djWheat has broken his silence on the Overwatch League and Twitch deal, saying that he fought it as much as he could.
The Overwatch League’s deal with Twitch, for a reported $100 million, was a high watermark for the esports industry. It was certainly one of the largest deals done with a league for broadcast rights at the time.
And it was a sign that Overwatch League could be a good investment as time marched forward – the league was off to a good start, and Twitch had faith in it. However, it seems not everyone thought so.
Of course, it’s hard to look back now in hindsight and see how it might not have been the best idea after all. The League’s been floundering for some time in viewership on YouTube, after spending two seasons building a fanbase on Twitch.
Marcus “djWheat” Graham recently took to his Twitch stream to vent his frustrations about the deal. He would be uniquely positioned to comment on it, as he worked at Twitch on esports for a decade.
djWheat blasts the Twitch and Overwatch League deal as “stupid.”
“I couldn’t speak publicly about the deal while I was at Twitch,” Graham began. “But you better believe I was the guy in every f**king meeting going ‘this is stupid, and you’re all stupid.’ Every person on the team will confirm that they got sick and tired of me talking about how terrible a deal this was for a year and a half. It didn’t feel good because that league cost a lot of money and a year later 11 of my staff was laid off. So I was especially f**king angry that we did this.”
Indeed, while Overwatch League did debut to high numbers and managed to put up some impressive streams during things like playoffs, many questioned the viability of the league as time marched forward. This was despite some high value investments by teams both initially as well as in season two when the league expanded to 20 teams.
djWheat went on to describe the process by which most esports projects grow – first having to learn how to walk before they can run. Floundering about on their own, before a structure is put into place. While Overwatch did have some time like this during its beta, the Overwatch League was trotted out as a concept before the game’s official release even. Activision Blizzard and Bobby Kotick’s desire to have a league all their own was well known and certainly helped when courting investors like Robert Kraft.
What will happen to the Overwatch League long-term?
Following Twitch’s deal with Overwatch League not being renewed, Activision Blizzard went on to sign an exclusive deal with YouTube that included OWL, CDL, and Hearthstone esports.
Now, the Overwatch League is in something of a holding pattern while we wait for news about next season. While OWL did commit to running next year’s season on Overwatch 2, we’ve yet to see a playable build for the game publicly, and it’s unknown if teams yet have access. The game continues to see delays, after all. These are questions that are going to have to be answered as we head into the 2022 season, among others.
Questions still remain about whether the league will ever transition back to hosting home events, as was originally planned. This is especially exasperated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It’s made planning events in North America in particular very arduous.
Regardless, we’re now entering hail mary territory for a league that has teams that are consistently worried about their investments. While Activision Blizzard has reportedly delayed payments by teams for their franchise slots, this probably won’t go on forever. There also remains the question of what Microsoft does with leagues that aren’t doing well. Some have suggested OWL (and CDL) will be farmed out to third-party organizers like Esports Engine or ESL. Then again, Microsoft is well known for sunsetting properties that aren’t doing well. Remember Mixer?
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