Overwatch esports' newest breakout star players
Overwatch League may be over, but the next generation of stars are having their breakout moments. Between the 2023 Overwatch World Cup, the qualifiers for the Overwatch Flash Ops: Holiday Showdown and the Saudi eLeague's second season, new faces are quickly descending and controlling the future narrative of Overwatch esports.
We've skipped spring cleaning and moved straight into falling for the contenders ready to hold up the big top. These are Overwatch esports' newest breakout players.
Team Japan. Period.
Yes all of them.
The entirety of Team Japan at the 2023 Overwatch World Cup is to be shortlisted for the future of Overwatch esports.
Inoue "KSG" Tomoharu and Takashi "Qloud" Umeda are names that APAC fans will know but international fans should pay close attention to.
Throughout the 2023 Overwatch World Cup, KSG was one of the most surprising Doomfists coming into the event. Facilitating Japan's high-tempo style, Qloud showcased an incredible portfolio of aggressive plays on Illari and Zenyatta while still being in a position to keep KSG alive in sticky situations.
There is no reason for Team France, a team full of Overwatch League veterans, to be struggling and losing to an, admittedly successful Overwatch Contenders team that composes Team Japan's impressive run--unless they're quite good.
Next to them, you have playmakers like Hirayama "qki" Nariaki who are the definition of fearless. Whether he's playing flanks on Echo or clutching up with Mei, qki is a DPS that catalyzes Team Japan's hyper-aggressive approach.
While this list is mostly reserved for more green players ready for their breakout moment, Ilari "Vestola" Vestola never received his. And with his performance for Team Finland during the 2023 Overwatch World Cup, he is primed for a successful run through 2024.
Throughout the bronze medal match against Team South Korea, Vestola couldn't help but find purchase with Accretions on Sigma. However, it was his mechanical masterwork on the day coupled with his mind for the game that made this event one of his best.
Team Finland is primed to win New Queens Street but has to secure one final team fight victory. Vestola is first to the scene and begins to survey from the high ground that South Korea's Mei is missing from the point.
Knowing that she also is likely to be banking Blizzard, they assume she is hiding somewhere. This pivotal stun, pick, and eventual fight win was the key to Team Finland achieving a historic bronze medal at the Overwatch World Cup.
Vestola was Team Finland's bulwark against all comers. Do not let his stint in the Overwatch League fool you. He is more than just "good".
"Gala for good"? More like Galaa is good
The support role, for years, has been homogenising down its sub-roles. More traditionally, you have two clear support players. One who is more capable of playing different picks like Zenyatta, Kiriko and Ana, while the other typically plays Lucio or Brigitte with a couple of other picks under their belt.
However, at the 2023 Overwatch World Cup, we were treated to a prime example of how those archaic mantles are being blended.
Jesús "Galaa" López for Team Spain showed real promise during their quarterfinal match against the eventual winners, Team Saudi Arabia. Not only did he look more than comfortable on Lucio, but a key string of plays while he was on Illari, proves that he has more to offer than just a boost of speed.
Being stuck behind enemy lines is often a recipe for death and will set your team back. Yet Galaa flipped the odds on their head becoming a nuisance that would end up nearly allowing for Team Spain to stonewall Team Saudi Arabia.
Flash Ops and beyond
A not-so-wise man once said, "There are no good players in [Overwatch] Contenders".
And if it hasn't been obvious already; we think that's goofy. To be fair it's always been goofy but it is emphasised more now.
Overwatch Contenders talent has forever been discounted, clearance sale players and teams that we'll flat out call good, but not great. No one here is claiming these players or any new upstart will be the face of the esport next year. But look no further than the Pro-Am, the World Cup or any of the events that are undoubtedly in the planning stage for next year.
The Overwatch League has been dissolved, yes, but that doesn't mean that Overwatch esports just comes to a screeching halt.
Young talent is still here in Overwatch--and they can play.
Take this great example coming out of the Overwatch Flash Ops: Holiday Showdown. We already have a sizeable upset where SrPeakCheck, a team with Overwatch Contenders stars took a decisive victory over Ex Oblivione, a team that some might call a European all-star squad.
The fact of the matter is this; the future of Overwatch esports is unknown but it is out there, happening before our very eyes. New prospects are there to be discovered and are clearing a path for themselves into whatever world 2024 has in store for us.
Former Florida Mayhem star Baek "Checkmate" Seung-hun's words ring true here: "We will always be here, ready to play more games. We’re just waiting for you guys to call.”
Players are ringing the bell. Will you tune in to hear them?