The 2019 season of Overwatch League is quickly coming to an end. There is one week of regular season play left and after that the play-ins start. The top two teams from there join the top six teams in the season playoffs.
Since its inception last year, the Overwatch League has had its fair share of ups and downs. Throughout all that, the scope of the league and the way it models itself after other major sports leagues has been a revelation in the esports industry that is banking on its potential to last for years to come. Because of Overwatch League's set up and what inspired it, the league has set itself apart from other esports scenes and has attempted to reach a wider and more diverse fan base than was ever thought possible.
Inspired By The Best
Professional sports leagues are some of the biggest industries in the world. Players can make an absurd amount of money just by playing a game that they love and millions of fans get to experience the triumphs and despairs of the game as their favorite teams and players compete. The NFL, NBA, and MLB are easily the three biggest professional sports leagues in the United States and presumably in the world. Stadiums, arenas, and parks are sold out across the nation for these games and players are superstars.
The fans make all this success possible, because without them these leagues couldn't thrive the way that they do. Sports fans are a special type of people, dedicated (down to their very core) to teams and players and cherish them at the utmost level possible. The Overwatch League understands this model of success and designed its league with many of these major sports leagues in mind.
If It Isn't Broken...
Overwatch League did something that wasn't the standard for the competitive esports industry. The teams in Overwatch League are associated with locations throughout the United States and the world such as; Los Angeles, Dallas, New York, Philadelphia, Seoul, Paris, Shanghai, and more. Like major sports league, the Overwatch League understands the importance of having teams represent a city or a country. Fans can place an identity in their hometown teams and have the pride that goes along with that.
Unlike those sports leagues, though, Overwatch League is a global one with the idea to expand across the entire world. The first two seasons of the league were played primarily in Blizzard Arena in Los Angeles, but for the 2020 Overwatch League season, the league is going to be played in the team's hometowns. This is what they have been planning for and an important step in the evolution of the league. Fans in these cities and countries have been anxiously waiting for this moment and the 2020 season will be an important milestone, not only for the league, but for the esports industry as a whole.
You can't have a league without the players. It's actually impossible. Professional sports leagues thrive on the superstar players. They make the game exciting. There's nothing quite like watching the best players in the world at their given sport, playing that sport. The Overwatch League understands that and highlights the importance of the players and the superstars of the league.
The inclusion of the season awards by Overwatch League is a prime example of taking some fun qualities from other sports league. The MVP award, All-Stars, and Finals MVP are all awards fans love to see and being a part of the voting process gives the sense of inclusion with the fans and the league as a whole.
Another concept that isn't prevalent in the esports scene is the break in the game throughout the year. In sports like the NFL, NBA, and MLB, the season only goes on for so long during the year and the break between the end of the current season and the next season is one that builds anticipation with fans. It gives everyone something to look forward to each season. It becomes a can't miss type of phenomenon when the new season starts.
The play-offs are the most exciting time to be a sports fan. The entire season has been building up to this moment and the best teams in the league finally get the chance to truly become the champions. The Overwatch League understands the excitement of the play-offs and what even making the play-offs can mean for a team, their fans, and the city as a collective.
Building For The Future
With the Overwatch League coming to the team's hometowns next season, it's looking to place the cornerstones of a strong and prosperous future. The league understands that it needs to continuously evolve to reach the highest amount of fans as possible. Only through them can the league stick around. Throughout the first two seasons of the Overwatch League, the pool of teams has already expanded from 12 the first season to 20 this season. These new teams allowed for more fans to come into the league than ever before. While the 2020 season won't expand to even more teams, a possible 28 team league should be the number they are aiming for in the next couple of years. More teams equal more revenue and the potential to continue to build a thriving fan base.
Deals with Twitch, ESPN, and Disney help bring the Overwatch League to fans everywhere and the plethora of big names sponsors, like Toyota, will help provide opportunities for the league to continue to expand and sustain in the future. The league is built to last and if the higher ups continue to make the right moves, Overwatch League can be something that thrives for many years.
Overwatch League has taken the best and most exciting aspects of professional sports leagues and modeled its own league around those. They understand how to engage the fan base and highlight the importance of location-specific teams and superstar players. The Overwatch League will continue to evolve until they get it just right, but the first two seasons prove that they are more than capable of doing that.