November 30, 2023

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Overwatch League officially ends as Blizzard focuses on ‘new direction’

Overwatch League officially ends as Blizzard focuses on ‘new direction’

Six years after its glamorous launch, Blizzard’s grand experiment appears to be over. Blizzard confirmed in a statement to IGN that it is “moving on from the Overwatch League,” seemingly signaling the end of the competition that was touted as the future of esports.

“We are moving on 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 the OWL possible and remain focused on building our vision for a revitalized esports program. We are excited to share details with you all in the near future.”

England fans watch a match between the London Spitfires and the Houston Outlaws in 2019. Image source: Leon Neal/Getty Images

Blizzard’s statement follows previous reports of a vote that will determine the league’s fate at the end of the season, which concluded on October 1 with a grand finals that Kotaku described as… “Beautiful and depressing.” Teams were given the opportunity to sign an updated operating agreement, with a $6 million cash payout for teams that chose not to continue. Activision Blizzard has previously indicated that Overwatch League revenue makes up less than 1 percent of the company’s net revenue.

The end of the Overwatch League doesn’t necessarily mean the end of competitive Overwatch. Sean Miller, former Overwatch League commissioner, said Blizzard remains “committed to the competitive ecosystem in 2024 and beyond,” whatever that ultimately looks like.

Meanwhile, the Toronto Defiant pays tribute to the OWL in their own, somewhat unorthodox, way.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Six years ago, Blizzard hailed the Overwatch League as a bold new effort in the burgeoning esports scene. The teams were tied to individual cities, and it cost $20 million to purchase the franchise. Overwatch was among the most popular games in the world after its debut in 2016, bringing unprecedented excitement to the Overwatch League.

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In 2018, we debated whether the Overwatch League would succeed or fail, pointing to investments like a $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 achieved by its sequel, Overwatch 2.

Now the verdict is out: It has had its moments and its share of passionate supporters, but the Overwatch League has never been able to live up to Activision Blizzard’s lofty expectations for competition.

It’s been a tough time for esports in general over the past year, with one Valorant team owner describing it as “one of the worst things you can get into” in June. High viewership has not translated into strong revenue, and with investment steadily drying up, many owners find themselves significantly in the red.

Who knows where Blizzard and esports in general will go from here. But if nothing else, the Overwatch League has certainly been fun while it lasts.

Blog image source: Hunter Martin/Getty Images

Kat Bailey is IGN’s news director and co-host of Nintendo Voice Chat. Do you have any advice? Send her a direct message at @the_katbot.