With the news that Blizzard and ESL FACEIT are set to go on sale a new sports circuit for Overwatch 2just months after death It’s a good time to review the entire esports scene of the Overwatch League. At least in North America, things are looking a little edgy. League of Legends and Rocket League are particularly mixed, entering the 2024 seasons with slim budgets and major changes. At the same time, expanding the open qualifiers model should provide more opportunities for everyday players to compete. Valorant, Overwatch 2, Rocket League and all kinds of fighting games. Get those fingers ready, folks.
This week’s stories
Xbox line in 2024
Xbox held its first 2024 showcase last week and highlighted several games that have been in development for years. Indiana Jones and the Great Circle It’s coming out in 2024 and it’s coming Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus Studio MachineGames. The new footage showed Indy getting as many tattoos, taunts and Nazi punches as he wanted.
Next, Obsidian’s massive fantasy RPG, Sure, coming to PC and Xbox in the fall. Obsidian is the studio that produced it Fallout: New Vegas and Outer worldsand Sure It looks like a spin on the Elder Scrolls game.
Finally, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II It will be released on May 21, nearly five years after it was announced alongside the Xbox Series X.
Esports is back and smaller than ever
2024 is a moment of reckoning for esports, especially in North America. Blizzard killed the Overwatch League last year and is trying to start a new series with ESL, which has a North American following. League of Legends is in decline and Rocket League‘s RLCS tournament is in shambles.
League of Legends is the king of esports, and its World Championship tournament in 2023 broke viewership records thanks to legendary performances from teams from Korea and China – OK, mostly Faker. But as much as I support them, North America League of Legends teams are still kind of a joke on the world stage. Last year, the Korean summer event drew 1.5 million concurrent viewers, while the LCS summer tournament peaked at 223,000 viewers, down from 370,000 in 2022. The 2024 season kicked off this month with regional tournaments and what appears to be the North American LCS. a new animal. The number of teams competing in the LCS has been reduced from 10 to 8, meaning the Evil Geniuses and Golden Guardians are gone, and the league uses a faster-paced best-of format during the regular season. We’ll see how it all plays out at MSI in May.
Budgets are tight and teams are scattered in the Rocket League Championship Series. This year there will be two major tournaments instead of three, plus the World Championship, and fewer spots for both North America and Europe. Six established wheels have been dropped from this year’s events, and it looks like only North America and Europe will host English-only tournaments. The RLCS prize pool is also smaller this year, down from $6 million to $4.3 million. By 2024, several teams had lost their sponsorships and there had been a ton of player turnover between existing organizations. To top it all off, the game’s most popular player, Squishy, has announced that he plans to retire from professional gaming to focus on broadcasting. It’s just a confusing time Rocket League esports.
One side effect of the decline of esports is the shift to open qualifiers. Rocket League this year it was changed to open qualifiers, meaning that anyone can compete for a spot in the RLCS, rather than teams buying in for the season. The RLCS prize pool is smaller, but deeper, and the top 128 teams in North America will receive small payouts.
The Valorant The esports scene has been steadily strengthening since the game’s launch in 2020, with a peak of 1.4 million viewers for the 2023 Valorant Champions Tour. VCT has always featured open qualifiers, and this year that system is expanding with Premier, an in-game competitive track that acts as another funnel for everyday players to compete on the main stage. (As a side note, VCT Game Changers the series highlights gamers of marginalized genders and it’s really awesome, check it out sometime.)
Just this week, Blizzard announced a multi-region esports tournament for the Overwatch Champions Series. Overwatch 2. Unlike the defunct Overwatch League, the Champions Series will feature open qualifiers. The new series is produced by ESL FACEIT, which is owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which makes me sad.
Meanwhile, the fighting game community has been open enrollment for some time. EVO is the biggest fighting game tournament of the year and hosted over 9,000 players competing in eight titles in 2023. Fighting games as a single genre are often at the forefront of testing in esports, and EVO is always a good time.
I think open registration is a great step for esports in general – it allows more people from different backgrounds to participate and provides a continued entry point for young professionals. This is how talent pipelines are built.
After taking a few months off to play other games, I got back into the game Cult of the Lamb. The free Sins of the Flesh update came out last week and it’s big and sexy, adding layers of depravity and tons of new content to the game. As does Engadget weekend editor Cheyenne MacDonald said in his opinion“Me and my followers are having a great time sinning.”