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 Overwatch League

Overwatch League - What to Watch in Season 1

By: Leala Ulrich, Community Manager 

The inaugural season of Overwatch League (OWL) begins next year, with the first pre-season matches taking place in December. After following the Overwatch World Cup closely this year, I am incredibly excited to see the pros play in this new environment. As someone who never really understood the appeal of team sports, Overwatch League is giving me a glimpse into the world of sports fandom. And surprisingly, I really like it! Around the office, I've caught myself debating which team to root for, as Texas has two home teams in the Dallas Fuel and Houston Outlaws. 

If you aren't familiar with Overwatch League, it is Blizzard's first global esports league. If the Overwatch World Cup is the esports equivalent of the Olympics, OWL is like the NFL or NBA, complete with the hefty team buy-in price of $20M and professional player salaries to match. After a lengthy build-up, all 12 regional teams have been announced with complete rosters of superstars in the competitive and streaming community for Overwatch. Season 1 kicks off in January 2018 and runs all the way up until the Grand Finals (aka Superbowl) in July. Fans can follow along on the Overwatch League website, an as-yet unreleased mobile app and watch matches live in person at the Blizzard Arena in Los Angeles or on their couches at home on Twitch. 

Overwatch League Teams to Watch

If their performance in the last two World Cups is any indication, players from South Korea are the ones to beat in OWL. The six players from the 2017 World Cup team are split with Ryujehong, Tobi and Zunba going to the Seoul Dynasty team and Mano, Saebyeolbe and Fl0w3R going to New York Excelsior. The former teammates will face off against each other for the first time in the stage one games on January 26, 2018. Another strong lineup to watch is the London Spitfire team, made up of another powerhouse group of Korean pro players formerly of Cloud9, Team Liquid and GC Busan. 

Another team to follow are the Overwatch Contenders champions Team EnVyUs, competing in OWL as Dallas Fuel. If you've ever watched Overwatch on Twitch, you probably already know some of their star players Seagull and xQc. They are both incredibly fun to watch, with play and stream styles that couldn't be further opposites. Seagull with his super chill DPS play and xQc as the ultra hyper main tank. I can't wait to see how they work together in OWL.

Last, but not least, of my team picks to watch are the Houston Outlaws, made up of a mix of pro players including Jake, Coolmatt69 and Rawkus from the 2017 USA World Cup team. With the coolest team logo and as the closest I have to a home team here in Austin, I can't help but root for the Outlaws. I've also enjoyed the interviews I've heard with Jake on the Your Overwatch YouTube channel. I spent the full 45 minutes nodding along to his thoughts on the flaws in the current ranking system across all levels of the game. Go Outlaws! 

Overwatch as a Spectator Sport

One of the early criticisms of Overwatch for esports is that it is too hard to follow in spectator mode. This was very evident in the early rounds of the World Cup. When watching the matches, it was easy to lose track of which player was on which team, as you'd have to look frequently back and forth between the action and the top of the game UI. The latest game update to spectator mode and team colors that was premiered at Blizzcon helped to fix this issue tremendously. Overwatch teams will have uniform colors that match their logos and have variations for home and away games. The colors affect the abilities and particle effects in game, making it much easier to follow the action and root on your favorite team the whole time. 

As someone who is new to sports fandom, a big part of it is not only picking your favorite team, but letting others know who you support. There are entire stores dedicated to sports fan memorabilia, but how does this translate to esports? The creation of city-based teams with distinct branding is a big step toward making esports fandom more like traditional sports. In game, this means the teams get their branded uniforms, but what about the fans? I for one would love to have matching skins to support my favorite teams. Since we know the skins already exist in game, the question is really just if players will have access to them as well. I've heard speculation that we will be able to buy a skin pack for each team that will include home and away colors for all characters in game. This would be great, and much better than a random loot box system where you might get a skin for the wrong team or character. I hope we see these soon! We also know that there will be team t-shirts and other merchandise coming at some point. Throwing on my favorite team jersey and going to watch matches live at the Blizzard Arena in LA sounds like an absolute blast and I hope I get the chance sometime this year.

Ready for Kickoff

With games every week between Wednesday and Saturday, there will be no shortage of games for those of us following OWL to watch. If you play Overwatch but are new to esports, I think OWL will be a great place to start learning about the top level competitive side of one of the most popular games out right now. NFL fans tune in to Sunday night football, now gamers have Saturday afternoon OWL. Now the real question is, when will we have a fantasy football league for OW? Let us know on Twitter if you are excited for season 1 and who you plan on rooting for this year. GG, sports fans!