Count this as a huge victory for Blizzard’s attempt to legitimize and popularize its fledgling Overwatch League.
The studio announced this week that it has signed a deal with both ESPN and Disney XD to exclusively televise Overwatch League games for the next two years. The coverage began yesterday with the League’s first season playoffs and will continue through the grand finals later this month. In fact, Blizzard is touting the fact that Overwatch will be the first e-sports championship broadcast ever on ABC.
“We are pleased to partner with Activision Blizzard to bring Overwatch e-sports to our audience,” said Disney XD Senior Vice President Marc Buhaj. “The Blizzard team has created a genre-leading esport and a premium professional franchise system in the Overwatch League. We are kicking off the agreement by showcasing the inaugural season playoffs and Grand Finals live across our linear footprint. Together with our telecast partners at ESPN, we look forward to growing a legion of new Overwatch fans across the next two years.”
Source: Press release
Who would have ever imagined that a Blizzard game’s looking for group tool would be a big hit with players? Overwatch only recently expanded its mindset to include LFG with the late June update, and so far the multiplayer shooter has shot up in popularity because of the system.
“In the first week, instances of players grouping in six-stacks has doubled,” reported Jeff Kaplan. “The awesome part is, six stacks have seen a significant improvement in queue times. But the best part is, none of this has impacted any other group size queue times or solo queue times at all. So it’s been purely a positive in that regard.”
Kaplan promised “changes and improvements” to the looking for group system with Overwatch’s next patch. In the meanwhile, you can see the evidence for yourself about LFG’s popularity after the break.
Remember last spring when Blizzard ran that big “Pink Mercy” charity campaign in Overwatch? The company’s run the numbers, and it turns out Overwatch players are really generous, really pissed off about cancer, or really like pink. My guess is it’s all three.
“Thanks to the overwhelming generosity of the Overwatch community during the Pink Mercy charity campaign, we’ve raised more than $12.7 million (USD) to support the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. This is the largest donation by a corporate partner within one year in BCRF’s 25-year history, and it’s all because of you.”
Naturally, there’s a video of the pink Mercy skin contributors have snagged!
Playing a game of linking awful online activities to white supremacist movements is like the worst possible variant of the old Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game, but it’s important to note. You know that guy in your Overwatch match who’s spouting out a whole bunch of offensive slurs? He may very well be there to actively recruit for white supremacist movements according to former white supremacist leader Christian Piccolini.
In a recent AMA Piccolini explained that operators are there using various techniques to draw in vulnerable people, with various “recruiters” in basically any popular online game. Piccolini specifies Fortnite, Minecraft, and Call of Duty while also noting that it’s really any popular online title with enough people playing. This probably doesn’t come as any major surprise to people who have long followed the path of watching “trolling” racism and misogyny used as a front for actual racism and misogyny, but it’s certainly another smoking gun.
Remember Blizzard’s tease from earlier this week, the one that set the internet to speculating on whether a wrecking ball might be Overwatch’s next hero? Blizzard is adding more fuel to the fire today with a tweet that implies the wrecking ball is inhabited by the most adorable little woodland creature ever. No one is even sure whether Blizz is just trolling us at this point, but I am here for the lil’ guy.
So let the hamster ball jokes begin. Or droideka jokes. Whatever. Reddit has them all.
Who’s a good-tempered Overwatch player? You! Yes, you are! And you know this because you just got an endorsement from some other player in the game.
Wait, what are endorsements? These come from a new system that Blizzard introduced with yesterday’s patch to encourage gamers to play nice with each other. Now players can wing endorsements at each other as “a way to acknowledge a positive impact on your gaming experience.” The endorsement rating is available to view on any player’s career screen or the group menu, offering a quick way to tell who’s on the up-and-up.
Another much-anticipated feature that came with the patch is the new looking for group tool: “Looking for group allows you to find like-minded players before you queue to make sure you have the kind of Overwatch experience you want! Things like specifying what game mode want to play, preferring voice chat, and knowing that a player wants to play a certain role before you go into battle together goes a long way toward solid hero compositions and team work.”
May 2018 was good to Fortnite, again, SuperData’s latest global revenue report shows, but its growth rate may be coming to a middle. “Fortnite hits a new high but growth is slowing down,” the research firm says in today’s report. “We estimate that Fortnite made $318 million across all platforms in May, up 7% from April. The majority of growth came from console, with mobile and PC both coming in flat compared to April.”
On the PC side, Dota 2 came out of nowhere to return to the list at #6, bumping World of Warcraft down a tick and Hearthstone off completely. League of Legends continues to rule the roost.
On the console side, Fortnite is still at the top; both Overwatch and Destiny 2 have returned to the top 10 as games like Far Cry 5 and Battlefield have fallen off.
And on mobile, Pokemon Go has resurged, as it always does in summer in the northern hemisphere, as it’s gathered up more players than ever. Fun side note: Remember Netease’s Knives Out, one of its two PUBG clones on mobile? It’s in 5th place globally on mobile, just behind POGO, so PUBG’s lawsuit isn’t so bonkers after all.
Way back in January, Blizzard Korea announced that it was working with Korea’s National Policy Agency cyber crime unit to track and arrest the perpetrators of Overwatch hacking and cheating crimes, following an investigation that lasted throughout most of 2017. Thirteen individuals were identified, and then the courts moved in. In May, one hacker received a suspended sentence, while another was fined $10,000. A third, Dot Esports reports this week, has now been sentenced: He’ll sit in prison for a whole year, apparently being more harshly punished due to his having made a truckton of money off his hack program.
In happier news, Blizzard released a brief teaser for what’s probably the game’s next hero, if player speculation holds. Seriously, people think the wrecking ball is actually the hero.
And that’s not even peak 2018. This is: A year and a half ago, Blizzard began trying to patent the algorithm that determines Overwatch’s plays of the game. And we’re just finding out about it this week.
Absolutely no one likes to start a match in Overwatch and then immediately feel outmatched. It’s easy to look at the game’s upcoming group finder feature as something tailor-made to produce just that; suddenly it’ll be easier to form full groups and just stomp the uncoordinated group of randos on the other side. But a new post on the official site explains that this is unlikely, especially as the game’s matchmaking system already assigns a win probability to the match and simply doesn’t create the match if the odds are worse than 60-40.
The whole post details lots of math and systems going on behind the scenes of the matchmaker. Rating changes are unaffected by your group and are entirely based on your projected odds of winning, your overall performance, how long you’ve been playing, and so forth. Meanwhile, full groups of six players are already overwhelmingly likely to at least be matched against other teams consisting of at least one pre-formed group, so the odds of this dramatically changing seem low. If you want to know about what goes on beneath the hood for Overwatch matchmaking, this would be a good thing to read.
Massively OP reader ichi_san has a burning question about the state of the industry.
“Lots of people seem to be looking for an MMO they can get into – consider the rush into Bless as an example. Lots of games are being released, but most (or even all) have some glaring issues, like pay-to-win, lockboxes, ganking, poor optimization, heavy cash shop, horrible gameplay, and so on. There’s the WoW model and other semi-successful formulas, and a lot of unexplored territory. The market seems hungry, and there is a bunch of history to build on and new territory to explore, but either gaming companies don’t understand their customers or greed/laziness/expediency get in the way, such that we see release after release that fails to scratch the itch. Am I missing something – are there fun MMOs with good graphics and fair monetization that I’m missing? Or is there a gaping hole in the MMO scene, and if so, why isn’t someone filling it?”
I’ve posed his question to the writers for their consideration in Overthinking this week. We’re long past bubble-bursting here when all of the still-major MMORPGs are four years older. What exactly are we looking at? Why is the obvious demand for MMOs not being met?
When Radical Heights launched, I was inspired to put together a whole Perfect Ten about why trend-chasing doesn’t work for online games. Obviously, my chief focus was on games that wind up being developed at a rushed pace to cash in on trends and then run face-first into problems with chasing momentary trends, which… you know, you can just read the article; it’s linked right there. But it also prompted a follow-up question by longtime reader Sally Bowls asking why, with all of these issues, why the same rules don’t apply to MMOs.
The answer? Well, there isn’t one answer. There are three answers, all of which are part of the same set of considerations. For one thing, there’s the difference of development time and depth. For another, there’s the time before grinding. And last but not least, well… they do apply, really. But let’s take this piece by piece to talk about why trend-chasing for MMOs doesn’t quite provoke the same immediate reactions as it does for, say, MOBAs.
Acknowledging players who do well in Overwatch is a big part of what keeps players in the game, and to that end the latest developer update reveals that more tools will arrive to facilitate doing just that. The new endorsements feature will allow you to commend players on either team who display behaviors that you think deserve acknowledgement, like good sportsmanship and solid teamwork.
Players will also have the option of using the new Looking for Group feature to assemble a team composed of just the people you need. That’s on top of the upcoming Symmetra rework (which should go live with the next patch) and a reorganization of Attack and Defense heroes into a single “Damage” category. Check out the full video just below for a rundown of the social features (and other changes) coming to the game in the near future.
Earlier this week, GIbiz put out a piece on the Shanghai Dragons, the Overwatch League e-sports team representing China. In a letter to fans, the team appears to have inadvertently revealed that it’s grotesquely overworked; in bragging that the team has the “most intensive training scheme among all the teams,” the team manager admitted that the group trains 12 hours a day, six days a week. That’s 72 hours a week.
As GIbiz points out, not only does this “seem to fly in the face of Blizzard’s goals for a sustainable league that supports its players,” it also doesn’t seem to actually be working, as the Dragons haven’t won a single game in 32 matchups. It’s almost as if hustle/crunch culture exhausts and drains people rather than beefs them up!
Most of us are never going to be, or even aspire to be, professional e-sports gamers to the degree that someone will pay us thousands of dollars per year to train and play. But I bet most of us do aspire to be decent or even great at the games we invest the most time in. So for this week’s Leaderboard, I thought it would be fun to explore just how much time you think you need to put in to be a great player of the typical MMORPG?