The Game Haus

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of the 2019 OWL Grand Finals

sf shock grand finals

Now that the dust has settled and the fans are making their way back to their homes, it’s time to look back critically on the events of this past weekend in Philadelphia. While much of it was overwhelmingly positive, there were some things that can certainly be improved upon for future Grand Finals and future on-the-road esports events in general.

Going through each of the events of the weekend, this article will point out which aspects went well, which could have gone better and which were just plain awful. The good, the bad and the ugly.

press day
Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Media Day

The Good

Overall, it’s hard to pin down just one or two things that were great about the Grand Finals media day. For starters, the location and the amenities were top-notch. The Comcast Technology Center was the perfect spot to give press both the space to work with the players and broadcast talent, but also to feel valid in doing so.

[Related: Sights and Sounds of the 2019 OWL Grand Finals]

Additionally, the access given was phenomenal. The Super Bowl style interviews allowed the press to freely approach sets of players, get a couple of questions in, and move on. The OWL broadcast talent were also available for longer interviews and were great to work with.

owl broadcast
Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment
press day
Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

All of this communicates to the press, the people dedicating their lives to covering this scene, that the league deeply cares about us and is willing to go the extra mile to ensure our satisfaction. As a whole, this was one of the highlights of the weekend, from the perspective of someone at the event as press.

The Bad and the Ugly

As was said above, there really wasn’t a part of this that didn’t go off properly. Top to bottom, it was a phenomenally run part of the weekend that is a testament to Blizzard’s PR team and all of the folks behind the scenes that worked to make it happen. No reason to be critical just for the sake of being critical, after all.

Mitchell & Ness x OWL Event

The Good

There was a lot to like about an event that paired a local Philadelphia company with the OWL, especially when merch was going to be involved. The first thing that really stuck out about the event was how truly local and cool it felt. Fans were in downtown Philadelphia at a local shop, lined up around a corner to get in. Locals in the area were constantly asking us what brought us to the area and it very much felt like, even in just that square block, that the OWL had taken over Philadelphia.

[Related: Mitchell & Ness x OWL Event Draws in Large Crowds and Showcases Customizable Merch]

The Bad

This is nitpicky and perhaps subjective, but the merch itself left something to be desired. Having to pay a fairly hefty price for long-sleeve tees, while exclusive, is something that made several customers opt to just go for the player signings and not buy any merch. While the UV-activated trophy on the back of the Grand Finals tee was cool, nothing else really seemed to catch people’s eyes.

mitchell and ness OWL
Image Courtesy of Connor Knudsen

The Ugly

It’s a tough situation because of where the store is located, but the line weaving into the alleyway provided its fair share of issues. The odor of the dumpsters in the alley was pretty unbearable in certain spots and made fans waiting in the long line fairly uncomfortable.

mitchell and ness owl
Image Courtesy of Connor Knudsen

Then, once fans did make their way into the store, the process for many moved very slowly. While it was a neat idea to sell the patches and iron them on for customers, doing so in-store crowded the line and made getting in and getting out a bit of a process. Not to mention the machine killed the power at one point.

Last, there have already been reports of the patches falling off, not a day after they were pressed on. While the patch and press idea is definitely a cool one for the custom merch it provides, having quality gear is what matters at the end of the day. Hearing that some of that quality has come into question is disheartening to hear.


owl fan fest
Image Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

Fan Fest

The Good

There were so many good parts of this, it’s hard to know where to start. First, it was cool that the event was offered in the first place. Pulling up and seeing the mob of fans in the shadow of the Philadelphia sports arena complex is a feeling that truly made this author feel like they were a part of something special.

In the same vein, the entertainment provided as perfect. Involving the Philadelphia 76ers dance team to provide entertainment during the fan fest tied in Philly’s other sports teams and was a nice way to break up the Fan Fest. The same can be said about the OWL Thunder Stix, who led fans in a parade to the Wells Fargo Center shortly after fans escorted a Bud Light payload across the Fan Fest.

thunder stix
Image Courtesy of Connor Knudsen

All of this, in combination with the multitude of other things for fans to enjoy, gave the Fan Fest a buzz that was the perfect primer for the action over at the Wells Fargo Center.

Honestly, only Gritty’s attendance could have made this aspect of the weekend any better.

owl grand finals crowd
Photo: Ben Pursell for Blizzard Entertainment

The Bad and The Ugly

While the event itself was amazing, there were some basic considerations that seemed completely missed. For starters, there was only one vendor selling food in the entire area, which led to long lines and lots of people opting not to eat at all. The same was true about getting water and beer, only one vendor (and no water fountains or any way to get access to water otherwise). On a hot, sunny day over a concrete parking lot, this made the Fan Fest uncomfortable, especially for fans attending the entire duration of it.

While the good heavily outweighed the bad, these were things that should have absolutely been thought of when mapping this out.

[Related: Blizzard Unveils 2019 Blizzcon Virtual Ticket Overwatch Skins]

The ZEDD Pre-Show and the Grand Finals Match

zedd grand finals
Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

The Good

How to describe the good of such a thrilling final and pre-show performance? Is starting with Chandelier Bastion the right way to go, or would it be better to start with ZEDD’s incredible OWL-inspired performance? Hopefully, the point is being made – this was an overwhelmingly positive arena experience, both in comparison to traditional sports events and compared to the other homestands.

To start, ZEDD’s performance absolutely trumped last year’s DJ Khalid experience, both in the performance itself and in just the sheer fact that fans knew that a Grandmaster Overwatch fan was performing for them. Additionally, Questlove was great to have around, and his sets in between rounds was a nice way to keep fans in the arena entertained.

Overall, the audio/video of the games was mostly superb, the gameplay was thrilling despite the 4-0 and the action at the arena itself was extremely interactive and immersive.

zedd OWL
Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

The Bad

While ZEDD’s performance itself was unreal, the video that accompanied it left something to be desired. Perhaps this is out of jealousy for the annual League of Legends Worlds theme video that comes out each year. But, in the end, the OWL clips displayed in the video weren’t anything of real significance, which would have been something easy to do, it would seem. Overall, this is minor in light of the performance itself, but still something worth noting.

Other than that, there were a few small issues with Goldenboy’s audio or cue times, and the displaying of the wrong team winning one of the maps. These things happen but are moments fans hate to see, especially at the Grand Finals.

The Ugly

This is a bit nitpicky as well and is more unfortunate than anything else, but some pixels went off during the first map of the match that had fans spamming “NA Production” in their mental Twitch chat. Memes aside, this was a bit distracting and took away from the first impression of gameplay on the awe-inspiring screen. It was, however, very quickly fixed.

owl grand finals screen
Image Courtesy of Connor Knudsen

Otherwise, everything else seemed to go off mostly without a hitch until the press conferences. The post-game pressers went fine from a technical standpoint but were a bit lacking in anything of real depth from the losing Vancouver Titans. Their coach Ji-Sub “paJion” Hwang took about 80% of the answers to the questions, some of which did not apply to him at all, and gave mostly brief answers. While this is perfectly in his and the team’s right to do so, it would have been nice to have heard from some of the players and even some of the other coaches.


Overall Impressions

Overall, this was a weekend for the books and one that the OWL should be incredibly proud of. The OWL really did feel like it took over Philadelphia for the weekend, giving locals in the area the sense that something truly important was taking place in their midst. These sorts of things will never be completely seamless or perfect, but it’s safe to say that the OWL is firmly on the road to success heading into the 2020 season.


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Follow me on Twitter: @GoopyKnoopy I would love to dialogue with you about anything I’ve written! 
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Featured Image Courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

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