Overwatch Esports: A New Look

The Overwatch Championship Series is a joint 3-year venture between Activision Blizzard, ESL FACEIT Group, and WDG gaming.

Overwatch has been a staple in the Esports community since its launch in May 2016. However, the former SXSW Esports game of the year has recently undergone substantial changes to its competitive scene.

Late last year the Overwatch League announced that they had played their last season and would be shutting down.n After six seasons, the OWL would be no more.

However, competitive Overwatch is not dead. In fact, it has a whole new face: The Overwatch Championship Series, a league that is currently in the middle of its inaugural season.

While the league had given us many memorable moments including the term C9, the death of the OWL was of no surprise. Overwatch’s loss of popularity in recent years, as well as the multiple sexual harassment lawsuits filed about Overwatch’s game studio Blizzard, led to most of the league’s major sponsors pulling out.

The OWL then had to go through budget cuts and eventually layoffs to attempt to stay afloat. However, it was clear those changes were bandages on a fatal wound. When the fate of the league was put up for a vote in late 2023, there was no surprise when the result was the disbandment of the league.

However, from the instant the disbandment was announced, the Overwatch development team maintained that professional Esports would be returning to the game. However, for the remainder of 2023, the future of competitive play for Overwatch was shrouded in mystery and rumors for what was to come. But Overwatch did have one thing going for them: the Microsoft acquisition of Activision Blizzard.

After being stuck in legal disputes and red tape for over a year and a half, Microsoft finally acquired Activision Blizzard just a month before the disbandment of the OWL. The gaming publishing company responsible for games such as Call of Duty, Diablo, and of course, Overwatch was now under the control of one of the biggest tech companies in the world.

This acquisition gave Overwatch a much needed fresh start which led to cautious optimism for the future of Overwatch, even if that future was uncertain. This fresh start would prove to be fruitful for the future of Overwatch’s Esports as in January Blizzard announced the replacement for the OWL: The Overwatch Championship Series.

The Overwatch Championship Series or OWCS for short is a joint three-year venture between Activision Blizzard, ESL FACEIT Group, and WDG gaming. Their philosophy, according to the OWCS, is to “offer and cultivate an esports ecosystem that is more open — with anyone able to participate — always-on, regionally focused, providing experiences for participants and fans alike.”

This focus is reflected in the structure of the first season of this new league as each region has different structures of how to gain points and qualify for the Majors at the end of May. However, the throughline between the different tournament structures is the emphasis on player inclusion. 

For North America, there are two qualifying tournaments dubbed “stages” before the Majors at the end of May where teams from every region face one another. The first stage concluded at the end of March and the second one is currently in the group bracket.

After the Majors in May, there will be two more stages before the Finals in November where once again teams from each region will compete for virtual supremacy. OWCS matches are Twitch streamed on the OW_Esports account, the schedule, as well as more information can be found on their website

This new league might be just what Overwatch needed to revitalize its standing in the Esports community. The Majors at the end of May will be a huge test for the OWCS, and for the first time in a long time, there seems to be hope surrounding the Overwatch Esports community. The next few months will determine if this hope is well found.