opportunity to sign on to an updated operate agreement, with a cash payout of $6 million for teams that opted not to continue. Activision Blizzard has previously noted that Overwatch League revenue comprises less than 1 percent of the companies net revenues.
The end of the Overwatch League doesn’t necessarilly mean the end of competitive Overwatch. Overwatch League commissioner Sean Miller has previously said that Blizzard remains “committed to a competitive ecosystem in 2024 and beyond,” whatever that ultimately looks like.
In the meantime, the Toronto Defiant are paying tribute to the OWL in their own, somewhat unconventional, way.
Good evening OWL comrades
This is the owner of the Toronto Defiant
Saying goodbye to the OWL with AI generated art
Please direct your attention to the bottom left corner pic.twitter.com/n1MNkMRx1F
— Ash Parrish (@adashtra) November 8, 2023
It wasn’t meant to be this way. Six years ago, Blizzard trumpeted the Overwatch League as a bold new effort in the burgeoning esports scene. Teams were tied to individual cities, and buying a franchise cost a cool $20 million. Overwatch was among the most popular games in the world following its massive debut in 2016, leading to unprecedented excitement for the Overwatch League.
In 2018 we debated whether Overwatch League would succeed or fail, pointing to investments like the $90 million investment with Twitch while also noting that Overwatch isn’t the best esport to watch. In the years since, Overwatch’s popularity has faded amid various controversies and the mixed success of its sequel, Overwatch 2.
Who runs these streets? 👟
The sold-out crowd at Hammerstein Ballroom is here to find out! #OWL2020
— Overwatch League (@overwatchleague) February 9, 2020
Now the verdict is in: It had its moments and its share of passionate supporters, but the Overwatch League was never able to match Activision Blizzard’s lofty expectations for the competition.
It’s been a tough time for esports in general over the past year, with one Valorant team owner calling it “one of the worst things you can get into” back in June. Lofty viewership has not translated to strong revenue, and with investment steadily drying up, many owners are finding themselves heavily in the red.
Who knows where Blizzard, and esports in general, will go from here. But if nothing else, the Overwatch League was certainly fun while it lasted.
Blogroll photo credit: Hunter Martin/Getty Images
Kat Bailey is IGN’s News Director as well as co-host of Nintendo Voice Chat. Have a tip? Send her a DM at @the_katbot.