I think it’s incredibly important in life that we criticise the things we love and there aren’t too many things that I love more than Overwatch and the Overwatch League.
There’s a lot of good about the game, from the colourful and diverse line-up of heroes, all the different playstyles on offer, and just how fun it is to play. The League, similarly, has a lot of good points. Its production value has improved markedly, it’s getting esports out to a wider audience, and it’s just really fun to watch.
However, lately, I have one big problem with The Overwatch League that I think needs to be addressed and, no, it’s not GOATS.
To understand the problem you need to be a little bit familiar with Twitch streaming in general. Most of Twitch is made up of individual people streaming their favourite games. Some streamers have massive audiences and earn lots of money from doing so and others stream to just a few, or even nobody.
As Twitch is a source of income for so many people, there are different ways to get money from viewers. The most standard is for subscriptions where, if you’ve built your channel up enough, viewers can pay a monthly fee to subscribe to not only support you but also get benefits. Things like streamer emotes to use in chat to show that they’ve given money.
Another way Twitch collects money from viewers is in the form of ‘bits’ which they can use to cheer. This is more like a sort of tip jar where people can make one-off payments. Twitch collects a percentage and the rest goes to the streamer.
This may seem like an odd concept, but it’s essentially people giving money to other people in exchange for entertainment – almost like throwing a busker some coin or putting extra money in the jar of a good bartender.
This can all get a bit murky when it comes to how many kids watch Twitch. Having the chance to give their favourite streamer money and maybe even get noticed is a pretty big pull for a lot of younger people.
When it’s for an individual, it’s up to them to help discourage this. Sure, you want people to give you money but you need to be avoiding telling young folks that you need them to tip and try not to encourage it too much. Again, this is all on the individual and is hard to monitor or even regulate.
Where I think this gets really bad is when it comes to the Overwatch League. At the end of each day, they’ll display leaderboards showing who’s given the most money and to which teams. They’ll also call out those usernames and actively encourage them to give more money to have their name displayed.
Every time I see this towards the end of a stream I feel gross and want to turn it off. I could easily see kids who might even feel bad that their team might have lost because they didn’t receive enough donations. I can see others just desperate to get their name up on the board on the broadcast for boasting rights.
I think it’s perfectly fair for the Overwatch League to want to make money, but it has other avenues. Advertising is pretty prominent throughout regular streams, while they’ve even announced Coca-Cola as a new event sponsor.
For those that want to support the league further, you can buy the all-access pass which, for a one-off fee, gives you access to different player cams, interviews as well as stripping the ads. It’s a very worthwhile investment which dramatically improves watching the game if you’re a hardcore fan.
If you want to support your team, you can watch their social media accounts and personal streams. You can even buy merch of your favourite teams and wear it proudly. There are so many avenues that don’t involve blatantly egging people on to donate money.
The problem is the Overwatch League is a business, they don’t need your money – at least, not like that. They call for donations but are in no way a charity and you know that profits are being made.
If, on the other hand, the Overwatch League is truly suffering financially and needs this extra income, then something needs to dramatically change. Like I said before, I truly love the Overwatch League but if it can’t exist without encouraging kids to donate, then it simply shouldn’t exist.