The future of the Overwatch League involves a system we know almost nothing about.
All 20 teams will be settling in their home markets next season, giving hometown fans the chance to see their teams live – some for the first time. It’s an exciting concept, but the specifics are still up in the air – who will travel where, and when and for how long? When will the teams learn about the league’s new structure? When will the fans? Will the added stress of travel force more players into early retirement – something we’ve already seen multiple times in the first two seasons of the league?
Sources close to the Overwatch League have told The Game Haus that league officials are hard at work on developing a schedule that maintains competitive integrity and prevents burnout, and mentioned that there are several possible models in testing phases. While the time table for a final decision was not specified, we can generally assume that teams and fans will hear news on the specifics of geolocation in the offseason between OWL 2019 and OWL 2020.
With all this in mind, we made contact with several players over the course of the Dallas Homestand weekend to get a feel for how they’ve handled travelling so far.
The Big Smoke
A good place to learn about geolocation would be from the most traveled team in the Overwatch League – the London Spitfire. The league’s inaugural season champions flew across the pond to their home turf last October for an event called the Gilded Gala – the first of its kind, and a precursor for the geolocational efforts to come in 2020.
The Gilded Gala featured two events – one in Houston, and the other in London – with arcade game modes, fan meet-ups and signings for both the Spitfire and the Houston Outlaws.
“I personally like home games,” said London Spitfire flex DPS player Ji-hyeok “Birdring” Kim, “but I also really like the idea of travelling the world and meeting people who support me in general. It’s something that makes all of this way more fun and engaging. That said, it took a lot longer to get to London, so that made that event more tiring, of course.”
The City of Love
Another team with plenty of travel in their future are the Paris Eternal – one of two European teams in the league. 5,642 miles separate Los Angeles from La Ville Lumière, so it’s safe to assume that their players have a vested interest in the structure of the league next season.
“I think [travel] will be okay,” admitted Damien “HyP” Souville. “I don’t think it should be every week, of course – if it was every week, we’d have to do so much moving around that we would be exhausted, and we’d have no time to practice. Going to Dallas for a month, for example, or doing a tour of some sort for a few weeks would be nice. You’d have time to rest a bit, time to practice, time to play and then time to move to the next place. That doesn’t seem too bad.”
We can’t have a discussion on travel without the league’s newest hometown heroes, the Dallas Fuel. The First Home Game was a rousing success, and the team is confident that it’s something they can do on a regular basis – assuming the crowd is as hyped as it was at the Allen Event Center, of course.
It’s a great experience,” said Benjamin “uNKOE” Chevasson. “I don’t know where we’ll be playing next year, specifically, but playing in Dallas showed us what it’s going to take to be successful next year. It’s going to be a lot of the same things, and we’re ready for it. When we were playing, I didn’t hear too much of the crowd. I tried my best to just focus on the game. In some moments, though, where I could hear them after a fight – it was just insane.”
Dallas main support Won-sik “Closer” Jung expressed similar sentiments after the team’s 3-1 victory against the Houston Outlaws. “It’s fun when we win a fight and we hear, “AAAAAAAAHHHHHH!” When I play, I’m usually very nervous, but in Dallas, they made me… not nervous. They made me play more confidently. I was really happy.”
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Featured Image Courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment