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The Sport of Overwatch Hits Mainstream

By Garrett Fuller on July 30, 2018 | Columns | Comments

The Sport of Overwatch Hits Mainstream

This past weekend saw the Overwatch League host its finals in Brooklyn, NY. It was not the place you think of when it comes to esports or even Blizzard, yet NYC proved to host a massive showing of fans as the London Spitfire faced off against the Philadelphia Fusion.

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The Overwatch League has been met with mixed reactions by both game and mainstream media. The gamers love it as a way to watch the best in the world play their favorite games. Yet, even in a sold out arena with loads of fans, main stream media continued to ask questions about the relevancy of esports. We think Overwatch proved their point, the game is here to stay.

Cloud9 has been in esports for a while. They won the London spot at the last year when the league was signing up teams. They took a lot of controversy because it was a Los Angeles based organization filling a team with an all Korean roster, who were based out of a European city. London proved critics wrong quickly and grew a huge fan base who had to stay up late to watch them play. The team thrived on being high talent recruited from one of the best Korean teams, GC Busan. Over the course of the season they had high points, but began to fall off as a league favorite when the NYXL started to crush the competition. With such a powerful roster it looked like no one could beat the NYXL and they were the favorites, hence a rumor as to why the Finals were to be hosted in NYC. 

Enter the Philadelphia Fusion. A mixed team internationally and an underdog from the start. Having visa issues from the beginning they did not even make it into pre-season. Many people had quickly written off Philly as one of the bottom teams. However, Comcast Spectacor, the owners, know a thing or two about team management and promotion. They own the Philadelphia Flyers. With an amazing support system and some fantastic marketing behind their organization Philly quickly became a fan favorite. They even went on the beat London in the Stage Two playoffs only to lose to NYXL. However, this rise in fame served them well. Their fan base grew as did their ability to adapt to the meta changes within Overwatch itself. This allowed them to topple the undefeatable NYXL in the playoffs and eventually face London in the finals.

The London Spitfire took home the first championship after beating Philadelphia Fusion fairly quickly in the finals. The win cemented a few things. It proved the Overwatch League could host a major event and sell it out. It also reassured South Korea’s dominance in esports. The only real disappointment of the weekend was they would have gone to a match three, but London cut Philly’s chances short, robbing the arena of about three more hours of crowd cheering madness.

In the end the bigger story here is that the playoffs and finals not only were broadcast on Twitch (normal for us gamers), but also shown on Disney XD and more importantly ESPN. These broadcasts were in prime time when many people were expecting to watch baseball. The best way I can describe it personally was telling my father, age 72, and father-in-law, age 71 to turn on ESPN and see what I do. They were both stunned at the size of the crowd and the excitement of the match. This simple personal example made me realize one thing, Overwatch is here to stay, despite the massive rise of Fortnite. It also made esports cross the line into the mainstream. Overwatch League Season Two will not start until 2019. New teams in Paris, Gaungzhou, and Atlanta have already been rumored to buy in between $30 and $60 million. There are reportedly three more spots open. Let’s see how Blizzard does with their second season, but the real change will come in Season Three when teams all go to their respective cities to play.

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