Last year, at Blizzard’s annual convention, Blizzcon, the head Overwatch developer, Jeff Kaplan, announced the Overwatch League (OWL). This league would be a fully funded Esports league which would revolutionize the ESports business. Over a year later, the the Overwatch League is upon us. Today, Luke, Jackson and Riley will be giving you, the reader, a total recap of the Overwatch League and show you all an exclusive interview with Ethan “Beezy” Spector, an employee for the Philadelphia Fusion. WE all put a large amount of work into this article so I hope you all enjoy.
The Preseason –
The preseason results can be found here – https://overwatchleague.com/en-us/schedule
DAY 1 –
Florida vs SF Shock although this was a surprisingly close match the much predicted outcome SF Shock winning the majority of the matches was correct. The first four matches between Mayhem and Shock could have ended 2-2 though. Mayhem came very close to winning control game on the map Oasis. Great starting match.
LA Valiant vs SF Shock was also a good match. Most people predicted that Valiant would come out on top. This was SF Shocks second match of the day so the outcome may not have been the same if Shock played this match with their starting roster and more energy.
Seoul Dynasty vs Shanghai Dragons was a complete, predicted wipe. Shanghai was rolled over every map by Seoul and there was never really a moment when Dragons were winning. Shanghai Dragons is one of the predicted lowest teams on the pre-season bracket and going against on of the top predicted teams was a bad matchup all around.
DAY 2 –
LA Gladiators vs London Spitfire is probably one of the closest matchups we saw all of preseason. The maps were intense and fought to the end, and it was really fun to watch. While Spitfire might have been the favored team, there’s no denying that both of the teams played well. Gladiators.
Dallas vs. Houston was the Texas showdown which proved to be closer than expected. THe question that came from this match was definitely did Dallas underperform or did Houston overperform.
The last match of the day was New York vs. Boston. NY dominated this matchup but Boston did well to take a map.
DAY 3 –
The last day of preseason started of with an unexpected result. London Spitfire vs. SF Shock ended in a 4-0 result. London were the favorites to win the matchup but nobody expected such a dominate series by London.
The next matchup was Seoul Dynasty vs. Houston Outlaws. Seoul were the clear favorites but Houston did surprise people with there one map win over Seoul.
The final matchup was between the two arguably worst teams. This matchup was interesting but it wasn’t nearly as interesting as other matchups.
The Teams –
Boston Uprising – Kraft Group, owns New England Patriots
Florida Mayhem – Ben Spoont, owner of Misfits
Houston Outlaws – Hector Rodriguez, owner of OpTic Gaming
London Spitfire – Jack Etienne, Cloud9 owner
New York Excelsior – Jeff Wilpon, COO of the NY Mets
Philadelphia Fusion* – Comcast Spectacor, manages stadiums in NA and Singapore
*Due to “player logistic” issues, the Fusion was unable to play in the preseason
San Francisco Shock – Andy Miller, owner of NRG Esports
Seoul Dynasty – Kevin Chou, owner of KSV Esports
Shanghai Dragons- NetEase, video game creator and distributor
Dallas Fuel – Mike Rufail, owner of Team EnVyUs/ Envy Investor Hersh Interactive
Los Angeles Gladiators- Stan and Josh Kroenke (KSE eSports), owners of the Los Angeles Rams
Los Angeles Valiant- Noah Whinston, owner of Immortal
Owned by Kevin Chou of KSV eSports, the Seoul Dynasty are considered the favorites to win it all. Based off of the core of Lunatic-Hai, winners of OGN Apex Seasons 2 and 3, the Dynasty also upgraded the DPS section by adding flex DPS Byeong Sun “Fleta” Kim from Flash Lux, Tracer specialist Joon Hyuk “Bunny” Chae of Lunatic-Hai’s sister team, LH2, hitscan player Sang-beom “Munchkin” Byeon from Laser Kittenz, and Pharah master Seok-woo “Wekeed” Choi of LW Red. The tank lineup consists of the tank duo from Lunatic-Hai, the original Winston master Jin Hyuk “Miro” Gong and Zarya god Joon Hyuk “ZUNBA” Kim, being joined by MVP Space’s main tank Dae Kuk “KuKi” Kim and Cloud9’s sub-tank Je-mo “xepheR” Koo. In addition, once he turns 18, Lunatic-Hai’s Gido “gido” Mun will be listed as flex, as he is capable of playing Tracer, Ana, and Orisa, despite mainly playing DPS in OGN Apex Season 3. Lunatic-Hai’s backline, of course, has already risen to fame, that of Lucio genius Jin Mo “tobi” Yang and the best player in the world, sleep dart god Jehong “ryujehong” Ryu. With famed coaches Ho-jeong “alwaysoov” Chae and Kwang Jin Baek of Lunatic-Hai, Yo-han “nugGet” Kim of MVP Space, and Ho-cheol “Hocury” Lee of GC Busan, the Dynasty are going to be the team to beat.
New York Excelsior:
The most unique name and branding has to go to the NYXL, or the NYXD, as we like to call it. Owned by Jeff Wilpon, owner of the New York Mets baseball team, the team chose a motto as a name and a flag as a logo. However, picking up the famous LW Blue roster with some helpful add-ons make this team no laughing matter. Incredible Tracer main Jong Ryeol “Saebyeolbe” Park will be joined by flex DPS Dohyun “Pine” Kim, and a tank line of Jun Hwa “janus” Song, Dong-gyu “Mano” Kim and Tae Hung “MekO” Kim makes this team a formidable opponent. By adding ‘the Korean Swiss Army knife’ Hye Sung “Libero” Kim from Meta Athena, Lucio player Yeon Joon “ArK” Hong from sister team LW Red, and popular streamer and Ana main Sung-hyun “JJoNak” Bang, this team will be the likely runner-ups. But beware of next year, where DPS prodigy Yeon-oh “Fl0w3r” Hwang will be of age… Even the Dynasty might fall.
Owned by the popular American eSports organization Cloud9, the only European team is owned by an North American org and chock full of Korean players. By picking up the famous squad KongDoo Panthera and adding on OGN Apex Season 4 champions GC Busan, the Spitfire are another contender to take the throne. The original flexible DPS duo of Ji Hyuk “birdring” Kim and Dong-jun “Rascal” Kim will be added to reliable hitscan Dong Eun “Hooreg” Lee and DPS monster Joon Yeong “Profit” Park to make a truly scary DPS line, and main tank Chan-hyung “Fissure” Baek will be joined by Jae Hee “Gesture” Hong’s Winston, Jun-ho “Fury” Kim’s Zarya, and Seung-hyun “WOOHYAL” Sung’s D. Va upfront. The backline consists of flex support expert Hyeon Woo “HaGoPeun” Jo, streamer Sung-te “Bdosin” Choi, Lucio and Mercy specialist Won-shik “Closer” Jung, and Ana player Jong Seok “NUS” Kim. While an early preseason loss to the LA Gladiators raised questions, the Spitfire are still ready to take the title.
Los Angeles Valiant:
One of the two home teams, Noah Whinston’s VALLA surprised all of us in the preseason by taking wins against the San Francisco Shock and citymate the Los Angeles Gladiators. The Immortals core with some new additions makes a lineup with heavy potential. When Genji prodigy Brady “Agilities” Girardi turns 18, he’ll be joining the DPS lineup of Pulse-Bomb master Terence “SoOn” Tarlier, McCree player Christopher “Grimreality” Schaefer, and Ted “silkthread” Wang. The team also has very established tanks, having a frontline of Pan Seung “Fate” Koo, Kang-jae “Envy” Lee, Seb “numlocked” Barton, and, once of age, Indy “SPACE” Halpern. But by no means am I sleeping on the support lineup of ultimate Zenyatta fragger Benjamin “uNKOE” Chevasson, flex support master of aim Young-seo “KariV” Park, and Lucio player Stefano “Verbo” Disalvo. With the improved lineup of an already great core, VALLA are another contender to win the championship.
The Dallas Fuel, or as we call it, the Dallas United Nations, is a team built from the EnVyUs core. Owned by Mike Rufail of Team EnVyUs and Hersh Interactive, the boys in blue are looking to be one of the strongest non-Korean teams. With 9 players, 8 countries (#Only1Swede) and 4 continents represented, the Fuel is also the most international team. Hitscan god Timo “Taimou” Kettunen will be joined by Tracer master Hyeon “EFFECT” Hwang and projectile specialist and streamer Brandon “Seagull” Larned. The front line is made up of main tank Christian “cocco” Jonsson, D. Va specialist and upbeat icon, Pongphop “Mickie” Rattanasangchod, and Winston main and popular streamer Felix “xQc” Lengyel, who won the T-mobile meme award.* Finally, the supports are made up of Ana and Zen player Sebastian “chipshajen” Widlund, flex Lucio and Soldier: 76 player Jonathan “HarryHook” Tejedor Rua, and Moira flex support Scott “Custa” Kennedy. With a very diverse roster, the Fuel is looking to be one of the West’s best hope of taking down the Koreans.
*Also known as the Overwatch World Cup 2017 MVP Award
Los Angeles Gladiators:
An underdog going into the preseason, the Gladiators took down the Spitfire in an intense 3-2 and came out as a cool and popular squad. The second smallest team in the league, with but 7 players, the LAG uses the Tank duo from Kungarna and the Support line from Team Gigantti to form a creative, strategic roster. The DPS line is made of only two players: Surefour and Asher. Lane “Surefour” Roberts is a hitscan specialist hailing from Cloud9, while Joon Seong “Asher” Choi is a Tracer player from South Korea. While Asher’s team, CONBOX, did not see much success after ZUNBA left, Asher still played very smartly, shot-calling for his team. Joao Pedro “Hydration” Goes Telles is more of a flex player, but he has shown a very strong Genji, Roadhog, Pharah, and Doomfist. Kungarna’s tanks, D. Va player Hyung Seok (Aaron) “Bischu” Kim and main tank Luis “iRemiix” Galarza Figueroa, have also shown very strategic play, and Team Gigantti’s flex support Jonas “Shaz” Suovaara and Lucio player Benjamin “BigGoose” Isohanni” complete the lineup. By subbing Hydration and Bischu in and out, the Gladiators are able to play both the Dive and 3PS team compositions. LAG is still an underdog, but with smart, cool, play, they just might have what it takes to win it.
Of all the teams in the preseason, the Outlaws certainly drew the short end of the stick. Their roster seems strong, but because their two matches were up against the Dallas Fuel and Seoul Dynasty, they could never prove themselves. Owned by Hector Rodriguez of OpTic Gaming, the boys in green are made up of the core of FNRGFE, a team made from the ashes of NRG eSports’, Fnatic’s, and Gale Force’s first squads. The DPS line is made up of TF2 veteran Matt “clockwork” Dias, a famous Scout who now plays Tracer, Team Gigantti’s Jiri “LiNkzr” Masalin, a flexible DPS player who showed a very strong level of play with Genji, Widowmaker, and S, Lucas “Mendokusaii” Hakansson, a streamer with history on Cloud9, and Jake “JAKE” Lyon of Luminosity Gaming Evil, a flex DPS that led Team USA to the quarterfinals in the Overwatch World Cup 2017. The FNRGFE Tank duo of former TF2 player Austin “Muma” Wilmot and body-blocking master Matt “coolmatt” Iorio (formerly known as coolmatt69) will be joined by Zarya expert Alexandre “SPREE” Vanhomwegen of FaZe Clan. The supports follow the same pattern with FNRGFE’s Sombra main Chris “bani” Bennell and their speedy Lucio player Daniel “Boink” Pence joining FaZe’s flex support Shane “Rawkus” Flaherty, who played with JAKE and coolmatt on Team USA. The coach factor of this team is also very interesting, having former Team Liquid tank player Adam “MESR” de la Torre, as well as Taeyoung “TaiRong” Kim of Afreeca Freecs, known for playing Lucio on Team South Korea in the OWWC 2016. With both coaches having playing experience, as well as a very talented roster, the Outlaws have the potential to bring Houston the glory.
San Francisco Shock:
The Shock are an interesting team in that they are mixing veteran players with anxious newbies. While their supports and tanks are still not impressing me, other than Andreas “Nevix” Karlsson’s D. Va bombs, I have to give their DPS players some credit. From Andrej “BABYBAY” Francisty’s Widowmaker to Dante “Danteh” Cruz’s Sombra to Andre “iddqd” Dahlstrom’s Tracer, I think that the team has some large potential. When young gun Jay “sinatraa” Won turns 18 in March, the team could improve drastically, but until then, we’ll just have to wait and see.
This team is the definition of a wild card. Owned by NetEase, a video game company best known for making the game Rules of Survival, the Dragons are the League’s sole Chinese representative. However, with only large tournament in China, the OWPS, few people recognize Chinese players or teams, considering that the CN scene has always been pretty mysterious in just about any eSport not called Dota 2. But perhaps the most surprising thing about this squad is the complete lack of players from Miraculous Youngster, the best Chinese squad that took Lunatic-Hai to five games. Things got even more shady when they signed Weida “Diya” Lu, a player known to be a more than a few controversies. With players Chao “Undead” Feng and Junjie “Xushu” Liu recently getting fined and the signing of Congshan “U4” Chen, a coach rumoured to be involved with some cases revolving Team China, this squad is not reaching out for fans. That being said, Diya played very well against the Seoul Dynasty, despite a 4-0 loss, and the Dragons might be able to turn heads.
The biggest underdogs of the preseason was the Uprising, a team that made you ask, “who?” when you looked at their roster. With their low quality intro video, the team was pretty much a meme going into the tournament. However, the four Korean players on this team all have a chance to make a splash. Nam Joo “STRIKER” Kwon is a hitscan player from ROX Orcas, a Tier 3 Korean team. Woo-yeol “Kalios” Shin was known to hit 5000 SR on the CN server, and briefly played a flex tank role with Afreeca Freecs. Yeong-jin “Gamsu” Noh is a main tank player from CONBOX, known for great Winston and Rein play. Finally, Se Hyeon “Neko” Park is a superstar Zenyatta that led his rookie team, the NC Foxes, to a quarterfinal finish in OGN Apex Season 4, perhaps the most competitive recent tournament. With a couple other decent players, this team is ready to show that they are more than just a meme.
The worst team coming out of the preseason, the Mayhem chose to sign only 6 players, and it hurt them in the end. Their lack of flexibility and their shortage of LAN experience caused them to play significantly worse than the other teams. Ben Spoont’s team is made of the Misfits roster, with no additions. While the roster looked strong on paper, the Mayhem still has a long way to go. They certainly have the talent, as Kevyn “TviQ” Lindstrom is one of the most flexible DPS players I’ve seen, and with Andreas “Logix” Berghmans’ Tracer play, the DPS lineup should be able to do a lot if they could be more flexible. Both Johan “CWoosH” Klingestedt’s Winston and Tim “Manneten” Bylund’s off-tank play have improved drastically, but they still aren’t able to outplay other duos. Their support line is also very good, as Aleksi “Zuppeh” Kuntsi and Sebastian “Zebbosai” Olsson are both very skilled veterans, but until the Mayhem adds more flexibility and more players, they aren’t ready to take the throne just yet.
Our home team, the Philadelphia Fusion, did not participate in the OWL Preseason. The Fusion, owned by Comcast Spectacor, recently suffered from some “player logistics issues” most likely due to the recent troubles with visas for their international players. With Su-min “SADO” Kim getting suspended, the team was already going through internal struggles. However, the team definitely has the talent to go for the gold. The team boasts one of the best DPS lineups, showcasing FaZe Clan’s DPS duo of the best Genji in the world, George “ShaDowBurn” Gushcha and the #1 ranked ladder player in Season 7, Jae Hyeok “Carpe” Lee. These players will be joined by relative unknown Josh “Eqo” Corona of ZenGaming, and, once he turns of age, Tracer player Simon “snillo” Ekstrom from 123. In SADO’s absence, Team Gigantti’s Joona “fragi” Laine will be taking up the main tank responsibilities, who will be backed up by off-tanks Hong-jun “HOTBA” Choi of LW Red and Gael “Poko” Gouzerch of GamersOrigin. Finally, eUnited’s Zenyatta master Isaac “Boombox” Charles will be the team’s sole flex support, while FaZe’s Joe “Joemeister” Gramano, Movistar Riders’ Alberto “neptuNo” Gonzalez, and Ardeont’s Jeong Hwa “Dayfly” Park will be fighting over Lucio and Mercy duties. The coach factor features famous coaches Yann “Kirby” Luu from 123, Elliot Hayes of eUnited, and Se-hwi “NamedHwi” Go from Carpe’s previous teams, BK Stars and FaZe Clan, adding further team synergy. While we don’t know how the Fusion will fare against other teams, they certainly have the ability to win the tournament.
The Financing –
The financial details of the Overwatch are quite impressive and groundbreaking. First of all, this is the first eSports league to have minimum salary. The minimum salary for OWL is 50,000 dollars which makes the possibility of a career in eSports, player or otherwise, much more of a sustainable career. On top of the salary floor, the money being pumped into the OWL is monumental. Each OWL team spot costs a monumental 20 million dollars. Yep, that’s right. If you would like to purchase a slot in the Overwatch League you have to burn a 20 million dollar hole in your wallet. The financial details of Overwatch are most likely inspired by League of Legends publisher Riot Games decision to franchise the League of Legends NA LCS back in November. The Overwatch League has also set up player unions and health insurance to make sure players living conditions are acceptable and players aren’t exploited by their respective orgs. The provided health care combined with the minimum 50k salary and the player unions means Overwatch League is shaping up to be the best Esports league towards players. The OWL has already started to influence other ESports and will continue to influence ESports as long as the League stays relevent.
Exclusive Interview with Ethan “Beezy” Spector –
Over winter break, I was able to talk to Ethan “Beezy” Spector, a staff member of Philadelphia Fusion. I was able to ask him about ESports, the Overwatch League, and the innerworkngs of both. Here is the full interview:
Q: Have you had any past experience in eSports (i.e. player, coach, manager etc.)
A: Nope. I worked in finance for 3 years before moving to this career,
Q: Do you think the OWL, specifically the minimum salary, will impact other ESports
A: Hmm interesting question. I think indirectly yes – not so much the minimum number itself, but the fact that it exists. Also that there are mandates for health insurance and housing – that might set a better precedent. But to be honest – the fact that real orgs with real structure are the ones that own the teams is the biggest change. No way Robert Kraft doesn’t give his players health insurance even if it weren’t required.
Q: Some members of the Overwatch community say the OWL has “too much money invested in it to fail.” What are your thoughts?
A: People said the same thing about the XFL (a failed football league). I think there is too much money invested for it to fail Year 1 – no matter what these owners will hold on I would say for at least 3 seasons. But if at the end of Season 3 viewership or sponsorship still drastically underperforms expectations – we could see the end of the league
Q: Has blizzard been heavily involved with team operation or have they let the teams “do their own thing”
A: in the middle. Can’t get more specific.
Q: Did not playing in preseason have an impact on team moral/motivation
A: It dropped morale I would say for a few days, but increased motivation greatly. We were already more or less the “meme team” of the league, and we were hoping that kicking some ass in preseason would get people to realize that our roster was stronger than they thought. Missing that chance really made us feel even more like we have something to prove – and the team has been practicing hard with that in mind.
Q: Which player surprised you the most in the Philly org
A: Eqo – the kid kind of came out of nowhere in terms of structured play – and he has been a dominant force in comms during scrimms. Definitely a smart and talented player that I think will surprise a lot of fans.
Q: What teams are your top three for season one of OWL
A: Biased answer of course – but I’d say Fusion, Seoul, and New York
Q: Some members in the community are saying you have the best DPS duo in the league (ShaDowBurn and Carpe). What are your thoughts on the duo.
A: I think they are going to be incredibly strong. Even as two separate players they can be considered among the best in their role – then you add the fact that they have a lot of synergy together and you have something really potent there.
Q: Many people consider ESports as “not a sport” or “just lazy kids playing video games.” Has working with a team supported that idea or has it disproved it.
A: Its a bit of a straw man argument which I think ends up being dumb. The people who claim “its not a sport” have defined sports in their head as the conventional physical activity competitions. ESports is clearly not football , and that’s fine. Its not trying to be football. If you walked onto a basketball court vs lebron james, you would have an equal chance of beating him one on one as you would taking Carpe out in a one on one deathmatch. I do think its a sport.
Q: Which team, do you think, will be the closest matchup for Philadelphia Fusion
A: Hmm. Probably Boston – I like those guys a lot. I think their coaching staff is really smart – and their team is way stronger than everyone is giving them credit for. I assume that we will be viewed similarly once the season starts – so we will be competing for “underdog” award probably.
Q: Who is your favorite org (minus philly) to watch and why?
A: Easy answer – NYXL. Pine is nutty.
Q: What about the ESports business were you not expecting?
A: Hmm. Trying to find the diplomatic answer here. Haven’t observed this within philly necessarily – but there is a lot more ego going around than i expected. Most orgs / coaches / players seem convinced that the way they are doing things is correct and everyone else is wrong – that they have figured out the secret sauce. As someone who has never been sure about anything in my life – I find that attitude kind of hilarious.
Q: Last question, who is your favorite Overwatch hero?
The Dates –
The Overwatch League starts today, Wednesday, January 10th, at 7:00pm EST. The first match is between SF Shock and LA Valliant. We predict Valliant to win 3-2. If you can, we recommend stay up till 11:00pm to watch the Dallas Fuel vs. Seoul Dynasty. Don’t forget to route for Philly tomorrow, Thursday, January 11, when Philadelphia Fusion vs. Houston Outlaws at 7:00pm. If you are interested in watch or learning more about the OWL you can visit the website at this link: https://overwatchleague.com/en-us/
Thanks for reading! If you have any feedback on the article feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org). Special thanks to Luke for helping with a ton of this article, unfortunately he’s been in hospital since break and wasn’t able to help finish this article. Get well soon Luke!