How Important Was OGN's APEX?
With the chapter of Overwatch 1 esports coming to a close as we are soon to transition to… somewhere… many of our memories are sure to be distorted either by romanticising the experience and forgetting its flaws, or being overly critical of it, forgetting the context of the world around us when we were living through them as if that didn’t matter.
As the resolution on those memories scales down, and we interpolate the gaps, soon we will only be able to talk in the broadest of generalities or labels like League, MVP, Rookie, and RoleStar titles. As we can only hope to be able to retain the conclusions, not the reasoning, whatever damage has been done through a messy process is done.
Do I remember that someone argued in great detail about the right way to put the toilet paper roll in the holder that deeply resonated with me? Yeah.
Do I remember what the arguments were? No, not really.
Will I defend the honour of the right way to my deathbed? Sure will!
Now let me try to send you off into Overwatch 2 with one last idea directly injected into your mind palace that feels justified but equally reductive and unfair. Ready?
Winning two OGN APEX titles is at least equivalent to winning an OWL title.
How Much Is An APEX Win Worth, Really?
What was the golden age of Overwatch 1? If it wasn’t OGN’s APEX, it was definitely pretty close. Incredible storylines, great production, and the starting point for many of the best Overwatch 1 players. While not all too many remain these days, almost all of the greatest ones in Overwatch history have started their roots there.
While there is a lot to swoon about, the magical aura surrounding this time is only in-directly related to how one should evaluate the achievements gained there. After all, when xQc's blood-curdling scream proclaimed that “they went to Korea”, it was hardly an argument about the excellent productions and memories made there. Rather, it was a statement on the quality of the pro-play experience gained there, from incredible solo-queue level to the level of teams to play against and the competitive integrity within the competition of APEX itself.
“THEY WENT TO KOREAAAA”
However, one shouldn’t forget the shortcomings that APEX necessarily had to come with. Hosted in South Korea, only a handful of Western teams each season were invited to the competition, and it wasn’t always by the fairest measures, at times favouring the size of the brand or players involved instead of their competitive achievements when inviting these teams.
Moreover, one could definitively point out obvious flaws of the competitive format namely in the four-team round-robin groups and in the single-elimination playoff bracket, putting arguably too much emphasis on single-day performances and giving an inaccurate reading on the real level of a team over an entire season.
Generally speaking, the GSL-format and the Bo7 playoff bracket (starting in APEX Season 3) could alleviate some of those issues, but always left some doubts especially when seeing how many of a season’s eventual top teams only got out by the slightest of margins such as Kongdoo Panthera’s team of APEX Season 3, in which the team only advanced by a map advantage but a negative match score of 1-2, only narrowly beating out Rogue and Mighty AOD. KDP would later pick up steam, only being stopped in the grand finals of the event and only just barely by Lunatic-Hai.
Nevertheless, it stands that the quality of players within APEX playing against each other could be argued to have been the relatively highest concentration of top players ever, unhindered by age limitations that were imposed upon the Overwatch League while top talent like WhoRU and Haksal at the time unarguably were.
With competition running about three months twice a year, the average length of a year of APEX was also quite comparable to an Overwatch League season, though teams had significantly fewer matches to play. It is likely that this extra time to prepare for each match led to higher strategical preparation, giving us great moments like the Meta Athena wall boosts on Dorado.
This difference to the regular season churn of season 1’s 40 maps makes for a gigantic difference in how Overwatch was approached, inevitably taking the wind out of some team’s sails. It is in this format change that comparisons between the two eras become almost impossible. However, while the mode of competition turned out to be very different, it does little to the perceived value of the competition as none of them are inherently superior to the other.
If simple differences in match volume made such a difference in our evaluation, we no doubt would have to make distinctions between season 1 and season 4 as well, requiring top teams to play about half as many games this year.
Finally, if none of the aforementioned aspects convinces you that APEX was worth about half an Overwatch League title, I ask those who have been around to source their emotions (yes, this is about to become really unfair. Brace yourselves.)
Laying off the hipster glasses of having enjoyed Overwatch before it was corporate and simply evaluating the meaningfulness of the action at the time, how does the achievement of a back to back APEX victory of Lunatic-Hai feel to you?
Does the experience of EscA lifting the trophy really pale in comparison to the Spitfire or the Shock lifting the trophy? Do you think any of the actors in this grand play cared less about the victory? Did one group of people put fewer hours in than the other to get the dub? Or did we still have the best players in the world giving it their all to claim the world title?
Lastly, did I successfully install the heuristic of two APEX titles equals one OWL title in your mind software so we can start tallying up the greatest players of Overwatch 1?