The Overwatch League, an officially funded esports event, has been dealing with declining viewership and issues with sponsors following Activision Blizzard’s ongoing workplace culture scandal. Now, based on a report from Jacob Wolf, it seems the teams Activision Blizzard employs to play the game for a live audience are taking legal action against the studio after years of high costs and low reward.
The report says the “majority” of Overwatch League teams are working with a British law firm for a collective bargaining process against event organizers “after years of high operating costs and continually missed promises on revenue.” The British law firm in question is Sheridans, which primarily works with media and tech cases,.
Wolf’s sources say the goal is for the teams to receive some economic relief to “promote sustainability” after each team spent somewhere between $7.5 to $10 million in franchise payments since Overwatch League was founded six years ago. This is on top of $1 million in operating costs. The report says some teams have spent more than $16 million on Overwatch League costs over the years.
The 12 franchises who joined the Overwatch League in its first season each signed on to pay $20 million with the expectation that they would be paid over time, with prices going up to anywhere from $27 to $35 million in the second season.
Overwatch League’s grand finals drew in over 1.5 million viewers last year, but this was also peak for the season, which largely had trended downward in viewership, as the Overwatch League has over the years.
The league has been in a transitional state after Overwatch 2’s launch last year shook up the game and removed two players from each match, leading to unrest within teams as some have feared this may lead to cuts in personnel down the line. The League has been playing Overwatch 2 longer than the public has, as Blizzard gave teams an early build so the event could make an early transition to the sequel, rather than playing an old game Blizzard wouldn’t be supporting by the end of 2022.
We’ve reached out to Blizzard for comment on this story and will update it should we hear back.
While the Overwatch League has its own separate set of issues, Overwatch 2 has been dealing with problems of its own since its early access launch in October. Since the sequel shifted the game’s business model over to free-to-play, the game’s expensive microtransactions and battle pass grind have been a point of contention for a lot of players. This is on top of lackluster events, which are rehashing old cosmetics that were attainable for free, at one point, but now with a hefty real world price tag.