One misconception about players and rosters in the Overwatch scene, but not strictly restricted to it as it is evident in every sport and competition, is that you can take rosters or players, put them in different conditions and expect them to perform as they did before. For me, that is a misguided belief and I believe that in Overwatch League, especially because some of the rosters have been together for less than even three months, this notion will be challenged.
I will analyze three reasons that some rosters could eventually not achieve what many have in their mind as their estimated strength. The first one, which I think is the most crucial has to do with the coaching staff and how much freedom players were allowed beforehand. The degree of freedom a player has influences his in-game choices, his ability to adapt and make plays on his own, while at the same time he may feel a lot more contributing to the team’success. When this freedom is taken away and the player is forced to play in a very specific manner that the coach has envisioned and wants to be executed, his motivation can drop dramatically, if the results are not the expected, affecting at the same time his performance. Especially for players who like to voice their opinions, to be heard and have a say in the tactics implemented, having to adapt to a coach who wants to enforce his own logic, which the player deems wrong, can be catastrophic. A case of this nature has been witnessed in the CS:GO scene just recently, with Stanislaw and Zews on Team Liquid that had clashing opinions and the player’s performance deteriorated.
The roster I have in mind that could be affected by the above scenario is Houston Outlaws. There will definitely be a honeymoon period, where everything will seem to work just fine, but with more players on the roster and with coaches that the players have never worked before, it will boil down to what kind of leadership model will be chosen and how it will be implemented. The competition will be a lot harder in OWL, with two matches per week for each team and there is already a certain level of expectations for the team by the fans and followers of the Overwatch scene.
The next reason has to do with players adapting to staying on the bench for matches and respecting the coaches / general manager’s decisions. This has been a thorn on the side for many players in the past in the West. I remember the example of Luminosity Gaming Loyal that disbanded once their organization acquired another roster, a better one. Staying in the shadow of others is not easy at all. Not to mention about players that would never join a roster as a substitute and always preferred to look for opportunities to be starters. Therefore, when one considers that some players in the West will have to experience this transition and how it will affect them, it becomes evident that ego management will be a very crucial part of maintaining the expected strength.
Full Korean rosters won’t have a problem with it since larger than 6-man rosters were first introduced in Korea and it is a cultural thing, after all. There is the example of Effect, for sure, who didn’t want to stay on the bench of Lunatic-Hai or Meta Athena and looked for other opportunities but he is the exception, not the rule. Dallas Fuel roster is also excluded from this, because they made only needed additions and I feel that everyone understands their place on the roster, whereas rosters like San Francisco Shock, Philadelphia Fusion, even Boston Uprising will have to deal with it down the line. Fusion is a good example, because I am not entirely sure how they will handle the 3 ex-Faze Clan members and if they intend to build their team around them or not. One would suspect that this is the plan, by checking the players they have announced, but remains to be seen. Snillo is a big question mark.
The final reason teams/players should not be considered “plug ‘n’ play” concerns the coaching staffs and their in-between relationships. Although players can be of the highest caliber, under the wrong leadership, they can be rendered useless or lose efficiency. For example, the London Spitfire roster has acquired two cores -if we are allowed to use this expression, since GC Busan was acquired as whole- alongside one of their previous coaches, for each of them, that will have to work with Bishop, the ex-coach of Cloud9 North American squad. We don’t know entirely how crucial was the role of the other coaches that weren’t signed in the teams’ success up until this point, although some info relating to Hoccury is known, but a scenario where this assembly of coaches can’t work perfectly is possible. This applies to other teams with many coaches that have never worked before together, as well. Having said that, Korean coaches should be more resistant to such problems, in my estimation.
And the big thing is that only after the official matches start, after stage 1 concludes, to be completely honest, these weaknesses or problems will emerge. Scrim results’ can be dismissed easily for many reasons. Official match results not so much. It will be a very big test, specifically for unproven coaches/analysts or coaches who had been coaching tier 2 teams; even teams that hadn’t been tested against the top opposition and simultaneously, it will be a stern phase of adaptation for the players themselves.
Images are courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment