Blizzard’s massively popular multiplayer shooter Overwatch transcended beautifully into the eSports scene, as the Overwatch League launch lived up the hype.
After a franchise fee controversy last year and the eventual introduction of the inaugural 12 teams, Overwatch League Season 1 is finally under way.
It was unclear how the eSports crowd will receive the Overwatch League, but its launch day showed significant promise. On its opening day, the peak number of viewers for the Overwatch League on Twitch reached over 415,000, according a tweet by the streaming service’s Director of Content Marketing, Ben Goldhaber.
Goldhaber added that the number was much higher than expected, and it does not yet even include the viewers watching the Overwatch League’s first day on Chinese streaming services or through MLG streams.
Ever since the announcement of the Overwatch League, one of the major criticisms against it was whether it would be easy for viewers to understand what was going on in the matches. For people new to Overwatch or to eSports in general, the fast-paced multiplayer shooter’s switching characters and changing objectives might be too hard to follow.
However, as PCGamer’s Damian Alonzo described it, the Overwatch League is “unlike anything we’ve ever seen” and “a major leap in the evolution of eSports.” Front and center for this distinction is the Blizzard Arena Los Angeles, where the matches take place. Located in Burbank, California, the production value of the venue is what you would expect from traditional sports, not eSports.
The mission to make the Overwatch League resemble the spectacle of traditional sports is probably the most important thing in maintaining its popularity. As run down by Forbes’ Paul Tassi, the franchises being linked to cities, with real names and logos, makes teams look more legitimate. Tassi added that, while there are sponsors, their brands do not overwhelm the players’ jerseys nor the rest of the production.
Also adding to the amazing overall production are the Overwatch League skins, which outfit the Overwatch heroes with the team colors of the Overwatch League teams. These give matches a more professional look, and, combined with the spectator tools that Blizzard has rolled out, make it easier for viewers to follow the action.
In addition, there is already intrigue in the Overwatch League just after its first day of matches. Byung-sun “Fleta” Kim of Seoul Dynasty, which beat the Dallas Fuel in an entertaining match, waved off early claims that he is the best DPS player. Kim said that he believes Jacob Lyon of the Houston Outlaws is the best player in the Overwatch League, so it will be interesting to see what happens when their two teams face off for the first time.