Overwatch League Owners Set to Vote on League's Future Amidst Layoffs

Overwatch League Teams Set to Vote on League’s Future Amidst Layoffs

Overwatch 2 has been having a rough time, and that has translated to the Overwatch League, too. According to an Activision Blizzard financial report, the teams are voting on whether or not to continue being in the league at all.

Overwatch 2’s rocky launch keeps getting rockier

The financial report in question from the second quarter of 2023 lays out the seemingly dire situation regarding Overwatch 2’s competitive league. It started out by saying that it continued to “face headwinds” and detailed how teams will hold the league’s future in their hands. They can either receive a $6 million termination fee from Activision Blizzard or continue onward.

“During the second quarter, we amended certain terms of our collaborative arrangements with team entities participating in the Overwatch League. According to the amended terms, following the conclusion of the current Overwatch League season, the teams will vote on an updated operating agreement. If the teams do not vote to continue under an updated operating agreement, a termination fee of $6 million will be payable to each participating team entity (total fee of approximately $114 million). As of June 30, 2023, a termination liability has not been accrued.”

This huge decision doesn’t have any sort of date associated with it, but it hasn’t come out of nowhere. According to The Verge, the company just laid of 50 people in its esports division. Esports reporter Jacob Wolf also reported in May 2022 that Activision Blizzard was owed around $125 million to $150 million in franchise payments (which were initially postponed because of the pandemic). In June 2023, Sport Business Journal reported that Activision Blizzard canceled some of those fees. The Overwatch League then lost a whole team, as the Chengdu Hunters left in June.

This all paints a grim picture of the league’s long-term viability, but it seems as though there are plans in place to continue competitive Overwatch in some form. Overwatch League commissioner Sean Miller told The Verge in the aforementioned report that the company was “committed” to the game’s competitive future.

“I want to be clear on one thing in particular, that Overwatch remains committed to a competitive ecosystem in 2024 and beyond,” said Miller. “And we’re building toward a revitalized global scene that prioritizes players and fans.”

Miller didn’t provide further details, but said the team is looking at other Overwatch leagues like Apex, which was a South Korean tournament series.

“We’re in ongoing conversations with teams internally and [players] are our top priority to ensure that this transition, should it occur, happens in the best way possible,” he continued. 

Miller expressed optimism for the future, which was not matched by The Verge’s sources that were laid off nor does it appear consistent with the various other previously mentioned developments.

Overwatch 2 itself has also taken some lumps. While players have constantly ragged on the sequel for its gameplay changes, heavy monetization, and number of missing features, the biggest blow happened when Blizzard announced that it was severely downsizing the story missions (which won’t be free, either). To many, this mode was what differentiated the sequel from the original.

It seems as though that might have had an effect on the game’s player numbers since Activision revealed in that financial report that the player count was down. However, it is anticipating some of those players to return for the first batch of story missions and new hero that are dropping in August.

“While engagement and player investment in Overwatch 2 declined sequentially in the quarter, the Overwatch team is looking forward to the August 10 release of Overwatch 2: Invasion. This will be the largest seasonal update yet, planned to include new PVE Story Missions, a new game mode, and a new hero progression system as well as an additional hero.”