Ninjas in Pyjamas have been going through some very rough times recently. While that might not have caused it, the org made the decision to release their Overwatch roster and shelve this part of the esports scene for future consideration.
Currently, Ninjas in Pyjamas is in a bad spot competitive success-wise. Their CS: GO team is no longer in the HLTV.org Top 20 of the best CS: GO teams in the world. Their new EU LCS League of Legends team is turning out to be a disappointment on the level of 2017 Spring Split Origen, despite having a stronger roster on paper, probably. Without success, it’s likely that it’s getting harder for the organization to get new sponsors and keep new ones, which is really affecting the company’s bottom line. Getting rid of the squad in the least popular of the Top 4 esports titles in the world seems like a good money-saving measure, especially with the acquisition of a spot in a much more stable LCS scene, even if the roster sucks at the moment and EU is much less financially powerful than NA.
Ninjas in Pyjamas are definitely not the first to pull out of Overwatch among the big esports orgs. Fnatic, Splyce, Team Dignitas, Team SoloMid and Denial eSports have all elected to get out of the Overwatch pro scene for the time being.
The Overwatch League is the main cause for this phenomenon of big esports orgs getting out of Overwatch en masse. While Activision Blizzard is not shy about expressing their grand plans and lofty ambition for the league, the lack of actionable information almost killed the previously burgeoning Overwatch pro scene. With no information on how Overwatch League will work specifically and no guarantee that endemic esports orgs will actually get a chance to compete without spending multiple millions of dollars for a spot with vastly put off opportunity to make back the money through revenue sharing, orgs aren’t too enthused with maintaining their Overwatch rosters.
The formidable shadow of the of the Overwatch League also makes independent tournament organizers hesitant to try and get a considerable tournament scene going. That is understandable. Spending huge amounts of money to start something that could be made obsolete by contrary plans from the game developers in a new scene for a reasonably new game is not how successful tournament organizers got to the place they are at.
The whole situation is making it hard to look forward to the Overwatch League. The whole model of localized teams playing in a relegation-less Overwatch League with revenue sharing and other bells and whistles required of a modern esports league is good. The whole thing with its NBA-like structure and promise of greatness is good. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s killing interest in Overwatch as an esport instead of growing it at the moment for reasons outlined above. It’s understandable that Activision Blizzard wanted to announce the Overwatch League at BlizzCon, but allowing independent organizers to try setting up something similar to the CS: GO system, only to pull the carpet from underneath their feet was simply a very bad idea. Activision Blizzard could have at least warned the organizers not to start anything because Blizzard has plans of their own and make them sign non-disclosure agreements. Basically anything would have been better than the current situation, plagued by the unknown.