Break out the chequebooks, it’s time to support Tier 2 Overwatch
“Support Tier 2 Overwatch” is a common phrase heard in the competitive Overwatch community. It’s a well-meaning call to action urging viewers to pay attention to and invest their time into amateur Overwatch teams, some of which will hopefully grace the game’s biggest stage one day. And while it admittedly feels wrong to critique the league as the 2020 season is just getting underway, a choice Twitter comment from Alberto "neptuNo" González got me thinking. What if we really did see another team bottom out and not win a single match? What would that do to the homestand structure and in result, the league?
Spoiler alert, nothing good, and we should put systems in place to heavily stop that from happening.
It’s a horrible precedent to have a team that is so mismanaged and underperforms so severely that they cannot win a single match. If the homestand model is to succeed, then the 2018 Shanghai Dragons’ near unfathomable record cannot be duplicated and teams should be aware of that.
Think about that for a moment. If home teams cannot draw a home audience due to their performance being so bad it’s laughable, how can we expect fans of away teams to make for up that deficit? I highly doubt many fans of the Hangzhou Spark fans will shell out to travel to the Washington Justice homestand.
How do we make the teams aware that being painfully bad is not acceptable? We attack their bottom line for the safety of the league, the viewers, and the next generation of players.
Let’s take what FLASHPOINT, a new Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) league, is doing as an inspiration. While I think they have a litany of interesting ideas that I’d like to see implemented, that’s neither here nor there. What I do think would work in this scenario is their proposed penalties for underperforming teams.
Veteran esports journalist and creative director at FLASHPOINT, Duncan "Thorin" Shields, expands on these fines and reveals that every month one of the teams is not ranked within the top 20 in the world, they are fined $100,000.
So taking liberties on their system, as just copy and pasting it doesn’t make much sense in terms of scale, let’s say a team in the Overwatch League does not win a single game, then that team is then levied a fine and adds a fair amount of capital into a fund. Alongside that, let’s also penalize the bottom five teams at the end of the season a lesser, but substantial, sum of money. That number could easily change as well as the cost of the fines if the league ever decides to expand or contract, but the point still stands.
Penalizing teams for underperforming holds everyone accountable while still supporting the game itself.
With that extra capital, we can create an incentivization program for teams to recruit rookie players. We could either use the funds to assist in buyouts costs, we could use a portion of it to assist in player salaries, or we could invest in creating shoulder content building up and shining a light on the next generation of Overwatch League players.
Think of a world where this extra budget could fund more LAN events for Overwatch Contenders. Alongside the Showdown model and The Gauntlet, adding LAN finals for major regions not only allows amateur players another chance to gain invaluable experience but it also gives Overwatch League teams another strong data point when scouting for upcoming talent. In reality, the bottom teams are not truly being “fined” so much as they’re being forced to re-invest into the league.
It is in no one’s best interest to want bad teams, but at the end of the day, it is a business and I can sympathize with how much goes into running a franchise. However, there are some organizations that are either playing by their own rules or just need a fire lit under them to remind them that they play a vital role in the success of this league.
It is difficult to mandate “better” scouting or force teams to abandon contracts to sign Contenders players, but there needs to be a system in place so that a talent churn can feasibly happen
And for that to happen we also have to tackle a quietly accepted consensus.
Continuing to prop up the guise that the Overwatch League is the “best” Overwatch being played at any given moment is not only disingenuous but just usually wrong.
For example, we know that South Korean teams like X6-Gaming and RunAway were easily better than the bottom teams in 2018.
In 2019 the Vancouver Titans, a rookie team built with the core of the aforementioned South Korean team, RunAway, dominated the regular season and let’s ignore Element Mystics run domestically comparatively to the league’s bottom teams.
And with a team like the 2020 Los Angeles Valiant starting hot, it seems to me, that there will always be amateur talent that can best some of the worst Overwatch League teams. Speaking of the Valiant, look at the narrative surrounding rookie DPS ace Kai "KSP" Collins after reportedly not seeing very much attention in the offseason.
With how many barriers the league has in place we may just have to accept that some of the top Contenders teams are going to be competitive and even beat some of the bottom Overwatch League teams, but extreme cases where a team literally does not win a single game can’t happen. The model that the league was built on relies on that being avoided at all costs.
We’ve faced a team performing that poorly before. So, why not be proactive?
Why don’t we create solutions to make a reality in where teams want to strive for greatness instead of hiring for brand purposes? Why don’t we create incentivization and penalization models that make having an Overwatch Contenders team a much more interesting business model and not just a front for marketing purposes with the added hope you flip a player every so often.
In short, you were right everyone, you were right all along.
We should support Tier 2 Overwatch--and so should underperforming league teams.
Images via Blizzard Entertainment