Blizzard Entertainment and ESL Faceit Group are joining forces to operate the next chapter of Overwatch 2 esports: the Overwatch Champions Series. In this multi-year agreement, the OWCS will overhaul Blizzard’s Overwatch League model, which focused on top level play in a city-based esports league. Instead, the OWCS will build an open global circuit featuring both online and in-person events.
“OWCS introduces a new era of Overwatch esports while honoring the traditions and passion built by Overwatch esports,” said Craig Levine, co-CEO, ESL Faceit Group. “Together with Blizzard Entertainment, EFG is well-positioned to create a truly global experience on the Faceit platform and at DreamHack festivals.”
The Overwatch Champions Series will operate across three regions: North America, EMEA and Asia. Each region will manage its own set of open qualifiers and tournaments. Notably, ESL Faceit Group will not manage the Asia circuit. Instead, Korean esports tournament organizer WDG will operate the region. More details on qualification processes are available on PlayOverwatch.com.
These will lead into two in-person international events hosted at EFG’s gaming and lifestyle festival DreamHack. DreamHack Dallas will host eight of the world’s top teams in a double elimination bracket from May 31-June 2. Next, eight teams from all three regions will meet at the World Finals at DreamHack Stockholm from November 22-24.
“A thriving esports scene is important to a game as competitive as Overwatch 2, and we’re very excited to be entering this next era for the franchise with EFG,” said Jared Neuss, executive producer of Overwatch 2.
OWCS’ grassroots (online) approach
In an effort to create an open and sustainable esports ecosystem, the OWCS will leverage EFG’s Faceit platform. The online tournament platform will create a clear path to pro for aspiring OWCS stars. Whether players want to find a consistent team or compete for top prizes, Faceit will serve as the first step.
There’s a lot that both ESL Faceit Group and Blizzard have not yet revealed, including online tournament formats, ticket sales, prize pools and more. Moreover, EFG said it plans to support third-party tournament organizers looking to produce community events. However, the structure of these agreements was not detailed.
This online focus might disappoint some fans, but this approach is certainly more cost-friendly than the defunct Overwatch League. It contrasts starkly with the OWL’s $20 million initial buy-ins (and $6 million termination fee) per team.
Blizzard clearly understands that a strictly top-down approach won’t work for the future of Overwatch 2’s competitive community. However, EFG still needs to prove that there’s enough of an audience to support Overwatch esports given the challenges Overwatch 2 has faced since launch. Hosting the in-person events under the DreamHack banner also helps to defray the risks of operating live events.
Outsourcing to ESL Faceit Group
This deal is another example of a growing trend of publishers outsourcing their esports programs. ESL Faceit Group has carved out a niche managing many mobile esports ecosystems under its SnapDragon Pro Series as well as path to pro events for Call of Duty.
Meanwhile, rival esports organizer Blast has partnered with Ubisoft to manage Rainbow Six Siege esports. Last week, Epic Games announced a partnership with Blast for Fortnite Competitive and Rocket League esports instead of renewing with EFG. Reportedly, this change is due to morality concerns regarding ESL Faceit Group’s parent company Savvy Games Group, which is funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).
While Epic is uniquely strong in its moral convictions, it’s not clear how other publishers will react. Esports EFG’s upcoming Esports World Cup could be another powerful lure in an esports industry that’s still strapped for cash.
GamesBeat’s creed when covering the game industry is “where passion meets business.” What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you — not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it. Discover our Briefings.