Released in 2016, Overwatch is a multiplayer first-person shooter, with a big emphasis on teamwork. The game was an immediate success and a social phenomenon that not only enticed gamers, but also more casual players and even people not into video games at all.
Overwatch was created by Blizzard Entertainment, the studio behind big names like World of Warcraft, Diablo, or Starcraft. After the cancellation of Titan, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game that was supposed to be the next big thing, part of the staff working on it decided to use some of the concepts they already had ready for Titan to create another game. They also wanted it to be Team Fortress 2 with a twist for the first-person shooter side and give something better than the other multiplayer online arena battle games that were really popular back then.
Overwatch was born. And with it, a group of heroes with different skills, stats, and gameplay. It would allow players to form groups with diversity in mind, so that they could cover each other’s backs and form strategies and plans to win the rounds. The game offers nervous gameplay, quick on its feet, with vibrant environments and colors, and a character design that is all the rage in cosplay conventions.
It’s been five years since it’s release and a good time to see what the current Overwatch statistics and facts are.
Overwatch user stats
There was a point where it was impossible to escape Overwatch. It was everywhere, being streamed everywhere, pushed on the front page of Youtube, recommended to you because you also watched a video about giraffes’ necks getting longer…and that all happened because players and watchers were actively making it happen. Are they still?
1. In 2016, 68% of Overwatch eSports fans were between 18-34.
The average age of the professional players in Overwatch League is 19. Most of them are considered veterans, meaning that they have started playing really early.
When checking Blizzard forums, we can see that users infer that most players are tweens and teens, with a sprinkle of young adults.
Overwatch was, from the beginning, a real magnet for the young crowds. It is said that part of the reason why the number of active players went down is because Fortnite appeared on the scene. But even without that, you just have to look at the teams in the League and you will notice that none of them even reach 25 years of age. So many players are so young that Blizzard had to enforce a rule preventing under 18 players from entering the competitions.
2. 60 million users have been playing Overwatch since its release.
Despite the fact that the game has not been adding new heroes or modes for ages now since the studio is working on Overwatch 2, 10 million new players joined in the fun last year. Even when at a standstill, Overwatch is still bringing in new users.
3. In Q3 2021, Blizzard reported that Overwatch had 10 million monthly active users.
In Q2 2021, the game was said to have between 620,000 – 800,000 daily active players.
Clearly, Overwatch 1 is not a dying game. It even gained its steam back in Q3 compared to Q2. And then again, all that without adding anything new to the game and just making small updates to ensure stability.
4. The game had to face quite the number of controversies.
(Source: Kotaku, Eurogamer, Arstechnica )
Critics have criticized how sexualized female characters were and the lack of diversity in female body types when the game has managed to show a good representation in terms of nationalities and gender ratio.
Thousands of Korean hackers are banned each month, but it is difficult for Blizzard to swerve the plague as most of them use PC bang (Internet café) to log in knowing that they will be able to come back in a matter of seconds since there is no personal account linked to them.
The community has been labeled as toxic because of players turning aggressive and violent when a team member is slow to catch on, or cases of players who are ready to sabotage their team for nefarious reasons. A stark contrast with Blizzard’s real objective as they wanted Overwatch to be the epitome of teamwork.
Loot boxes were in a controversy over whether or not it should be considered as gambling since many countries have banned any form of gambling.
More recently, Activision Blizzard’s CEO Bobby Kotick is at the center of a huge controversy involving sexual violence and harassment on female employees. The charges against him state that he has willingly been ignoring the issues for years now and might (allegedly) have been part of some himself.
Blizzard has stated from the beginning that they did not want to be part of the gendered problem of the gaming industry, namely the over-sexualization of female characters. Unfortunately, that seems to be difficult to avoid as, even when they are not needlessly exposing too much skin, female characters are still used for striking sexy poses in tightly clad outfits. The controversy around Kotick is actually hurting Overwatch with several brands pulling out of Overwatch League and CEOs from companies like Playstation criticizing the way Blizzard is handling the matter.
Overwatch key stats
With such success, everyone is a bit curious about topics focused on revenues, profits, the number of downloads, and more information around the game itself.
5. Overwatch has generated over $1 billion in total.
This total combines the number of units sold and microtransactions.
In May 2016, it was reported that Overwatch made $269 million in digital revenue.
By the end of 2016, the game had generated $565 million in sales on PC.
Loot boxes are the biggest source of revenue in the game for Blizzard.
Activision Blizzard literally invented the concept of loot boxes in multiplayer as we know it nowadays. Yet, though it is fairly popular with players, there are also a lot of users complaining about how monetization in-game is practiced with such a system. Blizzard has not updated the public about its revenue in the last few years, but it has obviously increased since then.
6. The studio has won 30 awards and received 30 accolades from 2016 to 2020.
In 2016, it won 10 awards and received 5 accolades.
In 2017, it won 14 awards and received 16 accolades.
In 2018, it won 5 awards and received 3 accolades.
In 2019, it won 1 award and received 5 accolades.
In 2020, it received 1 accolade.
2017 was the biggest year, but even if the game was winning fewer awards, it was still recognized and part of the nominations. And that, over 5 whole years, is a good indicator of its popularity still existing. Plus, the studio has already announced Overwatch 2, which means that there is no real recognition needed for Overwatch 1 as not much is done at the moment.
Overwatch usage stats
Time to take a closer look at how the game is consumed by the community. From the countries where the fans are the most invested to a ranking of the favorite heroes of professional players (with numbers!), we got it all.
7. The countries with the highest number of players are the US, Russia and Brazil.
D.Va has always been an all-time favorite, not just for professional players. In fact, there are quite a lot of players who decided to specialize in playing as young women. Her lines are relatable for gamers, she has a great character design (a hit among female players) and she is adaptable in her -aggressive- gameplay. She was so good that Blizzard actually nerfed her over the years.
9. Over the last 6 months, Reinhardt has been the go-to hero to use as the tank as he was the favorite for players on all consoles.
Hanzo was the favorite for defense on PC (37.83%), Junkrat on Playstation (29.80%) and Xbox (29.59%) and Torbjörn on Switch (34.98%).
Ana was the favorite for support on PC (33.36%), but Mercy takes the rest of the cake on Switch (25.97%), Playstation (27.22%) and Xbox (25.88%).
The real question is: do Playstation and Xbox players know that they are scarily similar in their tastes?
10. Overwatch is ranked #36 on Twitch.
Over 7 days: the average number of viewers is 12,656, the average number of channels streaming the game is 673, the average number of viewers/channel is 18.8 and the average number of hours watched is 2,132,495.
The peak viewers was 439,152 in January 2018 and the peak channels was 3,559 in June 2017.
The game is streamed by 7% more channels during the weekend, but there are 6% less viewers.
In 2019, Twitch paid $90 million for the exclusive rights to stream Overwatch League matches for 2 years.
YouTube is the new exclusive broadcast partner of the League after buying the rights for about $160 million.
Overwatch is an easy game to stream and an easy game to watch. It can also provide a lot of funny moments or a sense of tension.
Blizzard said that they were not focused at all on the eSports aspect of Overwatch, but the facts clearly show something else. The game is literally made for such and the company is even the only publisher/developer in the industry funding and managing its own league.
11. On its first opening day in 2018, Overwatch League peaked at 425,000 viewers on Twitch.
The number of viewers peaked at 1,227,636 and the average number of viewers was 269,468.
The total hours watched was 7,163,345 and the event was on air for 29h.
The event was broadcast on Twitch, PandaTV and Zhanqi.
A solid start for the first edition of the Overwatch League. Blizzard demonstrated that a publisher can perfectly take care of its eSports community and events. In 2018, China was included in the stats.
12. 13 million viewers watched the first week of Overwatch League 2019.
The numbers obviously look way smaller since this time, China was not broadcasting the event. However, those are still pretty good. The Grand Finals was the last nail in the coffin confirming that Overwatch was eSports golden.
13. The prize pool for Overwatch League Playoffs Grand Finals 2020 amounted to $3,050,000
(Source: Esports Charts)
The number of viewers peaked at 183,036 and the average number of viewers was 92,890.
The total hours watched was 1,315,942 and the event was on air for 14h.
The event was broadcast on Youtube Live.
Data from China was not available. Nonetheless, even without that, we can clearly see that the numbers are drastically falling. A pretty mysterious occurrence considering that the event was online due to the pandemic, which should have allowed even more people to watch the event.
14. The prize pool for Overwatch League Playoffs 2021 amounted to $3,200,000.
(Source: Esports Charts)
The number of viewers peaked at 183,292 and the average number of viewers was 135,320.
The total hours watched was 4,115,958 and the event was on air for 30h.
The event was broadcast on Youtube Live, Huya and Twitch
It is now definitive that Overwatch League is losing viewership year after year. Those numbers include China, but otherwise, the average number of viewers did not even reach 100,000. The question is: why are people tuning in way less?
15. As of September 2021, the total cumulative Overwatch League prize money awarded amounts to $31,729,882.
And China is the third force to be reckoned with with $2,700,108 earned.
There are a total of 20 teams in the League. A team has to pay $20 million for franchise rights.
There is no surprise to see South Korea as #1. Its players have been recognized for their superior skills and it is to a point that there is literally no team out of the 20 teams in the League without a Korean player. Congratulations to China for their breakthrough as, not that long ago, they were part of the big minority and mostly known for losing all their games.
16. The top 3 of highest earning Overwatch players is dominated by South Korea.
The first non-Korean is the American Moth with $346,909.
The third position is occupied by ChoiHyoBin with $345,768.
The minimum salary of a professional player in the Overwatch League is $50,000/year
Again, the South Koreans are dominating. However, an American took the second spot for itself, bringing honor to his country. Fourth is another American (super) and fifth is a South Korean (Rascal).
To sum up
Overwatch started as a big trend. It was part of those games that can actually attract people with no interest in video games. A lot of that was also due to all the hype that “normies” generated around it until they decided to give up on it. But, does that mean that the game then died? No, absolutely not.
When things like that happen, it is really after the temporary residents leave that you can fully assess the interest the crowds had for the game. And Overwatch still retained a huge amount of players and a big community. So, the game is all good. It went on to provide new characters, new maps, new upgrades, new skins…And even at a standstill, like right now because of Overwatch 2, it still manages to garner a lot of active players and even draw in new ones. How swell is that?
However, all Blizzard’s efforts might be tarnished and wasted by the controversy focused on Activision Blizzard’s CEO, Bobby Kotick. The game has lost big sponsors and the company has been dragged in the mud by not only players from all communities but also important people from other companies. And as I type, shareholders have also entered the chat. All that could end up with a boycott and we do not want that for Overwatch 2.