The Overwatch World Cup playoffs were the event of the year for Overwatch esports, as it was expected with all the hype created around it after all the announcements by Blizzard and the cool features that we would witness for the very first time.
We were promised that the spectating experience would be enhanced and Blizzard delivered. All the changes they made to spectating were welcomed by the community, despite the fact that some of them need some tweaking still. The viewership skyrocketed, reaching its highest milestone yet, with over 300.000 viewers on twitch channels and close to 220.000 on the main one on the first day.
However, this was a work in progress and all success cannot be attributed only to the new features. Blizzard for their second World Cup made sure that many of the problems of the first one would be fixed and that the celebration would be much bigger than before. They changed the selection process so as each country would be given the opportunity to be represented by the best of their very best. Choosing the most knowledgeable and experienced personalities in the space from every country, that had made it through the SR competition, to be voted on for roster creation assured that the rosters to be assembled would be the most competitive possible. And truly they were, as the playoffs showed.
Not only that, but Blizzard went to great lengths to make certain that the group stages of the tournament would also be carried out under the most favorable conditions. Every match was to be played on LAN -no ping interference- and all players would be transferred free of charge to their specified locations. Unlike the first year where a lot of teams were automatically promoted to the playoffs due to proximity to servers and unfair advantages location-wise, this year every national team had to prove their worth and fight tooth-for-nail to make it out of the groups and secure a spot in the quarterfinals and the grand BlizzCon arena. Many great storylines emerged because of that and many players from scenes that the West had very little info about came forth and showcased their skills. Japan was one of this year’s Overwatch World Cup revelations. Still remember AKTM’s McCree stunts in a meta that didn’t favor the hero much.
Blizzard paid extreme attention to every single detail of the tournament, from the venues to the broadcasting talents, all the way to the videos that would recap the journey of the playoffs teams. Everything seemed perfectly executed and indeed was, except for two things: the MVP awards and the closing ceremony. As far as the latter is concerned, Blizzard had to make emergency rescheduling and probably was out of time and that’s why it was somehow rushed. But not having a performance-based MVP award can’t be overlooked.
The audience MVP award is a good engagement method and I have no objections to its implementation in such events. Always the analysts, the casters and the audience have someone different as the MVP. xQc deserved his T-Mobile MVP award, for conquering the hearts of the fans and proving his skill by reaching the grand finals of the event. Still, the real MVP must be decided after careful inspection of one’s performance in the tournament and thorough consideration of his contribution to his team’s performance. Most of the time, as expected, the most valuable player is one of the champions. In very rare cases, a player from the team that came second managed to have such an insane performance that deserved the award.
Everyone’s eyes throughout the tournament on the South Korean team had been on the Flex DPS player, Yeon-oh “Fl0w3R” Hwang. He had shown extreme versatility and proficiency with a number of heroes and at the same time his previous records on LW Blue also were reinforcing the argument that he is one of the best players currently in the world, if not the best on his role. However, he was challenged hard by players like Dylan “aKm” Bignet, representing France, in the playoffs, who had an astonishing performance of his own -his best in his career so far, and Jake “JAKE” Lyon whose Soldier76 and Junkrat play reversed many times the flow of the battle, turning it in favor of Team USA. Many players on the champion team also stepped up in the playoffs to make sure that the team would earn the win on some very crucial and extremely close rounds. Definitely, the camera focused more on Flow3R and his highlight reels at times, but Zunba and Mano, and even Ryujehong, made so many important plays when the team was on the verge of losing that no matter who eventually got the MVP award, it would have been well-deserved.
I am looking forward, once Winston’s Lab uploads the playoffs’ stats, to see how each player on South Korea played compared to their previous performances and see who was the statistical outlier. I still believe that the MVP award should have been given to Flow3R to celebrate all his achievements at such a young age, but I am more interested in finding the statistical outliers and build their own legacies.
Hopefully, this incident won’t repeat itself in the future, where only the audience decides the MVP and I am very confident that Blizzard will make the next World Cup even better.