The revamped Overwatch League is returning on January 10, boasting an exciting new system for the way teams are presented. We got our first glimpse of this new format in December when Blizzard hosted an Overwatch League preseason event to test out the new system. What does this new format mean for the upcoming Overwatch League? Read on to find out.
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What we learnt from the Overwatch League preseason event
The Overwatch League preseason gave Blizzard the opportunity to show off what their vision for the future of Overwatch eSports looks like. One such change is that teams now no longer directly represent their own brand, they have instead been formed into teams based around a city in an attempt to change our perspective of Overwatch, and to create a sense of hometown pride.
This means there are now twelve teams in total, split into two divisions - Atlantic and Pacific.
The shiny new arena, the city-based team system, and the improved spectator experience have all helped in creating fresh excitement for the start of the new season.
This year’s preseason event lasted three days, and was host to twelve matches, allowing us to gauge the performance of teams and to begin to understand the future direction of competitive Overwatch. This can be broken down into four key takeaways from the event:
Firstly, it was no surprise that Seoul Dynasty emerged as the team to beat after winning all three of their preseason matches in dominant fashion. The team hails from the former Lunatic-Hai roster that won OGN Apex twice and boasts talent such as the DPS ‘Fleta’, and a formidable tank composition.
Blizzard have also revamped and greatly improved the spectator experience for the Overwatch League. The experience of watching Overwatch has frequently been criticised for how difficult it was at times to follow the action - this is due to twelve players being crammed into a small lane, all performing multiple actions per second.
The addition of new spectator tools also allows the producers of the league to improve the experience for viewers. These include team-specific character skins, snappier instant replays and improvements to the third person camera perspectives.
Another takeaway from the event was the presence of a team who have strong potential, but failed to deliver at the event; London Spitfire. They were touted to be the closest competitor to the dominant Seoul Dynasty but struggled against the likes of the Los Angeles Gladiators (losing 2-3). The twelve-man South Korean roster will be looking to improve their teamwork before the start of the season.
It has to be said that Blizzard have been successful in creating a rejuvenated hype for Overwatch. The shiny new arena, the city-based team system, and the improved spectator experience have all helped in creating fresh excitement for the start of the new season.
Bettors will still want to take some time in assessing how teams will perform throughout the season but it’s certainly an exciting time for everyone interested in the Overwatch League.
Stage 1 of the Overwatch League: What we know so far
The new Overwatch League begins on January 10 and spans five consecutive weeks, with the finals or ‘Title Matches’ set to be played on February the 11. This stage is one of four and the wins and losses of each team will count towards their full season records, and provide the seeding for the final event of the season that will take place in July.
The preseason was a learning experience for everyone involved. Teams have had a month to prepare for the start of the new season and would have used the knowledge they gained from the preseason event to begin planning new strategies to counter their opponents. What will happen when the season starts for real? Only time will tell.
What to expect from Stage 1 of the Overwatch League
Seoul Dynasty look set to dominate the Pacific Division - this is further highlighted by the fact they are favourited to win the competition outright (3.140*). The South Korean squad have a plethora of tournament winning talent, and they’ve already shown their ability to bully opponents. They should see little resistance within their division, with only a couple of teams looking capable of causing an upset.
Dallas Fuel (6.160* to win the Overwatch League) consists in part of the former Team EnVyUs roster, a team who had so much success within the western Overwatch scene. With such a dominant South Korean presence amongst the top three teams, Dallas Fuel provides European and North American fans a glimmer of hope (especially with Seagull in their ranks).
Los Angeles Valiant were the surprise package at the preseason event. A dominant performance against San Francisco Shock was followed by victory against their Los Angeles counterparts; the strong looking Gladiators. The team is made up of predominantly South Korean, North American and French players, and they’ll be hopeful of continuing this form into the new season - they are still considered outsiders in the outright Overwatch League betting at 21.190*.
London Spitfire (currently second favourites to win the Overwatch League at 3.660*) looked like a team capable of going far, but they struggled to find consistent form during the preseason event. The South Koreans managed to brush off a defeat to the Gladiators with a win over San Francisco Shock, but it wasn’t enough to patch up the wounds from their first match.
The team will have worked hard over their month off, and we could see London Spitfire reach their top two potential.
New York Excelsior (4.279* to win the league outright) are the third strongest looking South Korean team after Dynasty and Spitfire. The team performed as expected at the Preseason event, beating a fairly weak looking Boston Uprising, and losing out to the mighty Seoul Dynasty. They will most likely compete against London Spitfire for the top spot within the Atlantic Division.
It’s a very exciting time for Overwatch esports. The new teams, format and viewing experience are going to take some time to get used to, but when perfected, the revamped Overwatch League should make for even more enjoyable viewing and intense competition.
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