ESPORTS are everywhere.
They’re on your TV, they’re in the news and they’re filling stadiums.
Packed arenas and professional broadcasts make OWL a joy to watch[/caption]
But knowing where to start is a tricky one, given that in many cases even working out how to pronounce the team names let along picking one to support is tricky.
Thankfully, Overwatch League doesn’t have either of those problems, as it’s set up just like a traditional, albeit American, sport.
For season two there are 20 teams competing for huge prizes and the pride of 20 cities across the world.
CAN THEY REPEAT THE FEAT?
Last year London Spitfire walked away with the inaugural season title and the $1million cheque that went with it, and all eyes are on the team to see if they can repeat the feat.
They finished the year with a little trash talk to go with their title, with team support star Bdosin saying next year he wanted some better opposition to fight against.
He may come to regret those words, because the first shots fired in anger for 2019 will be in a rematch of last year’s final between Philadelphia Fusion and London Spitfire.
Both teams may well start with the same players as closed out 2018. London released Closer — who has ended up with Dallas Fuel — but he played for less than 10 per cent of London’s playoff run, only subbing in for healer Nus very briefly.
Fusion let three players go from the extended roster, but the core remains intact.
What is Overwatch?
Overwatch is a team-based first-person shooter developed by Blizzard Entertainment.
Unlike many other shooters, characters in Overwatch have one of three roles: damage-dealers, support, or tanking.
Damage-dealers do the traditional job of trying to outgun the opposing team’s members. Tanks are there to draw fire and soak up damage while protecting objectives or their team-mates, while support characters can heal other players, boost their damage output, or protect them.
The Overwatch League is one of the flagship eSports competitions, with millions of pounds in prize money up for grabs.
12 teams competed in the inaugural season: New York Excelsior, Los Angeles Valiant, Boston Uprising, Los Angeles Gladiators, London Spitfire, Philadelphia Fusion, Houston Outlaws, Seoul Dynasty, San Francisco Shock, Dallas Fuel, Florida Mayhem and the Shanghai Dragons.
That’s going up to 20 for season 2.
London has some company in Europe with the addition of the Paris Eternal, while Shanghai now have local competition in the form of Hangzhou Spark, Guangzhou Charge and the Chengdu Hunters.
The Washington Justice, Atlanta Reign, Toronto Defiant and Vancouver Titans have all come on board in North America as well.
All the players are full-time professionals, and all the teams are currently physically based around Blizzard’s Arena in Los Angeles, though there are plans afoot to move them to their respective cities with their own arenas in the next couple of years once each region has enough teams for Major League style divisions.
HOW CAN I WATCH?
The season is kicking off on February 14 in LA, and that set-up means tension will high from the get-go at midnight UK time on February 15 when Spitfire and Fusion go at each other again.
You can tune in for free at Twitch.tv for the standard broadcast stream. If you decide you want more, you can always sign up for the premium package which gives you much more control — but there’s no point getting this to begin with as the main stream will make much more sense.
Unlike last year, the majority of Spitfire’s matches in 2019 are at times that are actually watchable on UK times so it should be much easier to keep up with them.
Their second match-up is against the newly formed Paris Eternal team, which will be at 8 p.m. on Saturday 16 February, so if you miss the Fusion game that one will be even easier to catch.
If you’ve never watched Overwatch League before, the standard streams really are set up for you. A bunch of them are going on on Disney XD, ESPN2 and ABC networks in the US, and so have the new viewer in mind.
It’s fast-paced action, but each stage has a clear goal that is explained in video form beforehand and great commentary to keep you informed as the match progresses.
You’ll quickly learn which players to watch for, and get swept up in the tension of each fight.
WATCH PLAYERS, NOT CHARACTERS
The players switching between a the wide selection of characters from Overwatch’s cast can seem confusing at first, but they’re generally doing (roughly) the same job whoever they’re playing as.
With Spitfite, for instance, Nus will almost certainly be in the main healing support role, tasked with keeping the rest of the team alive. Whichever character he’s playing as, you know if he goes down the team is in trouble.
Gesture will be up the front trying to get in the way and soak up as much damage as possible to keep control of key points, assisted by Fury.
If one of them goes down it’s not the end of the world — but again, if they both go down together the team is almost certainly in deep trouble.
WHAT ELSE DO I NEED TO KNOW?
This year, the league has 20 teams, up from 12 in the first season.
There’s also more money on the table -the prize pool was $3million for the first year, and that’s shot past $5million for season 2.
This time around it’s all based around the playoffs. The top 8 teams in each of the season’s four month-long stages get to split the prize pot for each stage, while the top eight overall fight over $3.5million in the end-of-season playoffs.
MOST READ IN GAMING
A few other things are bigger and better this time around too.
Coca Cola has signed up as a league-wide sponsor, while Fantatics — who are responsible for the NFL, MLB, F1 and international Rugby are now supplying merch for Overwatch League.
The OWL merch hasn’t made it to their international store quite yet, but should be there soon.