What Matters Most In The 2022 Overwatch League Off-Season?
While we all attempt to navigate through the chaotic storm of the 2022 Overwatch League offseason, there has been one - thankfully wholesome - pattern that has emerged; friendship. As absurd as it seems, there seems to be a meta before the meta this Overwatch League season, and it’s centred around the synergy and established relationships and trust - all formed both in and outside of the game.
What matters most in the eyes of the players looks to have shifted as the world still learns to find its pandemic sea legs.
And it all starts with a Polaris-esq star that has found his way to France.
In one of the most surprising moves thus far, former San Francisco Shock DPS Gil-seong "Glister" Lim has stamped his passport for Paris, France as he joins the Paris Eternal for the 2022 Overwatch League season. Keen eyes will also make note of the reunion with former London Spitfire teammate turned Eternal head coach Dae-han "JMAC" Choi. The pair were some of the more dynamic pieces of the 2020 Spitfire and with such a big pivot in Glister’s career, speculation rightful orbited his move to the Eternal. General manager for the Paris Eternal, Kyoung Ey "AVALLA" Kim did clarify in a comment to GGRecon that the pair’s friendship did play a role in the acquisition of Glister.
Even the 2021 Rookie of the Year, Se-hyun "Pelican" Oh, seemingly has gone in search of comfort and control. Saddling up with the Houston Outlaws for their freshman bid into Overwatch 2, he reunites with longtime friend Min-jun "PIGGY” Shin.
As a fan favourite pairing, the duo has bantered with each other on social media, has a myriad of streams of them both climbing the ranked ladder together, as well as having their friendship poked and prodded by the Overwatch League’s Comms Check. While the cash consideration from the Atlanta Reign sealed the move to Houston, one would have to assume that the duo’s friendship also, at the very least, had to have sweetened the deal for the star DPS prospect.
Even the Seoul Dynasty has tapped into the power of friendship ahead of Overwatch 2. With their recent acquisition of former Overwatch League champion Myeong-hwan "smurf" Yoo, it was revealed that superstar DPS ace Joon-yeong "Profit" Park played a role in convincing him to dawn the gold and black. Seoul’s Co-President and Chief Operating Officer Arnold Hur made mention that “Profit came up big in convincing [smurf] to join [...]”. He also noted that the team’s DPS focused approach going into 2022 was something smurf valued as well. Past that, Arnold Hur has jokingly fueled speculation on just how high a premium player’s put on working with those who they’re familiar with.
This also ignores the 2022 Atlanta Reign’s support duo coming off a glowing Overwatch Contenders career together, or the San Francisco Shock’s newest additions hailing from O2 Blast. Chasing the biggest contract doesn’t seem to be the most ideal way of landing Overwatch 2’s next generation of talent.
To be fair, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen either package deals or reputations attract players or tough decisions made in spite of a large contract, but this season feels like it’s both more transparent and happening with more frequency. While it’s clear that the offseason metagame has evolved well past simply following the coach’s resume, we’re left wondering why the lovingly dubbed “homie meta” has taken hold of the 2022 Overwatch League offseason roster shuffles.
One could assume it’s partially one of the only things the professional players have control over heading into 2022. With little information available about Overwatch 2, or what next season will look like, is it too farfetched to say that players are valuing environments they feel will facilitate them over something more lucrative?
Perhaps it has more to do with approaching the new title with a new start for their careers, attempting things they’ve always wanted to but never had the chance to?
Or is this far more human than mechanical competitor? Maybe this is as simple as young talents embarking far from home in the midst of the global pandemic and just value having a known quantity and friend around. That level of anxiety and loneliness assumedly has to weigh on players amongst the myriad of other stressors they face on a daily basis.
And before cries of nepotism are attempted, none of these moves remotely seem like they were made solely based on these personal relationships. Rather, they feel like secondary or even tertiary boxes that were checked. No wrongdoing. No opportunities squandered. Simply strong players shifting their list of values and priorities ahead of confusing and uncertain times.
And who can blame them?
While it is difficult to separate noise from signal on a case-by-case level, but what is clear is that reputation and established relationships are tangible bargaining chips teams are utilizing to bring new injections of talent on board. Packaged with the level of talent and the environment we’re hopefully waiting to see, all these moves - assumed or not - should be a positive for the league.
As more and more rosters begin to finalise, this conversation will likely resurface again. And while the Overwatch League is far from an anime, the power of friendship is something that we do have to consider this year-round. As these professionals embark into a game they’ve never played, as teams continue to impress with how strong their roster building has become, it’s the ties that bind us that could result in one of the most narrative rich and healthy environments the Overwatch League has seen to date. That said, we’re left with some eyebrow-raising questions ahead of Overwatch 2’s inaugural competitive season.
Can Glister shine alongside JMAC and the Eternal?
Is smurf and Profit the duo that the Dynasty have been waiting for?
And will Pelican and Piggy pull off the biggest heist in league history with the Outlaws?
What of the other duos and even trios that will grace the league next season?
We’ll speak for fans everywhere in saying 2022 cannot come soon enough.