Overwatch pro play will be unrecognisable in a year, here's why
We imagine Overwatch will be unrecognisable in a year, and you're going to love it. While it may be counterintuitive to say, the death of the Overwatch League has given this small esport the keys to the city. That being a full, unprecedented second try at doing things right.
With Flash Ops Holiday Showdown spinning up toward the end of the week, and other third-party events happening more frequently, competitive Overwatch is slated to change significantly in not too much time.
This esports is on the precipice of greatness and will be unrecognisable in a year. Here is why Overwatch is going to bounce back.
More Upsets, More Often
Upsets are becoming more and more prevalent, and Overwatch will flourish because of it. Part of the reason why is because of the death of the Overwatch League.
The change in the culture around competitive Overwatch from the "league" format to a more open and grassroots event draws into question how seriously select teams take events, and what their preparation looks like. This is something players and viewers must adjust to.
The knock-on is that upsets are far more likely now, as players adjust to their new norm, and should continue as attention is split between qualifying for one event and "winning" another. This is awesome.
It's true that esports is drama, and what is more dramatic than an underdog victory?
Why do people think so fondly of RunAway from the APEX Era? Could it be because of its affable pink sweaters? Maybe or perhaps it's the fact that they represented something more than themselves.
A dream shared between a man and his family. A hope that a rag-tag bunch of players, scouted by the same man who helped to catapult League of Legends star Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok, could challenge funded and sponsored teams.
The Overwatch League lacked those underdogs outside of the cynical budget wielders or downright poor performers who couldn't upset a stomach if they wanted to.
And this is already happening.
For example, the European wing of the Flash Ops Holiday Showdown. Ex Oblivione, a European super team, finished their Swiss stage with an 8-2 record. Now, ask yourself, is that due to them being bad players or their priorities either not being aligned or being spread thin?
Could that underperformance have something to do with Hadi "Hadi" Bleinagel participating in the Saudi eLeague? If so, does that split attention matter in the long run?
More Competition, More Metas
The sins of the past still haunt competitive Overwatch. It hasn't been that long since the era-defining GOATS composition put our little esport in a chokehold. And before it clotheslined for a quick three-count, it was a joke, a gimmick that professionals claimed was "more than beatable."
The point? When there is more open competition, when a scene is healthy, ideas are challenged. Meta stagnation diminished greatly as the Overwatch League became more regional during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the likely separation into various regions, this effect should be popping up everywhere, this time executed by the best players on the planet.
The reset the death of the Overwatch League has blessed us with will continue to buck trends and challenge preconceived ideas. That will happen, or we'll devolve into chaos, which still nets the same outcome that fans enjoy.
Assuming that regionalisation doesn't change in 2024, adding a fresh and new open circuit to the mix only furthers the idea that filters and compositions have to pass through to be fit for play.
This all benefits the fans. This is the closest we're going to get to non-mirrored Overwatch, and you better be happy with it, or so help us, you're going to get Hero Pools back and we hope they ban your Widowmaker.
However, that isn't the only thing returning from our past that has a possibility to uproot the status quo of the future.
Seeding was bad enough during the 2023 Overwatch League playoffs. Think about how bad it will be when there is no overarching body to govern it. Now, try and think about teams being invited to small-scale but highly coveted tournaments. Can you see the issues yet?
The return of third-party events is the return of bad seeding and invitation troubles, and if I'm frank, that's okay in my books.
Bad seeding is far from ideal, it actively spits in the wind of competition, but has "competition" ever really been a huge selling point for this esport? Actually, has it been a main selling point for any esport?
The pros to these cons are that bad seeding breeds inherent drama and tangible discussion points. Should the first seed be given such an easy bracket when they haven't been competing in the monthly and weekly events? Should the veterans and recognisable names be seeded higher based on viewership?
Tournament organisers will be put through the wringer as they attempt to seed their groups and brackets to the best of their ability.
The knock-on effect of not having an Overwatch League front office is that it won't be uniform. This sows the seed of great things that this scene loves, namely unlikely upsets, unlikely narratives, and all the best Reddit headlines to bicker about.