We had an opportunity to talk to Overwatch game director, Jeff Kaplan, at the Fun & Serious conference in Bilbao, Spain. We naturally brought up the imminent start of the highly anticipated Overwatch League that kicks off in January.
"The Overwatch pre-season I think was amazing for everybody involved, meaning it was great for players, it was a really fun, sort of, tournament to watch. At Blizzard and at the Overwatch League we learned so much. There were small technical things that we knew that we could do better. We watch the run of show and we talk about, you know, that break was too long or we should change the way the game looks in this way. We were doing a lot of tweaks to spectator mode, in terms of how the outlines look, the nameplates look, so it was almost like a technical dressed rehearsal for us. And then I think it was excellent also because we have all of these new team owners and brand new players to Overwatch League and getting them all used to how everything was going to work. They're going to be competing at a very high level, playing a lot of matches. So it was a great dress rehearsal for everyone to get a kind of feeling for what needs to be improved when we start in early January."
One of the most interesting things about the Overwatch League is how it mirrors traditional professional sports in the US. And merchandise sales is, of course, a major source of revenue, but a big deal is that this won't just be real-world merchandise, but also in-game skins players will be able to pick up to show support of their favourite sides.
"The Overwatch League skins are one of the things that players were giving constant feedback. Every time the teams would reveal their logo and their colours and we'd show a team skin players kept asking 'how do I get that skin?'. So the skins are going to be great. We made team uniforms, home and away, for all 12 teams and we made uniforms for every single hero in the game, all 26 of them. So they can all represent their team. Sometime in January, we will make the skins available to players, but only the home skins for now. We might do something with the away skins later, but we're a little bit unsure at this point, but all the home skins will become available and the way that the players will obtain these skins is that they'll buy Overwatch League tokens and then use the Overwatch League tokens to redeem the skin. And one thing that I think is pretty cool about the system is that it actually rewards and compensates the teams themselves, so part of the way the business model is set up is that teams generate revenue through things like skin sales in the game so it goes to support your team."
Do you look forward to the start of Overwatch League and have you already picked a favourite team?