Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch League is officially ending roughly five years after its debut.
Overwatch esports will be ‘transitioning’ away from the Overwatch League after a majority of team franchises voted to end the league, Esports Insider can reveal.
The Overwatch League has been in limbo since the end of its latest season in October after Activision Blizzard revealed a vote would be held amongst team franchise owners on whether to discontinue the league as it is currently structured. If the vote was successful, franchises would be given a $6m (~£4.66m) termination payment to exit the league, Activision Blizzard said.
The vote has now taken place and Esports Insider understands that at least two-thirds of teams voted to exit the league, leading to the end of the Overwatch League and its current franchised model.
Signs that the vote had gone through first came yesterday when Toronto Defiant owner OverActive Media announced it had exited the League and received the $6m payout. OverActive Media is a publicly traded company so is required to disclose major financial transactions, while other franchise owners do not necessarily need to.
Nonetheless, Activision Blizzard has said that Overwatch esports will continue regardless of the vote. In a statement sent to Esports Insider, the Overwatch developer said: “We are transitioning from the Overwatch League and evolving competitive Overwatch in a new direction.
“We are grateful to everyone who made OWL possible and remain focused on building our vision of a revitalised esports programme. We are excited to share details with you all in the near future.”
Additionally, according to media reports, the Overwatch League has been in talks with third party tournament organisers to run Overwatch esports going forward.
The end of the Overwatch League will mark the culmination of a rocky period for the Overwatch esports scene. The League launched with grand ambitions in 2018 with buy-ins from major mainstream sports executives, corporations and esports stakeholders. Team owners paid a reported $20m for franchised slots — with later expansion teams paying even more.
However, the league’s enterprising home-and-away LAN format would go on to be largely cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The league went on to see poor viewership and low revenue — despite a brief boost from the launch of Overwatch 2 — resulting in widespread discontent amongst team owners.