Atlantic Showdown: What It Means For Overwatch eSports

Atlantic Showdown: What It Means For Overwatch eSports
We’ve questioned the value of the Overwatch eSports scene before, and there’s still work to be done. But that doesn’t mean that we’re not hopeful, that it can’t become a permanent feature in the industry. So what of Overwatch Atlantic Showdown, then? The ESL competition’s finals played out over the weekend - with team Rogue taking the first-place victory - and with $100,000 in prizes up for grabs it was the biggest, most significant tournament for Overwatch yet. With so many eyes on the scene trying to see how well Overwatch will compare to so many other eSports - heck, Blizzard’s own Heroes Of The Storm and StarCraft 2 are regularly being called out as ‘dead’ - many will have been judging the tournament perhaps a little too critically. And so will we. Was there anything to learn from the Atlantic Showdown and - if so - what does that mean for the future of Overwatch eSports?

Overwatch is increasingly more popular

One of the biggest things to know of ESL’s tournament was that the grand finals reached nearly 80,000 concurrent viewers, a not insignificant amount for a game so new to eSports. No one is expecting Overwatch to achieve League Of Legends levels of viewers, especially not so early on, but it’s a great sign for the game. And consider this, little in the way of promotion has been done for the Overwatch Atlantic Showdown. Blizzard’s hands-off approach means it’s easy to forget that the playoffs were taking place over the weekend. Couple that with a game that isn’t immediately easy to follow and you’ve got a number of viewers here that is a core, dedicated group of fans - of people already invested in Overwatch eSports. That number will need to grow over time, of course, but it’s a very healthy figure to begin with. overwatch-olympics

There’s plenty of drama

All good eSports suffer from drama, some within the tournaments themselves and others - more controversially - outside of any particular competition. Perhaps the biggest example of the former during the event was the rise of Rogue and the fall of Team EnVyUs. If you’d been following the scene at all then you’d know that EnVyUs were easily the favourites for first-place, having a huge 57-game win streak. This is incredible, of course, and it would’ve been exciting - even historic - for such a team to maintain that into first-place victory. But that’s all a little obvious, so it’s far more exciting to see Rogue - a team who many had anticipated too much from - manage to pull itself together, demonstrate some outstanding Overwatch play and take out the would-be champions. It’s drama like this that makes an eSport title important, and the fact that such stories can be told is a great sign for things to come for Overwatch. As more and more teams learn and adapt to the game, we can expect to see a lot more of this drama happen.

Map picks and strategies matter

One of the criticisms surrounding Overwatch as an eSport - and you won’t hear it from us - is that it lacks the depth of strategy and skill that the likes of CS:GO or Dota 2 has. If Overwatch Atlantic Showdown taught us anything, however, it’s that this can’t be the case. Say nothing of the considerable speed difference between other FPS eSports - to keep control in all that action absolutely takes great skill - but there’s definitely strategy involved. The tournament was awash with many key decisions surrounding not only which map to play on, but the team composition that would follow it up with. Smart decisions to make the most of Junkrat on Temple Of Anubis, for example, or an interesting strategies by Rogue who brought in Mei to block off areas that really changed the result of the game. Overwatch is still young so there’s still plenty to be figured out, but it’s clear this isn’t a ‘no skill game’ at all. team-playing

Following an Overwatch match

One of our biggest criticisms surrounding Overwatch eSports hasn’t really been adjusted just yet, but there are some improvements outside of Blizzard’s input that are helping. It’s a tough game to follow and until Blizzard introduces a true Spectator Mode - that allows greater camera control to better follow the match - we’ll be stuck with motion sickness as we watch Genji flick about the map. But in addition to through-the-building player outlines - akin to the way CS:GO handles it - it’s the shoutcasters that really demonstrate of far this has come already. Perhaps part of that is ESL’s involvement in the game, or perhaps it’s just that there’s more knowledge on the game now. Either way, their abilities at translating the fast-paced action into something more comprehendible will go a long way to maintaining interest in the game until Blizzard pulls its finger out.

It’s not over yet...

While Overwatch Atlantic Showdown was the first real tournament for the game, that doesn’t mean it’s about to stop there. For one thing, ELeague and FACEIT have teamed up to create its own tournament - which you can tune in and watch, in it’s entirety, until the finals this Sunday on Ginx eSports TV this week - that will again highlight just how much Overwatch can perform as an eSport. And if all goes well, perhaps Turner Broadcasting will even host its own Overwatch league, as it did with CS:GO. It’ll be enough to hold on to until the end of September where, admittedly, the competitive calendar for Overwatch does dry up somewhat. With two big tournaments so close together, though, Overwatch will be getting plenty of coverage - and, with it, validation. That alone could lead to more events being announced, and in particular we’d love to see Blizzard announce something to run in tandem with the game’s season-based competitive mode.