One week before its Blizzcon event, games publisher Blizzard Entertainment has announced the introduction of an important update for its PC platform that could potentially change the way esports matches are watched. The Overwatch World Cup Viewer – as the new tool is named – will allow viewers to customise the cameras in any Overwatch game played for this year's Overwatch World Cup on 2 and 3 November.
According to Jeff Kaplan, VP of Blizzard Entertainment, one of the limitations of Overwatch’s matches is the difficulty the viewer has in following developments in each game, due to the large number of events on screen. Once the new feature is fully implemented, the owners of the PC version of Overwatch will be able to choose between the first-person camera – having the same view as the player, a third-person point of view, or a third option allowing them to move the camera around the arena.
This feature will launch in beta before Blizzcon and it will be available on the Bettle.net client for a short period of time. This tool, in fact, will be properly baptised at the final stage of the Overwatch World Cup, taking place in the Overwatch Arena, a venue built by Blizzard inside the Anaheim Convention Center in Los Angeles. Given the importance of the event, arguably the most anticipated of the year, it’s not surprising that Blizzard is planning to have the technical structure tested in advance.
The World Cup Viewer will give subscribers an additional platform to watch the World Cup games, on top of the other platforms already designed to show the event. The final phase will be streamed on the Blizzcon website (the virtual ticket will provide several additional features to the live events including an archive with all the videos on demand) and on Blizzard’s Twitch channel; in South Korea, the final stage will be streamed by the online platform Naver. These online platforms will add to traditional TV operators that have bought the live TV rights, including Walt Disney in the US and Tencent in China.
The additional feature launched by Blizzard confirms the growing interest in the Overwatch World Cup all around the globe. The same event last year was watched by a peak of almost 850,000 viewers connected at the same time (above 500,000 only in mainland China), at the peak of the 19 hours of the entire weekend event.
In one year time, from the final stage of 2017, the hype around the Overwatch World cup has notably grown and it’s likely to observe an increase of the audience numbers observed in 2017. Since then, Disney has bought the rights to broadcast the competition on its channel – as reported by IHS Markit in July -; thinking retrospectively, this deal is a good indicator of how much the traditional operators are turning their heads towards the young adults, an industry segment that was originally considered to be outside the reach of the traditional TV channels. At the same time, the presence of the Overwatch World Cup on the channels in the Disney bouquet is likely to stimulate the demand for contents and trigger a virtuous cycle that will bring to even more esports on the traditional channels.
These recent developments highlight also how the US operators doing similar moves that their Asian counterparts had begun much earlier. In APAC territories, in fact, esports have a more established presence. In Korea, for example, esports were broadcasted on traditional channels well before the existence of dedicated OTT platforms.