Since the new season of the Overwatch League started, people cannot help but see noticeable issues with the broadcast. An argument can be made that switching streaming platforms from Twitch to YouTube invited potential problems to arise. Another factor is because viewers aren't able to farm league tokens to obtain skins of their favorite team. Also, there was no news of an all-access pass like previous seasons.
These non-existent features this season turned off a lot of fans. A snowball effect is the various issues from production to Watchpoint itself. It is difficult to pin the blame on one party, but let’s talk about what OWL can improve on as the season progresses.
Fix the production, now!
Production issues plagued the broadcast for the first two weeks. From the stream cutting out randomly to weird ad transitions, the league’s show is not up to par compared to previous seasons. If the league wants to present itself as more of a sports broadcast, a few solutions can be in place.
First, smooth transitions are a must when you watch any sports game. The countdown in between games is acceptable in parts of the broadcast, but it should be unacceptable now where OWL wants to be more sports than esports. Perhaps, a picture-in-picture from the analysis desk to the casters would make OWL look more of a professional broadcast rather than a typical esports broadcast. That transition can help the audience become more excited for an upcoming match.
For example, when you hear the analysts give their final thoughts on today’s games, they can jump ahead to whatever location is airing with the casters nodding off. If you have a countdown, then cut away to the casters, it takes away the pace of the matches and does not sustain the same level of hype before going to a break.
Are you not entertained!?
Another thing we need to see is a more entertaining Watchpoint desk. Match analysis can carry a segment but is not the most interesting to hear if you are a casual fan. If you watch sports shows like Inside the NBA, the analysts do a great job at a mix of analyzing games and being entertaining at the same time. Memes are spawned from their minor outbursts at the show and create memorable segments that everyone can remember. Is there a time you can recall anything memorable during Watchpoint?
Additionally, Inside the NBA and even the LCS analyst desk have unique segments that engage viewers. Instead of having the usual "best plays of the week" segment, LCS has pro players run a unique obstacle course called Sion Speedway inside Summoner’s Rift. For Inside the NBA, they have a segment called “Shaqtin' A Fool,” where they show bloopers within NBA games that usually get a laugh out of them because their editors insert little memes inside the clips.
This type of segment is missing in Watchpoint to get away from the seriousness of the matches themselves. It does not take away any confidence for players, but also gives them a sense of humor when they look at their matches. Also, there are a lot of custom games in Overwatch to pick out like the floor is lava, gun game, or infection-type modes. It is a great way not only to show the player’s personalities but give them a break away from the game itself.
Lack of crowd presence
Lastly, the crowd ambiance in all the homestands thus far is difficult to gauge. When attending the NYXL homestand in week one, spectators could feel the immense pressure from their peers as booming cheers and chants rang throughout the Hammerstein Ballroom. After reviewing the VOD, the crowd noise was not as loud as being there in person.
For viewers at home, it can sound disappointing to hear that the fans are not into it like you would be if you were there. However, that is how the audio is being picked up inside the arena. Possibly, setups changed for different homestands, but there should be a little consistency.
From watching the Philadelphia homestand at home last weekend, the fans looked like they were into the action. It was evident that fans had their hands up, but their cheers and boos were not as loud as it should be through the stream. Many would have loved to feel the boos from the Philadelphia crowd when Ethan "Stratus" Yankel constantly taunted them. Or cheers when Jae-hyeok "Carpe" Lee switched to Widowmaker and wiped his opposition off the match.
Please fix your issues, OWL
OWL made strides to become an innovative esports broadcast last season when it came to acquiring league tokens, multiple-choice trivia questions, and player and talent AMAs after matches completed for the day. This year, none of that is here because OWL broadcasts became a shell of its former self. There is so much for OWL to improve on with their move to YouTube.
Viewer engagement should be a priority. The thought of any changes can feel doubtful when the game itself has not had significant balance changes for a while. For the sake of the longevity of the league, let us hope that there are plans to keep improving the broadcast before it is too late.