‘Chiu on This’ is a short and regular opinion blast
When we talk about saving or growing esports, the general answer seems to be similar for a majority of esports games: to throw money at the game. But throwing money at the game isn’t enough unless you’re using it in constructive ways. An obvious example is the NA LCS, where despite having one of the richest regions in the world, they still haven’t closed the gap and are still unable to get their teams to compete internationally.
When it comes to analyzing these kinds of situations, I think in the terms of “Do we have the right time, the right people and the right place?” When we talk about StarCraft 2 becoming a big esport in 2011, it had both the right time and the right place. Streaming services has just started, people were awaiting the sequel to Brood War for a long time, and many TOs were looking for a possible new game to pick up. But did it have the right people? No. Blizzard at that time was incredibly slow to act. They obviously missed a few tricks that weren’t invented yet, such as free to play and skins (though I don’t think skins would be nearly as lucrative in SC2 as they are in games that have single player avatars). I could ignore that, but they were also the team who got into a large fight with OGN-KeSPA and because of that were unable to get SC2 into the mainstream in Korea. At the same time, they were never able to build any structure around the scene until it was too late, and I’ve heard some arguments that the structure that took place was in effect what caused the deteriorating state of the SC2 scene from 2013 onward.
For Heroes, it felt more like the wrong time and wrong place. I don’t think any of the esports side of people making the tournaments did anything wrong. They just went into the wrong genre as it was already saturated by League of Legends and Dota 2. I’ve heard an argument about the game not being good in the beginning. I don’t think this is a good argument. Street Fighter V is still hated to this day by the hardcore community, SC2 was bad at the beginning, and so was LoL and Dota 2. None of those games had perfect products coming out (well HoN did, but that’s a different story, and they had the wrong people to run that game).
Now we come to Overwatch. I think they have both the right time and right place. There aren’t any comparable games in this genre. It kind of belongs in a heritage of Quake arena/Halo/Team Fortress 2, but there wasn’t any large game at the time. In addition to that, it was a new IP by Blizzard instead of a mashup of different IPs like Heroes of the Storm. Finally, it was the right place because a lot of investment has come into the scene, especially in NA with traditional sports teams. The last question is this: do they have the right people? I think DoA and Monte have both proven themselves experts in this field, but they aren’t Blizzard. Alchemist is a great observer so they could maybe consult him. I still think Steel should have been hired by Blizzard for what he did in CS:GO observing and his high level of Overwatch itself. It’s sort of funny that Blizzard doesn’t want to give a second chance to Steel considering their balance designers in SC2 got multiple chances, but that’s another story.
So, in the end, the main people running the Blizzard project aren’t people I really know. What I do know is we’re getting weird numbers like Kotick’s 75,000 pro players number. In addition to that, they are trying to build the scene in a completely different way from prior esports, which isn’t necessarily wrong — it just hasn’t been done before. What I will say is that they don’t seem to be dragging their feet like they did in SC2, and the game itself is better suited for monetizing off of esports. So the question will be the people, and who knows what they’re thinking since they won’t talk to anyone from the esports side.
If I had to place my bet now, I think it succeeds. But that can be colored by the fact that I want it to succeed. Take that for what you will.