This weekend the worlds finest Overwatch [official site] esportsthletes* will be descending on Anaheim to participate in the Overwatch World Cup as part of Blizzcon. So that'll be nice. Particularly if you're into watching Overwatch. Watching over Overwatch. But who watches the watchers of Overwatch? ANYWAY!
What is an Overwatch?
It's Blizzard's team-based FPS. Different characters have different abilities and each of them has an ultimate which is a kind of mega ability. Each team is trying to capture and control points or escort payloads, sometimes both according to which map you're playing on. You get the idea.
Who is involved in this thing?
The teams remaining in the competition (as well as their quarterfinal matchups) are as follows:
Russia vs France
Spain vs Finland
South Korea vs United States
China vs Sweden
I've put them in bracket order so the winners of the first two matches on the list will play one another in the semis, as will the winners of the last two matches.
On a personal note, it's strange to see a region-based tournament that's closer to how traditional sports do things because I'm so used to competitive gaming where the teams are either not explicitly limited to a country or region as with Dota 2, or where they come from a regional domestic league so you get an organisation/organisations representing for that broader region as with League of Legends. Or it's something like Starcraft where I'm kind of used to seeing the South Korean flag all the way down the rankings until, like, France at 14th or whatever it was when I checked in last year at Road To Blizzcon.
Pip, what is the story so far? Please tell me a story.
I'm going to level with you: I've not really found spectating Overwatch matches to be much fun. I don't find them compelling in the same way that I do other esports (I get far more excited about, for example, CS:GO) so my own interest in Overwatch has waned rather. I was interested to see former competitive Smite player Marcus 'Realzx' Vining switch games to Overwatch and join the British Overwatch side but they got knocked out in the European qualifiers.
INSTEAD, if you've been getting into pro Overwatch it would be cool to know what you think and what you've been drawn in by. Any rivalries or clutch matches that have particularly caught your attention?
What's at stake?
So here's the thing. I'm looking and it seems to me that there's actually nothing at stake in terms of cash prizes or anything. It's just "to decide 2016 international bragging rights once and for all" which... I mean, that's a terrible sentence. Deciding bragging rights once and for all but only for 2016. I'm not sure how I feel about this because bragging rights is a terrible return on investment given the time professional gaming requires. But then again, artificially high prize pools to boost an unproven esports scene which might then just fade out after people have bought in isn't great either. The team formation was also community driven with the majority of a side being voted in, so it's sort of less of an official organisational structure and perhaps that would really mess with prize distribution and the legal side of the event. So... Bragging rights and a trip to Blizzcon and we'll see what happens as time goes on. Mostly my feeling for this is that it's more like a show match to showcase the game when people interested in Blizzard games but maybe who haven't picked Overwatch up are looking in the right direction.
When/where is it?
If you're at Blizzcon there's actually an Overwatch Arena which is romantically referred to as "Hall C". Otherwise it's online (Blizzcon's esports streams are exempt from the need for a Blizzcon virtual ticket). There's a link to whichever flavour of esports broadcasting platform you prefer from the official page.
Quarterfinals take place from 12pm Pacific (7pm GMT) on Friday 4 Nov and are followed immediately by the semifinals which, if the schedule holds true, will start a little after 6pm Pacific (1am GMT)
The third place match will be 10am Pacific (5pm GMT) on 5 November, then the grand final at 11.30am Pacific (6.30pm GMT)
Unrelatedly, but interestingly to me, Blizzard are staggering most of the finals for their games tournaments through the Saturday but the Heroes of the Storm finals and Starcraft II WCS finals are taking place concurrently. I wonder if that means those are the two audiences with the smallest overlap in terms of their audience. I don't enjoy HotS as an esport as I really just don't like the experience of watching it so there's a part of me that figures that's the more expendable one, so sure - jam it next to Starcraft. But given Blizzard are still plugging it and there are things like a Heroes of the Dorm documentary also as part of Blizzcon there's probably a slightly more positive/proactive business decision there.
*I'm still trying to make this happen.