Will Overwatch Replace CS: GO as the go-to FPS eSport?

Overwatch is coming, and the hype is already out of control. Does Blizzard's newest offering have what it takes to usurp CS:GO as the leading FPS eSport?

After what seems like an eternity of waiting and hype, Blizzard’s genre-smashing FPS Overwatch is finally in closed beta, giving potential players a chance to see what’s in store. The beta is limited, and still in its early stages, but make no mistake – gamers are excited about what they see.

Overwatch Hype!

During the Overwatch beta reveal Twitch viewership spiked to over 40 thousand, and though viewership has declined since then, the game was 3rd or 4th on Twitch for a substantial amount of time after the beta began. Amateur and pro players alike are lining up to take a crack at the game and there is no doubt – based on initial interest and Blizzard’s track record -- that it has the potential to be one of the most popular games on the market.

The potential market disruption that Overwatch poses raises some interesting questions, especially with regard to the game’s competitors – CS:GO, Battlefield, Call of Duty TF2, Quake, Unreal, etc. The game that has the most to lose, perhaps, is CS:GO, which currently reigns supreme as the leading FPS eSport. If Overwatch takes off as it is posed to do, will it sap viewers, pro teams, and sponsors from CS:GO?


The Future of eSports?

It’s probably premature to make any concrete predictions about how Overwatch will impact the eSports scene, and eSports as a whole is still young, making it hard to know which games will succeed and which will fail. Some games, like Guild Wars 2, never really take off despite fan interest and company support, while others -- League of Legends comes to mind -- exceeded even the wildest imaginings of its players.

There are some things that we can say for sure about Overwatch though – it’s definitely got eSport appeal, and that’s without any indication of whether or not Blizzard will emphasize the eSport aspect of the game (with Heroes of the Storm, for example, they have left that largely up to the players, and the game has yet to take off in terms of professional play). Several teams have already expressed interest in fielding professional Overwatch sides, including Fnatic and PkD, and the game is still in beta. Several pros from other games have been given beta invites or are waiting for a chance to try the game out, and initial reactions are very positive.

Flash vs. Realism

Overwatch is also a very visually appealing game – the graphics are bright, striking, and simple without being dull or cartoony. Most abilities have a distinct visual signature – especially ultimates like Hanzo’s Dragonstrike or Zarya’s Graviton surge – making the action easy to follow. Wombo combos are common, turnarounds are likely, and games are often decided in the final, nail-biting seconds. High-level play has the potential to be fast, dynamic, and very exciting. So it stands to reason that, as a newer, prettier FPS, Overwatch is going to supplant CS:GO in the eSports scene, right?


Well, maybe not. While Overwatch is almost certainly going to steal some viewers and possibly some players from Counter-Strike, the games are barely in the same genre, and have vastly different appeals. CS:GO is a highly-tactical game that rewards players with excellent reflexes, situational awareness, and split-second decision making skills. Players have guns, grenades, and knives to work with – that’s it, and when your team is dead, the round is over.

Not so in Overwatch, which is a game of archetypes, objectives, teamwork, cooldown management and combos, with frequent and unlimited respawns. It draws at least as heavily on the MOBA genre as it does from first-person shooters. That’s not to say that player skill won’t matter in Overwatch, but a player with average FPS skills but exceptional map awareness, flexibility, and strategic thinking could excel in Overwatch and not in CS:GO.


If anything, Overwatch will probably draw viewers from several genres, especially MOBA players or fans who like the objective-based play and flashy combos but are looking for something faster paced. And while Overwatch may eventually overshadow CS:GO as an eSport, it seems unlikely that it will entirely replace the older game. CS:GO occupies a unique space as a purely skill-based and refined FPS, and it will most likely take a sequel or a more direct competitor for it to be truly replaced.


Writer, freelancer, historian. www.robertwguthrie.com

Published Nov. 23rd 2015
  • MarquisToken
    Valve and Counter-Strike is unique in many ways, which leaves me with no doubt that CS:GO will rule the competitive FPS scene for a long, long time.
    Counter-Strike is a game that has been developed since mid 1999, and as it stands, it's a timeless classic. A highly competitive game out of the box, with a fun entry level, and sky-high skill roof.
    Global Offensive will most definitively be around for at least the rest of this decade, and likely most of the next, before a successor is released.
    The model at which updates and patches are rolled out is smart, consistent and keeps players coming back. Even though the changes are minimal at best.
    Also the infrastructure with Valve is amazing, and one of a kind. Blizzard could never in their wildest dreams hope to achieve anything like the community market, cosmetic trading and currency on that scale.
    Valve operates the biggest and most advanced storefront available to gamers, which in it's own right pulls even more players towards Counter-Strike.

    Overwatch is fun, don't get me wrong. And it probably has the potential to be a huge game, even with a competitive scene. I hope so, because high level play casted professionally would be amazing.
    And as it stands right now, with just the right amount of heroes, big focus on balance, map design and competitive game modes, it sure can be to some extent.
    But the pricing point of 40 Euros is already halting the game in that direction. And with added expansions down the line, it will probably kill it outright.
    It very quickly becomes less available, and more complicated than it needs to be, to summon a big audience.

    And let's be honest with the whole hype thing. A big part of it is solely because of the promotion, and the characters. What got me intrigued in the first place, was Tracer. That first cinematic they released, was amazing. Something Blizzard always has been very good at. But it will only keep players around for so long.
    Blizzard needs more of that material to keep these masses interested, and coming back for more. Be it cinematics, lore, co-op missions or even a full fleshed campaign.
    The question then is, is there room for both fans, and competitive players?
    Also much of the hype traces directly back to the company that makes it. Blizzard. But that only get's you so far. Look at Heroes of the Storm. A practically dead title today.
    Before that there was Titanfall published by EA. Huge game, huge hype, but once it was released, it didn't last more then mere months.

    I really really hope that this game will succeed, because I find it tons of fun to play (though to me it does not feel competitive at all). And I would absolutely love to see this universe bloom and evolve, as I find it very interesting.
    And even though it plays, looks and feels great, it does not need to be a staple of competitive play.

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