OWL confuses players and talent after lack of communication
After a season of rule hiccups and fallouts resulting from those, the Overwatch League season format has once again caused controversy in its community.
After the conclusion of the Play-Ins, the Playoff bracket draft caused noticeable confusion for the broadcast talent, the fans, and even for some of the teams and their staff.
The season playoff format
For season 6, eight teams have qualified for the Overwatch League season Playoffs. The Atlanta Reign, Florida Mayhem, and Houston Outlaws had already directly qualified due to their performances in the regular season, landing in the first three spots on the North American region's leaderboards.
On the APAC side, the Hangzhou Spark and the Seoul Infernal had locked in through an unusual system of only their knockout stage performances during the two bracket play portions of the region.
Moreover, last chances were given to two teams in North America and one team in the Asian region to qualify through the Play-Ins. The spots were taken by Boston Uprising, London Spitfire, and the Dallas Fuel, rounding out the eight-team post-season competition set to take place in Toronto.
All that remained after the North American Play-Ins concluded was to seed the teams into a bracket and pair them up against their opponents.
The first issue fans took became apparent with the format, as the bracket did not adhere to strict double-elimination play for the entirety of the competition.
Instead, the teams would start out in a double elimination format that would lead into a single elimination model for the top 4 teams, requiring a third/fourth place match to settle the last podium spot.
The draft and its order became another large point of discussion within the Overwatch esports community. For the draft, a unique system that allowed teams to pick opponents they do not want on their part of the bracket was chosen.
This could've theoretically created various compelling strategic scenarios for teams, which unfortunately, were never elaborated upon during the broadcast due to large-scale confusion on the nature of the draft order.
During the Knockout stages in the APAC region, the Hangzhou Spark won both of their brackets in spring and summer, respectively.
Fans, as well as some managers of the Overwatch League franchises, assumed that this would afford them the first draft pick from the APAC region over the Seoul Infernal, who had only finished first and third during their Spring and Summer Knockouts runs.
During the draft, it turned out that instead, the Infernal had been given the first APAC seed due to their superior performance in the qualifying stages over the Spark.
After the first draft pick that the Reign had earned for themselves due to a victory at the Midseason Madness and a top finish in the North American regular season, the Infernal had instead been given the second choice, sending the London Spitfire into Atlanta's bracket.
Even broadcast talent member Jacob "JAKE" Lyon was visibly confused, also stating that he believed Spark would have to be the APAC region's first seed.
JAKE's assumption appeared to be in good company as even the General Managers of various teams believed this to be the case.
For the playoff qualification, the Overwatch League had prioritised average Knockout stage performance, and it therefore stood to reason that this would also be the determining factor in the seeding order. This turned out not to be the case.
Earlier this season, the Hangzhou Spark had been in a similar situation with the League also surrounding an issue regarding the seeding in the APAC region. Spark General Manager Grey had called out the League over its rule inconsistencies.
After the draft for the season Playoffs concluded, Grey was part of an interview during which he also stated that he was unaware that his team had not earned the first seed for the Asian region, forcing them to play against Atlanta Reign in their first match of the Playoffs. The Overwatch League has not made its tiebreaker, seeding, or draft rules available to the public.
The Overwatch League Playoffs are set to start on September 28th in Toronto, Canada, at the Mattamy Atheltic Centre. The local team and hosts of the event, Toronto Defiant, had failed to qualify for Playoffs due to a loss against the London Spitfire in the last round of the Play-Ins.