YouTube and Twitch Drops in WoW and Overwatch – Blizzard is only lying to itself
Despite the many technical problems, the release of Overwatch 2 can definitely be described as successful. At least that’s what the player numbers published by Blizzard suggest. Although the rush has decreased somewhat in the meantime, the servers are still well filled.
In many places, reference is also made to the immense viewership of Overwatch when it comes to classifying the success of the team shooter. In our eyes, this is only half the truth. Because Blizzard is lying to itself a bit in the bag. At least in part, these numbers are heavily embellished through the use of Twitch and YouTube drops.
Drops aren’t bad
There is nothing wrong with such drops per se. You reward the fans who not only play your own game, but also help it to be successful by watching it, with various skins and other goodies. At Blizzard, however, the whole thing has taken on such large proportions in the past few days and weeks that one cannot help but ask oneself whether there is more behind it.
Let’s take Overwatch as an example. The team shooter has had a stable, albeit manageable, viewership on Twitch since its release many years ago. This has increased slightly due to the anticipation of Overwatch 2. When Blizzard started distributing beta entries as Twitch Drops, viewership exploded. When the campaign ended, they collapsed again accordingly – although the beta continued and the streamers continued to stream.
It doesn’t take a genius to realize that most viewers (though certainly not all) tuned in just to snag some beta access. Some people at Blizzard probably liked this principle quite well.
Don’t just play, please watch!
Because with the release of Overwatch 2, the game repeated itself. Cheered on by various drops, including a hero skin for the new heroine Kiriko, the number of viewers increased enormously again. And that, although everyone could play themselves. Thanks to Free2Play. The release hype may play a role here, but without a doubt there were again a bunch of viewers who didn’t watch, just wanted the drops.
As part of the Overwatch League Grand Finals, Blizzard expanded the well-running system even further and knocked out various league skins during the Grand Finals. If you wanted all of them, you had to watch 32 hours of Grand Finals. We didn’t do the math, but given how long the finals ran, you almost certainly had to watch a lot of the games.
This showed again that the system worked. Viewership at the Grand Finals may not have been record-breaking, but it was significantly higher than expected. Viewership roughly quintupled compared to the pre-drop games. And if you compare the numbers with the 2021 Grand Finals, they still almost doubled.
Also interesting: This Overwatch skin was only available if you gifted streamers
viewers who are not watching
Of course, there were plenty of Overwatch League fans there cheering for their team (while my pick, Philly Fusion, was knocked out in the first round of the playoffs). But there was also a whole bunch of spectators who weren’t interested in the finals at all.
This is shown not only by many conversations in the chat, but also by personal experiences in my filter bubble. Almost every one of my teammates had the finals running on the second monitor. Mostly without sound and tiny in a corner. Everyone wanted the skins but didn’t really care about the playoffs.
Sure, that’s not representative, but it suggests that there were more such viewers than the dozen in my filter bubble.
The Overwatch system will also be applied to WoW during the release of Dragonflight. There, too, there are countless drops during the hot phase. Among other things, a (so far) extremely rare TCG mount. The effect should not be less high than in Overwatch. There is hardly a guild colleague who does not have the dates on the slip of paper and is running some stream at the same time to get the rewards.
“Look how popular we are with the viewers!”
But why all this? From Blizzard’s point of view, the reasons are quite clear. A high positioning of Overwatch or WoW in the Twitch charts brings additional attention to your own game and possibly new players. Nevertheless, at the same time you still satisfy the streamers who are loyal to your own game. Of course, they are also happy about additional viewers. And since beta access or hero skins cost the developers almost nothing, it’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.
But that would only apply if you are really aware of the situation. Instead, if you pat yourself on the back afterwards and say, “Hey, look how popular our games are with viewers,” then that’s nothing more than lying to yourself.
In the past, developers have liked to boast about how successful the Overwatch League is. Multi-million dollar deals have been made with the teams and (probably) with YouTube as the exclusive streaming partner. Of course it looks stupid when there are only a few thousand spectators at the start. The numbers, which have been embellished with massive drop waves, look a lot better.
We need more viewers!
In today’s world, it would also not be unusual if a minimum number of viewers, views or watched hours had been agreed in the contracts with the teams or YouTube. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise to the writer of this post if Blizzard tries to match those numbers with targeted drops coming into the Grand Finals (and toward the end of fiscal 2022).
In the end, no one takes anything from anyone else and no one gets hurt. Therefore, all of this is certainly not a particularly reprehensible approach (in contrast, for example, to the Pay2Win behavior in Diablo). However, it’s something to keep in mind the next time you read about record viewership or the success of Blizzard games on Twitch and YouTube. Although you don’t necessarily have to limit it to Blizzard. Other companies also use this approach. With Blizzard, however, it is particularly noticeable because of the strong accumulation these days.