The Overwatch League is reportedly set to ship off operations to a third party, rather than run it themselves.
According to a new report from Sports Business Journal’s Kevin Hitt, the Overwatch League is looking to outsource its operations to a third party.
The report was sparse on details, but suggests that the Overwatch League will follow in the footsteps of the Call of Duty League. The CDL is being operated this season by Esports Engine. Esports Engine is the production company headed up by former Activision Blizzard and MLG alum Adam Apicella.
No details were given as to which third-party operator would be taking over production duties for the Overwatch League. As to which one it is, there are a few possibilities. ESL and FACEIT were recently acquired for $1.5 billion, so they certainly have the operating capital. It’s also possible that Esports Engine will see another contract awarded to them.
This is the latest in a series of unfortunate (or fortunate, depending on your viewpoint) events for the Overwatch League. While Activision Blizzard has been purchased for a record fee by Microsoft, it was assumed that they would be willing to shell out the cash to try and revitalize AB’s esports enterprises. However, it seems that the budget is just going to go to someone else to run its operations.
This strategy does line up with Microsoft’s own for esports, however. They’ve outsourced Halo esports to Esports Engine, for example. And it’s possible that they will look to continue with this strategy. Activision Blizzard even already has an existing relationship with ESL themselves. They’ve had Hearthstone broadcasts under ESL since the 2021 season.
This also could explain why there have been disputes among broadcast talent and OWL, such as when Bren and Sideshow left the league.
Could a third party operator be a good thing for Overwatch League?
The League is also scheduled to run events in Overwatch 2. That game has, so far, failed to materialize amid the Microsoft buyout and internal turmoil at Activision Blizzard. Delays have wracked the game’s development. Pros are set to use an early version of Overwatch 2. However, as of yet, they still do not have access to the game. Previously, Blizzard intimated that the League, whatever form it takes for this season, would kick off in Q2.
Activision Blizzard has long seemed a little at a loss as to what to do with the league in terms of format and broadcast. With outsourcing to a third party, the league could get a shot in the arm that it’s long needed. And certainly, that’s going to be important heading into the launch of Overwatch 2. Of course, Microsoft also has a long history of sunsetting properties that aren’t doing well. The league has long drawn criticism for its high cost to teams in relation to its relatively low viewership. It’s never quite returned to the highs it saw on Twitch (even if their employees weren’t fans of their broadcast deal in the first place.)
So, while it could be good overall for the League, it’s also very likely one of its last shots. If Overwatch 2 doesn’t live up to the hype, there could be some very unhappy fans sometime in the near future.
For all the latest on the Overwatch League and their potential new tournament operator, as well as Overwatch 2, keep it locked here to Esports.gg.