In Season 3 of the Overwatch League, there was the decision to not have any expansion teams added into the league. This was done because it was supposed to be the first year of localization, and teams would need to prepare for their homestands. Things didn’t turn out as expected with Covid-19. Though most of the season was online, other expansion teams could’ve joined, but it was already too late at that point. With Season 4 coming up and no news or hope of expansion, this has impacted the ecosystem of the Overwatch League.
As seen when the first batch of expansion teams were added, many new faces joined the league. It wasn’t just new players, but also players on the original teams who were bought, traded, or hired by the expansion teams. This allowed for players who may not have been in an environment that fit them a second chance. Not only did it give more regional diversity, but allowed for both veterans and new players to coexist in a semi-equal playing field.
This offseason has seen many legendary players not get signed yet, which ultimately has led to many retirements. There are still so many big names such as Haesong ‘Libero’ Kim, Dongjun ‘Rascal’ Kim, Taehong ‘Meko’ Kim, Jinmo ‘Tobi’ Yang, and Benjamin ‘Benbest’ Dieulafait that are out in the LFT arena. Within the LFT pool an organization could easily pull one or two strong teams out of the bunch.
Seonchang ‘ANS’ Lee, Seungtae ‘Bdosin’ Choi, and Seungjun ‘Whoru’ Lee are just some of the players who have announced their retirement in the off-season. Whether this is because of loss of passion for that game, which is a whole other issue that the League needs to cover, or the inability to find a team and trial during covid will remain unknown. Some players such and Whoru are so young and to have them leaving the field before their peak is tough for the community.
This is only talking about the players that have some kind of experience in the Overwatch League. There is so much untapped potential in the tier 2 and tier 3 scenes. Without the expansion of more teams, there are the same number of spots, but more and more players aging into being able to be signed by these teams.
기다려 주셨던 BM의 새식구는!!
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Our 2nd recruit is 'ILLICIT'🔥
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— TeamBM (@TeamBM7) January 20, 2021
It was rare to see Overwatch League pros going backwards into contenders. But now this is something that is seen more often in the current off-season. For example Kyumin ‘Sanguinar’ Lim and Jemin ‘Illicit’ Park recently were both announced to be joining contenders teams. The impact of having no expansion teams is that there are fewer opportunities for these players who were let go or decided not to take the team offer.
As the players age up it makes sense that there are players who will retire or move onto the coaching role. This also puts a strain on the coaching pool. As when there are more coaches than teams it is harder to find a job. The Overwatch League has lost a few coaches to other games already. Player coaches, tier 2 coaches, and coaches who have already been in the Overwatch League are fighting for the limited spaces. This is good for teams as it makes it so potentially teams could pay less as it is a competitive market, but what does that do for the scene overall?
A few Overwatch League pros even switched to games such as League of Legends or Valorant. This drain away from Overwatch in the middle section of players, not the old guard such as Jongryeol ‘Saebyeolbe Park’ or the newbies such as Minki ‘Teru’ Kim, but the in-between players makes one wonder once the old guard leaves what will be left if those middle section players are not developed?
With the one season of no expansion teams, the ecosystem was able to keep a tight balance, but with this being the second season in a row and only 20 teams in the League, it seems as if the balance has popped.
The question now is how will this impact the League long term? When new teams are introduced, will there be enough veteran players to help the individual teams balance between experience and inexperience? The community can hope that their favorite players who are still team-less will either be picked up mid-season or will go the streamer route.
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