The Argument Against Geolocation in the Overwatch League
The idea of geolocation in the Overwatch League isn’t a new one. It was one of the biggest selling points for the league, and isn’t a surprise to many. I’m beyond excited for it, why wouldn’t I want to watch my favorite team at their home stadium or visit for an away game? It’s something I grew up doing for my favorite sports teams, and now I’ll get to do it for esports.
Except I wasn’t excited when Nate Nanzer officially announced geolocation for 2020. I thought about the problems with this concept, and how it could hurt the Overwatch League. I worry that such a large league hitting a major road bump could have a huge impact on the esports industry. While I know I have no say, I want to talk about what worries me about the concept.
Look, I know next to nothing about the legality of visas, but I still can see the problems they can cause. While it is not a widespread issue, we’ve seen stories of players and other staff running into visa problems. This is with all players and staff coming to the United States, what happens when we go global?
I’m sure Blizzard is already working on this, but they aren’t able to control governments. There are teams from six different countries across the world, all which need their own visas. I can already see the complaints on Twitter about teams losing due to a missing player over visa issues.
It’s not the mention that a player may miss an entire stage due to a mid-season trade. These trades usually happen pretty quick, and obtaining a work visa usually is a little slow. So when your favorite player moves from Dallas to Seoul, it may be awhile before you see them play again.
Running a Stadium
If you think running a stadium style event is easy, you should stop reading now. It takes long hours by countless of people working their asses off to make even smaller events work. If you want a professional experience for home games next year, let’s hope your team is starting to plan now.
I don’t doubt that these organizations can make it work, I worry that one bad experience could turn new fans. Pricing tickets, providing expected services, and avoiding technical issues is not an easy task. One bad experience with any of these could turn away countless fans for good.
None of this even includes the extra marketing work needed to make sure the stadium is full. Currently the Overwatch League is a destination you go to in Burbank, California. Once it’s in your home town, it’s like any other sports team or entertainment option. Keeping fans showing up for every game is something that everyone has been struggling with recently, esports is no exception.
Players’ emotional and physical health has been a topic in the Overwatch League since it launched. These conversations are super important for the future growth of esports. Which is why I worry about the players in this new model. Traveling across the world to compete is something that can take a toll on anyone. The constant traveling, adapting to new places and being away from home is hard.
I know that most games will be against other teams in their division, which does help! But we’ve seen players that have had burnout and emotional health issues playing in only California. I know that other professional sports have away games and their players are fine. This is another issue I see being more of a road bump, versus a prohibiting factor. Having many players come out next season talking about how they are struggling is good for no one involved, including fans.
Hoping for the Best
I said it at the beginning of the article, I am beyond excited about the concept of geolocation. I watch way too much of the Overwatch League, and the idea of having teams closer to me is so cool. I just don’t want the league to hit a major roadblock due to this expansion, or have fans turned off by the experience. A major failure from a league the size of OWL, could have an impact on esports we can’t predict. I know I’m thinking about the worst case scenario, that’s because I want it to be the best it can be!
If you want to read more about the topic, Dylan wrote about his opinions from the other side of the argument!