At this point, if you follow professional Overwatch, you’ve heard the news. An Overwatch League is incoming, and it’ll be handled by OGN, the team responsible for the LCK and numerous Starcraft events. Whatever your thoughts are about OGN, the League format is a change to the game that will push it into maturation and has many pros and cons following it, which is something that any fan of Overwatch and E-Sports in general should observe. For the sake of optimism and happiness, we’ll start with the pro’s.
Enhanced Exposure: This is probably the most obvious of the pluses for the format. A league means a schedule, and a schedule means the game and teams involved are easier to follow, allowing for more people to watch it, since it ensures that it’ll always be aired at the same time in the same place. More than just enhanced exposure for the League, it’s also more exposure for the teams. You can always watch, for example, CJ Entus play as long as they’re in the League, and people will turn up a lot of the time to see their favorite team play.
Easier Regulation: One of the more important points, regulation means total control of how the League is played. This is such a big point because of how much influence an organization like OGN has on E-Sports in general. The way that OGN regulates it’s league is undoubtedly going to have a large effect on how non-league games are played. For example, if OGN decides that every game will be a best of five, expect to see more B05’s in non OGN games in the future. That’s just a small example, this could extend to things like rules, map setups and player bans (Though hopefully we don’t see many banned players).
A Possibly Safe Environment For Teams: This one is a little bit harder to explain without context, luckily for us, the LCS exists. Take a look at it, a normal League format with relegation. The thing about that format is that the teams that are relegated are sent to the challenger league, where there isn’t much money, save for the possible A-League (LCS) slot. This means that investors have their pockets hit the moment the team they invested in gets relegated. This OGN run League has the opportunity to prevent this same dynamic and that means a safer environment for the teams, organizations and investors.
The Ability To Foster New Talent: This is directly entwined with my previous point. Because of the possibility of a safe environment for the organizations involved, it’s less risky to put newer players in the game as they rise in prominence. In a world in which teams aren’t basically told to disband for a bad season (My American bias is leaking) it’s far less punishing to put in new players to help them gain experience and strengthen them for future use, either by the team in question, or a future team. Regardless of what team they play in, this strengthens the entire League as a result, leading to better teams and a better viewing experience.
Improved Spectator Programs and UI: I know there’s going to be someone who defends the spectator UI until their dying breath, but I’m here to say, for many people, it’s really really bad. A league would give more games, and as such, plenty of data to look at and investigate how to better the spectator experience. The game is fast, and that’s not going to change, but I’d look to Counter Strike to prove that a game can have a lot of action and be fast paced and still be a breeze to follow. It’s just a matter of having the technology to do it.
Better Practice Tools: The existence of an Overwatch League, and it’s subsequent success would cause Blizzard to create more and better practice tools. With another sandbox fallout having already occurred for a different popular game it’s unlikely that sandbox mode would be held away from Overwatch will people play it at it’s highest level consistently, and the more tools with which to improve, the better for everyone who plays.
The Possibility of Bad Management: This is the other side of easier regulation, and probably the biggest possible negative to a league. Bad management kills leagues, and kills the enthusiasm for them altogether. For example, there are people who just don’t watch LCS anymore since learning that the organizations involved aren’t treated well enough. Bad management is a pretty umbrella concern. If the teams aren’t able to monetize, that’s bad management, if the issues about how the game is played or viewed aren’t addressed (If there are no soundproof booths or production value is lacking) that is bad management or if decisions are made to kill tools that strengthen regions (Such as sister teams in League of Legends) that is bad management. All of those things would be awful, and even worse, since Overwatch OGN has a separate League’s bad publicity to learn from. One might even call it a quite Legendary League.
A Possible Weakening of the Scene Outside of Korea: This isn’t an OGN centric issue, so much as a concern about the result of having a League in general. With so many teams in what will probably quickly become a quite competitive League, the teams not in it will be left behind. This means that teams within the League will simply become powerhouses, and tournaments that aren’t OGN would be stomps for the teams within that League. We’ve seen it with OGN LoL, for those of us that watched it. The Korean League had Best of 3’s for years before North America, or China got them, (Europe still doesn’t have them) and as a result they couldn’t be touched for a long time, once team infrastructure began to develop. A massive concern would be that this happened again in Overwatch, causing the game to become hard to watch, or for some, not worth watching outside of the OGN League due to the difference in strength of the teams involved.
We’ve reached the end of our list, and while there are more positives than negatives, it’s important to realize exactly how damning those negatives can be if not addressed properly. However, with so few really large negatives in mind, it’s worth noting that OGN and Blizzard have a massive opportunity with this League, OGN gets it’s foot in the door with another massive E-Sports title, and Blizzard becomes a huge contender in the E-Sports market, something they had going for them once, and then never again for a long time.
What do you think of this list? Is there something you would add or argue against? Let me know in the comments below or come yell directly at my face on twitter @TirasCarr