Until February 19, Blizzard is offering Overwatch players a skin nobody asked for, but that is, admittedly, pretty funny: “Goat Brigitte,” a horned, blue-and-purple number meant to commemorate the notoriously unpopular “GOATS” meta that dominated OWL season two last year. There’s just one problem: It’s currently impossible to earn the in-game currency players need to unlock it.
The new skin, which Blizzard released on February 6 to celebrate the beginning of season three last weekend, can only be unlocked using an in-game currency called League Tokens. When Overwatch League was on Twitch during its first and second seasons, fans could tie their game accounts to their Twitch accounts and receive token drops at regular intervals as they watched matches. A few weeks ago, however, Blizzard announced that the league had signed an exclusive deal with YouTube, which meant it was ditching Twitch. As of now, it is impossible to earn tokens by watching OWL on YouTube, and Blizzard has offered no indication of when the blue Tracer-shaped wafers will start dropping again.
This leaves fans in an odd spot. Goat Brigitte costs 200 League Tokens. Tokens used to drop at a rate of around three per hour of Overwatch League viewed, meaning that you’d need to watch about 67 hours to fully earn Goat Brigitte. The system did, however, also include random drops of 100 tokens, if you were lucky. These drops were rare, but not that rare. I actually earned the majority of my tokens that way, with 700 coming from random drops and just 282 resulting from regular viewing. However, there has not been a way to earn tokens since season two wrapped up last year, and many spent their leftover tokens before Goat Brigitte bleated her way onto the scene. Over the weekend, OWL viewers frequently asked about and made references to tokens in matches’ chats. It is possible to purchase tokens, but they cost a pretty penny; to buy enough tokens to nab Goat Brigitte, players need to spend $US10 ($15). Quite a few are understandably hesitant to invest that kind of money in a single skin, even if it is a limited time offer.
It’s an odd situation, one that exemplifies the rocky start to the growing pain-plagued league’s third season. Despite this being a season of significant firsts—the first time teams have been based in their respective cities, the first time the league has gotten its live matches in front of YouTube Gaming’s gargantuan 200 million-strong audience—Blizzard failed to promote the big kickoff with any introductory, supplementary, or preview content on OWL’s YouTube channel, and once matches began, they were plagued by a poorly timed Cheez-It commercial that interrupted the action on multiple occasions (fans, of course, ended up turning this into a meme in chat).
Two sources with knowledge of OWL suggested that the league’s tendency to lock down deals at the last second could be partially to blame for the hiccups. Most recently, the YouTube deal, which overhauled how people watch the league, was announced just two weeks before season three began. Both sources spoke to Kotaku anonymously, as they are not authorised to discuss the league with the press.
“I know Activision Blizzard has historically gotten many of these deals done last minute,” said one source. “If you think back to the announcement of the Twitch deal, it was days before the inaugural season started. Sponsorship deals were integrated throughout the season on the fly. Even a lot of the player and talent contracts were signed days, sometimes hours, before the person was set to appear on OWL. Several of my colleagues were voicing their concern over a media rights deal not being executed just a little over a week before they announced the YouTube deal, which I honestly believe was heavily influenced by [Call of Duty League] being packaged in.”
They also pointed out that, as of now, OWL appears to have suffered a drop off in major sponsors compared to last season, with only State Farm and Cheez-It (of course) maintaining a visible presence. “It appears as if traditional sports sponsors have lost interest (and possibly money) in OWL, which will certainly put the league’s sustainability in more question,” they said.
Blizzard and YouTube declined to comment on the timing of their deal and its impact on season three’s early goings, but both said that more means of interacting with live broadcasts are on the way at a still-unspecified point in the future.
“We can’t wait to introduce in-game features in the future, but we’re focused at the moment on introducing the league to the YouTube audience,” Ryan Watt, YouTube’s global head of gaming, said to Kotaku in an email.
Despite those features’ absence at present, Goat Brigitte is still going back in Blizzard’s big ol’ Skin Vault next week.
“We’ll be listening to fan concerns and feedback closely, but there are no plans to alter the availability of the Brigitte skin, which is available through February 19,” a Blizzard spokesperson told Kotaku in an email.