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Overwatch League Shutdown Vote: The End of an Era in Esports

Overwatch League Shutdown Vote: The End of an Era in Esports

After six years of operating the most expensive esports league ever, Activision Blizzard prepares for a potential shutdown of the Overwatch League. A vote among team owners is underway to decide the future of the city-based franchise format. This article examines the history and significance of the Overwatch League in the esports industry, and explores the reasons for the potential shutdown and its impact on the industry and fans.

The Rise of Overwatch League

Overwatch League, launched in 2018, took the esports world by storm with its city-based franchise format, drawing inspiration from traditional sports leagues. It quickly gained popularity with fans, teams, and sponsors, with significant investments from traditional sports owners. However, this acclaim has not been enough to guarantee its survival.

A Vote to Discontinue

The shutdown vote comes after Activision Blizzard Esports presented a path-forward plan to the 20 Overwatch League franchises in early October. Team owners are now expected to vote on whether to continue or dissolve the league. Sources familiar with the discussions revealed that the majority of the teams are likely to vote for the league’s discontinuation.

If the vote goes as expected, Activision Blizzard will pay a total of $120 million in compensation, with each team receiving $6 million, after the teams had initially spent more than $7.5 million apiece in franchise fees and operating costs since 2017. Some of the affected franchises, owned by traditional sports owners, may decide to leave the esports scene entirely.

The Importance of Overwatch League

The Overwatch League has played a significant role in placing esports on the map as a mainstream entertainment option, with numerous partnerships and broadcasting deals. Its shutdown would undoubtedly leave a void that might be difficult to fill. On the other hand, it may also serve as a lesson for the esports industry as it evolves and recalibrates its business models in the future.

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Preparing for the Future

Activision Blizzard is already preparing to contract with the Saudi Arabian state-owned ESL FACEIT Group to run the 2024 Overwatch season, effectively dissolving the Overwatch League. Plans for the new-look Overwatch League remain unclear, but it may transition to an open-circuit system, similar to the earlier esports model that preceded the franchise league.

Notably, negotiations between ESL FACEIT Group and Activision Blizzard began before the shutdown vote among existing Overwatch League team owners, underscoring internal doubts that the teams would vote to continue.

Impact on the Industry and Fans

The potential shutdown of the Overwatch League has raised concerns in the esports community, given its immense popularity and influence. It forces a reevaluation of the industry’s challenges, such as sustainability and marketability, warranting a more cautious approach in the future. Fans, on the other hand, may face uncertainty and disappointment in the wake of the League’s dissolution.

As the Overwatch League reaches a critical juncture, all stakeholders must attentively weigh their options moving forward. With the industry’s future at stake, lessons from the League’s evolution will prove invaluable in reshaping the world of esports and ensuring a thriving ecosystem for competitors, investors, and fans alike.

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