H3CZ explains what the Overwatch League needs to change to “explode”

Isaac McIntyre
YouTube: H3CZ / Activision-Blizzard

Activision’s Overwatch League continues to face setbacks ahead of its move into a bold home-and-away system for its third season, but NRG CEO Hector ‘H3CZ’ Rodriguez has suggested the league only needs some small changes to “explode.”

It’s no secret the OWL is struggling heading into its third season – fans are dubious about the new travelling format for the competition, casters have been leaving in droves, and viewership is falling behind rivals like League of Legends.

H3CZ stepped in to lead NRG’s esports division heading into 2020, and he’s mainly been focused on the start of the Call of Duty League with the Chicago Huntsman, he’s had one eye on the lead-in to San Francisco Shock’s title defense too.

San Francisco Shock hold Overwatch League trophy 2019
H3CZ believes the OWL is on the verge of the ‘explosion’ its been searching for.

According to the former OpTic Gaming helmsman, who touched on the topic alongside Dallas veteran James ‘Clayster’ Eubanks on episode 52 of his Eavesdrop Podcast, there’s only a few small tweaks the OWL needs for success.

In his eyes, Overwatch’s path forward needs to be more closely linked with the CDL format – namely, OWL teams need to play more matches at every homestand. Right now, fans will pay top dollar to see one or two clashes. He thinks there needs to be more.

“What needs to happen, is [the Call of Duty format] needs to be applied to the Overwatch League… if we can take eight teams in the OWL and bring something similar to what we’re doing with the CDL, that league is going to explode,” H3CZ said.

“When was the last time there was an OWL-based MLG-like tournament, where every team goes, there’s a f**king open bracket, and you all brawl? Before franchising. I think that’s one of the things that’s stopping that league.”

More matches held over tournament weekends is the way forward for esports leagues like OWL and CDL, H3CZ explained.

Part of the problem, H3CZ explained, was the fact fans “pay a lot of money” to go see “just two matches.” When the CDL announced a similar format, fans exploded in defiance. On the other hand, Overwatch supporters seem to have accepted it.

“I understand it’s following the blueprint of traditional sports, but we don’t have to,” the NRG CEO continued. “We can follow it, learn from it, but we don’t have to do it exactly. That doesn’t fit with [esports], and we have to fit into what works for esports.”

“It didn’t take long for us to convince Activision that this was the better format, and props to them for that. I think that this change for the CDL is going to put it into perspectives for other leagues too, and hopefully make them better too.”

Clayster talks about CDL's new format and why it's better than OWL.
Clayster agrees that the CDL’s new format is far superior to one or two games a weekend.

Empire star Clayster agreed with H3CZ’s sentiments, and added that the ‘festival of esports’ format the CDL has embraced after public backlash was just simply “more exciting” for both spectators, and for the players involved in the games.

“[With the old CDL format] we might have had to go somewhere, and play a roster that is eleventh-seeded, or ranked, and just 3–0 smoked them, and we would have been done in 20 minutes,” the two-time world champion said.

“We would have been done in like 20 minutes, and we just travelled three hours to play for no time. No one is going to have fun doing that. That’s just how it is. People want to come for a big weekend and watch all their favorite teams play at one venue.”

For mobile readers, the related segment in the video below begins at 19:20.

For now, however, it looks like Activision-Blizzard is going full steam ahead with OWL’s sports-like format, while the CDL returns to a more festival-like setup.

With both competitions beginning soon – the CDL starts in Minnesota on January 24, while OWL returns with homestands in New York and Dallas on February 8 – it looks like we’ll soon have the answer about which has the staying power.

H3CZ’s NRG-backed teams are both involved in the opening rounds. The Huntsmen face Clayster’s Empire in the league’s historic first fixture, and the Shock begins their title defense in 2020 against the Dallas Fuel in Arlington.

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About The Author

Isaac was formerly the Australian Managing Editor at Dexerto. Isaac began his writing career as a sports journalist at Fairfax Media, before falling in love with all things esports and gaming. Since then he's covered Oceanic and global League of Legends for Upcomer, Hotspawn, and Snowball Esports.