Overwatch had been lingering in the sidelines of the eSports community long before its official release. Blizzard ran a closed beta, targeted towards professional players from other games and well-known community figures, from October 2015 until April 2016. Many online tournaments took place during this time, drawing attention to the game through social media and online streams. The open beta (from May 4 to May 10) lured many undecided players to try the game – inducing them to pre-order the game or purchase it upon publication. Essentially, Blizzard made sure to test the game before setting it free to ensure that their product was tailored for its targeted audience.
Release met with positive response
Although Blizzard officially launched Overwatch last month, there have already been several competitions for the new game. Overwatch is already the second most played game in Korean PC Bangs. As Korea, with its world-leading eSports infrastructure, often sets the tone for what becomes the next huge video game, Blizzard’s efforts seem to have been met with an overwhelmingly positive response. Furthermore, the last two days already included two LAN tournaments (TaKeTV’s TaKeOver and Esports Arena’s Agents Rising). So, the first week was extremely successful, both with regards to game sales and its eSports exposure.
Veteran figures eager to join
Many known community figures have eagerly associated themselves with the Overwatch community. Legendary figures from games like TF2 (Seagull) and Counter-Strike (AZK) started playing since the start of the closed beta. Fans who otherwise might not have been interested in the game are more willing to give it a chance if their idols participate in the scene. Similarly, talent from other games (like HuK from SC2 and Heroes, 2GD from Quake and Dota 2) are also eagerly casting and hosting tournaments. Both of these factors provide familiarity to veteran Twitch viewers. Even if new Overwatch spectators do not find the game particularly interesting (at least not more interesting than the game they usually watch), their preexisting love for the figures who are now involved may provide the needed incentive to give the game a chance.
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As a response to the game’s rapidly increasing popularity, skeptics claim that Blizzard’s aggressive approach may cause oversaturation. After all, such a large amount of content in a relatively short time span might suffer from instability. Blizzard is dishing out massive amount of money to provide necessary publicity, infrastructure and community ties to give the game as much exposure as possible. Furthermore, the LAN at Esports Arena this week advertised Overwatch branded peripheral hardware (i.e. headphones, keyboards and mice). People might think that the game’s name is being overused by entrepreneurs trying to squeeze every possible penny out of its sudden fame.
Most claim that initial over-saturation is better than a lack of success. As the competitive scene is beginning with great momentum, money can already be made off of 40,000+ viewer streams. Even under the unlikely scenario where people go back to whatever they enjoyed before Overwatch because of its unrealistic hype, Blizzard should still be left with success. Selling the game is Blizzard’s main source of revenue (not like CS:GO and Dota 2 where profits come from the skin market), so its successful release returns a large amount of the investment that was initially poured into the game. Considering that Overwatch’s high stream presence and short open beta are the strongest factors in making people buy the game, Blizzard may have already met their required goals. Blizzard essentially avoided their most dreaded failure – namely that the titles remain untouched on store shelves.
Despite varying opinions, the future of Overwatch looks bright. Its quickly attained popularity might have the potential to backfire. But the available clues point towards a successful and healthy life span driven by its multifaceted community.