The multiplayer FPS splits players into two teams of six, with each player selecting one of several pre-defined hero characters with unique movement, attributes, and skills.
These heroes are also defined by four classes: offense, defense, tank, and support. Players on a team work together to secure and defend control points on a map and/or escort a payload across the map in a limited amount of time.
Overwatch finds immediate success
On June 14, Blizzard announced via Overwatch’s Twitter feed that the game had amassed ten million players
In a blog post from Super Data Research, the market research company was able to provide some insight into just how well Overwatch performed in May. Overwatch earned more than $269 million in digital revenues across both PC and console platforms, pushing the PC category up 8 percent.
Overwatch hasn’t just been a big hit for its player base either. Blizzard’s new shooter game has also become a popular title among online spectators who watch streams of players. It is currently the fifth most-streamed title across all streaming channels.
Super Data Research also provided some insight into how popular the game is on PC and console.
Overwatch is a threat to League of Legend’s future
Perhaps just as impressive is how quickly the game has gained popularity in Korea.
Gametrics, a Korean internet cafe survey website, reported that Overwatch has overtaken League of Legends‘ 204-week throne as the most popular game played across 4,000 of Korea’s PC bangs.
PC bangs are popular internet cafes where the locals come together to battle it out. Currently Overwatch has 32.89 percent of the PC bang market, while League has dropped to 25.69 percent.
It is important to note that players do not have to purchase a copy to play Overwatch in Korean PC bangs. This partially inflates numbers, but League of Legends is also a free-to-play game. Still, this is a significant shift, and not one that has happened in more than four years.
As far as monetary gains go, Blizzard isn’t just stopping by requiring payment to play its game. In the coming months Blizzard will roll out a long-term strategy for monetary growth by selling vanity items, exclusive skins, and graffiti tags (spray tags that were common in Counter-Strike). This model will mirror that of League of Legends.
Platform is an important driver
As we stated earlier, Overwatch is also a multi-platform title, meaning it can be played on the PC, Xbox, and PS4. Creating a market on consoles is one area of the industry League of Legends cannot match.
The question remains whether Overwatch can find sustained success like League of Legends. It’s no secret that League of Legends has been king of the PC world for years now, with its only real rival in the MOBA industry being DOTA 2.
While the 10 million players for Overwatch shouldn’t be confused as copies sold, it’s a great start to building a player base in less than two months of existence.
The last official release of player numbers by Riot and League of Legends was back in the beginning of 2014, when Riot essentially bragged about having 67 million monthly players, 27 million daily players, and 7.5 million concurrent players. Those numbers haven’t changed on Riot’s official website, but I’m sure they’re not quite as lofty now.
Blizzard has attempted to find a space in the MOBA market last year, with the release of its Heroes of the Storm MOBA, based on eccentric characters in Blizzard lore.
Riot’s main fear has to be a shift from MOBA’s back to FPS-style games. There was a time when Team Fortress 2, and even further back, Counter-Strike, were king among PC games. Then came along World of Warcraft, cornering the PC market for nearly half a decade. Is this the next wave?
I don’t see the exit of MOBAs being immediate, but a gradual decline seems evident. Ultimately, it was the MOBA genre that took over the MMO genre just recently. While MMOs haven’t disappeared, they certainly have taken a backseat to MOBAs.
It’s also important to note that Bizzard didn’t exactly foresee a shift in the market. After all, Overwatch was born from the ashes of what presumably was Titan. Titan was a massive, but cancelled, Blizzard multiplayer online game.
After seven years of development, Titan was reported to have been scrapped in Sept. 2014. Some of the concepts from that game were then transported to Overwatch.
Why players are switching from League to Overwatch
The biggest response from players who have switched from League to Overwatch is to avoid the long matches and a toxic community that Riot has strived to fix.
The introduction of a competitive mode for Overwatch just a few weeks ago has increased the length of matches, and the toxicity has also increased. An article by Paul Tassi at Forbes has done a great job of outlining the toxicity experienced in-game.
The long term future of MOBAs and Overwatch
As far as esports and competitive play is concerned, MOBAs still offer a unique perspective on games. Overwatch is a more active, fast-paced game compared to League of Legend’s observatory, reaction-based game.
Overwatch also has yet to build an established competitive environment. Currently, League of Legends and DOTA 2 can fill stadiums at their major events, and also provide their players with millions of dollars in prize money.
Considering the extended success of Counter-Strike and its esports scene, there is definitely enough room for Overwatch to coexist next to League of Legends. The games offer vastly different styles, and those styles do not appease everyone.
Nonetheless, Blizzard will fully support its game, both financially and in marketability. Only time will tell how big Overwatch becomes, and what impact that will have on League of Legends’ future.