The Overwatch League Finals – History in the Making

Crowds watched with bated breath in the Overwatch League Final as Philadelphia’s last hero went down. With music blazing and confetti fluttering through the air in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, an arena of fans shouted themselves hoarse cheering the victors. Everyone was taking pictures and making movies of the event, because this was really history, the Final Championship of the League, the Holy Grail for Overwatch players everywhere.

London Spitfire were favourites to win the Overwatch League Final

Philadelphia Fusion were really the underdogs there. The atmosphere had to be experienced to be believed, with fans cosplaying Overwatch heroes, and an arena that was more like one gigantic party zone than an esports event. This Saturday’s event was the blazing finale of the premier season of the Overwatch League.


Players likely to dominate Overwatch in the coming year

If there’s one thing that the Overwatch League Finals have shown us, it’s those players likely to dominate the game in the immediate future. Here are some of the hottest players in the game today. At the top of the list, of course, is…

New York Excelsior’s Do-hyeon ‘Pine’ Kim

No one who hasn’t watched Kim in action could imagine his level of capability and finesse in play. Kim is quite simply one of the ultimate DPS fighters in Overwatch. While he plays the entire range of DPS heroes effectively, he excels at Windowmaker and McCree. For example, while playing McCree, you know that every bullet that the six-shot master puts out is going to do serious damage.

Do-hyeon 'Pine' Kim – New York Excelsior

It doesn’t matter whether Kim is going up against a Reinhart, or a Roadhog. It doesn’t matter whether he’s faced with an agile hero such as Tracer. He’s usually spot on target, and sometimes can more or less carry an entire game on his shoulders. That’s just the way he plays with Widowmaker as well, not only ambushing and otherwise decimating an opposing team, but also soaring on the end of a grapple, and even making headshots in ‘flight’.

Kim’s casual accuracy is nothing less than phenomenal, and shows his utter genius for the game. Watch him, because when he’s around, upsets… just happen.

Philadelphia Fusion’s Jae-hyeok ‘Carpe’ Lee

Lee is another hot Widowmaker player, and is quite capable of clearing out control points all on his own, even against a world class team. As a matter of fact, he did just that in Lijiang Tower, putting down Boston Uprising by taking out four of their people in sequence.

There are many analysts who believe that Carpe’s hot plays are what keep Philadelphia Fusion in play in the first place. And while he’s masterful when playing Widowmaker, he’s good with a good range of DPS heroes as well.

London Spitfire’s Seung-tae ‘Bdosin’ Choi

Choi is an excellent example of how a support player can be a real game changer. While many support players play in the background, letting the tanks and DPS do the hard hitting, Choi’s style is to run through a hail of bullets taking out every opponent along the way. He pairs up excellently with Jong-seok ‘NUS’ Kim, making the duo an absolutely lethal combination.

Los Angeles Gladiators’ Chan-hyung ‘Fissure’ Baek

While all glory in Overwatch does seem to go to DPS people, Baek shows that a tank hero can be a massively dominating force on the Overwatch battlefield. Baek has pushed the Los Angeles Gladiators forward in play after play and match after match.

Oddly enough, while Baek’s favourite hero is Reinhardt, he’s astonishingly stealthy while playing this character. He’s actually able to sneak up on opposing teams, wearing Reinhardt’s massive armour, and taking them by surprise with some devastating combinations. Another player that he really favours is Winston, and his tactics while using Primal Rage are something that just must be watched by any Overwatch enthusiast.

Chan-hyung 'Fissure' Baek – Los Angeles Gladiators

New York Excelsior’s Jong-ryeol ‘Saebyeolbe’ Park

Park is just about Overwatch’s ultimate Tracer, and has proved it time and time again, in stage after stage of the recent Overwatch League season. Most of Park’s fans are wildly enthusiastic about his Tracer moves.

Everyone who has ever played Tracer knows that she has ultimate potential in the hands of a professional player, and if you watch Park play, this only brings that fact into focus. Watching him taking out the opposite team’s supports is a real pleasure, as he makes headshot after headshot.

But the best Park plays are when he comes up against an opposing team’s Tracer. It becomes like a chess game, with move upon countermove being made until Park finally puts the opposing Tracer player down. Anticipation is the name of the game when Park plays, and he can read most opposing players’ moves and intentions perfectly. That doesn’t mean that Park can’t wait with patience until exactly the right moment to attack.


The Overwatch League Finals – A First Step into Tomorrow

While it’s been touted as an overwhelming success, the Overwatch League Final is in reality merely the first step to better futures

It is a shadowing of things to come, as Overwatch finalises its moves into a format based upon cities, one that has really taken off massively in ways already expected by many analysts in the industry. For those who control the Overwatch League, it isn’t about the money, but about becoming as important and integral to people’s lives as sports leagues like the NFL or the NBA. The people who run the Overwatch League want it to reach out to the everyday man and become an important part of communities everywhere, just the way traditional sports do.

Remember that a single year in the existence a major sports – or esports – league hardly counts at all, especially if that league is looking to the long term.

Overwatch League - Nate Nanzer

Overwatch League commissioner, Nate Nanzer

And that’s what the Overwatch League is all about

They want to build standing and assets in the long term. It goes without saying that league officials are already planning for season 2 of the league, and perhaps even beyond that. As a matter of fact, according to some reports on ESPN, the league may be branching out into franchises based in Paris, Atlanta and Guangzhou.

While these franchises have been more or less finalized, there are another trio being negotiated. Each of these franchises is worth up to 50 million dollars. While streaming has been around in esports for a long time, new agreements will broadcast league events on mainstream television channels, including Disney and ESPN.


The Overwatch League draws massive audiences today, but does it have a future?

Audiences taking in league broadcasts have vastly surpassed the expectations of most analysts, with viewers ranging up to a hundred and fifty thousand at any given moment, yet most industry analyst believe that the successes of this first year will be massively surpassed in subsequent years. Esports analysts believe that Overwatch is still at its very beginnings, and is even now on the threshold of future successes.

While there still could be obstacles in the path of this juggernaut, it has begun to move, and in the coming year should become all but unstoppable. The Overwatch League has racked up such a range of successes that it is becoming a model for esports publishers, developers and professional organisations everywhere.

The fact that the Overwatch League is reaching out to the local level is something that has never been done before in esports, and goes against everything the esports industry has believed should be the ‘model of the esports franchise’ before now.

Korean domination could – as the sport grows – threaten the ‘Overwatch vision’

One problem with Blizzard’s attempt to localize the Overwatch League could be that the squads that supposedly represent various cities are not at all made up by locals, but tend to be Korean players. Almost only Korean players. This – disappointing – trend (where is everyone else?) tends to limit local interest in the squads, and is something that the Overwatch League is going to have to learn to work around.

Nevertheless, this isn’t any major issue, at least at the moment

The amount of interest that the Overwatch League generates, and the success of its model can be clearly seen by the hordes of supporters and fans that poured into Brooklyn. Remember that a good many of those people were waiting outside the doors of the Barclays Center hours before they were opened. Best of all,  supporters wore clothing and held slogans that showed their support for all the teams of the league, rather than for some particular one. This massive diversity in support  is actually a very good sign.

Another good sign was the massive cosplaying that took place at the venue, with many fans arriving dressed as their favourite Overwatch heroes. There was a Widowmaker, Zarya, Sombra, and a very intriguing cosplay of Wrecking Ball. Wrecking Ball is a character that has been newly introduced, and it’s refreshing to see it represented at an Overwatch event.

Overwatch league hero lineup

Overwatch is a reflection of the general success of esports

Of course, the success of the Overwatch League only reflects the general success of esports worldwide, which are a burgeoning industry that will gross over 900 million dollars in the course of this coming year. If you think that’s a lot of money, bear in mind that analysts believe that the esports industry will triple that gross revenue over the coming two years.

The publishers and organisers of each esport know that there is a great deal of money in the industry and each is moving to cut out its own major share of the pie.

How has the Overwatch League evolved into its present format?

In the initial stages of setting up the league, league executives brought in specialists in traditional sports, as well as managers of traditional sports league. These were people who already had vast experience in nurturing sports audiences globally, and they were able to apply those experiences to powerful strategies to push forward the successes of the Overwatch League.

As a matter of fact, Overwatch League owners actually own traditional sports teams as well

A good example is the owner of New York Mets, Fred Wilpon, who owns a reasonable stake in the OWL. The owner of Denver Nuggets, Stan Kroenke, is also an owner of the Overwatch League.


Is Fortnite a rising threat to Overwatch this year?

The Overwatch League’s meteoric rise may itself be a cause for concern, because some analysts are worried that it might fall just as quickly. Adding to this concern is the fact that a lot of players are moving to another major game this year, as Fortnite becomes a major draw, skimming off more than a hundred million players that would otherwise be playing Overwatch and other esports.

Fortnite is currently raking in over a million dollars daily, and is potentially a major threat to Overwatch

This is because most Fortnite fans come right out of the Overwatch fan base, as well as from other esports such as Counter Strike, Dota 2 and League of Legends. Many of those games have been around for a considerable period of time, especially Counter Strike, which has been around for decades, and Dota 2, which has been around for considerable number of years. The fact that Fortnite can draw off the fans from highly established games means that it’s possibly one of the future powers in the esports industry.


Overwatch owners have faith in their title

They believe – quite rightly – that while there will always be new games that cause fan bases to fluctuate, the best games in the industry tend to remain around while new games come and go.

Industry analysts believe that Overwatch’s key to survival is that the game continues to evolve

So long as Overwatch developers keep bringing out new maps and characters, adding new technologies and providing updates, the game will continue to remain exciting and will keep most of its fan base, while continuing to attract new esports players.

Crowd at Barclay stadium - Overwatch League Finals fully booked

Remember that esports have a major advantage over traditional games

A traditional game has a fixed set of rules that cannot be tweaked, but the owners of an esports franchise can change their game at any time, introducing new rules that completely or majorly alter game play, and this tends to keep an esports title exciting.

Blizzard is well aware of this and keeps tweaking Overwatch

Those tweaks ensure that not only does the game continue to remain fun, but that other teams always have a chance of displacing the dominant team at the moment. As a matter of fact, this happened in the semi-finals of the Overwatch League, as NVE were dismantled by other teams.

As you can imagine, no traditional sport such a football or baseball could actually change its rule format right in  the middle of a competitive season. However, that is exactly what the Overwatch League did, forcing teams to adapt on the fly, and causing major upsets to those teams that could not adapt successfully.


Will esports like Overwatch replace traditional sports?

Many sports and esports analysts believe that esports will completely push out traditional sports in the decades to come, as traditional sports tend to become mundane over time, whereas just about any esport is in a constant state of evolution.

Moving into television – a sign of coming domination

The way the Overwatch League Finals were broadcast is a powerful indicator of just where esports are headed in the immediate future. While the Finals were of course broadcast on Twitch, as has become more or less traditional with most esports, what is important to note is that they were also aired on ESPN, and that right in prime time hours.

The fact that ESPN thought that the Overwatch League was worth airing at such a time shows that OWL has made a major step towards becoming a real power in the esports industry.

Television coverage means interest at the grassroots level

More than that, Overwatch owners and executives, and esports executives in general all feel that while Twitch has proved to be a very good platform for esports coverage, they really should extend esports to embrace television audiences.

If once television audiences embrace watching esports, especially during prime time, it’s a small step from there to making esports just as mainstream as any traditional sport.

Overwatch executives want to make Overwatch something that people across all age groups are interested in, not merely those who actually play the game.

It’s all about passion and loyalty to one’s team

With most traditional sports, passion is the name of the game, and most traditional sports fans tend to treat their favourite team with roughly the same dedication and loyalty that most nationalists give to a country.

After all, a great many of those who support football aren’t football players, and may never have been so, but that doesn’t prevent them from being passionate about the game and even more passionate about the team they support.

That’s the sort of social movement that Overwatch League officials and executives are trying to build here.

The Overwatch League Finals are just the first step in their plans for world domination in sports and esports.


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