Friday, 1 November 2019

Why Overwatch Contenders Players Should Consider Switching To Apex Legends

More professional Overwatch players should consider a switch from Overwatch Contenders and focus on professional Apex Legends! It's a strange statement to read if you look at the current position each game has in the esport hemisphere. However, with the Overwatch League currently in its offseason where most teams know who they want, the recent changes to Overwatch Contenders and with the professional circuit in Apex Legends soon to be announced. Now is the perfect time for players to consider the switch.

The first point I would like to make is that this article is about reminding those players who feel that they are not going to make it professionally in Overwatch that other game with similar traits do exist!

Now, I know what most Overwatch League and Contenders fans are likely to say here, with comments like Apex has no a pro scene, Apex has no custom lobbies and Apex has no spectator mode. If you look at it, you'd be right on the custom lobbies and spectator mode fronta, but these are both things in the works for a game that is only 9 months old and still has an incredible pro scene despite this.

Apex Legends had a very successful Preseason, they secured a deal with ESL to produce their LAN events, they had their first professional LAN event at the X-Games in Minneapolis, which had support from ESPN and a documentary made around the event. They also followed it up with the EA & Respawn backed LAN in the Apex Legends Preseason Invitational, which initially seemed crazy to have 80 teams participating in one event but it turned into a viewing spectacle for those watching and some of the most exciting esports I have personally seen in my 5 years of viewing.

While the above is a great start for Apex Legends as an esport there is are a lot of factors when comparing the two games that should appeal to Overwatch players considering a switch.

Mechanical Skill and Game Play

Out of the 240 players that attended the Apex Legends Preseason Invitational in Krakow, Poland. 74 of these players came from an Overwatch background which made up 29% of the total player pool, as per SSG Battalion who is an analyst for North American esports organisation Spacestation Gaming and one of the organisers for the  T1Apex Pro Leagues. The reason the numbers are high for former Overwatch players this because the mechanical skill set needed to play Overwatch professionally translates over well in Apex Legends.

While Overwatch is probably the most physically taxing FPS game there is right now, especially when compared to Apex Legends, the constant need to have the correct positioning, awareness and ability to survive the constant spamming of abilities are key aspects to bring over to Apex Legends to use as a foundation to build upon when taking on Apex Legends battle royale survival nature.

Another positive factor for any professional Overwatch players considering the switch to Apex Legends is that the gameplay and balance levels are considerably better in Apex Legends. Respawn's ability to take on feedback regarding the games current state supersedes Blizzards by a large margin and they will look to make the changes required based on the feedback they receive a lot quicker.

The game's maps are also in Respawn and Apex Legends favour by a considerable margin. The newly released Worlds Edge map is only the games second map to be released in 9 months, which allows players to not only understand the map they are playing but allows them a considerable amount of time to perfect the in-game strategy and rotations depending on the ring locations. Compare this to Overwatch having 4 different playable game modes and a total of 17 maps for players to learn that have previously rotated out after every 6 weeks, means that the chances of burning out are reduced.

Respawn's willingness to change the meta with buffs to both Legends and weapons is a huge positive as well. When the Charge Rifle was released alongside Worlds Edge,  it quickly became an oppressive weapon due in part to the damage numbers and the fact it is the games first hitscan weapon. When the community made a point of this, it only took Respawn 13 days to acknowledge that changes were required and in 16 days it received a nerf to bring it back into line with the rest of the games weapons. It showed that they are looking to make minor adjustments to their weapons and on top of this they actively look to introduce more Legends into the games meta, where legend abilities have less of an effect than in Overwatch. While Apex Legends season 2 involved a legend meta of Pathfinder, Wattson and Wraith, Respawn have good changes over the previous season that has now led to the introduction of Lifeline and Gibraltar into the professional meta.

Compare this to Blizzard who's ability to balance their game is notoriously poor over the last year, due to their inability to balance their game correctly. The Goats composition lasted almost 9 months and despite multiple changes throughout that period of time, they were only able to balance out of Goats when they introduced composition role lock. Despite this introduction, they have once again balanced themselves into a whole with the current double shield meta and it is likely to be the same going into the new year.

This had lead Overwatch to feel stale for large periods at a time and left the game feeling predictable at Overwatch League level because of the lack of counterplay available to teams. Apex Legends on the other hand as been able to thrive due to its ability to allow teams opportunities to take advantage of positioning and letting in-game ability to come to the forefront. Producing the element that any team participating can win a round at any time and it was shown in the first game of the Apex Legends Preseason Invitational when Crems from HSL managed to outplay a Wyvern team who were a man up and despite having a positional advantage to win the game.

Opportunities To Turn Professional

When you look at the Overwatch League and their ambitious plans to have a city-based global league, I think it's clear to see that it is likely now at the point where you can say it was a bold but successful move. However, when you look at Overwatch Contenders, the same can not be said as the Path to Pro model is on its last legs.

The Contenders system has always been one that heavily favoured the OWL teams who decided to have an academy to play in their region. With the academy teams being able to offer paid contracts and some stability to aspiring OWL players, it instantly reduced the appeal for other organisations to enter the system. This is most obvious when you look at the current state of European Contenders where only one OWL team has an academy, while the other had their team relegated and then disbanded. The league bias towards North American teams has forced European players to try and be picked up by their academy teams and it has meant that European Contenders is starting to feel that it's being left to rot like Australian and the Pacific.

Add to the fact that the league's focus seemed to alienate so much of the tier 2 talent pool by only having 2 European OWL teams. The only way for most players to have a shot at being considered for a potential move up would be to get signed to a North American academy team or have a standout season. Resulting in a large number of talented players contributing to a system where the only chance to get paid outside of an academy is to pray for an organisation to join or place well with your unpaid team. Which still have the high expectation that you will be paid late by Blizzard.

On the other hand, former professional Overwatch players have had good success from the early kill race tournaments all the way through to the 3 preseason LAN events. North American players Retzi and Zombs who play for Sentinels, have a third-place finish at the X-Games, a fifth-place finish at the Preseason Invitational and won their group at TwitchCon San Diego. While NRG's Mohr finished 12th at both the X-Games and the Preseason Invitational and Fnatic NA's iShiny finished 4th at the X-Games.

European players played exceptionally well at the Preseason Invitational with SoaR's IPN finishing 17th out of 80 teams, Reciprocity EU's Nesh finished 8th with Penta and Gamers Origin's roster of Mpe, Osnazeni and wSerious finishing in 4th at the Preseason Invitational after previously playing in Overwatch's Open Divison, to name a few. Shows that the opportunity to transfer over from Overwatch, no matter the position players had previously could be well worth it.

Another factor that should come into consideration is the recent changes to the Contenders format. While the viewer base may not have found the league format the most enjoyable, it actually provided a considerable amount of stability to players and teams competing. Knowing that if you finished 6th or above would mean that you secured your place for next season and had the opportunity to play in the post-season playoffs gave a sense of security and a respectable goal to aim and achieve for the non-affiliated organisation, the new contender's format for 2020 completely removes all of the above.

The switch to a playoff format introduces more opportunities for Open Division teams to compete, it’s new single-elimination point system means that the opportunities players have to showcase themselves is now greatly reduced, to a point where players could be outperforming their teammates and still get eliminated from the playoffs in a couple of one and done’s across the tournament season. Add on top the fact that Blizzard is still unwilling to remove their exclusivity policy for major tournaments and it's hard to see how player security is not about to drop even further in a system where it was perilous at best for players not with an Academy.

Apex Legends may not have currently announced how their professional scene will work, the announcement at the Preseason Invitational of both on and offline tournaments is promising, with it sounding likely to follow the major, minor and online league aspects that are found in CSGO and DOTA2. By following this circuit structure it not only allows teams to be created by players themselves and compete without being signed to an organisation, being able to pick and chose which events to target will greatly reduce any burnout they may have faced in Overwatch.

While switching to a game may not be for everyone, the success rate so far for former Overwatch professionals has been promising. However, it's important to take the experience they have had into the conversation. I have asked Gen.G's Dummy and Silkthread, Myztro's Ottr and Sentinels Zombs for their opinions on making the switch.

Gen.G Dummy

There's definitely a TON of fps talent in OW, and the tier 2/3 scene is really tough to claw your way out of in its current state with no signs of getting better. I think anyone trying to pursue esports as a career should definitely have a mindset of being playing different games in the future. The life of most esport scenes are finite, sometimes the game just changes for the worse according to whatever skillset you have as a player, there's a lot of burnout especially in a game like OW, and sometimes its as simple as someone just gets less and less opportunities as a player. So with all that said, I think apex and Fortnite are really good opportunities right now for a lot of the talented OW players that might be running out of motivation. Definitely, a big adjustment to be made regarding battle royales but a lot of ex OW pros have seen success in them, and there's no reason others can't follow suit

Gen.G Silkthread 

Apex is a game where you're actually able to shoot people, it's really fundamentally different from overwatch because it's a battle royale but micro situations such as fighting have a lot of similarities. along with outplaying people with abilities, there's a factor of using movement and quick reactions that brings me back to the old days of overwatch. it reminds me of when I used to play tracer all day and just never get bored. That's just my view on ow vs apex, I don't really have any insight on why people should switch, I guess if they enjoy shooting and using abilities rather than MOBA style team fights in an FPS game it's a good game to transition to.

Myztro Ottr 

On a technical level, Overwatch is a solid game - the issues that pushed me into leaving were a mixture of Blizzard’s reluctance in changing the meta and the overall competitive culture. I know esports culture and internal politics are bad, but Overwatch is on an entirely different level. There are more snakes than there’s grass in Overwatch esports, which probably is Blizzard’s fault. Apex Legends is fun and it’s promising as it’s trying to be what other battle royales isn’t - a game focusing and rewarding fights rather than stagnant gameplay - all while being one of the first BRs sporting proper quake-esque arena shooter mechanics. The game and its esports scene are ever-evolving, and the people responsible for the scene care about the grassroots deeply. As hinted by the pre-season invitational, the real Apex esports is yet to kick-off, and if you want to make the switch, now’s the time.

Sentinels Zombs

I think it's more situational and couldn't just recommend anyone to switch without reason. Depends on your chances of making OWL and if you could even get sponsored in Apex. If someone is on a sponsored OW team I'd never recommend quitting especially if you're not established at all in apex as a good player. I personally switched because I wasn't in OWL and was tired of getting fucked over in that game. I could go on for a very long time about all the things that happened to me in OW. With Apex I was having a ton of fun early on basically like the beginning of OW. It was easy for me to commit at that time because I was able to get a lot of org interest and I knew I would 100% be signed somewhere. Apex has definitely been a way more enjoyable pro experience in almost every way than Overwatch ever was for me.

Apex Legends is still in its infancy so it is not perfect but if the X-Games and Preseason Invitational can be replicated and improved on, with EA and Respawn's backing it has the potential to be one of the esports scenes in the game. So for any player currently in Contenders or below that is looking for making it professionally and are willing to look to other games. Apex Legends is in the perfect space right now to do just that.

(You can find more Apex Legends related content on Twitter @haloofthoughts) 
(Picture courtesy of EA & Respawn)

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