The Future of eSports and The OWL
"I ate taco bell while I wrote this"
Written by Jodem
Watching the Overwatch World Cup has had me thinking a lot about the Overwatch League lately. I know I’ve had a few discussions with people here and there, and people hesitate to be excited about the OWL because of how little information Blizzard has given out about it so far. I also think people are balking at the fact that the buy in for an OWL team is a hot $20 million and many established esports teams have pulled out, but I think Blizzard is trying to pave the way for a beautiful future where esports are just as important and recognized as traditional sports.
There is some huge money in esports. DOTA 2 currently has a $24 million prize pool for The International 2017 (and nearly $11 million of that is going toward first place!), League of Legends’ 2016 World Championship was a $5 million prize pool… and so on (source). At least with DOTA 2, each player likely gets around $2 million each… The 2017 Super Bowl only left each player for the New England Patriots with $107,000 (source)... Of course, that’s not counting their $41 million contracts (I’m looking at you, Tom Brady). And then you realize Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, has just bought the Boston Overwatch League team, and it starts to dawn on you that maybe this could be a real thing.
I remember watching the first SMITE World Championship back in January 2015. SMITE was the first online, competitive game I’d really had any interest in, and I was completely and utterly hooked. I remember talking with my friends about which players and teams I liked most (dig4dig!), getting excited and wanting to support my teams. For the 2016 SMITE World Championship, my roommate and I had a watch party where we ordered pizza and got our friends to come over to watch with us… And that’s when I realized, “What makes this any different than my dad’s Super Bowl parties?”
The truth is… not much. You can still get invested in players, teams, and big games just as much as you can with physical sports. You can still have parties with your friends with beer and homemade bar food or pizza while you all scream at the television in frustration or elation.
So what does this mean? Well, esports are already being considered for the 2024 Olympics in Paris; Olympic officials realize that adding a few esports to the Olympics would get younger generations interested in watching the Olympics (which, let’s be honest, means more money in their pockets from advertisements and merchandise). People are starting to take esports seriously, and this is something gamers everywhere should be excited about. It means more teams, more tournaments, and more chances for gamers around the world to benefit… Some colleges are already offering scholarships for League of Legends players, allowing student gamers the same chances as traditional student athletes.
I think this is something a lot of people are struggling with, and I don’t think enough people are giving Blizzard enough credit for everything they’re trying to do with the OWL. Eventually, I think we’re going to start seeing esports regularly on their own ESPN channel (hell, they already have a few on there!), and I think it’s something gamers should be excited for. Blizzard has made a few mistakes with running professional Overwatch tournaments, but I think if they’re putting that effort toward OWL, the next few years are going to show incredible changes in esports.