Esports Overwatch

Overwatch League: Building Hometown Hype

This past weekend, the Philadelphia Fusion visited their namesake city for a two-day homecoming event. Saturday’s sold-out match against the New York Excelsior was the first Overwatch League match played in Philadelphia, marking a historical moment for the city’s esports scene.

The night before, the team hosted a meet-and-greet at the Localhost LAN center. Both events drew in large crowds, with tickets to the showmatch selling out entirely. Philadelphia news stations captured the event, and Philadelphia Flyers mascot Gritty even attended the match. Players and fans alike seem pleased with how the event turned out, and statements from Fusion president Tucker Roberts imply that Philadelphia can expect similar events in the future.

The Fusion’s homecoming marks an ongoing trend. Through the off-season, teams have branched out from their home base in Burbank and hosted similar fan events in their home cities. Beyond keeping the teams active during the off-season, these events also provide opportunities for fans around the world to take part in the League, even if they can’t come to matches. In a franchise as rapidly growing as the Overwatch League, reaching out to the fanbase like this might just prove invaluable to future success.

Teams on the Road

Philadelphia’s homecoming took place during an exciting weekend for several teams. The New York Excelsior hosted a homecoming weekend of their own, centered around their pop-up shop and LAN in Brooklyn. There, the team hosted both their showmatch against the Fusion and a mixed roster exhibition match with the Los Angeles Valiant. Record producer Anton “Zedd” Zaslavski joined them onstage, and fans had the opportunity to play against the team as well.

The San Francisco Shock at the California Cup. Courtesy of Samuel T. Chen and Emerald Gao.

In Los Angeles, the Valiant hosted a watch party for their event with the Excelsior. Fans entered to win tickets to the event, where they could meet the players and other fans on the Valiant campus. The team claimed on Twitter that no event would be as intimate, and photos showed that the event definitely provided fans a personal experience.

Before the weekend’s excitement, other teams already hit the road to meet fans from their respective cities. In October, the London Spitfire and Houston Outlaws teamed up to host the Gilded Gala. Outlaws players Dante “Danteh” Cruz, “Alexandre “SPREE” Vanhomwegen, and WonHyeop “Arhan” Jung joined the Spitfire in London, where they played a series of games. The second half of the Gilded Gala is currently scheduled for January of next year, when both teams will visit Houston.

The San Francisco Shock and Los Angeles Valiant also livened up the off-season with the California Cup, a two-match rivalry series. The teams squared off twice, and though the Valiant won the first matchup in Santa Ana, the Shock’s later victory in Oakland means that they control the California Cup until next time. The series marked the first Overwatch League matches played outside of Los Angeles, and the event’s success set a precedent for future endeavors.

Building for Season Two

Both existing and expansion teams are noticing the popularity of these home city events. The Paris Eternal, Toronto Defiant, and Vancouver Titans hosted live events to reveal their branding, all of which drew in huge crowds. Fusion Homecoming showed the team’s staff that they probably could have gone bigger with the event. A common thread weaves through it all – the realization that the Overwatch League’s fanbase is not only growing, but also spreading.

The New York Excelsior and Zedd at their homecoming event. Courtesy of New York Excelsior on Twitter.

During the season, fans sometimes noted that the teams’ city names felt a bit arbitrary. After all, the teams lived, played, and attended events in California, with little acknowledgement of their namesakes. Efforts to counter that feeling for season two have been well-received so far, and could prove the key to maintaining interest in the League. For fans who can’t come out to Burbank for matches, teams coming to them instead sends the message that they notice and appreciate the support. Home city efforts could prove especially useful for expansion teams; fans in Atlanta and Washington appear especially excited for representation in the League, and appealing to that hometown loyalty can lock in new fanbases before either team even steps on stage.

The Overwatch League plans to move games to teams’ home cities as early as 2020. In the meantime, teams have plenty of opportunities to establish a presence of their own. After the success of events in Philadelphia, New York, and Paris, it’s safe to say we can expect more traveling teams in the League’s future.

 

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Featured image courtesy of Charles Fox for Philly.com. 

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