3 Words: Big, Bright, and Bullies
Overwatch has set the standard as an engaging fps for players of all ability levels. Yet Overwatch struggles to maintain balance between its ambitions of being a trend-setting fps and being an engaging and welcoming gaming community.
Big – Overwatch League: The Goal of Global Domination
Overwatch doesn’t want to be just another shooter. Blizzard has set its sites on creating America’s first premiere first person shooter (fps) gaming league. Overwatch League is an official professional gaming league specifically for Overwatch. This isn’t just for glory, this is for serious money. The professional e-sport is getting rolling, backed by major funders such as Robert Kraft of the NFL’s New England Patriots.
The company producing Overwatch, Blizzard Entertainment, is the company behind such massive successes as:
- Call of Duty (has brought in more than $10 billion as a franchise)
- World of Warcraft
- Starcraft (with one of the longest running e-sport tournament histories to date: 2002)
- Heroes of the Storm
- and the highly addictive Candy Crush Saga (which brings in $630,000 a day)
Blizzard is sort of the gaming community version of the Most Interesting Man in the World: They don’t make a lot of games, but when they do they dominate the market: Their market cap as of September 2017 was $47 billion.
Bright – Powerful Backstory: Overwatch Animated Shorts
One of the more engaging parts of Overwatch is that they’ve painstakingly built the backstory of the characters over the last two years. The primary method of lore-building has been digital shorts. One of my personal favorites is one for a character named Bastion. In seven minutes you will feel like you’ve been through an entire Pixar movie:
Bullies – The Struggle for Competitive Balance
E-sports are here to stay, and their rise has been explosive. Since 2012, the revenue from e-sports has tripled. Yet games like Overwatch struggle with how to raise and train their professional teams. Often the answer has been to setup their games to filter out strong players. Algorithms analyze wins and player strength, rank players accordingly, and the best of the best have the opportunity to go pro.
However, the problem with this is that young gamers play the exact same competitive rounds as those who have dreams of one day going pro. This is the video game equivalent of high school football players getting reps with YMCA youth players. It is common for competitive gamers to get upset, and to verbalize that frustration colorfully to others.
Setting the Standard
Overwatch is big, it’s bright, and it is responsible for its bullies. Blizzard is positioned to succeed where other games like League of Legend failed: Create gaming communities that is competitive, safe and fun. Without intentional effort, competitive gaming will continue to be toxic, hateful, and spawn more Tyler 1s.
Overwatch must take intentional steps to support their young gamers while setting the pace for professional gaming. This is a tough balance to strike. Overwatch is the perfect game to succeed.