It has been an incredibly strong year for gaming as a whole, changing regulation and the expansion of services on mobile platforms for example have allowed popular options in bingo offers and similar grow in popularity, and bigger markets like esports have only found more success as both online and offline events have been able to continue largely without difficulty for the most part – but not all news has been good news, and a recent announcement could look to spell the end of blizzards already struggling esports ventures.
Whilst Hearthstone has been an incredibly successful game for both a TCG option and a push to esports too, and World of Warcraft also recently trying to explore its own options in esports with the AWC and MDI, Blizzard has largely been trying to push Overwatch with the franchising deals and the big orgs buying into the league, but the game certainly didn’t perform in the way many had hoped it would as although there had been a regular and ongoing seasonal league, much of the audience was focussed in the east as western audiences stuck to other big esports titles like League of Legends and Counter-Strike.
Later came the announcement that the developers would be working on Overwatch 2, a player-versus-environment game that would still allow online play between the original title and the new one, leading many players to feel as if development time were being wasted on something not entirely necessary particularly when the base game could still use plenty of work to help it grow into the esports title that many had hoped it could become. The fears had been made that much worse over this past weekend as Jeff Kaplan, the director for Overwatch and a 19-year veteran at Blizzard, announced he was leaving the company. As the public face for the game since 2016 and someone many fans have come to love, it’s certainly a big blow, but fans believe there’s something a little more to the departure – as a such a long veteran with a long-standing position, you’d expect to see a bit of a fanfare about the departure as had been seen with others who had left before, but there had been nothing other than a few sentences in a statement.
Whilst a later update stated that Aaron Keller, a founding member of the Overwatch team, would be stepping up to fill the spot, the sudden departure with little more than a few sentences may be telling for some about the future of Overwatch and the continued development of Overwatch 2, and given Overwatch had been the big push for Blizzard’s esports side of things, could this be a thinly veiled spelling of the end of the game? Likely not, but it certainly doesn’t help those that view the game in a sense that it’s struggling to compete with other big names where it could have been a much bigger success if handled in a different way.
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