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Will Overwatch 2 Bring In The eSports Crowd?

There’s been a lot of talk lately about Overwatch 2, and the value that it actually brings to the franchise. When you’ve been waiting years for a sequel, finding out it isn’t adding that much content is a little disappointing.

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There have also been questions about its new structure. Can 5v5 work as well as 6v6? Does losing a tank make that big a difference? It has been a mixed response. It’s a few months until release though, and general attitude could change as more people play it.

There are lots of reasons to be worried about the sequel to Overwatch. The biggest changes seem to be to how the game is accessed and played – it’s free-to-play and has a battle pass. The content? That’s another question entirely.

But talking about Overwatch 2 is really two different conversations. You have the release for general audiences – you and me. These people just want to play it, maybe unlock a few costumes for their favourite characters. That’s about it.

And then there’s Overwatch as an eSports platform. That’s a very different conversation. Will the best players come into Overwatch? Will hundreds of thousands of audience members race to watch matches? Can the changes to Overwatch 2 really bring in the eSports crowd?

Overwatch as an eSport

It’s true that Overwatch already has a fairly decent following. You can play it on a professional level if you’re good enough, and loads of people already watch it religiously. In fact, places like GGBet already let you gamble on Overwatch, alongside games like Rocket League, Call of Duty and Counter-Strike. That is good company to be in.

Of course, there is always room for growth. And growth is what having a sequel – and a free-to-play one at that – will do. Perhaps temporarily. But certainly it’ll grow.

Naturally, more people will play if the barrier to entry is reduced. No matter how cheap Overwatch got, there was a set of people who would love it but would never buy it. Maybe they don’t know they would love it, maybe they’re just motivated enough to put in their credit card details. Whatever the reason, those people now only have to hit download. And some of those people will be amazing at it, and a few of them will try and go pro. Many more of them will become invested enough that they have a favourite team, or are at least willing to watch the pros battle.

But also, there’s the theory that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. When the game comes out later this year and everybody is discussing the changes, people will want to put them to the test themselves. It doesn’t matter if there isn’t enough content added to the sequel. The ‘splash’ of a new title, even a new title with mostly bad changes, will cause enough discussion to get people involved.

This is risky business. If enough people play it and it’s not where it needs to be, then it could hurt more than help. But I don’t think that’ll happen. At the very least it’ll be as serviceable as Overwatch is today. It’ll work, it’ll be fun and, again, it’ll be free.

Conclusion

If that’s the case, we’ll see a big uptick in fans when the game is launched and then it’ll settle back down to previous numbers. From there it’ll depend on new content added each season.

Is that a good strategy? It’s hard to tell. It’s basically what they’ve already been doing, and they’re hardly pulling in League of Legends numbers. But maybe that’s too optimistic. Maybe you have to accept that most games will just do what they do.

But that’s not an excuse to rest on your laurels, and I hope Blizzard have big things in store for the coming years.

 

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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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