London team confirmed for Overwatch League

eSports organisation Cloud9 will represent London in the Overwatch League [official site], Blizzard have confirmed. The team won’t have an official stadium until after 2018, but when they do I’m envisaging half-time pies, coloured scarves and chants of Overwatch is coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming etc etc (I know that’s not accurate at all, but it’s the first England-specific football chant I could think of, okay?).

They’re the first European team to be announced, and were confirmed alongside a team in LA – the city’s second – that will be owned by the Kroenke Sports & Entertainment group, who own Arsenal FC and NFL team the LA Rams. It takes the total number of teams for the game’s official eSports league to 9 following the announcement of 7 teams across the US and Asia last month. The competition is due to start later this year.

When I wrote about those first seven teams I got a few comments that Overwatch was unwatchable as an eSport because of its chaotic nature. I’ve watched a bit of the ongoing World Cup qualifiers and I think that’s a fair criticism: teams spend a lot of time building their ultimate abilities (super powerful skills that can turn the tide of a match) and then unleash them all at once. But I still enjoy it, and I think part of that chaos will go away when casters get better at explaining exactly what’s going on (now it’s often them shouting “Oh… oh my god…huge play!” rather than talking it through).

So, I’m quite excited for the Overwatch League, and may well get myself down to a few games for the London team. But with no stadium set up there might not be any games in the city for the time being. PCGamesN report League commissioner Nate Nanzer says home and away games will start “as soon as possible”, but that he warns “there’s a lot that goes into” hosting matches. So, let’s see on that one.

There’s no requirement for the London team to have British players or anything like that but, according to PCGN, Cloud9 founder Jack Etienne says he wants to “develop the UK scene”. Here’s a bit on why he chose London:

“[We] went through the positives and negatives of each city and I kept coming back to London as the place that I felt has been underserved in eSports. It’s a fantastic city, with an amazing metro population, fantastic transportation to get people to events, and I saw this as ‘hey this is where Cloud9 needs to be’. We already have a massive fan base in Europe and England specifically, so it just makes sense.”

11 Comments

  1. sneetch says:

    Great news for all those tousle haired ragamuffins and chimney sweeps who dream of making it big!

  2. Freud says:

    I hope the league does well. Mostly because the owners of the teams having to pay an absurd amount of money and if it doesn’t work out, it will throw shade on eSports as a whole.

    Most of the new money coming into eSports is from NBA owners. There was a presentation at a GM/owner meeting about eSports and I guess they got excited. So a lot of NBA teams and owners have bought or created eSports organizations.

  3. Excors says:

    In case anyone wants to look into the Overwatch World Cup, the UK team is playing today (Sunday) somewhere around 8:30pm UK time on link to twitch.tv and then (since they’re at the top of their group) in a playoff match later. There are some other countries too but who cares about them.

    Having played quite a bit of Overwatch and watched a lot of the World Cup, I feel it took a few hours of watching to learn the basic rhythms of professional games (fighting cautiously to build up ultimates, using them judiciously or aggressively, pushing forwards or stalling or falling back to regroup after a team fight, etc) but now I can mostly follow what’s going on and understand why one team is winning, and that makes it reasonably enjoyable to watch.

    It becomes obvious when a team has poor coordination and is consistently failing to finish off low-health enemy players, or wasting ultimates in a fight they’ve already lost; and you can recognise individual skill like a Tracer picking off vulnerable support players in every fight, a Soldier shooting everyone in the head, a D.Va blocking all the enemy’s damage at a crucial point, an Ana sleep-darting Genji every time he uses his ultimate, and so on. In some ways it helps that the World Cup group stages have some very unbalanced teams (some countries just don’t have enough top-quality players) so you can spot the differences quite clearly, and then appreciate it more when two closely-matched teams both play well and make few mistakes. Although then you watch South Korea and have no idea how they manage to utterly dominate everyone else.

    • Xerophyte says:

      I feel like the main problem with Overwatch as a watchable sport is that it doesn’t have a very good spectator mode. The world cup matches are generally some player’s raw game feed with a minimal overlay, which is incredibly confusing when you often end up watching through a Genji or Tracer. There should at least be a Widowmaker Ultimate-like overlay showing the location of all the players regardless of team and some health info, and less hero-specific hud elements. I get why players want to see their ability cooldowns clearly, but as a spectator I really don’t give a damn when Helix Rockets will be up.

      I’ve been following the International over the weekend and while I don’t love the Dota 2 spectator UI either — way too much screen real estate given to things like the ability bar for the currently selected heroes, assorted statistics and general fiddly pull outs — it sure does a much better job than the Overwatch streams. In Dota you at least have all the relevant information from both teams and just need to understand how the game works which, sure, is a not insignificant task for Dota.

      • Bootycephalus says:

        I could never come up with a way to make overwatch comprehensible to someone, these are all really good ideas.

        • Xerophyte says:

          After I posted that I went to watch some Overwatch matches and, hey, they actually have some outlines and health overlays for the enemy team now. Not sure if that’s been around for a while and I just haven’t been watching the right streams but good job nevertheless. There’s still too much weight given to a bunch of hero-specific stuff for the player you’re watching but baby steps I suppose.

      • Excors says:

        There are certainly some technical issues with the spectator mode (teams randomly changing colours between maps, hacked health pack colours, lack of minimap to show players returning from spawn, inability to watch replays in the game client, etc) that should be relatively straightforward to fix, they’re just software engineering tasks that need to be prioritised by the time the League starts.

        There are issues with the observers and directors, who sometimes focus on the wrong camera and miss the important action, or only show DPS players and neglect everyone else. They can get better with experience, as can the casters. There have been some clear improvements during the weeks of the World Cup – e.g. at first they had no highlight replays during matches, then they had really bad replays (showing a boring Soldier ultimate where he holds down a button and people die, which you had already seen ten seconds earlier, and which went on so long that you missed the start of the next team fight), and now they have okay replays (sometimes using a different camera to show action that they missed, with decent timing to not overlap the next fight).

        There are issues with gameplay balance – currently only about 8 of the 25 heroes are used, so you get identical team compositions most of the time. To some extent it seems professional players are too conservative to pick anything other than the widely-accepted ‘correct’ strategy; perhaps they need more low-stakes tournaments to try different approaches. And to some extent it’s real balance issues, and there’s a tension between designing the gameplay rules to be fun for casual players to play and also being fun to watch professional players.

        That stuff can all be fixed – it just takes moderate amounts of money and time and talent. The Overwatch League has plenty of money, and Blizzard and the teams seem to be treating it as a multi-year investment so there should be enough time.

        The most fatal problems would be those caused by the fundamental design of the game. Maybe 6v6 first-person team fights with ultimates are inherently too chaotic to follow. Maybe people simply don’t enjoy watching coordinated team strategies and prefer to watch players clicking on heads slightly quicker than the people they’re clicking on. Or maybe those aren’t problems and it’ll be great. I think it’s impossible to tell before the fixable problems have been fixed, and we might need to wait for the first year or two of the League before being able to judge it properly, regardless of how much fun it is to condemn it before it’s even started.

    • Spinkick says:

      I’m pretty sure if we ever do get mecha, that we will use south koreans as the pilots

  4. zauberkraut says:

    Overwatch is borderline unwatchable as esport. And not very much fun to play solo.

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