A wise ice nerd once said “Our world is worth fighting for.” But the world is also worth fighting against, if Blizzard are to be believed. The developers have recently announced that their team shooter Overwatch [official site] will be getting a World Cup competition and that the finals will be held at BlizzCon in November. But almost a third of the teams won’t even have to qualify to get through to the final games. The US, China, Australia and others will all go through unchallenged. But before we explain that weirdness, let’s look at how the tournament is structured.
Firstly, what does this mean for you as an Overwatch pleb? Well, you get to pick who goes into your country’s team. Sort of. You see, Blizzard will be nominating and selecting a bunch of eligible players. Those selected will include “a mix of representatives from each participating country, pro gamers, skilled community personalities from the area, and local players who’ve climbed the ranks in Season 1 of Competitive Play”. In other words, good players from your nation.
On August 11, you’ll be able to vote for people out of your national line-up who you want on your country’s team. It’s unclear where you’ll go to do this, but your Battle.net account will be necessary and you’re limited to voting on the make-up of the country in which your account is based.
After that, in September, there’ll be online matches to decide who qualifies – a best of three single-elimination round. Sixteen teams will emerge from this conflict, say Blizzard, and go onto BlizzCon to fight for the Cup in November. There’s no prize for the winner at the end of it all, however, just the glory of being the world’s most annoying Tracer, the globe’s most debilitating Mei. But Blizzard are paying for the players’ trips to the tournament and convention when they qualify for the top 16, so hopefully that won’t exclude too many people for money reasons.
However, there are teams which will automatically qualify to the competition at BlizzCon. The United States, Canada, Brazil, China, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand will go through to the November games no matter what. They are automatically advancing “due to a variety of factors, including server locations, regional infrastructure and connectivity, and other geographical considerations,” says Blizzard. It’s unclear if this means they have to play in the qualifiers anyway, or not. So the top 16 really looks like the top 9, plus 7 teams that qualified by default. Hardly an ideal set up, is it?
Blizzard have also said that the qualifying matches will be built so that a fair representation of the globe comes out of it all.
"To ensure that all major regions of the world are well-represented at BlizzCon," they say, "the sixteen teams competing there will include six from the Europe game region, six from the Asia-Pacific game regions, and four from the Americas.
But if this is true, it means that, out of the four American teams, only one will actually be there by virtue of its own triumph. After all, three of them - the US, Canada, and Brazil - are guaranteed a place. Six other teams in that region are basically scrapping for the final place in their hemisphere. The same scenario is repeated on the APAC side. I'm not saying Blizzard doesn't have valid internetz reasons to build it like this, but it's not exactly in the spirit of a true 'World Cup'.
I’m sitting here in Costa Rica (don’t ask) and I’m hoping that there are enough agile Lucio’s and strong Reinhardts here to put this small country on the Overwatch map. But I’ll also be rooting for my home country of Ireland. I hope they don’t meet in the streets of Dorado. I won’t know who to cheer for. What about you? Where do you hail from? Who do you want on your team?