2019-09-15 - Overwatch League 2019 Season / Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Photo by Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

When Blizzard Entertainment first announced its plans for a geo-located, world franchise modeled league, people were skeptical. Esports had up until this point been immensely successful without worrying about geo-location. It let people be fans of whoever they wanted. Then the news came that each franchise slot would cost $20 Million and people called it crazy, that it would never work. Yet, here we are, more than a year later staring down the second Grand Finals in Philadelphia at the Wells Fargo Center. The inaugural season of the Overwatch League was a huge success and in traditional Blizzard fashion that success continued with the 2019 Season. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest and best triumphs from this last season of Overwatch.

10 Expansion Teams

Photo by Ben Pursell For Blizzard Entertainment

The 10 Expansions teams that came into the league may be the most impressive feat the Overwatch League pulled this season. Despite the success of the inaugural season, when the rumored price of expansion teams were upwards of $30 Million, people once again called it crazy, said it was destined to fail. The naysayers cried that doubling the size of the league this early when the geo-located franchise model still hadn’t been proven was a fool’s errand. There was also the question of whether or not new teams would even be able to stand up to the pre-established rosters. Now nearing the end of the season, when you look back it’s hard to even tell what makes an expansion team and what makes an inaugural season team. The standings are littered with both, the top 6 teams are an even split between originals and expansion teams. The Grand Finals themselves featuring one of each. The 10 new teams were welcomed into the league with open arms and they came to play and play hard. It doesn’t seem like the 2020 season will invite any new franchise slots to the table, but going forward there should be no doubt that when more do come they’ll fit right in.

Homestand Games

Photo by Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Blizzard and the Overwatch League refuse to slow down, even while doubling the size of their league only one season in they had their eyes set on a bigger prize. For the 2020 season they wanted true home and away games, just like they do in traditional sports. Throughout the season we saw three separate ‘Homestand’ games which would emulate the model the league plans to use for Home and Away in 2020. The Homestand games in Dallas, Atlanta and Los Angeles were big hits, packed with lots of excitement and are a positive sign for 2020. However, there is still a big difference between three road events over a season and an entire season worth of them. Will all markets be able to put on a compelling event and fill up the venues? Only time will tell but so far the league has a pretty good track record of making the impossible work.

Play-Off Overhaul

Photo by Stewart Volland for Blizzard Entertainment

One of the other big boons of the season was the play-off overhaul. I do feel like Stage 4 suffered a bit without a finals (and robbed Washington fans their shot at any glory), but the play-ins and the double elimination style of the play-offs themselves added more drama to the story-lines that had already been brewing all year long. It gave us such great moments like Atlanta pushing the Shock to the lower bracket, the Shock’s incredible run back through 4-0’ing everyone. New York’s fantastic battle to the end against the Titans and then the Shock. Seoul’s heartbreaking early defeat and the emotional post-match interview with Jehong “Ryujehong” Ryu and Jin-mo “Tobi” Yang. Had it been single elimination with only the top 6 teams, I don’t think we would have gotten quite the same impact we did from a lot of these matches and moments.


Photo by Stewart Volland for Blizzard Entertainment

Finally, the most important part of the league. The true lifeblood of sports and esports alike, the players themselves. Overwatch League is still very young, both it, the players and their fans are still figuring everything out. As more players start to feel comfortable on and off the stage, on and off the mic, we’ll get more standout personalities like Dusttin “Dogman” Bowerman who despite how much he may polarize fans, we need more of! Or moments like Jong-ryeol “Saebyeolbe” Park comforting his teammates on stage after a devastating loss. This is a league of people who are passionate about what they do, just as passionate as the fans that watch them. Esports, like sports are about humans and the emotions captured during competition. The sooner everyone leans into that and realizes it’s not just about the game, the more the scene will flourish.

We’re at the point now where whether or not the league will be a success is a question of the past. The Overwatch League is a powerhouse in the esports world and it’s quickly cementing itself as a permanent fixture even on a mainstream level with its involvement with Disney and other major non-endemic brands like Nerf, Lego, Bud Light and many others. At this point it’s just a question of how quickly it will grow and what it will look like one year from now.

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