The Overwatch World Cup of 2017 concluded a couple of weeks ago and South Korea took the trophy home for the second year in a row.
The playoff matches were very intense and they attracted hundreds of thousands of viewers that were looking forward to getting a glimpse of the new skins, the new spectator tools, and their national teams clashing and trying to dethrone the Koreans.
In the following chart, created by Beezy with data collected for the main channel on Twitch (I assume), you can see the exact viewership of each match in comparison to the viewership before the tournament, which included the viewership of APAC Premier 2017, APEX S4 finals and the Contenders S1 playoffs. The top competitions around the globe in the Overwatch scene didn’t even manage to attract 1/6 of the viewers of the match between Canada and Sweden, which was the lowest in terms of viewership numbers!!!
— Fusion Beezy (@Beezy1515) November 5, 2017
However, it may be too soon to celebrate as these World Cup viewing numbers may not correlate to the Overwatch League. First of all, as the graph shows, the match with the most viewers was the one between South Korea and USA in the Quarterfinals and not the Grand Finals. The American audience is still the largest in esports and a huge driving force for viewership. Blizzard will cater to their needs for the first season of OWL that will be played entirely in Los Angeles. Nonetheless, the rest of the world will have problems watching the matches live. It’s fine to stay up late and watch a 2-day tournament once in a while, but doing this week after week is definitely not something many across the globe will choose.
Apart from that, World Cups in general are mega events, acting like entertainment black holes sucking in tons of viewers attention. Not only for the reason that they get many countries involved, with national pride on the line, but also because they are not an everyday occurrence and everyone wants to be part of them. For Overwatch, especially, the World Cup finals are held during another big event of the year that many look forward to, the Blizzcon. Blizzard keeps in store many things for their annual convention that players want to experience in their games, such as expansions announcements, new hero reveals, in-game additions and thus a lot of excitement is generated.
For this specific year, many in the Overwatch scene tuned in to also see the new skins, the new spectating changes, but these things will lose their attraction after a few months. One can definitely consider these as a viewership boost injection rather than something that is here to stay forever. That said, people should not think that such high numbers are unattainable ever again. I am not saying that. All I am hinting at is that this year’s viewership has been affected by other factors that may no longer be present in the future. One should be very careful how he weights the results in this regard. [But again, Blizzard can always give away free lootboxes for spectating matches, so there’s that too.]
Still, Overwatch League isn’t designed with online viewership in mind only. Even if it doesn’t attract millions of viewers, the biggest bet is to establish city-based fanbases that interact with the arenas the teams will build, show up in matches, talk to players, drive engagement. This is the biggest bet for Nate Nanzer and his team, and the celebrations for that achievement will come after the end of season 2. Now, it’s still too soon.