The Overwatch League Pushes Esports into Legitimacy

The Overwatch League Pushes Esports into Legitimacy

After the main section of Stage 1 concluding, it is safe to say the league has done incredibly well. It clocked in a daily average of over 100k viewers and has gained sponsorships from the likes of Intel and HP Omen. The league has made it very clear that its intent is to meld Esports and mainstream sports closer and closer together until they one day become synonymous. The league has brought over one of the most successful attributes of sports and use it to their advantage perfectly, and that is tribalism.

Tribalism, simply put, is the concept of a person allying themselves with a group just because of some sort of relation. More often than not, it is due to location, and this is what makes traditional sports so popular. Nobody would care about the Dodgers if they weren’t associated with LA or the Steelers if they weren’t associated with Pittsburg, and this divisiveness is what fuels their success. The NFL doesn’t care about team feuds, or alliances, but uses them to their advantage in order to whip the fans into a frenzy. Now, this has been applied to the Overwatch League in a big way.

The Overwatch League is the first major Esport league to feature teams that are tied to cities. Normally it is just whatever organizations decide to have teams, but in this case, it is a deliberately fixed number of teams that are in this league. Enter our good old friend: Tribalism and all of the fans immediately start picking sides. People from Houston immediately start shunning people from Dallas, and every time the Outlaws play, they tune in. This gives a lot of dedicated viewership because people want to come watch their favorite teams win, and it is easy for more people to have favorite teams if it is attached to their home city (or a city near them). This also makes people who are more casual viewers tune in more often, because they’ll see their city team playing and think “well I might as well watch this”.

 

Another big thing that seems small from an outside perspective is the existence of a physical stadium. It may just seem like a novelty, but it gives the league a sense of concreteness. Previous Esport leagues feel very fluid, There is no central physical place where they are that you can go to. The overwatch league solves this problem with a stadium known as the Blizzard Arena. While not exceptional in any way, it is simply a high-quality stadium that allows them to have a location. This means a lot to apathetic onlookers, who now see this as a potentially legit thing, rather than a gathering of nerds.

So combining these two things does a great job of muddying the waters between traditional sports and Esports. While there is still a way to go, Blizzard’s use of city-based teams, dedicated stadiums, and big named sponsors allow for a view of legitimacy from the general public. I hope to see Esports pushed into the mainstream in the near future and I can see Overwatch as the game that does it.