Sometimes it’s ok to be a little late to the party. When Blizzard announced that they were going to start the Overwatch League during BlizzCon 2016, there was a palpable buzz. Everyone wanted it now, as in yesterday. When the start of the league dragged on month after month with no start in site, there was panic among the masses.
Look at them now.
The Overwatch League is hitting its stride as it closes out the last stage and streaks towards the league playoffs that will come to its conclusion July 27-28 when the Grand Finals take place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
According to the Esports Observer, viewership numbers have remained steady over the course of the season, with the exception of a small dip in Stage 3. Stage 1 saw approximately 14.4 million hours of viewership while Stage 4, before the playoff numbers have been added, is at approximately 10.1 million hours viewed.
Also, in a report by ESPN, the Overwatch League is looking to expand from 12 to a possible 16 or 18 teams for the 2019 season. If the rumblings around the scene are true, there will be no fewer than four teams added to the league. To add more veracity to the number of expansion teams headed this way, Activision Blizzard Esports Leagues president and CEO Pete Vlastelica told a German magazine that the league plans to expand to 18 teams next season. Targeted areas include Europe, the Americas, and Asia-Pacific.
According to sources at Blizzard, ticket sales have been in the tens of thousands for the 80 event days that have taken place. With the arena itself sitting 450 people, those same sources have said they have averaged better than 70% capacity over the course of the current season. While some Wednesdays and Thursdays were a bit slow, Fridays and Saturdays have typically seen sell outs.
The reality here is that Blizzard growth strategy is more in line with baking a pie rather than frying bacon. The former lasts longer and tastes great, the latter a great tasting, flash in the pan.
After this season comes to its conclusion July 28 when a Grand Finals Champion is crowned, Blizzard will in fact need to take a look back and see what worked, what didn’t, and how they are going to continue to grow.