Though several issues lay unresolved for Overwatch League (OWL) investors and team organisers, the problem that has many players and consumers scratching their heads is a cultural one. Not much has been said about how rosters are supposed to look for prospective teams, nor how Blizzard intends on growing OWL down the road. The only facts we’ve been given are that there will be local teams, and Blizzard wants to work with existing eSports teams on how players can be drafted through the combine. So what happens when an established team wants to have the best available talent for their roster in a year or two?
If you’re new to eSports, you’re probably not aware of how teams are categorised for competition. You have “NA” for North America, “EU” for European and then any of several naming conventions for Asian teams, including “KR” for Korean. In every game, there’s always discussion on the various tactics of teams from each region. For Overwatch, that means Asian teams and players are stereotypically aggressive, NA teams do well in the meta, and European squads offer the most creativity and flexibility (Ninjas in Pajamas used three supports at one time). Perception of skill, then, often becomes a culturally relative matter which leads to much debate on the global forum. But it gets even more muddy when you examine team logistics and roster compositions.
Taking a look at Reinforce’s tweet below might not make sense at first glance. EnVyUs and Rogue are NA teams, after all. Their team houses are in Charlotte and Las Vegas, respectively. But their active Overwatch rosters tells a different tale. Rogue’s squad is French, and EnVyUs has European and Asian players, yet they are considered North American teams because of where their teams are located.
If you think of EnVy and Rogue as NA then I guess people won't have any problem with Koreans playing in OWL as they're Americans once there👌 https://t.co/CegxOT9t4C
— Jonathan Larsson (@Reinforce) March 22, 2017
On paper, that could prove to be problematic for the OWL and its local teams. But the reality is much simpler. OWL Commissioner and Global Director Nate Nanzer said (via PVP Live), “We’ve audited all of the traditional sports to find out their financial models to understand the different ways that teams and players make money.” Does your favourite football team have players from countries other than your own? Of course it does, because they want to stay competitive, make money and give their fans a premium experience. When you look at it this way, having foreign players on local lineups shouldn’t matter at all. It’s all about establishing an eSports scene that the consumer can identify with and easily follow. Traditional circuits and teams are often hard to keep up with for the casual fan.
What OWL will do to the global eSports scene is a topic that many industry people will be following intimately in the next few years. It’s going to challenge teams to field the right people at the right times, and it very well could force players to have more respect for the game and each other. If traditional eSports paradigms are shattered, OWL could be one of the most important events in eSports history.