Following the conclusion of the 2023 season, Blizzard will shut down Overwatch League as it attempts to redesign its struggling esports program. The shuttering of the Overwatch League comes following years of financial struggles for the competitive esports organization and dire player numbers for Blizzard’s free-to-play Overwatch 2.
Why Is Overwatch League Shutting Down?
The move was announced in a post from the official Overwatch League account on Twitter, which stated that the organization will focus on “building our vision of a revitalized esports program” moving forward.
No details were provided about what will potentially replace Overwatch League, but the group promised to share more information as it becomes available. News of the change comes amid ongoing layoffs at Blizzard and following a report from earlier this year that revealed the extent of the Overwatch League’s financial troubles.
The first definitive signs that the Overwatch League’s future could be in doubt came earlier this year when an Activision Blizzard financial report revealed that teams were set to vote on a new operating agreement.
Under the terms proposed by Blizzard, Overwatch League teams voting not to continue with the program were eligible for a $6 million termination fee. This gave teams participating in the Overwatch League a strong financial incentive not to continue their partnership with the program. Teams who hadn’t already paid their franchising fee for the year were set to earn even more following forgiveness of the fees owed to Blizzard; VentureBeat claims this created a “$12-$13.5 million incentive per team to let the league crumble.”
Originally announced in 2016 with an inaugural season following two years later, the Overwatch League was an attempt by Blizzard to promote the then-new Overwatch and further establish itself in the esports scene. While the publisher managed to attract some top players from around the world to its competitive program, delays in the development of Overwatch 2 and concerns over allegations of discrimination at Blizzard led to Overwatch League losing advertisers in recent years, putting the organization’s financial future in doubt.
When taken together with recent reports highlighting Overwatch 2’s dwindling player count, Blizzard may simply see continued investment in Overwatch League as financially unsustainable as it continues to cut costs across the company.