Photo: By Robert Paul for Blizzard
‘Chiu on This’ is a short and regular opinion blast
Contenders has always been a mess since its inception since the beginning of Overwatch League. In the latest iteration of NA Contenders, the XL2 academy lost to the ATL Academy in the semifinals of the season. Soon after, XL2 tweeted that they were looking for local New York players:
📣 CALLING NYC 📣
Do you have what it takes?
We're looking for NYers to represent XL2 next season. We'll provide opportunity and mentorship so we can make it big together! 🙌
Candidates will be invited to an online tournament.
— XL2 Academy (@XL2) January 11, 2019
At the time, I didn’t think much of it beyond a marketing ploy, but it turned out to have further consequences as two of the XL2 players were cut to make room for these local players, Mangachu and Cloneman. Both tweeted out that they were now looking for teams.
Given that XL2 is looking to have New York representation on their roster, I am now currently LFT OWL/Academy/Contenders. Please reach out to me via twitter, discord, or email.
— Mangachu (@Mangachu_) January 12, 2019
Since New York Is looking for new Yorkers for their team, I will be LFT. If you a need a main tank that can keep people cheered up and always ready to help, then look no further. You can message me on discord, twitter or email. :heart:
— James D'Arcangelo (@Cloneman16) January 13, 2019
My initial reaction was that it was a joke, but it seems to be entirely serious. These are some of the reactions from prominent community figures:
The fact that @XL2 is kicking some of its most talented players for random NY ladder/LAN players is so incredibly dumb I can't even begin to comprehend it.
XL2 has been one of the best NA Contenders teams for two seasons now, get ready for a paid Skyfoxes with token NY players.
— Avast (@Avast_o) January 12, 2019
Pretty disappointing to see such a cynical move from New York. Imagine a world where every academy team did this—Path to Pro would lose all meaning.
— Harsha Bandi [하샤] (@ggHarsha) January 13, 2019
In an ideal world, Academy team placements in a Contenders Worlds tournament would determine draft placements for OWL.
— Yiska (@YiskaOut) January 13, 2019
If you artificially limit even half of your roster to local talent, the most likely outcome is poor practice and development all around. NA Contenders is -really- hard, and this amount of hubris serves nobody – not fans, not aspiring players, and not NYXL's marketing either.
— Brad Rajani (sephy) (@Selfless_Brad) January 13, 2019
Contenders is an anime.
— MonteCristo (@MonteCristo) January 13, 2019
OWL needs real 2 way contracts. Teams should want to keep great talent around. Never mind. As long as some player plays the game that is good enough for marketing reasons. We are esports boys.
— Jason Baker (@Alchemister5) January 13, 2019
I was initially outraged as I’m someone who does believe in meritocracy. In that sense, competitive esports is one of the purest meritocracies there is. After all the games don’t have a physical requirement, it doesn’t care about your social or economic status, it only cares about how good you are in the server and whether or not that is enough to win.
However as I looked at the contenders scene, I have to say that it makes complete sense for XL2 to go this route. Just look at the costs/benefits of what this particular move does. Sure it’ll likely make hardcore fans of the game angry, but in reality Contenders has a remarkably small viewership so that hardly matters. At the same time, OWL Season 2 has proven that you can’t just sell off these academy players to new franchises that are coming into the league or to rivals. Most teams have gone into a Koreans arms race, so while players like Mangachu or Cloneman are good, in terms of teamplay and communication they probably won’t fit (On a side note, I’d recommend all aspiring players outside of Korea to learn Korean).
Another thing to consider, NYXL is a Korean roster, so their 2-way player will likely always be Korean. So they can’t make much use of any NA talent that happens to prove themselves on XL2 as it wouldn’t work in terms of comms. Finally, contenders isn’t particularly profitable. As that’s the case, why would XL2 pay the extra salary to keep these players around if they can just chop and change them for cheaper local players. Even in the case that they lose out in the season, they just get seeded back into the new season (unlike Second Wind or Gigantti).
All in all, while I personally dislike the move, I’m uncertain this is as much of a drawback as Selfless Brad thinks it is. Sure he’s right in that it doesn’t particularly help players, fans (though there aren’t particularly many of those for contenders), or marketing. But at the same time, do all of those factors combined outweigh the cost of paying that extra salary for legit players? As far as I can tell it doesn’t and sadly for everyone involved, the Overwatch Contenders System is essentially working as intended.