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Business of Esports TV: Overwatch 2: Free?

(Podcast #133)

In this segment, we discuss how Overwatch 2 might be free-to-play and how that might impact popular FPS games moving forward.

The Business Of Esports brings you news, debates, and all the information you need to know about the gaming sector, the world’s fastest-growing market. With Paul “The Profit” Dawalibi leading the charge, and a variety of special guests, BoE TV is the only place to find insider information on the esports industry!

Check out the full podcast here:

Paul Dawalibi 1:10:30
William, I want I want your view on this because this is in your book in fact, right in terms of any in terms of frameworks and but this this is an article about Overwatch two, which was recently announced and the headline here we’re gonna get into multiple pieces of this Overwatch to puzzle but the headline here is will Overwatch to be free to play and you have been hardcore bent on on the on the on the idea that Overwatch one should have been free to play from the beginning. In fact, it’s a man’s and it’s in your book, William and then the, you know, the framework around accessibility being an important part. Do you think Blizzard will go there? Are we gonna see Overwatch to free to play? And will it make a difference?

William Collis 1:11:31
So I mean, this is literally in the book that I mean, so anyone who reads the book, if you don’t get this from reading the blog, like I don’t I don’t know you didn’t read it. But at the core, there are four core factors that are driving the success of Esports. And accessibility is one of those factors. And one of the largest ways to drive accessibility for title is free to play, right zero price, because if something costs money, it’s harder to adopt, it’s harder to try right. And in general if you have a product that you are proud of an experiential product right, giving it away is generally a great strategy because people are hesitant with experiential goods and try and then buy is a very effective historically proven so I basically do not see how you can launch any major esport today without being free to play and if anybody and you can even look within the own cat within the uncountable Activision Blizzard, I think things like war zone have vastly outperformed their own internal expectations. And I bet there was a huge debate of this Call of Duty ever have a free to play component because we got $60 checks every 12 months, you know, we put out a new version. So it just in my mind is not a choice it has to be. And I think you can impute many, maybe not all but many of the challenges that Overwatch League has had to the fixed price point for the game because they’re competing against things like League of Legends, or valorant. Now, which are zero or Counter Strike, maybe is the better example with you know, Tobias on our podcast here. We’re not such good examples. But a lot of these games are free, right? They’re absolutely free. So it’s very tough. So yeah, this has to be in moments that’s like, how is this not been announced yet? is a free to play game because it has to be to be relevant.

Paul Dawalibi 1:13:17
Can we conclude that it won’t be free to play? Do you think that’s why it hasn’t been announced? Tobias? Do you? What do you think are the chances that Blizzard puts this out that Overwatch two is free to play?

Unknown Speaker 1:13:28
Well, how much they care about eSports that’s what Simon would say. Simon’s looking at this as indicative of, if they care about eSports which, by the way, improves your bottom line long term. Pretty proven, then it should be free to play. I mean, look, they’ll do telemetry on what they can forecast sales as as a publicly traded company. And you can argue that they’re they’re great at that and their stock price and all this but there’s going to come a point where I mean, it already sort of happened you know, when when everybody made fun of Riot for being free to play and and you know, everybody sees the success they are now they forgot the shit they got shoveled pardon my language, but they did on. Yeah, well, that that can’t work, right? Like they’ve been told that can’t win. And what do you mean, you’re just going to be kept cosmetic skins that can’t work. And it’s like, if you care about the space, you want to grow the pie. And to waves point if you’re proud of your product, and you can monetize without having to put that price tag on there. Why not do that? Like, please? It’s just do I think they’ll do it was your question. I’m so sorry. I’m getting I’m getting emotional about I think they may cave if there’s enough, but I think right now the plan is probably no or they would have said it. And I think if they get enough pressure, they’ll they will do it because that pressure will if they think it’ll affect their stock price. If here’s here’s what it boils down to. It’s simple, simple economics for them. If the pressure would affect their stock price, as an upside more to go free to play then it would that they could just charge people and say heck on it. outriders. Like you’re putting a game out that you know has bugs again after we just went through this with anthem, are you kidding me? Like, you know, it’s a money grab, and it’s not necessarily one of the wins point you shouldn’t do money grabs the esports you’re putting out a quality product why wouldn’t you want that in everybody’s hands? I mean, God it’s it’s just a smarter long term play if you want to be competitive. If we have a bigger here’s what I’ll end on this thought for myself, and please feel free to to pay it. But for me, it’s like this is very simple. I use soccer as an example, you know, not so much in America. But globally, soccer is so loved because anybody with an empty field a can and you know, two pylons or whatever they put as goalposts can play soccer you new to ball. And we’re horrible at that with eSports. Like we need to get better at accessibility, whether that means providing computers going more mobile wild Rift, amazing wild rift is so good. I there’s so many quality of life changes in wildlife, wildlife is a mobile title. I don’t want to play traditional league anymore, I can pin the dragons, they attack the dragon, why can’t I do that? Right? Like, there’s a lot we can improve on. So I’m not all a fanboy variety, I could pick and pick on them through the poisonous, you know, we have an obligation to grow the space, like it or not, we have an obligation to that you have an obligation your shareholders. And if you can’t articulate to your shareholders, why this is going to be better, you don’t deserve the position of the executive that you are. And I’m not just saying Bobby, any of them. If you can’t explain that you can’t understand it yourself. You’ve outdated yourself, and you should resign.

Paul Dawalibi 1:16:47
But it’s it’s an interesting sort of bigger topic here. And I’d love to dig in just a little bit, which is, you know, my simple view is, East one. When you have big companies like Activision Blizzard looking at eSports or any company that’s good that has gone into eSports any game publisher, they have, I think one of three goals, they approach it one of three ways, right? It’s either eSports is a marketing cost that will get more people to play our game, right, and I put fortnight in that category, to eSports is who we are and we see it as an engine for growth for the business and to drive revenue and profitability long term. And I would put like Liga legends and riot in that category, why they have their own division for that. Yeah, right. And then the third is like eSports is hot. And it’s a cash grab. And, you know, we’re not sure how we’re going to make it work long term, but there’s a lot of money out there to go get right now. I mean, I personally put Activision Blizzard in that third box.

Unknown Speaker 1:17:50
Yes. I mean, I mean Hello, like, absolutely. Like look at Starcraft. Are you kidding me? We couldn’t get you couldn’t make a call to Papa John’s pizza. When gone PV and Korea’s ordering properties. If you’re eating in the crowd, you can’t make that phone call.

Paul Dawalibi 1:18:03
Are you kidding me?

Unknown Speaker 1:18:04
Like, just do it just because you can. No you’re you’re stifling yourself. Like it was amazing to me. Like it’s like, well, Starcraft was a game. Much more money. Well, there’s a bigger thing here, buddy. Like, you know what I mean? Like you don’t like stop stepping over dollars to pick up the you know, the pennies. The problem is at scale those pennies, equal hundreds of millions. So now, you know one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard Thorin say ever was after we I was invited to dream hack or my favorite events. We were on a panel together we’re doing something and actually not john shipping but in in Sweden. And, and, and at that time. Thorin summed it up perfectly. He said, What’s the history of sports and eSports? How do we get to where the sports are? And he goes eSports are 100,000 heirs arguing with a few other 100,000 heirs over which it happened. Sports is billionaires arguing with millionaires over out what should go on next. And that was the truth. Right? That was pre valuations and everything was so insightful because now you know, we saw that catch up. Now. I think that if you’re going to charge what you charged for those franchises, yeah, the game should I think the teams should demand it’s going to be free to play. And by the way, I’m on the record of saying this a million times, but I’m not afraid to say I don’t understand. Nobody understands. Even you know, a lot of people gave Morgan Stanley like a 14 year old on Reddit broke down the Morgan Stanley report when they were first coming out with Overwatch going none of this is right. Like a 14 year old and it scares me because it’s like you’re getting that much wrong and you’re and you’re analyzing this what other genre Are you getting? Are you getting like global what other global economic genre Are you off on Morgan State Like, seriously, but the point is, when you look at it, and you say I’m going to charge you however X amount of millions, my whole solution was simple. For the people I consulted for I said look, if you’re going to spend that much money, every company Title they ever come out with is is your franchise. But the idea was no, we’re gonna franchise, you know, celebrities and everybody else. And we’re gonna go a different direction with Call of Duty. And it’s just great at the end of the day, it’s unnecessary. And I think that when you get too greedy too fast, it’s going to have negative consequences. You can blame COVID you can name it, and I’m not going to throw rocks in a glass house or base my whole life on what I did in the past. Like, I’m going to come out with a title myself here, that’s going to have plenty of we’re going to stub our toe, I’m sure. But I’m going to err on the side of the community and growing it. And I think that I don’t want to get too long winded I’m afraid I already have. But it’s it’s worth saying that if you’re a team, you better be demanding for that growth that it is free to play and that the patches are more community sensitive than than not.

Paul Dawalibi 1:20:46
So let me ask both of you guys a final question on this. Because of all the conversations we’ve had and I’ve had with team owners in Overwatch league. This is like behind closed door like off the record, right? Like many of them have said Overwatch too, is what we’re counting on. And it’s what Activision Blizzard is telling us is gonna save the day is gonna save Overwatch league right? If Overwatch two is not free to play, do you think there is any chance of this? I’m curious, both of you guys. If what what willing maybe your take Firstly, um, yeah, please.

William Collis 1:21:20
No, no, I mean, I can answer that incredibly easily. No, in fact, it’s. And I just think that is so apparent to people in the space that part of me believes the reason why Overwatch two has not yet been announced as free to play is just they’re saving the PR closer to launch, you know that there might be an old guns blazing strategy for this because I think also as easy as it is for us to see the importance of Overwatch to to the future of Overwatch. It’s also got to be pretty apparent to the folks at Activision Blizzard around that. So, you know, I like I don’t know, but um, but no, I think it has it absolutely has to be I yeah, there’s no way What do you think Tobias

Unknown Speaker 1:21:57
I was big on the press. I supported Nate over there. From day one on the league, they got a lot of it right. Not all of it made it we want to do a we actually wanted to do a combine at IMG Academy, which I thought would have been really cool content. And a great way to introduce the competitors and a great way for teams to see ratings on the competitors on how they deliver a sponsor message. All these things should be on the table, and it should be free to play. And I will say this can’t achieve the success it can as free to play. If it’s paid no way. Like forget about saving the day you just can’t achieve. You’re the most you can without being in everybody’s hands, you know at all at once because they can debut the game like this, make it free to play and think about that for a second. You can download it and start having that experience. And it’s the good experience. And even if it isn’t like how many gamers start off on it’s a shit game. And we have no self respect. Let’s get that clear. Gamers. We have zero self respect. Every Reddit articles, were there good publishers

Paul Dawalibi 1:23:00
working weekends.

Unknown Speaker 1:23:03
It was angry Joe podcast on or angry Joe review on outriders when he ends it or at some point he says, He says I’m have a little self respect, a little dignity. I’m like, oh, like, yeah, that’s the truth. And so waiting on the publisher to save the day ain’t gonna happen that the teams need to unify, go in there. Cold get a collective bargain. Get somebody that isn’t that that’s not me. That is that it’s like me that isn’t afraid to go in there and say, No, this is just not going to work. It needs to be this because of this or just start walking out of the contract because you put too much money in to make Blizzard more money and not have the league be successful. And I again, I had Overwatch League, they’d have a deal. They were great. I was behind Nate. I was like, I was not behind what they were charging. For franchises. I was not for the way they were going to franchise. But nobody gets everything perfect. You know, and kudos for taking the swing. But you better stick by him. You better stick by those owners. Because Yeah, you know, they’re the ones that are driving but Paul goes back to what you said as well as like, you’re in that camp of whom you really can’t figure it out. But it all makes money. So what’s best for us? Blizzard, you know,

Paul Dawalibi 1:24:23
which Bobby is great at he really is. I mean, the stock price has done incredibly well.

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