Right now, Blizzard is working their way through the group stages of the inaugural Overwatch World Cup. Sixteen countries are taking part, Australia included. But don’t worry, because we won’t be a part of it for much longer.
Apart from the bit where Blizzard is trying to make a serious jab at turning a first-person shooter into a global esport, the Overwatch World Cup is an interesting beast because of its structure. Australia’s captain and top four players, for instance, were picked via a public poll. The most popular then also got to pick two players of their own.
As someone who’s been playing and following tournaments in various games for almost a decade and a half, the thought of relying on the popular vote reminds me of the All-Star competitions held at the World Cyber Games. And it’s not just Australia: every country that competed in the preliminary qualifiers was selected in the same fashion, thanks to almost 3 million votes.
Unfortunately, popularity can’t buy you wins.
“Australia got one kill in that round,” the commentator quipped.
“The final total there is 119 to 7 … I think we’ve set the pace for this best of three.”
Australia was paddling up crap creek when they were drawn against South Korea – that’s pretty much par for the course in any game made by Blizzard – but it didn’t help that Taiwan (Chinese Taipei) also came into the tournament with a cracking record. They actually showed off some of their practice results prior to the tournament, and while a 0-6 drubbing of Sweden is nothing to be proud of, beating Canada and China 3-1 is a better start than most.
And then there’s the small part where Finland has been really, really good at first-person shooters for like a decade. Their team is basically a core of players from professional outfit Ninjas in Pyjamas, with one of the best DPS players in the world (Taimou) to boot. Taiwan probably would have had a chance if they’d been drawn into another group.
As for Australia? Well, it probably says it all when the commentator kicks off the game by saying “well, they’re just happy to be here and I appreciate that”.
If you’re not going to win, you might as well have fun.