The Overwatch World League’s first round smashes it out of the park

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The much anticipated Overwatch World League kicked off early this morning (2am South African time) and already looks like it’s going to be a massive success.

The round started off with the San Francisco Shock taking on the LA Valiant. I didn’t get to watch the first two matches due to their early starting time, but the Valiant took the match 4-0. After which the much-hyped Shangai Dragons took on the LA Gladiators and the Gladiators also ran out 4-0 victors showing that Los Angeles may indeed be the new centre of the esports universe.

In the last match of the day two of the expected big hitters in the league went head to head with the Dallas Fuel taking on the Seoul Dynasty and neither side disappointed with the Fuel being seconds away from taking an incredible Temple of Anubis round into the third set of overtime after both teams steamrolled on attack twice. A massive surprise as Temple of Anubis is known as a defending map.

With Dallas already leading 1-0 thanks to a win on Junkertown this was a body blow with Seoul then taking the upper hand, and even though Dallas fought admirably on Numbani; Seoul were good enough to hold out for a draw and take the round 2-1.

However it wasn’t the great matches that really showed off the League – we expected that from the great players who have been signed up – but rather the professionalism of the production, the quality of the commentators and the fantastic updates to the viewing public where easy to understand. Stats were shown in-screen, replays of incredible plays were possible and the top down views used often to showcase the real strategies of the teams.

All that work by Blizzard was definitely not in vain either, as the Twitch viewing figures topped 350 000 whilst I was watching. Now granted that’s not even close to the top esports viewership with the League of Legends 2016 World Championship reportedly topping out at 14.7 million concurrent viewers. But for a first-round match in a new game in the esports world, 350k ranks it around the 20th most watched esports event ever. Not bad at all for a tournament that pretty much no one in Europe or Africa could watch due to the timezones. Something I’m sure we are going to be seeing Blizzard boast about in the very near future.

But big numbers are pretty much impossible to really understand so to put them into context 350 000 people is the equivalent of 5.5 fully packed Ellis Park stadiums, 3.7 fully packed FNB Stadiums or 3.5 Michigan Stadiums (the largest stadium outside of North Korea).

In comparison to traditional sports TV viewership the Premier League, whose TV rights last sold for 5 Billion Pounds, has an average TV viewership of 819 000 per match. The Championship, which also has million Pound salaries, has an average viewership of around 370k. While the much-loved Super Rugby series does very well with an average of around 800k viwers.

The OWL has been derided by a large number of existing esports fans but I think it’s probably time for them to take a step back and see that Blizzard may indeed be bringing their favourite pastime, esports, into the mainstream and that is good for everyone.

Oh and before I forget, in many of the rounds I watched it was amazing Widowmaker play that sealed the win for the teams. But before you go and choose Widowmaker in your ranked play check your rank. If you are below Diamond you can’t play Widowmaker. No seriously, if you had the skills to play as Widowmaker you would be in Diamond, and above all of us below Diamond don’t have the mechanical ability to play as our favourite vixen. Just don’t do it, please.

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Last Updated: January 11, 2018

Gavin Mannion

I for one welcome our future robotic overlords

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