The moment that the gaming world has been waiting for ever since it was announced at BlizzCon back in November 2016 has arrived – Blizzard Entertainment’s eagerly anticipated Overwatch League is finally up and running.
Arguably the eSports world’s brightest new hope absolute global domination, the competition has attracted a lot of attention in recent months for a number of reasons including its format of using city-based teams in a manner reminiscent of traditional sports like the NFL or MLS. It has also developed serious star power too, with the likes of Shaquille O’Neal and even Jennifer Lopez known to have invested in the competitors involved in the event.
Considering all of the hype, it is unsurprising that now it has launched attention has turned to whether it is proving a hit with gamers. With this in mind, a big focus has been put on its streaming performance.
Of course, the ability to stream video has had a huge impact on many areas of our lives – just ask the millions using Netflix or Amazon Video for instance. However, it has particularly played an important part in gaming in its various forms for a number of years now, whether it has been to simply watch top performers in action or had a use as part of playing a game. For example, only a few years ago there was lots of buzz around online casinos and how they were using such technology to create ‘live dealer’-style experiences in which players could participate in games controlled by a real-life dealer.
Streaming has also had a major role in bringing eSports to its avid fanbase, with Twitch undoubtedly being the go-to brand when it comes to watching top gaming action. Considering how huge the service is, it was not exactly surprising to see the recent confirmation that Twitch would carry livestreams of all Overwatch League matches in its capacity as the ‘exclusive worldwide third-party provider’. According to Blizzard Entertainment COO Armin Zera, the decision was made in order to “drive significant viewership” in the competition’s first season – so how is it faring so far?
It remains very early days, but the signs are promising. According to estimates, the first day of action saw streams reach more than 415,000 viewers. Such figures would be impressive enough on their own but as PCGamesN point out, they do not include results for either Chinese viewers or those watching on the official phone app or MLG stream. When all of this is taken into account, the final number could well have been significantly higher.
While the initial figures for Overwatch League are hugely positive and will no doubt be welcomed by Blizzard, there should, of course, be a word of caution that interest was inevitably going to be high as the action first got underway. The key will undoubtedly be for the competition to maintain such streaming figures and, if it can achieve that, we could well be looking at a competition with the potential to push eSports right into the mainstream.