The staff of the Activision / Blizzard Esports Division — video game producer — worked towards an objective that they called “Project 2020.” in the last two years or so. The Company had already circled its 3rd 2020 season when it introduced the Overwatch League (OOWL) in 2018.
The new decade represents the beginning of a new era for the League, which aims at playing games in a more conventional “home and away” environment of 20 organisations, from China to London to Vancouver. Over the entire season, some teams travel for more than 50,000 miles.
This isn’t everything. The Call of Duty League, which features 12 opening teams including many of the same cities in North America that play in Overwatch, was first played in 2020.
“Project 2020 really is no longer called by us,” said Pete Vlastelica, CEO of Activision Esports and Overwatch Commissioner. “With regard to Overwatch, the philosophy of the League shifts from an operational role to a support role, providing teams with everything needed to conduct successful events and ensuring that they can market these events properly.’ We call it to work because it’s time to do the thing we designed for the last three years.”
“The exciting part for me is to sit back a bit and watch each team add their own flavour to the mix and produce events and experiences that are a little different than what others across the league are doing,” said Vlastelica.
For example, Toronto Defiant owner Chris Overholt comes from traditional sports backgrounds within the NHL and as Chief Marketing Officer for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics for the Canadian Olympic Committee. “I think there will be a lot of innovation, for example. The ideals of generating passion for fans all apply to sports, he said.
“An Overwatch fan is not a Call of Duty fan is not a League of Legends fan,” said Overholt. The underlying contradictions between the two sides are seen internally as a valuable asset. “These aspects are all distinctly distinct in their own way. Hamilton likened Call of Duty fans to listeners of hip-hop, while Overwatch fans can be contrasted with EDM fans.
Vlastelica has a split audience between the two hemispheres of about 50-50. Thanks to its vivid, colourful, cheerful and cartoonic setting, she said. Topics of inclusion and diversity among the heroes players can choose from are appealing.
In the meantime, Call of Duty was much longer and has a casual fan appeal, as it is easy to watch. Vlastelica sees a future for Activision in two different ways.
I think Call of Duty has this true potential, not just Overwatch, but also most sports games, to become a mainstream sport,” said Vlastelica.
This practice has benefited from collaborations between the Wilpon Family in New York (Mets) and the Wilf Family in Minnenota (Vikings) which have traditional sports backgrounds. Ten of the 12 Call of Duty teams are also overviewed, which made the development of the League more effective, and Activision did not have to build any new employees in place to launch.
“Bringing the Call of Duty team into New York at the same time as the Overwatch League team was really very similar for us,” said Scott Wilpon, co-founderof Andbox, the company owned by the New York Excelsior (OWL) and the New York Subliners (CoD). “The difficulty is just that none of this has ever been achieved before. Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan’s central city was sold out with nearly 1,600 fans during the opening weekend, on 8 and 9 February.