With Overwatch League right around the corner, professional Overwatch still has a lot to prove to the esports world. But for the teams and players who stuck it out to this point, the action has been anything but slow.
For North America and Europe, the Overwatch Contenders grand finals recently took place at the new Blizzard Arena in Burbank, California, on the seventh and eighth of October. EnVyUs would be crowned NA champions, while Team Gigantti had a massive upset victory over Misfits to take the EU tournament. South Korea’s Apex season four will conclude on 21 October with a match between GC Busan and RunAway. China’s premier Overwatch event, APAC, will begin on 19 October and feature North American invitees, EnVision, as well as several South Korean invitees such as MVP Space Afreeca Freecs. Last, but not least, the Overwatch World Cup will conclude at Blizzcon on the third and fourth of November.
Teams continue to disband
Even though a lot is going on in the Overwatch world, not all is well. Many deserving players are still free agents, with the signing window coming to a close on 30 October, and a few organisations have had to release their rosters over the last few weeks.
One of the most shocking rosters to have disbanded recently was Las Vegas’ Rogue. The famous all-French roster was one of the most successful Overwatch teams to have played the game since the very beginning. Operating effectively in the dive meta, Knoxxx, Unkoe, Winz, Soon, Nico, and AKM proved time and again that they were a team that demanded respect. Winning tournaments like Takeover 2 and the Overwatch PIT Championship earlier this year, the Frenchmen seemed to be an obvious Overwatch League roster. Unfortunately, that isn’t what happened.
On the eighth of October, Rogue released a statement on Twitter that rocked the Overwatch community. After over a year of success and several complicated player trades, Rogue’s roster was not picked up by an Overwatch League team even though they had already secured the buy-in money. Per a more recent press release, it was revealed that some of the players have signed contracts with existing season one teams, and that Rogue would be aiming to field a season two team.
One of the more curious cases in recent professional Overwatch, eUnited were the Overwatch Contenders season zero champions before they fell off the table in season one, finishing at an abysmal one win and six losses. Player-for-player, the eUnited roster seemed to be as good, if not better than other EU rosters at the competition. Boombox is one of the best dueling support players in the world, Kruise is currently flex on Team UK for the Overwatch World Cup, and Vallutaja is one of the most consistent Tracers around. It wouldn’t really matter in the end, as the org formally announced their departure from Overwatch on 15 September.
What’s particularly distressing for these guys is that the London Overwatch League org, Cloud9, already bought the KongDoo Panthera roster and acquired the former Laser Kittenz roster. Granted, without region-locking, the eUnited boys are free to sign where they wish, but they will likely have to seek opportunities on a North American roster.
It’s very well known by now that esports in South Korea is a very different cultural force than it is in the NA or EU regions. Even in competitive queue, players appreciate precision skill and the desire to win much more than those in other regions. Take that mentality into professional Overwatch, and you have a very difficult beast to slay: mediocrity. For Conbox, mediocrity became a bit too much of a way of life at the Apex series, never placing higher than the 7th to 8th rung on the ladder. On the third of October, the team officially announced that they would no longer continue operations in Overwatch.
With South Korean talent like Lunatic-Hai, LW Blue, and KongDoo Panthera already picked up by Overwatch League teams, things aren’t looking great for the former Conbox roster. Between the strong NA and EU talent that hasn’t been signed yet and the much more attractive South Korean options, it will be very surprising to see any of them land a position on a season one team.
Overwatch World Cup 2017: an Overwatch League preview
People like taking jabs at Overwatch’s viewer numbers, but what it pulls in for large, well-produced events is quite respectable. One such event is the Overwatch World Cup, which will see its finals play out at Blizzcon in early November.
There are a few reasons for why this event is being viewed as particularly significant to Overwatch esports. First of all, several rosters are composed of players on season one Overwatch League teams. Secondly, it’s the last huge LAN tournament with superb production value before the preseason of Overwatch League starts in early December. Lastly, you can be sure that there will be some huge Overwatch League announcements upon the tournament’s conclusion.
There is a ton of talent at this year’s World Cup, and by the time we see everyone play, those that were still free agents would have been signed if an Overwatch League team wanted them. Then you have teams like Sweden, composed of members from the Orlando-Miami Overwatch League team (currently still Misfits), as well as one person from the Dallas Fuel in Chipshajen. The team expected to win it all, South Korea, is built from the best of Lunatic-Hai and LW Blue, the Seoul and New York Overwatch League teams, respectively. Even though many players view this more as a fun showmatch more than anything else, the World Cup will give fans a sense of what to expect in the coming months.
Unless Blizzard has surprises planned before Blizzcon, expect the rest of the team names and logos to be announced at Blizzard’s annual convention in November. Thus far, the only two teams that have been named are the Shanghai Dragons and the Dallas Fuel, though some dedicated fans might have unearthed the names of two more teams. You can also expect several big names at the World Cup to announce which teams they signed with. Sources close to Team USA have told me that a couple of their players have gotten trials and offers from Overwatch League teams, but as of a few days ago they had not yet signed with anyone.
Though the chances are slim, we might also get an announcement of a smaller tournament being held sometime between Blizzcon and early December. Even if Blizzard doesn’t host one, keep your ear to the ground for potential online action.