The great things about Watchpoint (and what they can improve on in 2020).
If there’s one thing that’s interesting to look back on for the first two seasons of the Overwatch League, it’s how the league engaged with its audience through the supplementary content that was separate from the regular matches. Of course, the majority of that content is and was Watchpoint, a program which premiered in 2018 as a pre-recorded preview/recap talk show that aired between each week of regular matches and was the name of the live in-house desk segments on game days. In the 2019 and 2020 seasons, it transitioned into simply being the segments that featured the desk on the live broadcast, including both pre-game and post-game.
In addition to predictions and coverage, the show would often put on skits and silly vignettes in the first season, less-so later on, that would poke fun at the current discourse being discussed in the league and the community. Great segments like Dr. DoA, The Nanzer Awards, and Emote Control, created memes and moments that were great ways for fans to laugh and connect with the personalities on the desk. As the program focused more on the matches on a day-to-day basis, that connection grew even stronger, primarily in the 2019 post-show, where the recapping of the day almost took a backseat sometimes to the silly nature of the chemistry between the ever-changing assortment of desk personalities.
Watchpoint continues to be a part of the Overwatch League’s broadcast, but in all honesty, it hasn’t transitioned too well into the online format. There’s a case to be made in observing the best things from the previous seasons of Watchpoint, and how the League could look to incorporate those lessons to improve on the current iteration of the show.
HELPING REINFORCE AN IDENTITY - 2018
In 2018, the Overwatch League was very proactively attempting to capture a unique personality as a brand new esport, and one of its first ways of doing so was the Watchpoint weekly previews and recaps. The program served as an excellent introduction to the personalities of the league and gave a lot of consumable content surrounding the matches and teams. A lot of the segments and topics the crew focused on were player history and team history, providing context to the origins of these new players, and doing their best to utilize that for storylines. Of course, who could forget their wonderfully delightful meme segments, with Emote Control probably being the one that consistently landed the most.
This is what 2018 Watchpoint was most successful at, the sound bites and quick segments they could cut up and package that helped the League grow its identity. When fans were able to learn about the broadcast talent outside of the official match dates and hear their opinions, it builds a connection that gives viewers more of an incentive to check in. All in all, it capitalized fully on their own creation of the Overwatch League by creating content and promoting it as accompaniment to the season.
THE X-FACTOR - 2019
Forwarding to 2019, the talk-show format was completely removed, and Watchpoint was simply the pre-match and post-match show that featured analysis, predictions, and discussions with the various personalities on the desk.
Now, what this season’s Watchpoint trades in quick and packageable segments and a focus on content, it gains in unbelievable cast synergy. No matter the combination of talent, both the pre-show and post-show got the energy and content correct almost every time. The pre-show crew got you hyped for the matches, and the post-show crew had you rolling on the floor in laughter. There is just this magic on the post-show, where the host is trying to execute the schedule, but the rest of the talent is just going completely off the rails because everyone is exhausted and are just having a good time. While it lacks the definitive skits and sketches of the previous season, segments are still there and consistently highlight the best moments of the day, or highlight the most important matches moving in. 2019’s Watchpoint is incredibly good at hitting the right notes and highlighting the most exciting parts of the Overwatch League.
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THE SIDE SHOW – 2020
Obviously, with COVID-19 completely eradicating the original plans for the 2020 season, fans are not going to get the same experience with Watchpoint as in previous seasons. The league is making accommodations and adjustments, as the show must go on, but there are a few things that could be readjusted to give Watchpoint a shift in identity this season.
Currently, the Overwatch League is doing a great job at the packageable content. Comms Check, In My Sights, and Reinforce’s Power Rankings, are all good and engaging pieces dedicated to providing a different perspective on the players and league. However, what is currently not working about Watchpoint is that even before the cancellations of the homestands, relying solely on the 2019 format of an only pre-show/post-show format was not going to work. Right now, especially with online play, it feels like the Overwatch League needs to have a forum or program where the talent and different personalities can connect and work off one another outside of the same three people and casting partners. Those aspects of what made Watchpoint so enjoyable in the previous season need to be cultivated and drawn on more. What’s even more of a problem is that some of the talents’ podcast, PlatChat, is currently filling the void that the league itself should be patching up.
At the very least, it would be good to see an extra guest or a rotation of the desk talent as we did in the previous season, to freshen things up every once in a while. There’s so much great broadcast talent signed to the league, that it’s odd to see the North American desk coverage limited to only three people. It’s just not playing to the league’s strengths. Watchpoint is just such a unique part of Overwatch League, and it would be nice to be able to draw the previous successes to help improve this season’s iteration, even if it’s only a little bit.
All images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment