Rumor: More high-profile esports figures are leaving Blizzard within the next two weeks

    
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Plays well with others.

Remember just last week when the commissioner of Overwatch’s premiere and eponymous league left his position? That alone was a bit of a surprise, but it in and of itself didn’t indicate some sort of sea change. The rumor that several more high-profile esports figures are also going to be leaving Blizzard in the near future, though? That feels a little more indicative, especially when one of the departures is esports global product director Kim Phan; astute observers will note that she’s been with the company for over 13 years.

The sources claiming these upcoming departures have laid some of the blame at the feet of company morale, especially as a result of working for Activision Blizzard’s President and CEO of esports Pete Vlastelica. The rumblings go that the focus has been on growing the competitive division over developing good programs for the community, damaging staff morale and enthusiasm severely. Obviously nothing is written in stone at the moment, but it certainly isn’t a great set of rumors to be flying around for a company that has had a year of bad PR thus far.

Source: Dexerto

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Robert Mann

Oh, is this bubble already bursting? Well, that didn’t take quite as long as I had figured. Heh.

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Akagi

People finally realize a casual Disney game like Overwatch can’t be competitive… took them long enough.

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lostkoss

It’s almost as if a video game doesn’t stay popular long enough to start a 100 year league around it.

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Godnaz

Greaterdivinity said:
It really does feel a lot like the last time companies tried to make esports a “thing” back in what, the late 90’s/early 2000’s? It organically grew, leagues organically grew up to support them, money got involved, and suddenly there are big money productions of CS 1.x on ESPN that nobody is watching and the “movement” sorta implodes.

Between 1996 and 2000 if you weren’t playing Doom or Quake, esports consisted of only bragging rights as the reward. Cyber Athletic League (CAL) and Team Warfare League (TWL) were the main two leagues for competitive gaming. It wasn’t until the Cyber Professional League (CPL – A LAN only national circuit league) was create, that for-cash competitive gaming became big business. Soon after Cyber Evolution (CEVO) began the prize money online scene with a regularly scheduled season and where players had to pay in to the prize pot to even play. The competitive scene changed from being a semi-civilized hobby into the ruthless, elitist competition it can be today. Money corrupts and fame inflates ago. I’m not even going into the gambling aspect of it.

I had the fortunate opportunity to compete at a high level back in 2003-2005 in Battlefield. We would travel around the U.S. following CPL/WSVG with a few sponsors who would only cover our travel and hotel stay. The rest of the expenses were on the team. We never got paid to play. Our tournament area often sat near the big Counter-Strike stage and while we (all the BF teams) were all having a great time competing, the Counter-Strike teams were super stressed out, edgy and were not only trying to win prize money but were worried about losing thier sponsorships. It sincerely was not fun for them. Couple that with the fact that viewership is so niche.

Esports as a business, is unsustainable IMO, even in big markets like Asia and EU.

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agemyth 😩

Esports “leagues” should not be created from piles of money alone. That has always ended with bubbles popping. None (that I know of) of the long lasting professional organized esports scenes around games exist because of money that came from a major corporation or group of rich assholes looking to exploit a new audience.

Professional scenes around games like Dota/LoL, Counter-Strike, StarCraft, and fighting games exist today because these are games people loved to play competitively before there was anyone broadcasting/streaming and before anyone was trying to woo investors and sponsors for something pitched as a sequel to sports: ESPORTS!

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Danny Smith

So the ponzi scheme really is bursting then.

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Greaterdivinity

https://kotaku.com/as-esports-grows-experts-fear-its-a-bubble-ready-to-po-1834982843

Relevant article for my post and my feelings on the current insanity that is the esports scene.

Given that OWL is by far the biggest esports league around right now (at least in the west in terms of pure dollar amounts for proper managed leagues) I feel like they’re at the forefront of this stuff. I have to wonder if their departure, beyond internal moral issues (which isn’t the first we’ve heard of this at Blizzard lately), may be partially related to the continued unsustainable growth of esports and the “ponzi-scheme-esque” nature of the markets skyrocketing growth.

It really does feel a lot like the last time companies tried to make esports a “thing” back in what, the late 90’s/early 2000’s? It organically grew, leagues organically grew up to support them, money got involved, and suddenly there are big money productions of CS 1.x on ESPN that nobody is watching and the “movement” sorta implodes.

Unless there’s some corrections, I can totally see esports more broadly running into this issue again. Thankfully this time, there’s a diverse and wide ranging esports scene that continues to have a lot of organic growth and support that should be able to make it through any bloodletting that occurs.

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Grimmtooth

That’s where my mind went as well. There’s some perfect storming going on IMO.

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Ailsa Nordstrom

I don’t think esports, in general, is a bubble about to burst. Consider the DOTA 2 International: since Valve introduced crowdfunding as a contributing factor to the prize pool, it has grown every year and shows no sign of slowing down.

Counter-Strike might not be in the stratosphere as far as prize pools go, but it is a consistent draw for esports fans.

I do agree that some companies seem to want to force certain titles into the esports scene and offer inflated prize pools to entice participation and viewership. In those cases, unless the title is wildly successful, that is a bubble waiting to burst.

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Greaterdivinity

The International is unique. It has Valve backing and Valve has blank checks more or less, and as you say most of the prize money is crowdfunded (which IMO is a separate issue altogether).

But I’m talking about the more managed leagues. LoL fits into this, CS fits into this, Fortnite even fits into this, and most definitely the insane amount of money behind OWL ($20M buyins for teams?) is a prime example.

But even for smaller leagues it’s a problem. Look at the reported bullshittery with the H1Z1 league and how they potentially lied about/manipulated viewer numbers – https://massivelyop.com/2018/09/05/h1z1s-professional-league-is-allegedly-struggling-in-viewers-attendance-and-actually-paying-its-players/

I don’t think this impacts EVERY game or EVERY league/organization within a games esports scene (as some games have multiple esports scenes run by different groups). But I think the Kotaku piece, while long as hell, does a fantastic job shining a light on the financial smoke and mirrors going on behind the scenes with broader esports scene.

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Danny Smith

We all know Blizzard is chasing the esports meme because “27th times the charm” on trying to get that brood war lightning in a bottle again but it really reminds me of the time Vince Mcmahon tried to make a extreme wrasslin’ version of the NFL that bombed.

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Greaterdivinity

I can see that. They killed HotS esports because it wasn’t big enough. HS is still going but seems to be stagnating. They’re still trying to force WoW to be an esport that it will never be. SC2 is…uh…I guess it’s still getting tournaments but I see little support from Blizzard for them. D3 has nothing, thankfully.

I think there’s definitely a big market for OWL and it’s a good game for esports (even if it’s not quite my jam and there continue to be issues getting viewers who aren’t super knowledgeable about the game to follow the action). I think the amount of money behind it is GROSSLY overinflated though. Not nearly as bad as the XFL (god that was a fucking waste, at least some decent players got recruited out of it), but I still think there’s way too much money behind the game. Especially as IIRC OW is even stagnating/shrinking in terms of player numbers/growth.

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Jeremy Barnes

…to be fair, Mcmahon is trying to make the XFL happen again..