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 Outfox recaps the Overwatch League, an esports upstart that aims to bring competitive gaming to the level of mainstream sports.

Overwatch League Weeks 1-3 Recap

By: Andrew Harmon, UI and Marketing Designer 

If you’re a fan of competitive gaming and you haven’t yet tuned in to the Overwatch League, you’ve been missing out. Announced back in October of 2016, Overwatch League is an esports upstart that aims to bring competitive gaming to the level of mainstream sports like the NBA or NFL. Teams are city-based, have contracts for players, and are able to sign free agents and make trades, just like traditional professional sports. Needless to say, this is an extremely ambitious venture from the likes of Blizzard, but with hundreds of millions of dollars invested and the support of some major players in the pro sports scene, it looks like it has the potential to pay off.

Of course, none of this matters if the content isn’t worth watching. Self-reported viewership during the first week across all platforms was a staggering 10 million. Surely many people tuned in just to see what the fuss was about, but the quality of gameplay and production value has the ability to sustain hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of viewers each week.

Weeks 1-2: Early Favorites

The first two weeks saw teams trying to figure each other out and establish who was on top. South Korea’s team, the Seoul Dynasty, were the heavy favorites at the outset and didn’t disappoint. Unsurprisingly, two other teams with Korean rosters, the London Spitfire and New York Excelsior were also heavily favored, and ended up establishing themselves in the top three through the first two weeks.

The main question on many people’s minds was which non-Korean teams were going to prove themselves as worthy competitors. The Houston Outlaws and Dallas Fuel were a couple of favorites to be competitive, but both teams disappointed early and started off 0-2. Other teams such as the Los Angeles Valiant and Philadelphia Fusion started off strong, but eventually fell victim to Korean-based rosters. There were some exciting matches here and there, but mostly games were one-sided and it looked like no other teams were going to compete on the same level as Seoul, London, and New York. However, that all changed with week three.

Week 3: A New Dynamic

This past week had Overwatch League looking like it was hitting its stride. The Shanghai Dragons, without a doubt the weakest team through the first two weeks, actually won a map against Seoul Dynasty. They didn’t win the series, of course, but the fact that they could win a map off of the best team in the league shows that they still have some fight and are improving as the weeks go on. Speaking of improvement, week three saw the Dallas Fuel finally win their first game, while the Houston Outlaws battled back from their slow start to end up 4-2 and re-established themselves as one of the top teams in the league. The “Battle for Los Angeles” between the LA Valiant and the LA Gladiators was an all-out brawl that went down to the wire in a tiebreaker 5-game series. The Boston Uprising, who had been somewhat written off as mediocre through two weeks, pulled of a huge upset against the London Spitfire, again in a tiebreaker series that went all the way to the end of game 5. But perhaps an even larger upset came when the New York Excelsior battled the Seoul Dynasty. This was the first game so far that had two Korean-based rosters playing each other and, as good as NYXL is, Seoul was still the heavy favorite. However, in keeping with the upset theme of the week, New York pulled off a stunning victory in a back-and-forth 5-game series - the sixth of the week! If you want to see competitive Overwatch at its best - this is the game to watch.

This week proved that no teams can be written off – that as the season goes on, teams will evolve and improve – and that this league can truly be exciting and competitive. If this is what Overwatch League has in store for us throughout the rest of the year and beyond, there’s little doubt that the future of the Overwatch League will be a bright one, and the idea that competitive gaming can attract a mainstream audience might not be so implausible after all.

We’ll be back every two weeks to provide a recap and keep you up to date with the latest developments in the Overwatch League