The Overwatch League officially has two weeks’ worth of homestands under their belt. With twelve matches complete and countless power rankings unquestionably shaken up, the Overwatch League has had some great successes – and demonstrated some of its biggest growing pains.
The new homestand format has accomplished much of what it set out to do, bringing Overwatch home to all the cities the teams represent. The league has captured the geographic loyalty of fans in a tangible way. The Battle of Brotherly Love, for example, allowed fans of the Philadelphia Fusion to make their voices heard: cheers of welcome for the black and orange, and roars of disdain for everyone else. It serves as a microcosm for what is to come for the rest of the season, and is reflective of some of the strengths and challenges the organization will face this year.
A Day at the Theatre
The Met, the venue for the Philadelphia homestand, is a theater originally built in 1908, recently refurbished and returned to its former glory. Fans had opportunities to jump into a few rounds of Overwatch on souped-up PCs in the Free Play section. VIP ticket holders had the opportunity to meet and greet players. Like any good theater experience, food and beverages were available to power fans through 40-minute pauses. All the bells and whistles, however, paled in comparison to the main attraction: watching four Overwatch League teams click heads on the big stage.
Live Overwatch is a treat to experience, not necessarily because of the miscellaneous production elements, but because virtually everyone inside the building is excited to be there. From gathering outside the doors in cosplay and fan gear, to taking their seats in the theater, fans bring the Overwatch League experience to life.
Hamming It Up
Much has been said about the “home-field advantage” that comes with playing in front of fans. Casters across the board have pointed to the “seventh man” that a home crowd provides. However, at this point in the season, it may prove that the opposite is true. Away teams are hamming it up on the disdain of the crowd. They are ready, and they choose to thrive on it.
The Washington Justice, led in particular by Corey Nigra and Ethan “Stratus” Yankel, proved they would not be intimidated by the myriad of Philadelphia Fusion loyalists. They bought into the boos and in post-game interviews, described how they pushed them to greater heights.
Though the Justice did not take home the victory against the Philadelphia Fusion, they came out with a win over the Florida Mayhem and have certainly made themselves a team to watch this year.
Working Out the Kinks
However, with the new homestand format, there comes some new challenges that the league will have to address going forward as an organization. In Week 1, the production team experienced some truly meme-worthy issues, some of which persisted into streaming the Philadelphia games. In Week 2, hardware issues caused the games to be delayed for almost 40 minutes in total. No production, especially in livestreaming, is perfect 100% of the time. However, the Overwatch League will have to find a way to mitigate these issues in the future.
With teams and production venues constantly moving around, the margin of error becomes that much greater. Solutions are that much harder to make permanent. Compared to Blizzard Arena, a single space entirely devoted to Overwatch League matches, production team members are adapting to brand new spaces virtually each week. As such, though production will improve over the course of the season, fans should expect hiccups along the way.
The Overwatch League is moving into groundbreaking new territory, one that comes with as many pitfalls as it does successes. Teams are finding ways to spur themselves to new heights. As the League moves forward, these moments will be the highlights that move the League to create better Overwatch experiences.