Overwatch League is Dead: Long Live Overwatch League

Despite being less than 2 years old, Blizzard’s flagship FPS Overwatch has become one of the most popular games involved with eSports. Huge events such as Overwatch Contenders and the Overwatch World Cup have paved the way for a massive endeavour in the form of Overwatch League – a major global eSports league designed to showcase and celebrate the best players from all around the world.

Not everyone is pleased though, which is ultimately to be expected from people who spend a lot of time on the internet – it’s not exactly a ‘bastion’ of positivity (sometimes the puns write themselves). Nevertheless, you’d expect fans of the game to want to see it prosper on the grand eSports stage, which Blizzard have literally built themselves; the Blizzard Arena in Burbank, Los Angeles is a testament to exactly how much money has gone into making the OWL happen.

Yet financial worries have plagued OWL’s debut, due to its high buy-in cost and predictions by investment management companies that indicate OWL could be “written off as a passing fad.”

Other controversies surrounding the OWL’s lack of inclusivity surfaced after Deadspin and Kotaku’s bastard eSports child pointed out that no one signed the most prominent female Overwatch player, Geguri, and in fact, no females were present in any of the 12 rosters.

On various forums and in those dreadful YouTube comment sections, fans also expressed their annoyance at the differing nationalities in each of the teams, which are all associated with a major city.

It all adds up to cries of “Overwatch League is bad!” or more prematurely yet equally ridiculous “Overwatch League is going to fail!” or “Overwatch League is dead,” proving that the loudest keyboard warriors are always the most ignorant. I want to debunk the myth that “Overwatch League is Dead” step by step, and point out why, even if it does miss the mark in its first season, OWL will be a step in the right direction.

Financial Worries

Josh and Stan Kroenke, rich people who own loads of sports teams, and now also the Los Angeles Gladiators in the Overwatch League. They could definitely afford the buy-in price. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Before the launch of OWL, there was a hesitance for potential investors and team owners. The price tag of $20 million for teams to buy a spot in the League initially put many potential owners off, along with other undesirable contract terms. All investments in the OWL from both teams and organisers are so huge, and because it’s also the first time a publisher has tried to launch an eSports league from scratch, Wall Street analysis firm Cowen believed that “the probability of reality failing to meet investor expectations is relatively high.”

Counterpoint: I’m not an investment expert, but I don’t think Wall Street has a comprehensive understanding of eSports, either. Analyst Doug Creutz says his firm has “a significant bit of nervousness around the debut of Overwatch League,” but also believes that OWL could potentially be a “large profit generator in the future.” The Wall Street wankers can’t make up their goddamn mind (probably all the cocaine up the butt… that’s what they do, right??) but there are many positive points to make in defence of OWL’s potential financial success.

I’m not sure if Wall Street knows about loot boxes and skins, but they’re a fucking huge money maker, because as all MMO players know, ‘glamour is the true end game’. The importance of aesthetics in video games is all-encompassing for many Overwatch players too, and with the introduction of team skins, the option for players to display their favourite team’s colours (or just as likely, the most visually pleasing skins) for a small price of real world money means the OWL can count on a shit ton of revenue from not only current skins, but from potential future in-game items too. Factoring in the real world merch too, some of which is really well-designed, sartorial monetary gain is nothing to be sniffed at, as it all generates hype for the OWL.

Fun Fact: it costs over £1,000 to get all the OWL skins for all the heroes. Good luck, completionists!

Talking of hype, many of the pros playing in the league already have a huge following from streaming the game on Twitch. Seagull, who currently plays for the Dallas Fuel, has over 18 million views. You can sure as shit bet that his fans have transformed into Fuel fans, cheering him on every time he goes on a rampage with Hanzo, or gets a huge RIPtire kill with Junkrat. Also, people playing in the Competitive game mode are people who take winning very seriously, and undoubtedly are tuning in to watch how the best of the best do it.

Blizzard haven’t half-arsed any of the components of the OWL. All the failsafes are there, and even if OWL doesn’t do as well as predicted financially, Blizzard is the kind of company to learn from mistakes and make it even better than before. Suck that, Wall Street!

Where are the Women?

Geguri, arguably the most famous female Overwatch player.

A shitstorm was recently stirred up by OG shitstirrers Kotaku, and it was all centered on Geguri, the famous Zarya player who was SO GOOD, she had to prove she wasn’t cheating by livestreaming her hands while playing. The article focuses on a media day Q&A which was meant to introduce team rosters, but the questions quickly turned to the most notable female in the Overwatch competitive scene and why she was absent from all rosters.

Most team owners gave bullshit answers about co-ed gaming houses being an issue, or about the chemistry not being right, or language barriers, and it’s really disappointing to not hear them tackle the issue properly. What makes the article stink of fake feminist ally though, is the dogged focus on Geguri, who has expressed her wish for people and publications to not use her story as a way to forward their own ideologies. Since the Kotaku debacle, Geguri has stated that not getting signed to an OWL team had nothing to do with her being a woman.

While that statement may not entirely be true, what she went through and her consequent wishes to be left alone have not been respected – which is half the problem of why we aren’t seeing any women in OWL.

It’s nothing to do with Blizzard or the game of Overwatch. Blizzard’s commitment to diversity is well documented – at Blizzcon towards the end of last year, they specifically hosted a Diversity Meet-Up to encourage discussion about diversity within games. Overwatch is a game that bucks the FPS trend of grizzly man shoots other grizzly men in semi-realistic war, starring No Women At All. The playable roster features many women rather than Grizzled Man #1 and Grizzled Man #2 and the star of Overwatch (and of Overwatch League), on every case, poster and logo is Tracer, a woman who identifies as queer. While these efforts to bring diversity into gaming might seem a bit like ‘diversity for straight white guys, made by straight white guys’, it’s certainly a damn sight more than any other major publisher is doing.

Where the blame for lack of representation falls is in the game industry’s marketing throughout history, and our own laps. Gender stereotypes have been enforced through decades of marketing aimed at young men, while women have been pushed out of the picture entirely and told “games are not for girls”. A pro player for Houston Outlaws, Jake, has his own blog where he shared his thoughts on why there is a lack of women in eSports, and he cites this marketing tactic as a significant reason, saying “the industry has artificially reinforced the expectation that FPS games will always draw the attention and interest of male gamers.”

Another point Jake touches on in his post is one that can be readily verified by so many players of Overwatch. If you’re playing Competitive and striving to become one of the best players, communication is key. Without communication in a team-based game, you won’t reach the upper echelons of competitive play. Unfortunately, a lot of women playing Overwatch choose not to engage in team chat because they receive a lot of abuse, toxic shit like this:

Some women, including one in the video above, have pretended to be males in order to avoid getting abuse – even going as far as to use a voice changer. It can only take you so far, and it definitely won’t take you into the professional realm. As Jake says in his post,

“this norm of invalidating female players discourages many from trying to go pro. If the vast majority of your experience of online play included teammates nakedly disrespecting your abilities and understanding, a professional competitive career would hardly seem like the next logical step.”

He ends his post by imploring players to not harass and mock female players, and to treat them with the same respect that is owed to everyone. The people in the video above also beseech players to stand up for females being abused in chat, to report toxic players and let them know what they are doing isn’t okay. Perhaps then, we can start to see more women wanting to push through into the pro scene because they are sorely needed, but it is by no stretch part of the imagined demise of OWL.

Blizzard’s dedication to diversity is key here, and you can be sure that they’ll learn from criticisms of OWL’s inaugural season. The lack of women is by no means a nail in any coffin, but an issue to tackle once the league has found its feet.

Korean Spitfire

I learned one thing and one thing only from the disaster that was Brexit: the British public are morons. For all the bluster about £350m to the NHS and making our own deals to benefit us (lol), it’s fair to say a vast majority of stiff idiots voted Leave out of some spiteful desire to ‘keep Britain British’. What they meant was “we don’t want people that are different to us to be here no more.” They were told time and again that immigration was helping the economy and all that jazz, but they’re a stubborn bunch and refused to listen to how much better off they’d be in the EU.

Coming as absolute zero shock to me, Overwatch forums and YouTube comment sections have been inundated with “WHERE ARE THE BRITISH PLAYERS??!!!” from (presumably) British people, but it extends to the American teams to a degree, too. Here’s a few comments about the London Spitfire’s All-Korean roster from the official forum and Unit Lost’s hilarious video about ‘joining London Spitfire:

FALSE ADVERTISING LOOOOOOOL
Me too. Then maybe we can win at something.
You can spot a Leave voter by their use of caps lock.
Judging by this guy’s use of grammar, he is 100% definitely English. Nice try Alfons Jones, we know your real first name is Kev.
In EU? BUT WE’RE LEAVING THE EU, TrAbAka!!
Funnily enough, there are actually non-white ppl in LONDON. Go to LONDON and you might see some Asian ppl in LONDON… LONDON!!!

Here’s why it’s stupid: KOREANS ARE THE BEST AT OVERWATCH. If you’re from London, you support London, you want London to win. SO YOU SIGN THE TOP KOREAN PLAYERS. You wouldn’t turn down Lionel Messi at Chelsea because he’s Argentinian and not some posh toff, you’d welcome him with open arms, happy tears streaming down your face! The likes of Birdring and Profit are the absolute dons of Overwatch, already proving their worth in the first two matches.

As for seeing more British talent in the roster, sure, it’d be nice. The owner of Spitfire, Jack Etienne had this to say about the struggle to incorporate British players in his team:

“Initially, I really wanted to have like 50% of the roster be British but all of the British players were already signed to teams and those teams weren’t willing to release their players as they were hoping to be a part of the league themselves. Buy-out attempts were flatly refused.”

There are also a ton of plans to make London Spitfire a PROPER club, something bald fat men who travel to the ends of the Earth (or just Exeter) just to watch their favourite League 1 team like to say a lot. In an exclusive with eSports News, Paul Chaloner AKA ReDeYe, an eSports host with ties to the Spitfire responds to the criticism and confirms future plans:

“We don’t just want a team house here, but somewhere fans can go and hang out together, watch live streams of the OWL, get exclusive access to watch some of our scrims, meet the players, get merchandise, hang out with friends at a great esports venue, stream their own gaming, have somewhere they can play and compete on a local level and be a center of excellence for esports in London.”

Would ya look at that?! You’ve got one of the strongest rosters in the League, and plans to make the club a hub for fans and aspiring (BRITISH) players, but yeah go ahead and complain. It’s the PROPER BRITISH way. But how can you not love our representatives, our BOYS? They’ve integrated into London life so well, just watch the vid below:

Jokes aside, if you’re really bothered by London being represented by British people, just wait for the Overwatch World Cup instead. There’s a U.K team. Prepare for disappointment though, they’re not as good as the Koreans we currently have at Spitfire (obviously lol).

Is Overwatch League Dead, Then?

Abso-fucking-lutely not. Gamers on the internet are undoubtedly the most negative group of people in the world and they can’t be trusted to give a balanced account of anything. Before its birth, OWL was declared dead by supposed ‘fans’, but the production value is insane, the talent both on and off stage is phenomenal and it has the infrastructure to keep the endeavour at the very least afloat.

Mickie just saw your “OWL is dead” post on Reddit.

If Overwatch League stutters and falls short in its inaugural season, it’s okay. It’s a huge, unprecedented undertaking, and mistakes are bound to be made. Blizzard and the OWL are robust and driven enough to learn from mistakes and make it an even bigger and better event for Season 2.

To the OWL detractors, most of whom play the game: Who hurt you? BE POSITIVE, for once!

Nathan Butler

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