Esports Overwatch

Getting ready for the Overwatch League 2019 season: An analysis

Overwatch League

Earlier today the Overwatch League came out with news about their 2019 season, and how it would be different. While the inaugural season of the Overwatch League was a massive success, the league office knew that there had to be a few changes to make sure that both the fans and the players were happy.

The Overwatch League Season 2 will start on Thursday, Feb. 14. This is a whole month later than the first season started last year. All 20 teams must have a roster of at least eight players by Dec. 1.

Division Update

All teams from the first season of the Overwatch League will stay in their current division. The new additions to the Atlantic Division include Washington D.C., Toronto, Paris and Atlanta. The teams added to the Pacific Division include Vancouver, Hangzhou, Guangzhou and Chengdu.

The addition of three new Chinese teams into the Pacific Division could turn out to be a large rivalry, especially with the passionate Chinese fans backing the four teams. The already established Shanghai Dragons are looking to rebuild, with only three current members to date. Expect these teams to fight it out for the “Chinese Cup” which could be a real trophy in the future. Looking to Major League Soccer, the Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps all fight for the Cascadia Cup every year. The Cascadia Cup is a trophy awarded to the team who beats the other two teams the most in that current season. A similar concept could be started with the four Chinese teams to help grow the fan-base of all four.

New Schedule

The basic format of the League schedule stays the same. There are four stages, each being five weeks long. However, instead of playing 40 games throughout the season (10 games each stage) they are now playing 28 games per season (seven games each stage). This change was made parallel to the change in weekly schedules. Teams will either play zero, one or two games per week. This will be a breath of fresh air for many players, especially those from other countries. The change in scheduling aims to help players with burnout, as well as allow them to travel to see family much easier. Burnout seemed to be a problem that the Overwatch League faced in Season 1. In an interview, BigGoose spoke about how the LA Gladiators realized that they needed to alter their practice schedule to account for burnout among certain players.

Overwatch League
Courtesy of the Overwatch League

The All-Star break is now in the middle of the season, instead of at the end. Between Stage 2 and Stage 3, there will be an All-Star break, and the time between the two stages will be increased as a result. The movement of the All-Star break was inspired by other professional sports leagues, such as the NBA.

Updating the Stage Playoffs

The Stage Playoffs have seen a huge overhaul from where they started. In the first Stage Playoffs, there were only three teams, and the games were played on the same Saturday as the last day of the stage. This led to London playing three games, and a total of 14 maps. This evolved to allowing the Stage Playoffs to be played on the Sunday after the last day of the stage. Next, they added a fourth team to the playoffs.

Overwatch League
Courtesy of the Overwatch League

This season, the top eight teams from the stage will advance to the stage playoffs. Based on stage record, the two divisional winners will be given the first and second seed, with the next six teams in the standings taking place as well. This brings a more competitive edge to the Stage Playoffs, and allows more teams to get involved. With the prize money and pride of winning a trophy, teams will have incentive to push for those playoff spots. It also allows teams who may have had a few bad weeks to still compete in these playoffs. A dark horse run can gather the fans of many teams that did not make the playoffs. Wins from unexpected teams can inspire other teams who are not doing as well in that stage.

Season Playoff Changes

The two divisional champions will advance to the Season Playoffs. The following four teams in the standings, regardless of division, will also advance to the Season Playoffs. However, the Overwatch League is now scrapping the Stage Four playoffs, and instead having the two additional teams make the playoffs in a wildcard bracket. This bracket will feature the teams that place 7th-12th.

Overwatch League
Image Courtesy of Variety

While the exclusion of a Stage Four playoffs is a bit bizarre, a new win-or-go-home bracket for the final two spots in the Season Playoffs sure will bring excitement to the process. Adding more teams to the playoffs will help bolster the competition. If the Season 2 playoffs go the way the Season 1 playoffs did, where the 5th placed London Spitfire and 6th placed Philadelphia Fusion met in the Grand Finals, the Season 2 playoffs, with even more teams, will be one that no one will want to miss.

 

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Featured Image Courtesy of Polygon

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