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The Importance of the Subtitles in the OWL

The APAC All-Star broadcast was where the Overwatch League decided to reveal the role stars for the season. This came as a pleasant surprise as there wasn’t a lot of indication that this was going to happen. There will also be an NA All-Stars match this season as they split the All-Stars so that the two regions so the league could include more members as well as combat the always pervasive ping issue. To have the role stars drop during the APAC rather than NA was shocking, to say the least.

The Issue?

The problem arose when the video segments were played for the role stars. Of the DPS five out of the five recipients were Korean, three of four support role stars were Korean, and four out of four of the tank role stars were Korean. Each segment has the winners of the role stars speak and thank their fans, but the subtitles were not always there. (Though thankfully that has seemingly been fixed in the posting on the videos, thought to see the original posting go to 1:27:43 to see the role stars for supports that didn’t have subtitles).

This is an English privilege. The NA community, as the Overwatch League was based out of NA for the first two seasons and Blizzard is in NA, are used to videos catered to the English speaker. In this moment it wasn’t. It was the community that came together to translate and sub the videos for the non-Korean speakers. For once the English-speaking viewers were the ones that had no clue what was going on. This is a reality for many of our non-English speaking fans when it comes to content.

Global League

The Overwatch League is a global league, and that claim comes with responsibilities. There are teams representing areas of Canada, America, Europe, and Asia. Two of the four speak English. That means important content such as APAC bracket picks, role stars, etc video clips should be available to everyone. These are not region-locked content, but something that impacts all fans of the league.

This goes in multiple directions. English region-locked content (content that will not be migrated over to the other channels) should have subtitles at the minimum for the four regions that broadcast the Overwatch League. Korean region-locked content should have Chinese, English, French subtitles. Chinese content should have English, French, and Korean subtitles. Of course, French content should have English, Chinese, and Korean subtitles. Is this a lot of work? Yes. But when it comes to being a global league this should be a priority when it comes to content that impacts the whole league.


In response to fans talking about the subtitle issue, Overwatch League NA talent Mitch ‘Uber’ Leslie made a statement that fans hadn’t watched APEX.

The Overwatch League isn’t a regionalized tournament like APEX was centralized in Korea. Their main audience was for Koreans, as it was not a global league. Though throughout all that the English casters would try and in the moment translate what was being said. As well as the videos most have English subtitles after the fact. For example, in the APEX karaoke videos the subtitles were integrated into the video itself allowing for Korean and English-speaking fans to enjoy.


Courtesy of OGN

These are silly entertainment videos, but OGN still took the time to subtitle them. For role stars which goes across both regions in a league that has teams that represent three different continents (NA, EU, Asia) that should have been taken into account. Not only English subtitles but also Chinese and French at the minimum. It was only when there were briefly no subs for English fans that a ruckus was created, but this is something non-English fans deal with a lot and should be considered in the future.

Fan Interactions

The fans are not just English speakers or Korean speakers. There are four main broadcasts of the Overwatch League (Korean, NA, French, and Chinese). Why were the role star announcements not subtitled for all fans? If one goes on the youtube channel there are a few youtube videos that are subbed in English on the Korean Channel, but few to none on the Overwatch League Youtube that is subbed in Korean, French, or Chinese. Yes, they have their own channels, but some content seems to be region-specific. If there was a non-English speaking fan who was a fan of an NA based team and the Overwatch League channel did a video on them they wouldn’t understand the video.

Fan Produced

Hannahhycho on twitter has been an active member of the Overwatch League community since the beginning. After realizing that the role star videos did not have English subtitles for the Korean interview parts she took it upon herself to do so. Many fans were appreciative to get to hear what the players had to say. Many of the role star recipients thanked their fans, which non-Korean speaking fans wouldn’t have known. Thankfully fans such as Hannahhycho are nice enough to sub Korean to English for fans on their own time.

This still leaves out the French and Chinese speaking fans for the major broadcasts and even more when it comes to the non-English speaking fans. This shouldn’t be put on the fans to do, but the League should be considerate of this and add the subtitles to their content that impact the whole league.

The fans are a big part of the League. They are the numbers on the streams, the money that buys the merchandise, the social network that likes and shares posts. To ignore a section of the fans seems like bad business. Subtitles can only help the league rather than hurt it. There are times in which fans subbed a video which then the League re-uploaded, but again it should be done by the league and not just the fans.

Subtitles Builds Bridges

Yes, it is a lot of work to sub all the videos. It is important for important videos to have it available to all the fans. Not all fans of a player, team, or league will speak the same language. When a player is thanking their fans it should be for all the fans. Subtitles are what bridge the global league. Communication and exposure between regions is essential in marketing.

Esports and Subtitles

This is not just an Overwatch League issue, but should be addressed in any esport leagues that label themselves a global league. In this time where esports is gathering more and more viewership, as well as more leagues, are popping up; there will be a need more subtitles on content to help build a bridge between regions, fans, and to come together as a community. Hopefully, in the future, the Overwatch League will become a pioneer in this aspect. If they are able to listen to their fans and include more subtitles on all their videos, no matter the region, it will go towards becoming the embodiment of their claim of being a global league by being inclusive of all languages and fans.


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