Saturday, 28 March 2020

At This Point, The 2020 Overwatch League Season Should Be Asterisked In The Record Books



The 2020 season of the Overwatch League should have an asterisk beside its entry into the record books, to indicate that that the season does not hold any importance at the earliest opportunity, so that 2021 can be the focus for teams moving forward and that the homestand format be reattempted. Yes, you read this correctly. While I want to see how the league plays out and give the eventual winner the respect they deserve for winning the season, I also believe that in the grand scheme of things, the 2020 season should not be assessed as the important season it was meant to be.


For those of you who are not familiar, asterisk's are used in North American sports to show when a feat or record that had been set, that ultimately becomes tainted. Major League Baseball is the main  sport that comes to mind with the recent scandal surrounding the Houston Astros and their illegal sign stealing tactics used to win the 2017 & 2018 World Series. The way they won the titles has now been tarnished, cost three high level personnel their jobs and will forever likely have that asterisk to mark that in the MLB record books. While neither the Overwatch League or its 20 teams have been the cause of this, the 2020 season has none the less been tarnished.

When you look at all of the major esports across the gaming spectrum, the Overwatch League is the one that has been hit the hardest in relation to the world wide pandemic situation we are all facing with the Coronavirus. Being the first esport to take the risk with a global franchised league had its risks and even though a medical outbreak was unexpected, or to have been high on that check list. It has still brought confusion and delay for many of the teams around the league.

Despite being in what should be week eight, the Overwatch League has only managed to produce five weeks of regular play in the western hemisphere, before the pandemic spread. The leagues four Chinese teams in Chengdu, Guangzhou, Hangzhou & Shanghai, plus South Korea's Seoul Dynasty are to play their first games this weekend. Not only has this effectively shut down an entire division, its caused delay to teamas who were meant to be playing over there. Due to the inconsistency of competitive play, it has given the season an air of unimportantance.

Further more, while the league suspended weeks 6 and 7, other esports have managed to move seamlessly over to an online format while the Overwatch League has seemed to lag behind and schedulers have scrambled to rearrange matches on more than one occasion, to find a format that works. Even the return to action in week 8 has been changed from the originally promoted 16 games for the weekend to now only holding 10 as the teams rightful look to protect their players and move them to better, safer surroundings than the had found themselves in. 

We also are still largely unaware of how the originally planned playoffs are now going to take place should the Coronavirus pandemic continues well into the later part of the year. Due to issues with ping across servers and regions that would cause to many logistical problems to try and divert. Do the league simply go to a shared prize pool to the top team in each division or follow the English Premiership's example and pay each team on a scale, relating to where they finished overall? There are a lot of questions that should be asked on this matter, considering the homestand format has now been cancelled this year.

While the switch to online play has not been easy or smooth for the the league, the fact the have localised the schedule will help. However, as with other esports such as the LEC which moved to the online format sooner. They will have problems with ping and potential disconnects, the quality of games will be reduced and while the onscreen talent we know and love will try their best to recreate the LAN feel that the league has had the past two years and with the five homestands so far, it will not feel as crisp and polished as fans have experienced in the past. This could pose an either bigger problem to the recent switch from Twitch to YouTube for their streams, one that had already taken a substantial blow compared to previous seasons.

Even the blockbuster moves made last offseason, that put teams in won or bust situations, feel null and void. Team such as the Seoul Dynasty who made a splash for the London Spitfire's Joon-Yeong "Profit" Park and Jae-Hui "Gesture" Hong, Yge Vancouver Titans who released Main Tank Sang-Beom "Bumper" Park for divisive Main Tank Chan-Hyung "Fissure" Beak or even the Los Angeles Gladiators raid of cross town rivals the Los Angeles Valiant Off Tank and star player Indy "Space" Halpern, to pair with Main Tank Min-Seok "OGE" Son who was acquired from the Dallas Fuel for DPS Gui-Un "Decay" Jang. Will have the problems of in game chemistry, performance or pressure now that they once would have. With the amount if downtime and potential team building they have now been able to have. The landscape changed drastically this off season but that has now been nullified.

While it was great to see the league return this weekend with some form of action and trying their best to put on some form of competitive play. It is fair to say that due to the trouble and delays that have happened, were out of the Overwatch Leagues control. This season feels dead already and should not be recognised as a season with any impact on teams or the league itself.

(You can find more Overwatch League related content on Twitter @haloofthoughts
(Picture Credit: Overwatch League)
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