Jess Colwill, December 30, 2016

The Biggest Overwatch Stories of 2016

Overwatch was only officially released in May this year, which gives us a good five fewer months to get our top stories for 2016. Luckily, it blasted onto the esports scene with a bang, making pro teams and investors alike to fall over themselves trying to get a piece of the action. It quickly became one of the fastest-growing esports titles in history with 10 million players reported in the first three weeks of its life.

So far we've only seen a few hints of what the competitive landscape will look like - with Blizzard making big moves for 2017 - but early tournaments saw European team Rogue claiming victories while EnVyUs managed to come out on top in the Korean Overwatch APEX league. That feat seemed particularly impressive coming out of BlizzCon, which the Korean national team dominated.

Away from the streets of King's Row and the cobbles of Eichenwalde, meanwhile, things were just as busy.

Team and Investor Support

It was something of a theme in 2016 for big names to start getting involved in esports. In particular, traditional sports people started to sit up and take notice that our little hobby was swiftly becoming a multi-billion dollar industry.

Some of the more familiar names credited Overwatch in particular with piquing their interest. Basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal invested heavily in new esports organization NRG after becoming hooked on Overwatch. American DJ and producer Steve Aoki, already a lifelong gamer, said the same thing when he began investing in esports organization Rogue.

New Tournaments and Teams

Esports organizations were quick to see which way the wind was blowing and started forming professional Overwatch teams left, right, and center. Blizzard also announced the official Overwatch League, with Activision-Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick dropping the news ahead of the BlizzCon 2016 reveal, offering a “genuine career opportunity” for players.

Overwatch League Logo

Discussions around the financial viability of esports players and teams have been running hot and heavy this year as Riot clashed publicly with some of League of Legends top teams, so we were all very pleased to see Blizzard putting sustainability front and center.

More teams and tournaments have also sprung up all around the globe, from the Next Generation Esports Winter Premiere to the just-completed IEM Season XI Gyeonggi!

Characters and Redesigns

Though it hasn't even been out a full year yet, Overwatch has seen the release of two new characters and the complete overhaul of another.

The elite hacker Sombra was teased right from the initial Overwatch launch, and quickly an Alternate Reality Game sprung up. Players began searching for clues and mining data, trying to catch a glimpse of the elusive character.

When Blizzard announced the game’s first new character was about to be released, many assumed the search was finally over. To their surprise, Ana Amari, support sniper and mother of Pharah was dropped. The hunt for Sombra was back on.

Finally, information was leaked that Sombra was on her way with the Halloween Event. Sure enough, the adorable hacker was released and has made her way into the hearts and minds of players everywhere.

Sombra Overwatch

Blizzard later announced that changes were coming to support hero, Symmetra. Saying she wasn’t getting the play time they were hoping for, they announced major changes to the way she played in order to increase her viability. The changes only dropped in the last week or so, so there’s no telling yet what effect this will have on the meta.

Haters Get Shut Down

There’s nothing more satisfying than throwing a top performance back in the face of a hater, and in that regard 2016 provided some extremely satisfying moments.

Women always have to struggle harder to prove themselves in any online gaming scene, and nobody knows that better than Korean professional Overwatch player and Zarya main Kim "Geguri" Se-yeon.

The 17-year-old was targeted earlier this year when she was accused of cheating after absolutely flattening her opponents in the 2016 Nexus Cup. Opponents ELTA and Strobe vowed that they would quit the Overwatch scene altogether if she wasn’t cheating — and they were forced to make good on that promise when Geguri demonstrated her incredible skills for a full hour in a live broadcast.

Zarya Overwatch

YouTuber DSPStanky also enjoyed rubbing his haters face in it this year, rocketing up the rankings in Overwatch on PC after commenters suggested his phenomenal Lucio performance was solely due to him playing on a console. As you can see from this YouTube video, DSPStanky’s lightning ascent to 4K+ SR on PC shows that sometimes you just need to trust that people really are that good.

Finally, let’s wrap up our Overwatch wrap on a lighter note with the time Jonny Cruz, voice actor for Lucio, met up with his fellow Overwatch voice actors at BlizzCon and made this great video.

Jess Colwill

Jess is a writer and dog-lover from the eastern coast of Australia, who loves playing games (particularly anything by BioWare), listening to metal, baking, and fostering rescue dogs while they wait for new homes. You can find her on Twitter at @notsocryptic.