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Overwatch's eSports Journey

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With the beta testing period behind us now and with the game out and about, how exactly is Blizzard's Overwatch shaping up from an eSports perspective? Despite its tender age, the game already has quite a journey to look back upon in this respect. Its eSports trials and tribulations began a long time ago (and by that I mean ~the end of October, last year, when the closed beta version of the game was released and when tournament action essentially began as soon as gamers had something to work with game-wise. The very first Overwatch tournament took place in early November, in the shape of a small invitational which drew 8 teams. This first event exposed a number of issues with the game, and although they made the community seem overly critical at that time, every one of those issues - from graphics to hero balance - were proven legitimate indeed. The biggest issue that had reared its head by that time was the fact that very few people/players were interested in watching others play. Rather, everyone was interested in playing. Indeed, as it turned out, Overwatch was not an easy game to watch.

 

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Fishstix's Invitational, held later in November, was more successful from this point of view. The stopwatch mode turned out to be a success indeed, though problems with the spectator client persisted. Towards the end of the close beta, most of these problems had been remedied though, so the game offered a much smoother spectator experience. Still, according to many, there remains room for improvement in the spectator interface to this day.

Overwatch's beta period was extremely prolific tournaments-wise. Besides the above said two events, GosuGamers held a weekly, right up until the beta testing period went on a break from the middle of December to the middle of February. In the end, everything accounted for, the open and closed beta of the game saw some 67 tournaments, which is a handsome number indeed, and which obviously contributed to the hype and eventual success of the game, not only directly,  but by providing material for streamers, writers, content creators, casters as well as sponsors. During the betas, some 9.7 million players played Overwatch, so there was obviously no shortage of interest to begin with. Where Blizzard takes the eSports side of the game now is more or less entirely up to them. All we can do is hope the game won't go the way of Starcraft II and that it will indeed become a popular and reliable eSports platform.

 

Pete Wassenberg works for eSports white label solutions-provider Gosumedia.net.

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