The Overwatch League has been a huge success in 2018 far exceeded expectations from fans and analysts. However, despite the scene’s success, there seem to be problems across various sectors. Blizzard recently parted ways with two of the Overwatch League observers with reports suggesting that more people would be let go. The other factor impacting the growth of Overwatch is the lack of support for the Tier 2 scene. Low Funding, poor support for players’ benefits as well as the exodus of players and organisations presents a grim picture for Overwatch esports.
The Overwatch Tier two scene has several problems
The biggest gripe with Overwatch League was how Blizzard suffocated the esports scene prior to the OWL announcement in December 2016. The Overwatch League is obviously a grand plan with millions of dollars in investments. However, Blizzard’s choice to squeeze out third-party event organisers and the lack of support for the current Tier 2 scene is worrying.
The lack of funding for the Tier 2 scene is the single biggest issue in Overwatch. For a game that has a buy-in of anywhere between $30 to $60 million for Season 2 of Overwatch League the prize money from Contenders is simply not enough for players to make this a career. The best teams would often get a few thousand dollars as winning money and even that has to be divided between the players, the coach and the various staff.
Most of the players in Overwatch Contenders are extremely young and many of them are even in school. Pursuing a ‘Job’ which hardly pays enough money, convincing your parents to the same and actually consistently winning tournaments is a herculean task.
Player Salaries are increasing with every passing month. The players who did not make it into OWL season 2 have to face the tough question of their involvement in Overwatch as an esport. While Blizzard has not revealed details of the Player signing schedule, it will still be several months before OWL teams decide to sign new players. For an aspiring professional, this means another few months [ possibly a year ] before he can join the Overwatch League.
Overwatch Contenders needs to be sustainable as a standalone League
The lack of proper funding, the low viewership numbers and the difficulty in improvement due to lack of replays and statistics means that the only positive outcome of competing in Tier 2 / 3 scene is to become an Overwatch league Professional. For an esport which prides on allowing anyone to go professional, this is not the correct approach to strengthening their grass-roots.
Without any kind of support from Blizzard and Overwatch, there is no way in hell you can make any profits with a Tier 2 team,” said Minacov. “I am pretty sure it is [only] a matter of time before not a single organization will have a team in Overwatch, unless they are associated with an Overwatch League franchise. There [are] simply not enough revenue schemes for an [organization] to make any sort of money from Contenders.
Envision Owner, Artur ‘Minac’ Minacov
Of late, there have been a few organisations which are exiting the Overwatch League Tier 2 scene. Their departure leaves a void in the scene, especially as they had successful Overwatch rosters. Envision esports and Eagle Gaming’s departure does send a strong message to Blizzard about the Tier 2 scene. If the Grass-roots of the game does not find itself in a self-sustaining environment, the investors won’t be able to keep the top echelons running for long.
With various organisations being unable to pay their players the salaries and sometimes, even their prize money winnings players want to move up in the ladder. However, player improvement is stifled with the lack of a reliable replay feature in Overwatch. Players cannot learn from the very best in a fast-paced game without availing of their POV throughout the match.
Eagle Gaming’s failure points to lack of proper funding in Tier 2 scene
Eagle Gaming recently announced their decision to let go of all the players. However, there are financial troubles within the organisation as it failed to pay out the player salaries over multiple months. The team also did not disperse the player prize money winnings to the players.
In a statement earlier today, Eagle Gaming’s boss Xavier Calvi had this to say about the organisation’s situation.
As you may have known, our company is experiencing difficulties, aggravated by the late wages of these last months.
While we paid for several months wages between 2k + and 4.5k + net euros to the staff and players and obtained positive esport results (6 competitions played including 4 won consecutively), our investors never kept their promises. In addition, our prospective sponsors retracted because of the controversial image of FPS.
The organisation has not paid it’s players the prize money that they won. This seems to be a contractual oversight by the players. But there is one statement from the CEO of Eagle Gaming which points towards the poor financial state of the team.
Despite winning 2018 Contenders Europe Season 2, Eagle Gaming did not have enough cash funds to pay its players. The Prize money, according to Xavier Calvi would hardly cover 10% of the player salaries.
Eagle Gaming’s financial situation seems to stem from their lack of a sound business plan. They were unable to secure the promised investment leaving everyone below them in the doldrums. While they can still pursue legal action, it does not seem likely.
Retaining Tier 2 Overwatch Players should be top priority
With the lower tiers of Overwatch definitely facing problems, we will be witness to several players abandoning hope of a career in Overwatch League. With the Tier 2 scene definitely not sustainable in its present course, the exodus of players is likely. Such a situation would cripple the talent movement in the Overwatch League.
Lack of quality players in the Tier 2 scene would only push viewers away from these games. Lower viewership would entail less sponsorship and more financial troubles for teams. As we head into 2019, Blizzard needs to come up with more support for the Tier 2 scene. Former XL2 Coach, Iostux does have some positive news for the lower tier players and staff.
While we wait for Blizzcon 2018, which will hopefully see changes to Path to Pro. The new Overwatch League teams are already signing new players to their rosters. There will be eight new Overwatch league teams for Season 2, taking the total to 20 teams. These new teams include several from China widening the reach of the Overwatch League. The Overwatch World Cup 2018 will take place on the sidelines of Blizzcon 2018 in November.