Could Overwatch be the game that puts eSports on the mainstream map? Is ditching the deathmatch a masterstroke? Or will the new FPS fail to make a serious impact?
With Overwatch’s open beta in full swing – and the full May 24th launch a few weeks away – eSports News UK explores how Blizzard’s new FPS could change the UK scene.
Overwatch has all the ingredients to really shake-up competitive gaming.
When Blizzard Entertainment first showed off the game a year and a half ago, CEO Mike Morhaime said his goal was to create “an awesome FPS experience that’s more accessible to a much wider audience, while delivering the action and depth that shooter fans love”. All the signs show Blizzard is on track to reach its goal.
Its charming cartoon-like graphics style is more TimeSplitters than it is Call of Duty, and the game places an emphasis on teamwork over straight-up deathmatches, setting it apart from the likes of Counter-Strike.
Each character has their own unique skills and ultimate ability, like League of Legends, while the Escort, Assault and Control modes make for some exciting 6v6 player experiences.
For the uninitiated, while it’s arguably more fun to watch than say League of Legends, its ability to succeed as a spectator eSport has been questioned.
— Scott Smith (@SirScoots) May 5, 2016
Despite this, with the Season 3 ESL UK Premiership now over, some UK League of Legends pros have turned their attention to Overwatch.
Others acted early. Back in November 2015, former Choke Gaming top-laner Seb “numlocked” Barton quit the pro League scene for Overwatch. He now plays for Creation Esports’ team.
Who knows? Overwatch’s style may also pull other Team Fortress 2 pros out of the woodwork and back into eSports.
Recently, veteran UK League of Legends pros Jamie “Tundra” Duthie and Billy “Nutri” Wragg have been playing the game. Nutri in particular has been putting a lot of hours into it – as of May 7th he has played 330 Overwatch matches since the open beta release, and says he has never grinded that hard in a game before.
He’s also building a competitive team with Tundra:
1-2 more spots potentially open for a very serious overwatch team on launch – req: master LoL/global Csgo/2k+ hours tf2 ^any of these — Billy Wragg (@NutriLoL) April 26, 2016
We understand these positions have now been filled, with Nutri and Tundra being joined by a mix of former Counter-Strike and Quake pros.
Tundra said: “Overwatch is very good. Good casual, good competitive – and it brings a good mix of raw aim, teamwork, strategy and diversity.”
The likes of Nutri and Kieran “xL Keys” John have told eSports News UK they think they’ve left League of Legends for good. Reaction to League’s upcoming mid-season mage update (Patch 6.9), including changes to the Dragon and Ability Power items, has been mixed.
Meanwhile, the hype around Overwatch is stretching beyond the players. Casters and other eSports experts are getting caught up in the excitement.
ESL UK’s Joe “Munchables” Fenny is now the self-proclaimed ‘Jesus of Widowmaker’, while veteran caster Paul “ReDeYe” Chaloner has been tweeting about the game for months.
Overwatch is also catching the attention of senior video game industry executives. Google director Ryan Wyatt, who runs the YouTube Gaming streaming and video business, has asked his Twitter followers what they think of the title.
Multiplay’s Insomnia58 gaming event in August will feature an Overwatch tournament for the first time, complete with a £5,000 prize pool.
It’s likely just a matter of time before other organisers embrace the game.
ESL UK has had a successful inaugural HearthStone Premiership, with the finals taking place at London Comic Con later this month, and with its brand spanking new ESL Studio 1 in Leicester, may be thinking about covering other popular games like Overwatch in the future.
Gfinity also has a host of game tournaments under its belt, and it’d be great to see Overwatch played on the big screen at its cinema-turned-gaming arena in London.
Around the world, new eSports organisations and pro Overwatch teams are forming, like North American-based Rogue, which has signed some of the game’s biggest names such as Swedish player Kevyn “TviQ” Lindström.
Other more established eSports organisations such as G2, Cloud9, Luminosity and Team Liquid are embracing Overwatch with their own pro gaming teams.
With the Overwatch Reddit and competitive Overwatch Reddit pages abuzz with players and fans, this could be the start of something big.
One to watch.
Dom is an award-winning writer who graduated from Bournemouth University with a 2:1 degree in Multi-Media Journalism in 2007.
A keen League of Legends and World of Warcraft player, he has written for a range of publications including GamesTM, Nintendo Official Magazine, industry publication MCV as well as Riot Games and others. He works as full-time content director for the British Esports Association and runs ENUK in his spare time.