Is Overwatch Dying? Here Are the Facts

Overwatch, first person shooter
Will Overwatch's legacy pop soon?

Is Overwatch Dying? Here Are the Facts

If you’ve queued for a game lately, it’s easy to notice that there seems to be an unfamiliar trend with Overwatch’s matchmaking. 

A service that once generated games for even the highest level players in a minute or two has started to grind out into longer and longer queue times for ranks stretching from Gold to Masters.  With the sudden shift away from lightning fast games, it’s natural to wonder if after two and a half years, Overwatch, Blizzard Entertainment’s titanic Hail Mary at the end of a troubled development cycle, is finally starting to lose its charm.

It appears that there are several antagonizing factors that are currently dogging Overwatch’s matchmaking system, not the least of which is the gargantuan and heavily marketed release of Activision’s hit Call of Duty Black Ops 4, whose popularity has dominated the Twitch TV scene since its release on October 12th.  Even casual viewers of the more popular Overwatch streams, such as Surefour, AimbotCalvin, and IDDQD, have noticed their hours in their native game declining before hopping over to Activision’s new hit into the Call of Duty series.

But what do the numbers show?

Blizzard Entertainment is remarkably tight lipped about their actual numbers unless they serve a broader marketing purpose, yet clues remain across the internet about the state of Overwatch’s viewership. 

According to metrics from Sully Gnome, there has been a brief decline in Overwatch’s Twitch’s viewership, which coincides with the increasing queue times that even the game’s latest Halloween Terror event has not been able to compete with. Within the past 30 days, viewership numbers are down across the board, bringing Overwatch to an average rank of 12 on Twitch TV’s most watched list. 

Of course, this is hardly a meteoric decline. After all, in 2007 Blizzard Entertainment announced reaching a milestone of 30 million players, leaving the game with enough space to lose the kind of populations most video game companies would kill for, only to remain one of the top First Person Shooters on the market.

Yet at the same time, Overwatch is starting to show its age.  Users on reddit and the official forums have regularly complained that the bloat of updates have resulted in poor optimization for the game and tanking frame rates.  Once lauded holiday events, such as the Overwatch Summer Games and Halloween Terror, are starting to be hated for their lazy repetitions.  Lucioball, once met with excitement in 2006 as a new and refreshing minigame in a platform that had a noticeable lack in such diversions from the competitive grind, is a frequent source of complaints among fans.

Additionally, the Overwatch League wrapped up its debut season in August of this year.  With relatively weak front end support from Blizzard Entertainment for non-sanctioned tournaments and its off-season competitions, such as the World Cup, there has been less drive for viewers to participate in these various extracurricular events.  In fact, when not handling the Overwatch League, Blizzard Entertainment seems very content to allow a “fend for yourself” policy when it comes to discovering Overwatch events.

Some players have shared their views of the game’s current state.

Brandon “Seagull” Larned has expressed on his Twitch TV stream that he is simply feeling “burned out,” which is understandable after being the face of the pro season since the game’s early beta days.  His stream has frequently found itself the source of various other games, including Warhammer 40k: Space Marine as he takes something of a break from Overwatch.

There also appears to be some fatigue about the more blatant shift towards monetization that has occurred over recent months as it pertains to cosmetics, an upsetting trend for a game that lauded itself for its easy access to content through play.  After fan outcry at locking what is argued to be the best in game emote for the character Lucio behind an All Access Pass for the Overwatch League (a hefty $30 investment), Blizzard Entertainment eventually conceded and allowed the emote to be purchased for real life money, which has left a sour taste in some players’ mouths.

Lucio’s game emote.

“I can’t even get the skins I want for this event,” player Ashplzz explained when asked about their take on the current state of the game, admitting a growing interest in Call of Duty Black Ops 4.

At the same time, however, the game continues to go strong as it looks at its third year on the market.  With frequent balance changes, which have seen old, familiar heroes take on entirely new kits to make them near unrecognizable from their original form, Blizzard Entertainment’s developers are showing a keen interest and devoting the necessary effort to keeping the game topical, relevant, and engaging.

Additionally, its winning formula that brought it to a peak of 30 million players, remains steadfast.  As player Kamicakes said, “It’s good to come back and just have that solid anchor to play in.”

Overwatch’s death, though sometimes bemoaned on the official forums, seems a far way off, even if player and viewer numbers appear to be noticeably down.  We’ll have to wait and see what the holidays bring in and if Overwatch League’s Second Season, said to bring seven new franchises to the fold, revitalizes the game, or if perhaps this is simply the new standard for Blizzard’s latest IP.

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Kate is a professional copyeditor, proofreader, and editor.
Gamer Since: 2004
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: Final Fantasy 3
Top 3 Favorite Games:Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward, Dragon Age: Origins, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood

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