OWL-winning GM shares first impressions of OWCS
With the announcement of the Overwatch Championship Series (OWCS), former Overwatch League professionals have taken a first glance at the new system and shared their thoughts. Among them is Overwatch League-winning General Manager Albert "yeHHH" Yeh, who took to Twitter to share his insight on the new system.
Region lock is here
In the announcement of the OWCS, Blizzard outlined its requirements for teams to adhere to "a maximum of two non-resident players per team in an OWCS region." Barring potential loopholes, the rule spells the end of many international super teams as well as a global predominance.
It's an especially massive change for South Korean players, which had made up over half of the Overwatch League's player pool in any of its six seasons. "Import rules are great for long-term talent development," wrote Yeh, starting his evaluation on a high note.
A mechanism of region locks that has often shown its benefits in other esports scenes is the necessity to invest resources, attention, and playtime at the highest level into regional talents, increasing the level of play locally by aligning incentive structures with said goal.
FACEIT Pro League inbound?
As part of the announcement of the OWCS, Blizzard revealed that FACEIT, an esports matchmaking and tournament service, had been chosen as the official competitive platform for EMEA and North America.
In other esports titles such as Counter-Strike, FACEIT has developed additional products for their service, including the so-called FACEIT Pro League - a competitive ladder for professional players and those at their approximate level to compete against each other in a non-team-based environment for cash prices.
Over the years of its operation, several talents have been scouted through the service as the service also became one of the avenues of both practice and content creation for CS professionals. It stood to reason for Yeh to wonder if FPL was also coming to Overwatch esports.
On the surface, there are more obstacles to overcome than in titles like CS, namely in the form of role-based matchmaking which Overwatch is likely to require, especially with a smaller player pool than the currently already struggling ranked queue.
Moreover, pro pugs have a long history of failures in the competitive history of Overwatch esports, rooted in the unique demands the game poses, causing all efforts to eventually cease to continue. However, a prize pool and moderation of the player pool could provide the necessary incentives for the competition to be taken seriously. No FACEIT spokesperson has commented on the matter so far.
No Chinese participation for now
Due to a public fallout between NetEase and Activision Blizzard, the game has been inaccessible in China since January 2023. Without a new publisher, the issue continues to rear its head, with players residing in China being barred from participating in the OWCS.
"Chinese players are all ineligible to play even as imports due to lack of a publisher agreement, massive blow to the quality of competition," Yeh remarked in his Tweet. Throughout competitive Overwatch history, China has been a major competitor, finishing as runner-up in the Overwatch World Cup in 2018, 2019, and 2023.
On an individual level, DPS player Huang "leave" Xin was awarded the MVP title in season 4 of the Overwatch League for his performance in the strong showing of the Chengdu Hunters.
Uncertain revenue streams
The announcement of the OWCS only shared the rough competitive outline, omitting some of the most important information in the shape that the programme may take in incentivising competitors and esports teams to participate.
No definitive numbers on the prize pools of each event have been shared at this point. As Yeh points out, the reveal did not mention any "digital item revenue tied to teams/players whether its skin bundles, team skins, player signatures etc.," which are seen as factors on which esports organisations will make their participation conditional.
The OWCS kicks off in Asia in mid-February with its qualifying stages. North America and Europe follow suit in March, with the first international Major taking place at Dreamhack Dallas from May 31 to June 2.