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Fending Off Fortnite: Can Overwatch Stay on Esports World?

NEW YORK – Overwatch League has planted its flag on top of the esports mountain. But, like its superstars, the foremost circle can not afford to sit still.

Not as long as Fortnite commands the rest of the gaming universe.

The Fortnite phenomenon has put Overwatch in a strange position. Overwatch Leagues introductory season has been a barrier break, but Blizzard Entertainment's 6-on-6 first person shooter is not nearly the world's most popular video game. It would be Fortnite, a battle royale who has transcended games and smashed in the mainstream unlike any title this year. Overwatch leaders say they are almost not panicked because of a big gamble: their deep pockets and impressive infrastructure can keep Fortnite from making a successful cost to the crown.


A top selling game does not necessarily make an elite esport ̵

1; the latter requires a professional circle, loyal fans and a product that is equally enjoyable to watch.

Overwatch League has set the standard for esports in its first season. Ten million fans watched the opening weekend, and 100-150,000 set for every second of the regular season. The league's two-night championship sold Brooklyn's Barclays Center, and opening night aired live on ESPN, the first live broadcast of Esports in premier time. The league has a hard and stable team of fans, big name investors who own the New England Patriots Robert Kraft and the progress of a monumental first season.


Still, video players are apparently raven for Fortnite. The Breakout title from Epic Games has 125 million global players, compared to 40 million for Overwatch. Perhaps more devastating, Google searches for Fortnite beyond "Overwatch" 14-to-1 in the week leading up to the Overwatch League Grand Finals.

Fortnite's crossover appeal is unmatched, a fact that was recently shown when France's Antoine Griezmann celebrated a goal in the World Cup final with a dance game popular with the game.

How could Overwatch not be intimidated by a competitor with that kind of organic range?

Simple: It does not look Fortnite as a competition – yet.

"Fortnite right now 99 percent is a game and not an esport," said Ari Segal, president of Immortals Gaming, who runs Overwatch's Los Angeles Valiant. "But I obviously think there's a way to be an esport."

The distinction is the key. Structured, competitive Fortnite events are still in their childhood, and Epic has ways to go to match the professional experience offered to Overwatch League fans. Epic started this effort by promising in May to offer $ 100 million in Fortnite esport prize pools – a huge sum for the industry.

Nevertheless, early returns have been appalling, as when the Fortnite Summer Skirmish series was canceled due to technical problems. The tournament has also been hindered by conservative games, with players waiting for the last possible moment to engage. In a statement, Epic said it was "under delivery" in what was supposed to be the first market's esports event, while plans were made to improve the viewing experience.

Epic did not respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

"It takes much more than a press release to build an esport," said overwhelmed Commissioner Nate Nanzer. "I think I can talk as well as mostly that there are lots of investment and planning and infrastructure that you need to build to make professional esports on a high quality bar."


Overwatch's Grand Finals has been a showcase for it. All that takes is a glance at the 165 foot long 36-foot LED screen behind the Barclays Center scene – players and fans were in fear of the massive screen.

But it goes deeper than flashy technology. The league's broadcasts at Twitch have been almost flawless technological throughout the season. The teams have impressive support staff, including chefs, physical trainers and PR leaders. Even entertainment is first class: DJ Khaled performed on Saturday's championship final.

That's not to say Accommodation is a finished product. There is work to be done to pack their events, especially for random fans. Blizzard plans to experiment with his broadcast structure to better serve diehards and beginners alike. These adjustments began with several explanatory segments on the ESPN show for uninitiated viewers, and the league will use feedback from it to form coverage for the next season.

"What I saw on Twitter was fun," said CEO Pete Vlastelica. by Activision Blizzard Esport's leagues. "I liked watching the healthy debate between the old school, old-fashioned sports public who wondered what they watched and so many young sports fans who were very excited about what they saw."

Although there were experiments, everything about the league has the appearance of a first-class pro sports organization and it has been a matter of investment and expertise for Blizzard and its team owners. A group that includes Kraft, New York Mets COO Jeff Wilpon and Los Angeles Rams owns Stan Kroenke.

Esport's organizations, such as Segal's Immortals, are watching Fortnite.

"Do you have access to capital and human resource capacity and organization bandwidth to be smart and flexible to evaluate what the next thing is?" Segal asked. "With regard to Fortnite, there is an ongoing evaluation."


At one point it seems likely that Fortnite – or maybe another battle royale, like the PlayerUnknown's Battlefield – is coming there. When it does Overwatch believes it is clear to survive.

First, Overwatch was built to withstand. Blizzard Entertainment specializes in sustainability titles. Its Warcraft franchise was launched in 1994 and has been a hit. Same with comics like Diablo (1996) and StarCraft (1998).

It is the key to Overwatch's ongoing relevance, according to Jurre Pannekeet, head of Esport's market research firm Newzoo. It's a hard thing to continuously innovate and improve a game, but Blizzard can do better than anyone.

"They have a really long-lasting franchise with big fans who have played these games for several years," said Pannekeet. [19659033] It is also possible – some probably believe – that the esports landscape can house more than a super league.

"Fortnite steals absolute share from everyone, to some extent," said Segal. "But it's not just zero-sum. The cake grows."

The hope is that players connected to games of the Fortnite experience can act after other titles when they are exposed to esport.

"I think we want more investment in the room," Nanzer said. "And I think esports like an industry are definitely still in" rising tide lift all the boat's stage of our growth. "


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