Overwatch League June Joust Viewership Numbers: Is It Time to Worry?

by in Overwatch | Jun, 24th 2021

The Overwatch League June Joust viewership numbers are in and, frankly, they leave a lot to be desired. With a peak of 82,856 viewers, it’s fair to say that fans didn’t exactly tune in with great interest. Heck, we’re putting it mildly here. These numbers don’t paint an optimistic picture, and they’re also quite surprising, too. The ongoing season of the Overwatch League has been absolutely amazing — on that we can all, hopefully, agree.

The meta has been relatively flexible (any, by proxy, mighty exciting), multiple teams have exceeded expectations, and we witnessed a metric ton of twists and turns, none of which could have been foreseen coming into 2021. Moreover, the broadcast itself has been trimmed down and sped up — there are very few breaks and the entire viewing experience has been improved considerably. Add to that a bunch of viewership rewards, clipping, and even a 4K stream, and you get what can only be described as the absolute best season of the Overwatch League yet!

So why the heck did we witness a 25% decrease in viewership when compared to May Melee?

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Viewership numbers courtesy of Esports Charts

Well, for starters, the June Joust meta specifically left a bit to be desired. It was too predictable, and a bunch of people found it lacking. The finals match-up definitely delivered, but that was arguably the only time we were truly entertained. The fact that Tracer and Reinhardt got taken off the table made teams opt for far less exciting team comps and, well, most viewers weren’t all too happy about it. Will the upcoming Summer Showdown bring an increase in viewership? It’s impossible to know at this point in time, but the removal of hero pools should, in theory, generate a lot more interest.

The thing is, eighty-two thousand peak viewers doesn’t sound all that bad — until you compare it to the viewership numbers of other esports tournaments that were happening at the time as the June Joust.

June Joust Viewership Numbers — A Painful Comparison

The Valorant NA Stage 2 Challengers Finals, for instance, had reached a peak of 230,000 viewers. The DreamHack Master Spring 2021 hit over half a million. What about IEM Summer 2021? Nearly 190,000. Rainbow Six Invitational 2021? A whopping 300,000, with the Dota 2 WePlay AniMajor taking the cake with almost 650,000 peak viewers, and an equally impressive 272,806 average!

The numbers don’t lie, and they paint a much bigger picture — one that doesn’t bode well for competitive Overwatch. One can rightfully argue that Valve let competitive Dota 2 go down the drain ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and yet it still has a sizable (one might say “cult”) following.

Now, you can say that Overwatch has solidified its spot as a Tier 2 esport and, frankly, you’d be correct. The only problem with such a take is that spots in the Overwatch League cost tens of millions of dollars — we’re talking about seismic investments that won’t be recouped any time soon (if ever).

If you’re a conglomerate of some kind or an organization with ample VC backing, you’re not looking to splurge millions upon millions of dollars on something that won’t attract a large enough number of viewers. That’d be ludicrous. You’d invest only if you thought — or were duped into thinking — that competitive Overwatch would truly be the next big thing.

But it isn’t, and that might be a problem for those who’ve burned a lot of money on it. These team owners haven’t invested because they’re in love with the game or its community; they invested because they thought it’d be a good decision in the long run. So what happens when things don’t go “according to plan?”

Well, nothing good, in short. Richard Lewis’ cataclysmic prediction still lingers in the air.

Blizzard Isn’t Doing Much to Help

The fact that Blizzard has effectively abandoned the game and is focused solely on its sequel doesn’t bode well for competitive Overwatch either. If its player base is dwindling (and it is), then a decline in viewership is nothing but a by-product. By the time Overwatch 2 comes out (TBD), who knows how many people will still actively play the game, let alone watch the best teams in the world duke it out for glory (and a sizable sack of cash).

Why should the viewers care if the company behind the game doesn’t? Blizzard has done very little to improve Overwatch and make it more entertaining, so it’s only natural that most folks have started to seek out greener pastures. Now sure, Overwatch is over five-years-old at this point, but one cannot create an esport out of thin air (because it was the vogue thing to do and could generate a ton of profit) and then decide mid-process to practically abandon it and focus on a sequel without any sort of contingency plan in place. And yet that’s exactly what Blizzard has done, and it’s impossible not to be worried whether it’ll come back to bite them in the (near) future.

Passionate fans are keeping competitive Overwatch alive, and that’s a problem because they’re the only ones doing the heavy lifting. But they, too, have their limits. We hope that this is nothing but an overreaction and that the upcoming Summer Showdown will deliver record viewership, but it’s getting harder and harder to justify such optimism.


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