The Overwatch League ( OWL), the professional eSports league for the game Overwatch, is nearing the end of the first season. In less than 2 weeks time (27 & 28th of July to be exact) the top two teams will battle it out in a sold out Barclays Center in New York for the grand prize of a cool one million dollar. A total prize pool of 3.5 million dollar is available to teams within the first season.
OWL is developed and fully owned by Blizzard Entertainment and aims to change the way eSports is usually played by introducing a roster of permanent, city-based teams and regular season play, just like traditional professional (American) sports. Every team is financially backed by an owner and players receive a minimum salary, and a cut of the winnings.
So with season 1 almost done, can we come to the conclusion that this is the future of eSports? Well, it might be a bit too soon for that, but it has been very successful so far. Blizzard reported that over the first week, over 10 million viewers across all streaming formats (with Twitch leading the way) watched League play, and that the Blizzard Arena was sold-out all four days of the week. The big final will undoubtedly draw even bigger numbers. It will be interesting to see how the big match will do on traditional medium like television as ESPN partners up with Blizzard.
It will be even more interesting to see if Overwatch can keep the momentum and go for season 2 while Epic is stealing the limelight with Fortnite and the announcement of a 8 million dollar prize pool for the first official tournament. That’s the first 8 million of the promised 100 million dollar Epic has reserved for eSports in the coming year. Interesting indeed…