Could Summer Showdown Be Saved By Junker Queen?
After two weeks, it's more than clear that the Summer Showdown will live and die by Junker Queen. Like Shania Twain, it's Junker Queen forever and for always - and this is driving the community's perception straight into the gutter.
2019 proved that rigidity has and will likely never be looked at fondly within the Overwatch League and the 2022 Summer Showdown is no different. And yet we're left with some lukewarm hope. Could we escape the Overwatch League Summer Showdown by the skin of our teeth - because of Junker Queen?
Before we explore the b-side to this summer soundtrack, we have to understand just how Overwatch tied itself up in this odd knot. The long and short of it is that Overwatch League's amateur division, Overwatch Contenders, took to Junker Queen quickly and laid the blueprint to the composition we currently find ourselves strangled by.
With how rigid the Junker Queen metagame was in Overwatch Contenders, pundits and players alike were very vocal with their dislike of where things were headed and warned that even with her nerfs in the recent beta patch, once she was released into the Overwatch League, Junker Queen would take hold there as well. This primed the community to already dislike what the Summer Showdown had to offer. "GOATS 2.0" and "Junker GOATS" were buzzwords thrown around as shorthand to refer to the polarizing 2019 Overwatch League season's metagame.
And to be fair, it's not too far off.
We've talked about what that naming convention "could" mean for fans and it's definitely not a good thing.
And it's not like Blizzard doesn't know that Junker Queen is an issue. Former Overwatch Contenders player Carter "Carter" Smith alerted the community to a bug that had Junker Queen's Commanding Shout applying twice to her allies. Past that, plenty of pundits and Overwatch League professional players have voiced their concerns both publicly and privately as well.
Overwatch Game Director Aaron Keller recently took to Twitter to relieve the community that Junker Queen's power would be toned back for Overwatch 2's October 4th release date.
While it's good to know that Junker Queen will be toned back immediately following the Overwatch League's Summer Showdown, it doesn't do us much good now, but in that same vein, how much help do we really need to escape unscathed?
While it seems like an oxymoron, Junker Queen could also be what saves Overwatch League's Summer Showdown among other things.
While the novelty of seeing a new hero was a driving factor for some, Junker Queen's dominance has grated down public perception.
And with how powerful and how she's dictated the metagame thus far, Junker Queen has done a soft reset of the standings due to how teamwork centric she inherently is. Between maximising her Commanding Shout while also managing her positioning among the cohesive moving unit of her team, this "Junker GOATS" composition and the experience reset she's caused are the two major culprits in some of the recent upsets that have been sweeping the league.
Eventually, the league will refine the composition down for it to become a well-choreographed dance, much like the 2019 metagame, which ideally may happen in the coming weeks. As teams polish the edges of this new landscape, more and more people will come around to the idea of this composition being more palatable than they once thought.
As it stands now, we're on shoddy legs at best, but by the end of the Summer Showdown, we should see the beauty that this composition holds within it.
With those upsets in mind, along with Overwatch League's propensity to have an odd winner in the summer months, this lull for many fans could be the primer we need to approach the playoffs with as much parity as possible. If we abide by the adage that claims that winning is the remedy to synergy, then happens when you lose? With teams like the Vancouver Titans and Boston Uprising racing for a play-in spot while also benefiting from the homogenization that Junker Queen has brought, we could be seeing select franchises board a runaway train called "momentum" bound for Confidence, California.
Let's address the elephant in the room; after the Midseason Madness, it looked as though the Overwatch League was clearly stratified, leaving some matches pale and predetermined. When your community is tired of hearing that one person is a shoo-in for an award, you can imagine how winning repeatedly taxes their interest.
Now, we're in a colourful and saturated landscape where every game is must-watch Overwatch. Not only does this make the Summer Showdown playoffs interesting, but this impacts the remainder of the season in non-trivial ways.
To put it simply, Overwatch League fans like a sense of parity and Junker Queen gives them that. As for the Countdown Cup and the play-ins, the parity may fall away, but the veneer is enough to keep people interested. However, that isn't the only thing the Overwatch League has going for it to bridge the sweltering summer months.
Toronto, Ontario is a hub of art, science and architecture but on September 8th the Mattamy Atheltic Centre will host the Summer Showdown playoffs for North America. This live event will be a breath of fresh air, regardless of whether or not you enjoy the Junker Queen metagame or not. Live events were the initial selling point of the league at its core, so a return to it, even if in a limited capacity, should be helpful.
Call it lucky timing, but there really could not be a better time for Overwatch to land with both feet in stubborn Australian sand. With a live event waiting in the wings, that should cushion at least part of the blow that Junker Queen is dealing to the waning viewership.
Overwatch League's first two seasons and even going back to OGN's APEX, these events were so beloved partly because fans had a direct lens toward their favourite players and teams. These live environments gave a place for career supporters to hold church, but due to the proximity of all the players together it brings the possibility of new content and injecting a healthy dose of humanisation for the broadcast as well.
In the spirit of keeping things fair, just because things could be better down the line doesn't mean things can't or don't suck as a viewer right now. Overwatch has always been at its best when the majority of its cast is on display and when styles or counters can manifest given a certain map. Rigidity in which heroes can be played is a bad sign for viewership, but that shouldn't discount the flip side of that coin.
Frankly, the million-dollar question on everyone's minds is whether or not the potency of a live environment and heightened storylines brought on by a post-Junker Queen levelled the playing field is enough to save the Summer Showdown?
Is the metagame in a healthy place? No.
Do Overwatch League fans enjoy a bit of parity? Yes.
And do they enjoy a LAN? Absolutely.
So while things seem gloomy before October, there are some bright sides that come, oddly enough, because of Junker Queen's addition.
We're cautiously optimistic that when the ash settles and the showdown is said and done, the Overwatch League will have mitigated enough damage to not only end Summer Showdown on a relatively high note but also leave fans interested in the future.