The 2019 OWL season playoffs aren’t even over yet, and there is already so much that can be learned from them. With a different format from last year, a brand new hero right before their start, and some great matches throughout, this has already been a postseason to remember. As we look back on these playoffs, here are five of the biggest things learned from them, that can hopefully benefit the future of the league.
1. Double-Elimination and First to Four are Good Changes
This first one is largely structural but is nonetheless a great improvement from 2018 and something these playoffs have demonstrated. 2018’s playoffs had several 3-0 finishes that made the matches feel extremely underwhelming compared to this season. Plus, the added bonus of double-elimination has been massive for this particular postseason. This is especially true when considering how devastating it would have been for San Francisco to have been eliminated against Atlanta on that Rialto C9.
Overall, the current format added a host of great narratives to this year’s playoffs and will continue to do so in the remaining matches.
2. Dominating in the Playoff Meta Will Continue to be About Risk
One thing that has been the same about last year’s postseason and this one is the massive meta shift that came just prior to each of them. Last year, this benefitted a lower-seeded team in the London Spitfire, but this year it’s ended up shaping up to help the top teams. Although the two situations aren’t totally synonymous, each shows that teams have to build with a degree of risk if they want to have success when it counts.
In short, it’s not about being good all season long, it’s about being great when it counts.
3. Post-Game Press Conferences for Losing Teams Need to Stay
This clip of Jehong “ryujehong” Ryu crying through much of his post-game interview, after the Dynasty were eliminated from the playoffs, sparked a polarizing discussion amongst the community. This article is not here to take a stance on that particular debate, however, at least in some degree, press conferences with the losing team need to stay. Whether this is immediately after the match to capture the emotion of the moment or some time afterward to prevent players from breaking down on camera, they need to continue happening. The narrative power they create is too powerful, not to mention the impassioned connection they can help form with a fanbase.
4. Something Needs to be Done to Incentivize Playoff Ticket Sales in 2020
Watching the OWL stream during matches, it has been very apparent that only the lower-level of the Blizzard Arena has been full during playoffs, even in its final weekend in use. This is why players have been walking out from behind the stage, rather than through the main tunnel as they normally do. The walkouts aren’t what’s concerning, however, but the lack of fans certainly is.
In 2020, there needs to be some way to better market and attract fans to playoff games. A long-shot would be holding each match in the higher-seeded team’s home market. Perhaps a more reasonable option could be to use a potential 2021 expansion market city like Chicago, Berlin or Las Vegas to play host to the 2020 playoffs as a way to get fans in that region better activated going into 2021.
At the end of the day, this is something that this postseason has fallen short on and needs to be better addressed next season.
5. Updated Playoff Graphic Packages are Welcomed
The final point is a small one, but a pretty one at that. The new playoff animated shorts and updated graphics has been a welcomed change and a way to make these games just a little more special, rather than just using the same designs again and again. It’s been nice to see teams like the NYXL also step up and try out some new styles for the postseason, like the one below. Again, this isn’t a huge point or one that makes or breaks anything, but it has been a nice addition that the league can hopefully learn from going into 2020.
— NYXL (@NYXL) September 13, 2019
As a reminder, the playoffs aren’t done just yet. Catch today’s match featuring the Hangzhou Spark and the San Francisco Shock at 2 pm CST on the OWL Twitch steam, with the winner set to face the NYXL tomorrow to decide who will meet the Titans in Philadelphia. There’s a lot on the line for the remaining four teams, so don’t miss a moment of the action!
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Featured Image Courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment
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