Activision Blizzard has made the surprising announcement that the Overwatch League‘s 2020 season, as well as all other broadcast esports from the company, will be exclusive to the YouTube Gaming streaming platform. This will end the current exclusivity deal with Twitch.
While the Overwatch League‘s 3rd season is the most immediate event to take part in this new partnership, Blizzard has confirmed that all other leagues from their games will also be exclusive to YouTube. This includes the Call of Duty League, Hearthstone’s Masters and Grandmasters events – not to mention both World of Warcraft events, Mythic Dungeon and Arena Championships.
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Overwatch League and the Twitch Exodus
The past year has seen a war break out between the dominant streaming platform, Twitch, and smaller competitors looking to get their own loyal users. The most recent tactic is to pay top streamers to sign exclusivity deals, such as Ninja and Shroud moving to Mixer, CouRage streaming on YouTube, and Disguised Toast working with Facebook. Activision Blizzard will be the first company to sign a similar exclusivity deal for their esports events.
While streamers have things to consider when moving to a different platform, such as their fanbase and platform-specific features, Overwatch is in an even more unique position, after they worked with Twitch to create the Overwatch League All-Access program. This gave users control over how they watch matches, as well as other site-wide perks, and set their channel apart visually from every other channel on the platform. The move to YouTube could see this entire feature set dropped.
Twitch also has something that YouTube Gaming does not: viewers. Twitch is a juggernaut of active users, and many of them will only interact with an event like the Overwatch League for site-side rewards, or in-game rewards called “drops”. Others will only discover these events after seeing them happening while watching another stream on the site. Blizzard does have the advantage of their own launcher, which has proven successful in driving users to the stream in the past, but they should prepare for lower viewer numbers on a platform with fewer viewers.
Another issue that Activision Blizzard will need to tackle if they want to reach their whole fanbase is Chinese censorship. YouTube is banned in China, so they will need to use another streaming service for Chinese users. While the specifics have not been released, they did confirm that another service will be available for viewing the events in the Chinese market.
Streaming Isn’t the Only Part of the Deal
While the news of a large platform change like this seems large enough by itself, this announcement is actually part of a much larger deal with Google that includes much more than streaming rights. In addition to using YouTube for streaming, Activision Blizzard have also made Google Cloud their official cloud computing provider. This will move all of their game services away from Amazon Web Services, which is the most widely used cloud computing and storage provider in the world.
The Overwatch League’s 2020 season starts February 8th, and of course, you can catch it exclusively on YouTube. Meanwhile, The Illuminerdi will keep eyes peeled for important gaming news.