Overwatch and eSports

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The launch of Blizzard’s anticipated title, Overwatch, is a week away. Players who pre-purchased the game already have access to the final phase of closed beta, with an open beta to follow this week. Blizzard’s entry in the FPS world has been a lengthy process, with Overwatch being the culmination of many discussions over the years.

Last weekend at PAX East, Blizzard and Overwatch made a big splash, from community competitions, live streams and cosplay including cars.

Tracer

The community tournament gave us our first taste of what’s to come for competitive Overwatch, and although nothing has been announced yet, Nate Nanzer, Global Director for Overwatch eSports, held back his excite in a short interview with TGN.

Nate Nanzer has extensive experience in quantitive research, and has in the past worked for other developers and publishers such as EA, 2K, Microsoft, and more. He’s right in saying that him being part of the team is proof that Blizard are taking Overwatch’s eSports potential seriously, but what does the future hold?

It’s no Team Fortress 2

Overwatch is unlike any team shooter. Many drew comparisons to Team Fortress 2 upon beta release, but it’s really so much more. It has a slightly more casual edge, yet staying competitive even at the slowest of times. There’re very few issues with its competitive capability, but if other Blizzard eSports titles are anything to go by, I wouldn’t be getting too excited, yet.

Take a look at Heroes of The Storm. Upon release it was a hit. Tournament are still frequent, but the game lacks crucial updates and balance fixes, and has really become a shell of a potentially great MOBA. Blizzard are great at creating different games, giving them their own flavour, but what they’re bad at is maintaining some sort of competitive edge, and this seems to be a more recent issue.

It has happened in World of Warcraft PvP, Starcraft II, and Heroes of The Storm. Hearthstone stands out, as it’s a money sink for Blizzard and updates are frequent – but when standing on the outside looking in, you realize that the other titles, with great potential, are becoming more and more stagnant competitively.

This is a rational fear to have when considering the competitive future of Overwatch, but with someone like Nate Nanzer on the team, you can hold on to any glimpse of hope there is.

While playing the beta, and chatting to friends who gave it a competitive go with teams from Europe, I began to notice just how stagnant it could become. Like most games which involve some sort of meta, the options for hero combinations become slim as a few become more prevalent than others. Strategies seem up in the air at the moment, but on certain maps it’s clear that set strats are what’s needed to win the game.

This is the case for many competitive titles, but there always has to be room for that Hail Mary play, the upset. Overwatch has those moments, but they’re far and in  between. Overwatch is, through and through, a team based shooter, and really you’re only as strong as your weakest link. I feel the game leaves very little room for individual play, similarly to how Dota 2 and League of Legends compare to Heroes of the Storm. You can have an amazing game, single-handedly taking down the entire team, but unless your team is there to back you up, your performance alone will seldom win you the game, especially not when playing against a competent opponent.

Needless to say the future of Overwatch eSports looks bright… for now.

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Last Updated: May 3, 2016

Kyle Wolmarans

Critical Hit's esports guy. I talk about esports and drink whiskey. I also write and cast for elsewhere - but my work here is independent of that.

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