With the Overwatch 2 release date right around the corner, and the end of the 2022 Overwatch League season in sight, fans of Blizzard’s hero shooter and the esports scene built up around it are certainly curious about what’s next – and we can imagine quite a few pro players are wondering that, too. It’s far too early for any sort of official announcement on the future of the OWL, but that hasn’t stopped people talking about it – us included. So, during the recent Valorant Champions 2022 tournament, we spoke to Alex ‘Goldenboy’ Mendez – who worked as a host and caster with the OWL and Overwatch World Cup for several years – about what he thinks Blizzard needs to do to see this esports scene return to its former glory.
While Goldenboy did admit that he doesn’t know the inner workings of the Overwatch League anymore on account of it being roughly two years since he worked with Blizzard on Overwatch esports, he did offer some interesting insight into where the developer is going wrong and what it could do to improve things.
Firstly, as cliché as it sounds, Goldenboy believes that the OWL needs to go “back to basics” and back to “endemic [organisations]” in an effort to improve brand recognition and fan engagement with the pros and the teams they play for.
“I look at what Halo is doing, what Valorant is doing… Even what League of Legends is doing, and I would like to see [OWL] go back to endemic orgs… I would like to see them go away from city-based teams.”
Goldenboy explains that, even though this would work in a perfect world, it’s a “tough sell” when you don’t have recognizable brands and organisations playing and competing in your esports league – which doesn’t help the Overwatch League. He continues to explain that Blizzard should “let Dallas Fuel be OpTic” and “Excelsior be their own brand” not tied to a location to build on this.
Having these teams tied to locations and reportedly not allowed to host any sort of third party events is “closing them off to the rest of the industry”, something that Goldenboy believes is “a really short-sighted move” from Blizzard and the OWL organisers.
This isn’t the only thing Goldenboy thinks is hampering the success of the Overwatch League going forwards, though. He also believes that the OWL’s second tier and supporting leagues, like Overwatch Contenders and Overwatch Challengers, isn’t up to the standard needed to support the talent pool required to keep the first-tier OWL competitive.
“I’ve been very vocal about this from the absolute beginning… Blizzard kneecap themselves in their tier two scenes… [Overwatch Challengers] wasn’t up to the standards that the game needed in order to sustain the talent pool that it needed long term.”
With one former OWL coach labelling the switch from Twitch to YouTube as one part of the league’s decline, it’s clear that quite a few people think there’s a lot of work to be done in order to restore the Overwatch League to its’ former glory – and give us a chance at another Overwatch World Cup. The need for structural changes is evident, at least to Goldenboy, and he hopes “Blizzard will course correct eventually” – and so do we.
Additional reporting by Aaron Down