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The Overwatch League is back tonight, but missing many of the staff who made last season so excellent

Down a player

The Overwatch League is back tonight for its second season, seeing 20 teams face off in an attempt to be crowned the ultimate champions. Will the London Spitfire manage to repeat their successes? Can anyone stop the powerhouse that is the New York Excelsior? Will the Shanghai Dragons finally net their first win? It all kicks off at 4pm PST/12am GMT, and you can watch along on Twitch.

But…it’s more difficult to look forward to after those layoffs this week, isn’t it?

It would usually be fair to say that I’m the treehouse’s resident Overwatch League enthusiast (I have a whole weekly column about it, after all) but it’s hard to feel that enthusiasm right now. Esports was one of the areas hit hard by this week’s cuts, which saw Activision Blizzard drop 8% of their staff despite achieving record profits in 2018.

To take just one example, one of my personal favourite things about covering the League was using Robert Paul’s photography (for example, in the header image of this post). Every shot managed to capture what makes these events exciting to me: the uninhibited cheering of a fan; the obvious emotion of the players; the bright, showy colours everywhere.

Paul says that he’ll “be there for Week 1,” and that “it’s possible [he’ll] be at the arena here and there” after that, but I truly don’t think that the Overwatch League will be the same without his constant presence, documenting every part of the competition. And while he might be one of the easiest examples to spotlight thanks to the inherently front-and-centre nature of his work, he’s only one of approximately 800 people across Activision Blizzard who deserved better than this corporate greed.

There’s only so much left to say after the industry’s suffered swathe after swathe of layoffs. One thing that bears repeating is simply: unionise.

In the meantime, will I still be getting up at 4am to see the Dragons get their first ever win? Probably. The world is flawed and I find it best to snatch that joy where possible. But ah, Blizzard never have made that easy.

A lot of very hardworking people will be bringing the Overwatch League to you tonight; at least spend some time being grateful for their incredible effort as season two gets underway. You can find a full schedule of events at their website.

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