Despite the wide-reaching success and critical acclaim of Blizzard’s competitive shooter, Overwatch seems to be struggling to gain traction in the esports industry. Top officials at Activision Blizzard remain outwardly optimistic about the title’s ability to perform in the burgeoning industry, but investors, organizations, and even fans look to be losing patience.
Back in May, reports surfaced about the surprisingly high franchising costs for organizations to buy into the upcoming professional Overwatch league. And little has happened since, aside from other esport tournament organizations venturing away from Overwatch as Blizzard looked to make their own moves. The concept of Blizzard’s “soon” has a long and storied history, but esports might not have the patience to wait around.
A report from Eurogamer.net points out the number of professional gaming organizations that had Overwatch teams in the game’s just-over-one-year history, but have since dropped them. It includes Splyce, Team Dignitas, Fnatic, compLexity, and Team SoloMid. Certainly, each one of these organizations have built a reputation in another or even several other titles. But according to Marty Strenczewilk, Splyce’s co-founder and CEO, “I can’t pay for a game that’s my third most expensive and my tenth most viewed.”
But unlike some other games, viewership in Overwatch, as the report goes on to point out, isn’t due to a lack of fans or interest. While the EU LCS has moved to offer incentives to fans who come in person to see their League of Legends matches, it would be unlikely for professional Overwatch leagues to be staring down empty seats.
Mike Sepso, Activision Blizzard’s Senior Vice President co-founder of Major League Gaming, recently reaffirmed the company’s commitment to esports in comments provided to Dot Esports. According to the comments, the company is waiting to begin the league, or even release any details, until the whole concept is fully realized and stable.
— GamesIndustry (@GIBiz) June 29, 2017
So while a professional Overwatch league organized by Activision Blizzard is almost certainly coming soon, it’s hard to gauge how much damage the latency is doing.