There is one week left before the Overwatch League (OWL) Season 2 kicks off. After a successful first season, it is no surprise that Blizzard pushed ahead to continue with their professional league. The league has gone through some major transformations from 2018 to 2019 and that builds on the success of the first season. Here are some things to look out for and get excited about in OWL Season 2:
The Overwatch League grew in the offseason — from 12 teams to 20. Keeping with the theme to be a global league, 6 of the 8 additions came from outside the USA — 3 new Chinese teams (Hangzhou Spark, Chengdu Hunters, Guangzhou Charge), 2 in Canada (Toronto Defiant & Vancouver Titans), and 1 European addition (Paris Eternal). On USA soil, the expansion teams included Washington D.C Justice and Atlanta Reign.
After the success of the first season, and 10.8 Million viewers tuning in for the grand final, the Overwatch League has been able to expand its fan base. This has led more brands to get involved, and teams have found themselves with exciting new partnerships. The Boston Uprising earned a new partnership with Gillette and the New York Excelsior partnered with T-Mobile.
Brands like Spotify and Twitter have been getting involved with the Overwatch league throughout the year. As esports has always excelled at content, it is no surprise these deals look to boost their content creation in Season 2.
The OWL faced harsh criticism following its first season for player burnout, demanding scheduling and mental health concerns for their athletes. “OWL is a frantic marathon,” said Vytiz Lasaitis, former head coach of the Florida Mayhem after he stepped down from his position this year.
He is not the only one who has complained about the rigorous schedule of the OWL. Kim “Pine” Do-Hyeon missed 10 games last season due to panic attacks. The Shanghai Dragons, were criticized for practicing 15-hours a day — a duration that not even the best professional traditional sports athletes endure. The six month schedule in OWL Season 1 had each team competing twice a week, with a busy practice schedule in between. This season, the schedule will have fewer regular-season games. The league made this decision in response to the Season 1 backlash and in an effort to add more opportunities for rest days, and allow for greater work-life balance for its players and staff.
Esports have always been on the leading edge of technological innovation since the industry itself is based on technology. The league’s latest technological development was the introduction of OWL tokens. These tokens allow its tech-savvy fans to engage with the league and its teams at a deeper level than before and introduces a new revenue stream for the league.
These tokens unlock in-game items for fans, like team skins, that recolour game characters. These team skins were previously unavailable to everyday Overwatch gamers, but now, with enough tokens, fans can colour their in-game character in the colours of their favourite OWL team. Tokens can be bought with Fiat — real-world money — or can be earned by watching the Overwatch League streams live on Twitch, MLG or the website.
With all of these changes to look out for, it will be exciting to see how the Overwatch League rolls out in its second season, with its expansion, its growing popularity and the longer season. The season kicks off with a rematch between last Season’s Grand Finalists — the London Spitfire and Philidelphia Fusion. Do you think they will draw the same amount of viewership of 10.8 Million to launch Season 2? Will you be tuning in on February 14th?