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"Never accept the world as it appears to be. Dare to see it for what it could be." Overwatch lives by that phrase, originally coined by the original Dr. Harold Winston during one of the game's animated shorts, and with Blizzard betting so big on the ambitious Overwatch League, they're also willing to die by it.
In case you're unfamiliar, Blizzard is attempting to create what is essentially the NFL of Overwatch. Cities from around the globe will have teams that will draft players who participate in a combine and sign contracts. Then they will compete in a regular season, where the top teams with move on to the post-season and fight over the League Championship. It's a pie-in-the-sky proposal with no precedent on which to work, as current eSports leagues are vastly dissimilar to the model proposed for the Overwatch League. As an Overwatch fan, I want it to succeed, but it could easily fail. Regardless, though, this is the kind of ambition gaming needs.
Meeting the time frame is likely going to be their biggest hurdle. The announcement video seen above says 2017. We're almost a full quarter into 2017 by now, and Blizzard is still hiring for key positions on the Overwatch League team, including Head of Marketing, Head of PR and Senior Finance Manager, all things I'm not sure they can go with out.
But regardless of whether or not it arrives on time or a little later as many are predicting, it still has some obstacles to overcome. Namely, the existing nature of eSports leagues and tournaments seems to directly compete with the Overwatch League. Not only is there the issue of oversaturation that could easily occur given the number of Overwatch tournaments already in play, including events at MLG, but there's also the issue of getting the players. Right now, the best players are already under contract with big-name private teams, who I'm guessing will be reluctant to hand out their players to other leagues that don't make them money.
But if it does end up floundering and eventually closing down, or if it never starts up in the first place, I worry people will learn the wrong lesson, which is not to try something like this, not to have the kind of ambition that drives the Overwatch League. The truth is that every great innovation that has befallen gaming came with the same exact leap of faith, and it's a positive sign that Blizzard isn't content with the status quo.
The whole idea of eSports was ridiculous even earlier in my adulthood, and now it's fast becoming a billion-dollar industry, with even more room to grow, as people still don't quite take it seriously.
Not only that, eSports needs the structure that the Overwatch League seeks to provide. There are so many different organizations and so many different tournaments, that it's hardly accessible to even the most dedicated gamers. There's no clear schedule as to where someone can find an eSports competition, and each tournament is essentially a one-off, where players go, compete, win or lose and then move on. It's like a series of NFL post-seasons with different teams, stakes, organizers and places to watch each time. It's dizzying.
The Overwatch League would centralize the best professional Overwatch action, making it more accessible to the masses. This project would not only improve eSports, but it would improve the landscape of gaming in general by giving others a roadmap to success. Even upon a failure, people can see where they went wrong and do differently.