The Overwatch League has had a two-region system for two seasons now. Since the inception of the two regions, which was started because of the Covid pandemic, the teams within them have been pretty set in stone with a few outliers teams going back and forth. What are the benefits and drawbacks of being in one region over another? The LA Valiant, The London Spitfire, and the Philadelphia Fusion all are teams that have flip-flopped regions. Here is a look at three important factors that help determine if a team should play in NA or APAC.
One of the biggest factors, when the two region system was brought out, was the team makeup. If the team had a majority of Korean players, many of them went back to Korea along with the team. The Chengdu Hunters, who at the time, were the only full Chinese team also opted to go back to the APAC region. The community saw players from the Vancouver Titans, who were still in the NA region, return to Korea during this time to be close to their families and loved ones. The NA teams may have had non-NA players on their teams but enough of the players were still in NA that it made sense for the whole team to stay. This naturally split the teams into an APAC and NA region based on the ping issues of playing matches with one team in NA and one in APAC.
If a team changed from NA to APAC that meant that the practice area was another variable. Many teams already had facilities created for their teams to practice in. Many of those locations were in the home city that the team represented. Proportionally there are more NA-named teams than there are APAC and EU. This sudden change saw teams, such as the NYXL, have trouble finding a new location for the whole team to practice in. Many times the player cameras showed the players in their own bedrooms playing the match. Other teams opted for hotel conference rooms for their practice rooms.
The start of Season 4 saw the London Spitfire drop their Korean team for an EU team. That was then an immediate switch from the APAC region back to the NA region. On the flip side of that the LA Valiant from a mixed roster that was based in LA to an all-Chinese roster that move to China. That meant that they changed from the NA region over to APAC.
The third case was the Philadelphia Fusion which was an interesting case. They had a mixed roster coming into the season. Because of their decision to change regions they had to additionally sign three players of Hongjoon ‘Hotba’ Choi, Dongjun ‘Rascal’ Kim, and Jinmo ‘Tobi’ Yang as their non-Korean players had visa issues. Though eventually all the players but Gael ‘Poko’ Gouzerch was able to make it over. The Fusion and parent organization opted to move regions though they were seen as one of the stronger teams in NA. One major contributor could be that the Fusion was in a unique position of being an organization that had headquarters in both NA and KR because of their merger. Meaning that the organization already had a headquarters in South Korea for the players to practice in.
Not always All Korean means APAC
Though this time around the splits was not as natural as Season 3, there was a pattern due to the make-up of the teams. Most of the APAC teams were made up of Korean and Chinese players, with the exception of the Fusion player that came later. That didn’t mean if a team was all Korean they automatically joined the APAC region. The Dallas Fuel was one of the most successful teams in Season 4 and they were based in NA. Alongside the Fuel, both the Florida Mayhem and the Washington Justice had Korean rosters that were based in NA.
When it comes to moving regions that also means different exposure to fans. For a team like the Philadelphia Fusion, to move over to the APAC region means that their match times also change. Instead of the prime time of the NA games, the APAC games are on in the wee hours when many NA fans are not awake.
That means they are not getting the same reach to the same fans in NA. There is a short segment on the NA broadcast at the pre-match day that goes over the results from APAC but nothing more. Fans would have to watch a VOD or wake up early to see it live. Neither aspect is particularly ideal. But that also means that the fans in APAC get to see the franchise more. These APAC viewers have a chance to become a fan because the team is playing at a time in which works best for the APAC fans to watch.
For the NA teams, there are so many games that not all the fans watch all the matches. But it is at a time that coincides with many NA schedules better. The APAC region has many fans that might not know as much about the NA teams. If an NA team decides to stay in NA they are just reaching the same group of fans and not tapping into the APAC region.
Fans Follow Players
Fans are the heart of the Overwatch League. When it comes to the homestands and merchandise it is the fans are will show up. Many fans follow their favorite players instead of the teams. That means that this is less impactful. Especially when it comes to the Korean and Chinese players fans will follow the player and become a fan of that team. A prime example is when Tobi left the Seoul Dynasty. Many of the Seoul Dynasty fan social media accounts that were Tobi focused turned into Philadelphia Fusion fan accounts. Now that Tobi is back with the Seoul Dynasty the accounts again have made the shift to accurately mirror that.
This being said, organizations need to take into account their fandom. Where is their fan base and how will a regional move impact that. One of the most passionate fans, the NYXL, have had two long seasons of APAC region times which can be tiresome when it comes to early mornings to support the team.
Difficulty of Schedule
This last factor is a big make it or break it for teams as this is when money is on the line. The regions, so far, have never been split equally. The NA region has always had more teams than the APAC region. That means that the NA region has more diversity of teams to play, instead of matching up against the same 7 teams. They also could mean that depending on the meta there could be a higher percentage of weak or strong teams in the region. In Season 3 the Seoul Dynasty’s last few games were all against the London Spitfire who were not having the strongest performance, which inevitably helped boost the map differential. Though that same season the Dynasty also faced off against the Shanghai Dragons multiple times who were picked as the favorite to win it all and lost many matches that way.
In Season 5 NA had 12 teams versus APAC’s 8 teams. At the end of the season, there were 7 teams in NA that had less than 10 wins during the regular season, of which APAC had 4. Proportionally there isn’t much of a difference, but when you think that each regional qualifier was only 4 matches there could be a team that got all teams under 10 wins as their qualifying matches. While in APAC that would be hard to get all 4 of the lower bracket.
The meta defined much of what the teams would play, Each region usually had very distinct styles. That was seen when NA and APAC faced head to head in the mini-tournaments. Many times it is the best teams that showed up but the tipping factor was the metas stacked up against each other.
There is no way to know which region will have a stronger in the upcoming season, especially with the Overwatch 2 5v5 incoming. It is up for debate whether one thinks that a larger pool of teams or a smaller pool of teams is better.
The Overwatch League gave all teams the options to move but seemingly it was only these three that took advantage of that. It will be interesting to see what teams decide to do this coming season. There are certain teams that would more sense in potentially moving regions for one or more of the reasons listed above.
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