RIP OWL LOL
Blizzard has confirmed its major overhauls to the Overwatch 2 esports scene, including the death of the Overwatch League and the introduction of the Overwatch Champions Series.
2023 effectively saw the Overwatch esports scene flatline entirely. The league’s initial concept for a franchised esports league was a bold move for the time. Although the traditional sports formula had pros, the strategy didn’t hold up in the long-term and a cavalcade of controversies of Activision-Blizzard seemingly hastened its death.
Activision Blizzard mobilized on sunsetting the league in 2023, reportedly offering millions in cash for teams to walk away and laying off almost everyone involved. Now in January 2024, Overwatch 2 is making changes that will bring the game’s esports scene back in a new way.
What changes are coming to Overwatch Esports?
Overwatch esports is implementing open circuits and will emphasize the international scene with the Overwatch Championship Series.
The Overwatch Champions Series will ideally many of the fundamental issues of the Overwatch League. The new circuit drops franchises and the enormous price tags and overhead costs associated with them. In its place will be open circuits that will ideally provide more opportunities for international players. The Overwatch Champions Series will have qualifiers in North America, Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia.
The format will be more akin to the esports scenes seen in Dota 2 and Counter-Strike, with regional circuits feeding into international events. Alongside having more opportunities for players, this could potentially see more esports organizations entering into Overwatch after long gating non-franchised organizations out of the game.
Overwatch 2 will partner with FACEIT, a notable esports platform used by the likes of Counter-Strike 2 and League of Legends. FACEIT was acquired alongside ESL as part of the Saudi Arabian government’s takeover of much of the esports industry and push into streaming which has been labeled as sportswashing by human rights advocacy groups. Blizzard largely handed over StarCraft esports to ESL and is set to do the same again with Overwatch 2.
When will the Overwatch Champions Series start?
Overwatch Champions Series will debut in February 2024 with its Asia competition and will start in all other regions by March 2024.
While FACEIT will handle regional circuit play, its sister company DreamHack will handle organizing and hosting the international events. OWCS will host two live international tournaments with Dreamhack throughout 2024. FACEIT is also sponsoring alternative Overwatch esports offerings outside of the OWCS. Finally, the WDG Cup and WDG Scholastic Tournament will continue seeing support in Asia during the Asia OWCS offseason.
While there will inevitably be further pains associated with the death of Overwatch League and the ongoing esports winter, this does guarantee that the game’s esports scene will continue for at least a little while longer.