Mark Cuban, best known as the owner of NBA franchise the Dallas Mavericks, recently made some bold statements about the knock-on effect of Fortnite’s popularity on top esports titles, namely the Overwatch League.
In addition to his role in traditional sports, Cuban is also involved in esports through other ventures such as Mavs Gaming and investment in esports betting website Unikrn.
Mavs Gaming currently fields an NBA 2K roster playing in the NBA 2K League, which recently began its inaugural season, with the Mavs winning their opening two matches.
Of course, the talk of the esports community in recent days has been heavily focused on Fortnite, mainly due to developers Epic Games announcing they will pledge $100M to esports prize pools for the battle royale game.
Speaking at the seventh State of College Athletics Forum hosted by Big 12 Conference on May 23rd, Cuban signalled that he reckons the Overwatch League is on a downward trend, perhaps attributing it to the rise of Fortnite and its plans of expansion into esports.
“Now, every major team is trying to start a Fortnite team-“
– But how long is Fortnite going to be popular? That’s the big question.
“Well, it has a good head start, and it’s not even so much how long is Fortnite going to be popular – it’s what is happening to other games, particularly in the United States.
I think Overwatch has gone [plummeting motion]. You know, what happens to OWL?”
It isn’t exactly clear if Cuban thinks Fortnite is having a direct impact upon Overwatch and the OWL, or if he reckons Overwatch is in fact the cause of it’s own supposed demise.
And some have argued that his perception of the OWL is not necessarily accurate either, with still impressive viewing figures (although these have seen a significant drop since the beginning of stage one), and Blizzard reportedly set to hike up the pricing for a league spot in Season 2.
OWL isn't in any real trouble considering Blizzard's success in selling sponsorships & franchising expansion, but Fortnite out of all games is definitely causing a major hit to Overwatch, with potential to harm OWL. Many aspiring esports players are competing in Fortnite over OW.
— Rod Breslau (@Slasher) May 23, 2018
But Cuban did expand on his statement, giving some clarification as he was challenged by the CEO of esports organization Immortals and OWL team the Los Angeles Valiant, Noah Winston.
Fortnite itself is still yet to convince many of its suitability as a spectator esport, despite the large investement, given that other Battle Royale titles such as PUBG have been critcized for the difficulty viewers have following the action.
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However, regardless of the hurdles Fortnite will have to overcome, Cuban is not saying anything particularly outlandish by recognizing its immense popularity and developer support which is giving it a leg up into the esports industry.
As for Overwatch and the OWL, it will likely deem itself so distinct from Fortnite in terms of fan and player base overlap that it shouldn’t worry, but there’s no doubt Blizzard would love to attract those same fans who now find themselves engrossed in Fortnite.