February 3, 2018 by jessepell
(Courtesy of overwatchleague.com)
Written by Jesse Pelletier
The Overwatch League is three weeks into its inaugural season and it already looks like it will be one of the most successful eSports platforms ever. A big reason is that the game itself is incredible, but another reason is that anybody can enjoy it. The last video game I played was Pokemon Silver a few months back, but I am here to tell you that you don’t need to play video games to enjoy the Overwatch League.
The Overwatch League features 12 teams in two divisions, which immediately makes it feel structurally like familiar professional sports leagues. If the Overwatch League wanted to be taken seriously as a sports league, this was a small but significant step that had to happen. That being said, they knew that they didn’t have to do everything conventionally. Three of the 12 teams in the OWL are from overseas, specifically London, Shanghai, and Seoul. Having teams from three continents is very unique and gives an interesting flavor to the league.
The first thing I noticed when watching the OWL for the first time is that it is presented very professionally. There is so much money invested in their venue and in the production that it makes it feel like you’re watching any other professional sport. There are commentators who are exceptionally knowledgeable about the game but they can present it in a way that fans not familiar with Overwatch can understand. And if you still can’t understand what’s going on, at least there’s Soe Gschwind.
(Courtesy of twitter.com)
Once you start watching your first match, you’ll notice that the play-by-play is incredible! Overwatch is a six-on-six game that has so much going on at once that it’s impossible to follow if you’ve never played. Mitch Leslie does an incredible job delivering the play-by-play. He talks insanely fast, but he captures everything going on AND he’s funny at the same time! Add in flawless in-game camera work and you create the ability for anybody to tune into the OWL and not be completely lost trying to follow what’s happening, and that is so crucial for a new entertainment platform of any kind.
Also crucial to the success of a new sports league is parody among the teams. If one or two teams are grossly overpowered compared to the rest of the league, it’s uninteresting. After the first three weeks of the OWL inaugural season, none of the 12 teams are undefeated and only one is winless. There have already been massive upsets and plenty of overtime matches, making for plenty of intense gameplay. And now we’ve entered the period of free agent signings, adding another level of intrigue to the season as teams try to secure weaknesses revealed in the first few weeks of the season.
The final step to ensure success of a new sports league is to make it easily accessible. Blizzard did just that by striking a deal with twitch.tv to stream every match live. You don’t need a cable provider or even an account on Twitch to view every match; just go to twitch.tv and search for Overwatch League if you don’t see it on the homepage. I’ve kept up with the league since Week 1 and I have no complaints about the OWL so far. The presentation, the skill level, the accessibility, the marketing, and everything else makes the OWL look like they got everything right the first time. It’s an eSports staple that I should see continued growth for quite some time.