On Friday, the Overwatch League released Technical Director, Jason “Alchemister” Baker and Observer, “Imagine42” from their contracts, in a seemingly sudden series of cuts to the observing crew.
I am back to being freelance. Anyone need a producer or director hit me up.
— Jason Baker (@Alchemister5) October 5, 2018
I too am back to freelance apparently. Anyone looking for an RTVF diploma carrying multiple years in broadcast and esports environment?
— Just Imagine (@Imagine42_) October 5, 2018
Rumored concerns over budgetary management in Season 2 seem to be the prevailing opinion as to why the two were released, but that hardly explains the destruction of the League’s most important foundation. Overwatch is not an easy game to observe. Without a good crew keeping an eye on the game, the viewing experience becomes chaotic at best – and unwatchable at worst.
Just look at the number of screens rolling at once in this clip. You need someone who knows what they’re doing in charge of this room, period.
— Overwatch League (@overwatchleague) February 1, 2018
The Observable Future
According to Winston’s Lab writer Yiska, this isn’t the end of it, either. A swath of analysts and other key League figures are contracted employees, who can be released at any time. Who is safe in a system like that? What sort of message does that send to the up-and-comers hoping for a stable job in the industry?
I’d like to consider myself one such up-and-comer, and let me tell you – I’m not exactly confident right now. While many of my closest friends and colleagues see “The Contract” with Blizzard to be their #1 goal, many are re-thinking their priorities after this move, or their involvement with esports in general. It’s hardly news to say that esports as a whole is a brutal industry, but many believed that if anyone could change that, it would be Blizzard. Now it just looks like they’re maintaining the status quo.
While only Imagine and Alchemister have been released so far, there could be many more releases in the months leading up to the League’s second season. If they’re as sudden as these two were, employees who have devoted their lives, left jobs and moved across the world to work at Blizzard Arena will be left high and dry.
Who knows what will happen now? So long as this system doesn’t affect Blizzard’s bottom line too harshly, there’s hardly any reason to change – but if there’s a sudden dearth of talent available, Blizz will (hopefully) rethink their approach.
The Bottom Line
This is not a sustainable system, nor does it send a good message to the esports community at large. For a company that prides itself on being able to draw the best talent in the business, Blizzard have dealt themselves a major blow this weekend. We know little of the League’s plans for Season 2. What we DO know is that Blizzard will have to put in some extra time to regain trust after these releases. That’s something they can ill afford in the League’s infant stages, with investors watching very, very closely. Your move, Blizz.
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