Overwatch League preseason begins in just over a week. The teams are set with rosters, logos, and a very intense schedule, yet there are still some unanswered questions. Blizzard has reportedly asked a high price of teams and a ton has gone on behind the scenes, but there are still questions remaining even as we go into the first season.
How much traditional sports can you put into esports?
You have two fan bases, the hardcore esports fans and well, everyone else. According to surveys there are about 148 million esports enthusiasts out here. There are millions of Overwatch players and Nate Nanzer said the goal of the League is to have every player be a fan. If you look at the philosophy, a lot of traditional sports techniques are being used to build up this league. Buy-ins from top sports franchises have made national headlines, but will this bring in the audience? As baseball fans age up (the average baseball fan age is 53 according to surveys), will they even care about a video game sport? Will cities rally around their teams like they do with football or basketball? Time will tell. With generations changing though, it seems like drawing in traditional sports fans may not work. So why are so many traditional sports techniques being used to promote the league instead of roping in the millions of gamers out there? Which leads to our next question.
Can OWL win over a casual fan?
The game is complex and lightning fast. The League has an exhausting schedule. Shout casters cater to the hardcore. Almost no marketing has gone into the casual audience, yet. So, the question here, can they win casual fans? This past weekend during the college football games I saw a few ads for Overwatch. That may be a good start, but is research being done on who is watching college football and who is playing video games? How much of a crossover really exists? Hardcore fans may go on Twitch, but a lot of the esports demographic hit up Youtube. Finally you have to look at the buy in for a fan. A game which is complex, global players with language barriers representing cities they are not from, and actually getting them to watch a full game. How do you pull this off?
Will people tune into the L.A. time zone?
Europe suffers the most here. As a London Spitfire fan what are you going to do? Also, you’re team has a solid shot at winning with top talent from Korea. Let that idea sink in for a bit. In season one all games are played in L.A. Matches run weekly 4 days a week. That is a lot of games. If your team is playing twice a week how are you going to watch them? Especially on weekdays. Some people work, or have school, or even the younger audience is at the height of their school year. How will you watch? The answer here is to make games available everywhere. If Blizzard harnesses live streaming to the fullest and does not follow any guidelines making all games viewable for free at all times, they should win this battle. Still, you have a lot of different time zones focusing on California. You want a strong viewership in your local markets, but will they get there?
When will the marketing begin?
This one has been on everyone’s minds. When will the big marketing push begin? Preseason is in less than two weeks. Some ads have run on Disney XD during showings of old World Cup and Contenders matches. Yet, we have not seen a massive push. So, where is it? Will we see a Super Bowl ad? My guess is yes we will. If you are convincing top teams to buy into this league at $20 million, you have to cover all your bases. Hit everyone everywhere and find viewers. We do expect marketing to push hard in January right before the season begins. We will see how it ads up over the weeks to come, see what I did there?
How will teams maintain a 2 game a week schedule when they have to travel across the globe?
Season 2, Stage 2, Week 3, you are playing in London on Wednesday and San Fran on Friday. Then on Thursday you have a game in Seoul and Friday a game in Florida. Brain fried, Zenyatta’s meditation is not helping, and you are a wreck. This is a huge question for the league. Once teams move into their local markets, how the heck are they going to maintain this schedule? This could be the single biggest question no one has addressed yet. How will teams maintain normal travel and competition on a global scale throughout the season? With Shanghai, London, and Seoul in the mix, it is going to be a tough puzzle to put together. We have not even considered the other teams who might be added to the League after season one. How can this be done with such a tight schedule?