Overwatch was crowned Esports Game of the Year at the SXSW Conference Gaming Awards on Saturday night.
The nominees for the category were as follows:
- Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare;
- Gears of War 4;
- Killer Instinct: Season 3;
- Street Fighter V.
The website’s description of the award reads as follows: “Awarded to the online game with the best competitive scene, or potential to grow one, and most entertainment value”. The winner of the award is decided by a combination of the SXSW Gaming Advisory Board and the general public. The winner? Overwatch.
What’s evident from the list above is that none of the established esports feature in the list. Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, League of Legends, Starcraft II and Hearthstone all don’t make the cut and that’s due to the SXSW awards recognising games released in the last year.
It’s safe to say that Overwatch winning an award for Esports Game of the Year caused quite the stir amongst established figures in the esports scene, and with good reason too.
Co-owner of Splyce, Marty “LazerChicken” Strenczewilk, declared:
The idea that sxsw is giving out an esports game of the year award for only games that just came out is so counterproductive to esports
— Bad Hombre Lazer (@Lazerchickenzzz) March 19, 2017
Meanwhile esteemed host, Paul “ReDeYe” Chaloner, commented:
I love SXSW but you make yourselves look like idiots giving out awards for esports games not even established as esports yet.
— ReDeYe (@PaulChaloner) March 19, 2017
There’s little doubt that Overwatch is an exceptional game. In little under a year the game has amassed 25 million players across Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC which is a seriously impressive achievement.
When Overwatch was first released there was understandably a lot of hype around it and whether or not it would break into the top esports titles. It’s safe to say that since then, Blizzard have been fairly heavy-handed with their approach towards the competitive landscape.
Their announcement of the Overwatch League back at BlizzCon outlined (albeit vaguely) their plans for the future of Overwatch as an esport. They suggested that by the third quarter of 2017 they would launch a worldwide league of regionalised teams, based on city. Recent reports from the SBJ suggest that Blizzard have been asking for between $2m (£1.6m) and $5m (£4m) in some places and as much as a staggering $15m (£12m) in Los Angeles.
The spectator aspect of the title has improved vastly since release yet is still not quite as smooth as other esports titles. Whilst undoubtedly Overwatch is an exceptional game that could potentially become a great esport, dubbing it “Esports Game of the Year” is dramatically over the top for where the game is at today.
Esports Insider says: Overwatch won four awards in total which goes to show just how great a game it is. 25 million copies across three platforms echoes that very sentiment. Simply put, the Esports award at SXSW should have been all-encompassing or implied in the title that only new titles were to be considered. Hopefully Blizzard improve the esports side and help realise OW’s clear potential.