Overwatch is a game that was basically promised to be the next big esport. Blizzard did everything they could to get people to like it, including giving Tracer an overly sexy butt. Butt, other than some initial hype around South Africa being in the Overwatch World Cup, the successful shooter-brawler hasn’t received much local attention. Until recently.
We managed to somehow convince Alistair ‘Lag Beast’ Bearman of Goliath Gaming’s Overwatch squad to talk to us (GLHF: Okay fine, it was one tweet. He’s really very nice.) about the recent upswing in local activity in the OW scene, and just what it means for the future of the esport.
“I think Overwatch in South Africa is looking incredibly promising currently. We’re growing steadily every year, with more teams entering the VS Gaming League and actually sticking together and playing their matches.
However, I think once we see more tournament organisers backing Overwatch with prizes, more people will be able to invest time into playing the game, and because there is a return for their effort, it will grow even faster than it is now.
Not everyone is happy just putting in time and effort for the recognition of being top X in South Africa. To keep things sustainable there needs to be some form of remuneration for sinking hours and hours into the game.
At the moment, we only currently have VS Gaming’s league to really compete in but there are utterances of other tournament organisers hosting Overwatch events. The nice thing about Overwatch though is that because we are playing on European servers, we are also afforded the ability to play in competitions overseas as well – which is something not very many games in South Africa have the opportunity to do.”
That last point gets a little too close to the payload for comfort: Lest we forget the ViNCO Gaming PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds team that got kicked out of the European IEM Katowice open qualifiers for being from outside the EU, despite the fact there are no SA PUBG servers for them to compete on.
While having local Overwatch tournaments would be ideal for the growth of the esport, having open access to multiple international competitions provides opportunities for anybody and everybody to try their hand at the whole professional gamer thing – without having to relocate to, say, the United States or Southeast Asia.
“Right now there are two international leagues we can play in. Go4Overwatch Europe has open registrations and anyone can register on the ESL website to compete. They allow you to work your way up into higher divisions with better prizes as you ascend.
The big one is the Overwatch Open Division for the Overwatch League. This is a feeder league into Overwatch Contenders, which then feeds into the main Overwatch League where you see teams like London Spitfire and Houston Outlaws playing.
Right now we have Boostios (Now WRG) competing in Open Division in EU and are doing fairly well. They are definitely leading the other teams in terms of gaining experience playing higher level teams, that being said there are at least three other local teams that have the potential to pull out a win against WRG.”
For those who don’t know, Overwatch League is a professional league created and fully controlled by Blizzard Entertainment, the game’s publishers. This league is so legit that the people who bought teams signed agreements which stated a minimum salary for any player, and many of the teams rent houses or apartments for the players to share. There’s nothing else quite like it in esports, really. Professional is the word we’d use to describe it. Professional AF would be how the youths would describe it.
For South African gamers, being given the opportunity to toss their hats into such a legitimate and high-profile ring is almost unheard of. From the comfort of their own homes, players have the chance to pit themselves against other hopefuls in the OW Open Division, rise to the OW Contenders, and eventually earn their way into the OW League – all part of Blizzard’s aptly-named Path to Pro.
“I think you can viably make a career in Overwatch if you manage to make it to the top levels of competition and end up in the Overwatch League.
It’s definitely gotten a few people interested in creating teams and giving it a shot, both internationally and locally. For our local scene specifically I think it’s been insanely awesome to be able to watch the pros play. It gives you the power to grow as a player by just watching the games, and it’s done a lot for helping all the SA teams step it up a notch.”
International growth opportunities, check. Pros to learn from, check. Viable career potential, check. Now all the local scene needs, as Lag Beast pointed out earlier, is home grown tournies. And before we can have local showdowns, we need enough strong local teams to fill the slots.
If you’ve been following your local MGOs’ activity on social channels in the past few months (GLHF: If not, shame on you.), you’d have noticed a few big-name gaming houses like White Rabbit Gaming and of course Goliath Gaming welcoming Overwatch teams into their respective families. But why has it taken almost two years since the game’s release for this trend to take flight?
“I think it’s happening now because of the success Overwatch League has shown at making OW an esport, in conjunction with a few individuals like Sam Wright from Tech Girl, who are making a name for South Africa in the international scene.
With people like her and our own local community doing as much work as they possibly can to create a really solid foundation for the title, it’s easy to see why big names like White Rabbit, Goliath Gaming, and company are starting to pick up OW teams.
It’s incredible to see organisations like Goliath Gaming doing so much for their players. It’s honestly been such a dream to just be a player for GG.
They’ve provided us with player kits, already provided flights and accommodation for two of the players to come up for a photoshoot, and on top of that the social media coverage and support is just absolutely incredible. Being in GG honestly feels like being in a family. The support between titles and the friendliness and kindness of everyone is amazing, to say the least.”
Better late than
Hanzo never, right? But with people like Tech Girl and MGOs like GG around, the potential of South African Overwatch sure does seem to be on the rise, despite the slow start. We just need people to dive in and capture the point now. (GLHF: Hope you’re all appreciating the Overwatch references we keep making.)
Now that MGOs are taking an interest in Overwatch as an esport, hopefully local tournament organisers, sponsors and partners will come to the party too. Which raises the age-old investment vs return duel: For sponsors to get involved, they need to see the value in slapping their name on a tournament or team.
“We really, at this point, need more tournaments to happen, even if the prizes aren’t great. Having more MGOs behind teams means tournament organisers are more motivated to host a competition for the title due to the exposure some of the bigger MGOs can provide.
There are quite a few different ways of providing value to brands and investors, but having a balance between providing some form of ROI for the investors in as many avenues as possible and having a realistic expectation of what you want from those investors would probably be the best way of getting buy-in.
Last year I ran an OW competition, the Nacon Community Cup. It cost nothing to run and Nacon were more than happy to provide peripherals as prizes. We handed the prizes out at rAge right by their stand with winning team taking a picture all holding their peripherals. These pictures were then used by the suppliers to market the goods to stores.
That’s just one example of creating value for the investor, it’s just a case of working together as partners and helping each other in any way you can.”
Hopefully the local Overwatch landscape will shift in the coming months as more MGOs, sponsors and tournament organisers take notice of this wildly entertaining shooter. Until then, players will have to keep charging their ultimates up on good old passion.
To end off, we’ll leave you with a few words from Lag Beast on the hero everyone loves to hate at the moment: Brigitte.
“There is no doubt she needs a little tweaking, but I don’t feel she is that overpowered. It’s more a case of her being able to stop the current dive meta, and people continuing to try use the dive meta to beat her and ending up getting absolutely destroyed.
I for one am extremely excited to see how the new meta evolves around her.”
Richard ‘DemoniK’ Sjoberg helped error-check the Bearman’s responses, and snuck in one last insight.
“Ali is a filthy Brigitte player, don’t trust anything he says about the hero.”
Can confirm, Lag Beast is a filthy Brigitte player.
P.S. The player in the featured picture up top is Goliath Gaming’s Pacman, not Lag Beast. Not to be confused with PaCman10154, the local streamer. Also not to be confused with Pacman, the yellow circle that eats white dots and is afraid of colourful ghosts.