GAMING : The Man Who Sold the World

Once Upon a Time, there was an Idea. 

Depending on who you choose to believe, Overwatch was once Project Titan, the MMO successor to World of Warcraft. For whatever reason Blizzard decided that actually, the world didn’t need another game that did what Azeroth had achieved. What was required was a game that could take Blizzard forward into a third decade of market domination, and the future the company could see had nothing to do with lots of people playing in a massive persistent world. Attention spans are dwindling, expectations are rising, and there’s more to life for an increasing number of players than just gear and progress. You might think that’s cynical, but if you do I’ll point you at the millions of people who, just like me, now make their living on talking about Blizzard games.

The ultimate aim for most is money: whether you make it or you win it as prize pots from eSports tournaments. Back in August, Blizzard patented the word ‘Compete’ as a precursor to something big. The plan is for

‘… an online non-downloadable Internet-based system application featuring technology enabling users to organize and promote eSport tournaments, to create and customize tournament brackets and ladders, track tournament progress, maintain related statistics and post results.’

So, when that bit at the start says ‘non-downloadable’ that means that someone’s holding the software on a server somewhere and, presumably, you’ll have to pay to access it. As it’s internet based, presumably that means that this system won’t be restricted simply to PC’s: presumably any device that has Internet access could conceivably benefit from the system. No, I won’t be playing eSports on my Printer any time soon, but that puts me in a better position than the average Mac user, because it emerged yesterday that if you’re on a Mac? Don’t expect an Overwatch Beta invite like… well, ever.

Insert sad trombone sound effects here.

Now that the Beta FAQ is live, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that this FPS Shooter’s too orangy for crows got a very specific audience in mind. Those of you who read my Warcraft Blog will be aware that I’ve made reference already to Xbox One Players getting the Blizzcon Opening Ceremony access for free this time around. This article from Overpwn.com already suggests that actually, Overwatch has no pretensions to stay on PC anyway, a shooter already planned for Consoles… presumably, the Xbox One. It’s all shaping up for a mahoosive Blizzard/Microsoft Joint Announcement of Win, with Compete right smack bang in the middle. If this is an internet-based system? You can bet your life that it’ll work on an Xbox One. Tie Overwatch and Compete together, and allow access to both from any Windows PC or Xbox console?

Global domination for Blizzard just came a significant step closer.
What’s in the Box, boys?
Compete’s scope and reach if internet-based could be enormous, and any game would be (potentially) fair game for grass-roots competition. Blizzard have made no bones about how these sorts of systems are there for anyone to use, regardless of financial restrictions, especially for collegiate players. However, it isn’t just US markets that could be saturated: worldwide there’s a massive potential not simply for the younger end of the demographic, but the older ones too. I for one would be very interested in watching a MarioKarts World Championship, and I’m sure that many game developers are more than aware of the potential for more sedentary forms [*] of ‘entertainment’ after the massive success that Hearthstone is now generating. If all that’s stopping players is the means to organise that? Blizzard will soon have you covered.

Trust me on this. Blizzard don’t take a dump without a plan. Something is up, and it’s coming in about a week or so. Don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

==

[*] Who are we kidding? This isn’t activity in any way, shape or form but still it gets called ‘sports.’ Expect that to be challenged in the courts very soon indeed.

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