November 8, 2023
The Overwatch League (OWL) has come to an end after six seasons. Activision Blizzard, the publisher of Overwatch, has announced that they are transitioning from the Overwatch League and taking competitive Overwatch in a new direction. While this marks the end of OWL, Blizzard is not completely pulling out of Overwatch esports.
In July, Activision Blizzard laid off around 50 esports staff and revealed that after the 2023 season, OWL team owners would vote on whether to continue with the league. If teams chose to opt out, they would receive a termination fee of $6 million. However, it is unclear whether the vote has taken place and what the results were.
The Toronto Defiant, one of the OWL teams, has confirmed that it is leaving the league. OverActive Media, the owner of the team, announced that it had ended its team participation agreement and would receive a $6 million termination payment. Despite leaving the league, OverActive Media plans to stay involved in Overwatch esports.
The Chengdu Hunters, another OWL team, did not participate in the 2023 season after Blizzard games were shut down in China. The team announced its departure from OWL during the year.
OWL has faced numerous challenges and controversies that may have contributed to its demise. The original vision of a global home-and-away league format was not realized, as matches were initially held in a studio in California. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the league to shift to an online-only format, preventing teams from generating live event revenue.
Additionally, OWL has struggled with viewership and sponsors dropping out. The recent sexual harassment and discrimination scandal at Activision Blizzard may have further impacted the league's reputation and viability.
The end of the Overwatch League marks a significant shift in the competitive Overwatch landscape. While the league may be over, Blizzard remains committed to revitalizing esports in the future. The departure of teams and the challenges faced by OWL serve as a reminder of the complexities and uncertainties in the world of esports. As the industry evolves, it is crucial to address issues and adapt to ensure the long-term success of competitive gaming.
Haruki Nakamura, affectionately termed "DataSensei" within the Esports universe, is EsportRanker's resident data wizard. Seamlessly merging his love for Esports with his knack for research, he provides insights and analysis that propel the industry forward.