A Quick Primer On The Overwatch e-Sports Scene

Overwatch is a highly successful multiplayer shooter, so in due time we could have expected a competitive scene to bloom, despite the game just launched its Competitive mode recently.

And it actually has. There is already an Overwatch scene building up already, more prominently seen at North America and Europe.

Here’s a breakdown of the current s-sports scene of Overwatch, explaining the teams, the tournaments, the meta, and the ruleset used to make it suitable for competitive gaming.

A screencap of the closed beta days. Notice the UI is different.
A screencap of the closed beta days. Notice the UI is different.

How Long Has The Pro Scene Established?

Overwatch undergone a long closed beta period, in which selected people were granted  access including the press, influencers and pro players. Developers Blizzard has yet to host their own tournament event on Overwatch but allows the game, in its closed beta form, to be used for tourneys. The pro players came in from different gaming backgrounds, with some having solid experience in other FPS games like Team Fortress 2, CS: GO and even as old as Quake.

So the Overwatch pro scene has been around for quite sometime, but not in a large capacity. There’s no pro leagues or a pro circuit like other big competitive games including Dota, CS:GO or even Street Fighter V’s Capcom Pro Tour yet.


What Are The Major Tournaments Right Now And Where Can I Watch It?

Currrently, Gosugamers and the ESL are consistently hosting Overwatch tournaments. The top pros mostly gravitated to joining the Gosugamers weekly games, which hosted two regional tourneys each week (for North America and Europe).  This is not to say Asia has no pro scene. In fact, recently, one of the top-tiered Zarya player in a Korean team, Geguri of UW ARTISAN, was the center of a hackusation (accusation of cheating and/or hacking), and was proven to be just that good. But at the moment, the Asian scene is a bit hard to follow due to language reasons, and takes a bit of searching.

For the NA/Europe scene however, the Gosugamers Overwatch YouTube channel hosts all the past tourneys from their official Twitch streams of all the tournaments they have covered.

In this match,  Northern Gaming Red managed to only reach the first checkpoint- capturing the point- in Hollywood. So Gale Force wins here by capturing the first point with a faster time. Thus, GG.
In this match (OG Invitational), Northern Gaming Red managed to only reach the first checkpoint- capturing the point- in Hollywood. So Gale Force wins here by capturing the first point with a faster time. Thus, GG was declared. (If Gale Force did not beat the time here, they have to complete the map to win).

How Come Some Of The Matches The Teams Stop Playing And Just Push The Payload?

This is a common problem with how the way competitive Overwatch is played at the moment. The current implementation of a tournament game is set using the custom game options. Competitive mode has just launched, and will still undergo some changes to fit with what the community feels as fair play by next season, coming around in September.

The problem here lies in the different game modes work. For example, Escort (Payload) and Hybrid maps play in two rounds, each team taking turns as attackers and defenders. The game has no way of determining who is the victor after two rounds in a custom game, it just shows the victor of that round.

So how do you determine a winner in a payload map where most of the time in high-level play these maps tend to be completed with the payload pushed all the way through?

Enter stopwatch.

In stopwatch, the first team to attack sets a time to beat for the second team. Say, the first team finishes King’s Row in 7 minutes. The second team then has to beat that par time. If 7 minutes are up with the payload still not pushed in its entirely a GG is called by the second team, conceding the round. Better not waste more energy and time (plus overtime) over a mathematically lost game.

What if the first team failed to finish the map? The second team wins by beating the time set from the first team until the last particular checkpoint where the first team stalled (say, Hollywood’s first checkpoint under 2 minutes), or successfully completed the map.

Control (King Of The Hill) maps are played as is- best of three rounds. Assault (2 Control Points) are not popular in the scene right now.

Are there any Hero Bans/Picks Like Dota?

At the moment no. There are however map drafts and bans. Since Overwatch is all about team composition and playing as a team, hero selection is pretty much decided by the current meta instead of game rules. Some tournaments have experimented with one hero limit, disabling the use of duplicate heroes (no double Winstons or double McCrees).

One of the many infographic you can find being done by CaptainPlanet of Planet Overwatch
One of the many infographics of the meta you can find being done by CaptainPlanet of Planet Overwatch

What’s a Meta?

In terms of competitive play, the metagame, or meta, is the extra knowledge outside of normal gameplay that can influence the game itself. For trading card games, it’s deck-building. For Overwatch, it’s understanding which heroes to pick for which situations.

For example, during the closed beta Zenyatta is super powerful. He may not be as strong as a lone healer, but his debuff Discord orb and quite OK DPS (damage per second) makes him a top pick. When run with two Zenyattas, with one sending the buff Harmony orb to an agile flanker like Genji and Tracer, it lead to a pretty strong team comp. But when Zen got nerfed by only allowing the orbs to stick around when he has line of sight to his targets, the meta changed dramatically, seeing Zenyatta less played in favour of two other supports: Mercy for the Resurrection ult, and Lucio for Sound Barrier ult that can help a lot during a push.

Another example, before the McCree and Widowmaker balance changes, most teams run a Widow and McCree for DPS. Now that McCree has a less reliable damage output, other flankers like Reaper and surprisingly Roadhog has now taken that place. Roadhog was mostly avoided due to its high HP pool is a good source for the enemy team to build up ults, but has now been picked up as his playstyle is similar to that of a McCree and deals good damage with great survivability. Widow also has not appeared as much in team comps lately, being replaced with Soldier 76, who could also do reliable damage at a distance. With less Widows, Pharahs can now roam the skies free, being a more popular pick.

If you like to delve deep into understanding the meta, CaptainPlanet of PlanetOverwatch has the complete rundown of the meta in a weekly basis, chock-full of stats. YouTuber Icarus also does the meta analysis in video form. 

Cloud 9' Overwatch team is the most dominant so far. (Picture Source: MMOS.com)
Cloud 9’s Overwatch team has been dominant so far. (Picture Source: MMOS.com)

Any Good Teams To Root For?

The current strongest team for Overwatch right now is Cloud 9. Their Widows, McCrees, Winstons and supports are superb, and the only big team to try out a surprise Bastion- an unpopular pick in high-level Overwatch. However, with the new meta change EnvyUs just recently been able to beat Cloud 9, taking the top ranking. Another team worth checking out is Luminosity Gaming (LG), in which Seagull-whose videos of his epic Pharah and Genji plays have been floating around- is a part of. Over to Europe, the current top dog is Reunited, but that position may not hold too long with upcoming teams like Rogue and Misfits (previously Graviton Surge) making great plays currently.

What About Console Players? Are They Competing?

As of now, most of the high-level play is seen on the PC side of things. That doesn’t mean the folks on consoles are left out entirely. We will keep an eye out for console tournaments of Overwatch as they appear.

Can We See Overwatch As An e-Sports Take Off In Malaysia?

Certainly! We have a sizeable community and a lot of potential players have signed up for the previous Overwatch ESL Open Cup. Now we need is some grassroots-level tourneys and some major ones here and there and hopefully a scene can be seen here as well. From what we can see there will be a few local tournaments in the works.


There you have it, with this info it should give you some insight of the current pro scene of Overwatch. Now you can start following the scene, or even better, help out with building it. The e-sports scene won’t grow without community support, so any help you can do either by spreading the word to organising tournaments can help in a long way.

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