After Valve’s Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) went free to play last December, analyst Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities predicts that Overwatch will follow suit. Pachter, along with other expert analysts, do yearly predictions for gameindustry.biz. In his 2019 predictions, Pachter expects Blizzard to make a move to increase Overwatch viewership for the Overwatch League (OWL) Owners. “The most expedient way to do this is to make the core game free to play in order to attract tens of millions of new users, who ostensibly will convert to OWL viewers,” said Patcher.
Impact on existing playerbase
Despite Overwatch costing a premium to play, its league viewership has seen a relatively strong showing compared to other first-year esports competitions. Blizzard reported over 10.8 Million viewers on OWL Grand Finals across multiple media platforms in its first year. In comparison, PUBG Global Invitational 2018 only reached 6.4 Million viewsers. Overwatch switching to the free to play model will encourage more players to try and get into the game.
Pachter suggests Overwatch to compensate players who bought the game with in-game items and cosmetics to avoid disappointing them. But the real problem that the community will face is the influx of cheaters. Valve, for example, already doled out over 600,000 bans on the same month they switched CS:GO to free to play. Activision Blizzard’s anti-cheat systems will be put to the test in the event they do transition to a free to play model.
Future of the game
Whether or not Activision Blizzard proceeds to make Overwatch free to play is still their prerogative. The future seems bright for the game as its esports scene continues to grow and its developers continuing to add more content to the game. 2019 seems to be already a great time to be a gamer on a tight budget.