Photos courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment.
Last weekend, July 27 and 28, the grand finals of the inaugural season of Overwatch League took place at Barclays Center in New York. In front of a sold out crowd, over 250,000 viewers on Twitch, as well as the people watching TV channels ESPN and Disney XD, the London Spitfire and Philadelphia Fusion clashed in an unlikely matchup to conclude the season. Unfortunately, the finals were painful to watch. The Fusion completely fell apart, only able to win one map in the series.
It turned out that the Stage One champions that everyone had counted out had turned a page with the new meta. London's dominance in the postseason was shocking after months of underachieving, finishing the grand finals at a blistering pace. Not surprisingly, the playoff MVP was Jun-Young "Profit" Park, London's DPS star that dismantled Philadelphia at every turn.
Fusion did not show up
For the Philly-dominant crowd at Barclays, the grand finals were just a disaster. As predicted earlier in the week, this match was going to come down to which DPS duo was strongest. Josue "Eqo" Corona and Jae-Hyeok "Carpe" Lee were two of the strongest and most versatile DPS players of the last two stages and playoffs. Between Eqo's deep hero pool and Carpe's ability to shut teams down on Widowmaker and Tracer, the Philadelphia Fusion looked unstoppable. That momentum carried over into the playoffs, which made their dismal efforts during the grand finals quite bewildering.
To put it into perspective, at one point the casters said that Profit out-damaged Eqo and Carpe combined. It was one of the most catastrophic failures of the entire season, leaving many wondering what on earth happened. Even Spitfire support player Seung-Tae "Bdosin" Choi commented that he did not think winning the grand finals would be so easy.
Another area that Philadelphia failed at was keeping their backline alive. Main support player Alberto "Neptuno" González Molinillo died early and often in many team fights. If it wasn't London's constant harassment of their backline doing them in, it was their own odd substitutions. They put D.va player Gael "Poko" Gouzerch in for flex support star Isaac "Boombox" Charles on one map, which even had London discussing in a postgame conference.
Perhaps there isn't much to analyze here. It was a massive, new stage with $1 million on the line. Both teams obviously had jitters, but it seemed as though Philadelphia could never shake it. It would be a shame if nerves got the best of one of the best teams of the second half of the season, but nothing else really makes any sense.
A big win for Overwatch esports
Even though there wasn't much to discuss about the match itself, the Overwatch League grand finals were huge for fans, Blizzard, and prospective investors. The production value was on par with any major entertainment or sporting event, plus it was broadcasted on ESPN and Disney XD during primetime — a first for esports. It was also the first time Barclays managed to sell out the upper deck for an esports event, bringing in a total attendance of 22,434 over both days of competition.
As for incoming teams and investors, ESPN announced that teams for Paris and Guangzhou are in the works, with Cox Enterprises finalizing a deal for the Atlanta spot next year. It would appear that Overwatch League's health is fine, and even improving despite what critics might want to say. There is still room left for the product to develop, however, so hopefully we'll see improvements to watchability and scheduling next year.
It's a wrap for Overwatch League 2018, but you can watch the All Star Weekend on August 25 and 26. The 2018 Overwatch World Cup begins on August 17 and ends at BlizzCon later this year.