Overwatch esports division gutted just a week after OWCS announcement

Overwatch esports division gutted just a week after OWCS announcement
Images via Toronto Defiant

Written by 

Sascha Heinisch

Published 

31st Jan 2024 16:55

Activision Blizzard has let go of most of its esports department, including former Overwatch League staff Soe Gschwind and Matt "MrX" Morello, downsizing the team significantly across Call of Duty and Overwatch esports.

Significant downsizing of the esports division

Activision Blizzard has cut back severely on its esports efforts, letting go of 60 of the formerly 72 employees in the Activision Blizzard esports division, according to the Rotation. For Overwatch esports, the observing team and surrounding staff that had previously produced events like the Overwatch World Cup and the Overwatch League have been let go.

Among the cuts were desk host Soe Gschwind and shout caster Matt "MrX" Morello who had been with Overwatch esports since its early days. Beyond their esports duties as full-time Blizzard employees, both Gschwind and Morello moderated several announcements for the general Overwatch team, also becoming familiar faces to the casual audience.

The news arrives just a week after the announcement of the new competitive structure for Overwatch esports, the Overwatch Championship Series (OWCS). Gschwind even got to be part of the announcement, with Executive Producer for Overwatch 2 Jared Neuss and OWCS Lead Bailey McCann explaining the new format.

Gschwind appeared to have seen the writing on the wall, tweeting: "After 7 years of service, I've just been laid off by Blizzard. It was a dream come true to work there & I'm saddened that my time was cut short. (Yes, I was ready for this call with champagne...gotta celebrate the good times & opportunities I had!)"

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Unlike Overwatch League, the production for OWCS has been outsourced to the third-party production companies WDG Esports for Asia and ESL FACEIT Group in North America and EMEA. Some fans have been speculating that these broadcast talent positions, as well as observer teams, will have to be filled by the respective organisers.

This would at least open up potential positions for those who have been let go. Given the recent economic hardship across the industry, contractor day rates have been plummeting, with some broadcast talent ringing the alarm bells.

Before the news of recent layoffs at Activision Blizzard and amid layoffs at Riot Games, shoutcaster Mitch "Uber" Leslie tweeted: "Thinking about those affected by the layoffs in our industry lately. This has been a reckoning so please be kind to each other. I am afraid that the discipline of casting is in jeopardy too."

With a start in March for the North American and EMEA regions, EFG will have to move quickly if they are looking to sign up any of the available talent and find solutions for many of the professionals who remained in the Los Angeles area around the Blizzard campus in Irvine, California.

Sascha "Yiska" Heinisch is a Senior Esports Journalist at GGRecon. He's been creating content in esports for over 10 years, starting with Warcraft 3.

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