Overwatch League in jeopardy after layoffs, owners to vote on competition’s future
Activision Blizzard effectively gave the franchise owners the choice to grab some money and leave, while also apparently laying off a sizable amount of staff in its esports operation, which could spell the end of the Overwatch League as we know it.
In the company’s second-quarter 2023 financial results, Activision Blizzard addressed the ongoing issues regarding the Overwatch League. At the end of the current season, teams will vote on an “updated operating agreement” and the teams that do not vote to continue will be paid a termination fee of $6 million.
This decision effectively puts the fate of the Overwatch League in the hands of the current owners, which doesn’t paint a bright future. At the beginning of this year, a majority of teams came together to hire a law firm to represent them in the first steps of a collective bargaining process. Many teams sought economic relief after spending millions on players over the past few years, while revenue dipped due to expiring media rights deals and an exodus of sponsors. The teams were provided some relief last month when the OWL reportedly waived all the remaining franchise fees owed.
Within this section of the report, Activision Blizzard revealed that the total revenues from the OWL made up less than one percent of the company’s “consolidated net revenues.” Just yesterday, according to a report from The Verge, around 50 employees were laid off from the company’s esports department.
While the company’s senior director of global communications Brad Crawford told The Verge it is “committed to the future of esports,” one now-former employee did not share the same sentiments. “I can only speculate that Activision Blizzard is closing its esports division,” they told The Verge. “They may be able to keep a skeleton crew on to close out the OWL and the World Series of Warzone seasons in the next few months, but in my eyes, they are completely unequipped to internally support anything esports after that.”
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