London Spitfire Wins The First Overwatch League Finals, $1,000,000

The Overwatch League Finals at the Barclays Center (Photo: Author)

The first-ever winner of the Overwatch League season playoffs is the London Spitfire. After a rocky season spent wobbling between commanding victories and unexpected defeats, the Spitfire earned a $US1,000,000 ($1,351,542) prize, as well as a silver gauntlet in the style of publisher Blizzard's sword-and-sorcery roots. Their underdog opponents, the crowd-favourite Philadelphia Fusion, retreated with the number two title and what looked like a whole lot of heartache.

The sold-out 19,000-seat basketball arena, more accustomed to high tops and high heels than cosplay, rocked with screams throughout its two days of games. Fans travelled from all over to attend the five-month season's final game — among them rockstar Jon Bon Jovi, Brooklyn Nets player D'Angelo Russell and actress Courtney Miller. Compared to the Overwatch League's Burbank, California home stadium, which can accommodate just 450 spectators, this was the big-time.

Backflips from the perky Brooklynettes dance troupe reminded the crowd of gamers that they were enjoying a branded sports experience. They watched with mild interest. DJ and Snapchat celebrity DJ Khaled opened today's game with his trademark hypeman fare. The first few times he paused mid-song for fans to scream-shot lyrics, Khaled was met with silence. By the middle of his set, fans were dancing in the aisles.

DJ Khaled performing at the Overwatch League finals at the Barclays Center (Photo: Author)

The pomp and circumstance befit the $US20 ($27) million team buy-in for the League's first season. Viewers of the League's ESPN airing seemed a little more sceptical; Twitter comments under ESPN's Overwatch coverage argued vehemently that it's not a sport.

Yet this weekend's event certainly proved to Blizzard and the world that the Overwatch League could pack regionally-branded, brick-and-mortar stadiums — a hope Blizzard has expressed many times over for the League's future. Fans even briefly did the wave.

Amid furious clapping and banging thundersticks, boos greeted the London Spitfire as they entered the New York City's Barclays Center. Neither underdogs, guaranteed winners, or local favourites, the Spitfire outplayed Philadelphia's scrappy boys with a decisive 3-0 sweep today and an easy 3-1 yesterday.

They embodied calm coordination in nearly every moment on screen. The performance was symphonic, with each instrument performing as desired exactly on cue. Yet skill didn't make up for many fans' disappointment over the Fusion's loss.

"Generally speaking, in our matches this season, we've almost always had more opposing fans than our fans at the stadium", said the Spitfire's Jae-hee "Gesture" Hong at a press conference after yesterday's game. "I don't think it affects us that much. Knowing we have all the London fans cheering for us is enough".

Casters had predicted that the strength of London's tank and support heroes would outweigh the force of Philadelphia's terrifying famous damage-dealers, Jae-Hyeok "Carpe" Lee and Josue "Eqo" Corona. Known as an emotional and streaky team, the Fusion's more inconsistent side showed these two days of finals.

London's damage-dealers Ji-Hyeok "Birdring" Kim and Jun-Young "Profit" Park were left unchecked. Carpe faltered and was utterly unable to escape pressure and focus fire. And although Fusion players like Alberto "Neptuno" Gonzales Molinillo (on support) and Gael "Poko" Gouzerch (on tank) pulled off astounding plays, the team wasn't able to consistently follow up on these short moments of success. On the Spitfire's end, Gesture always smelled Fusion players' blood in the water and clean up after Birdring and Profit's massacres.

After today's match, Profit said, in one word, winning felt "indescribable".

The London Spitfire (Photo: Blizzard Esports)

Between Philadelphia and London fans, New York Excelsior stans packed the Barclays centre. Throughout the season, they dominated with a 34-6 record, 10 games better than both London and Philadelphia and were considered shoe-ins for today's game.

Not so. Several attendees interviewed outside the arena admitted they're purchased their tickets in anticipation of the New York Excelsior making the New York finals. A sea of Excelsior-styled jerseys and flat-brim hats greeted Excelsior players on their "homecoming" journey, complete with a pop-up store, where they sold t-shirts designed by a brand ironically called Undefeated.

The inaugural season champions beamed as they stood up from their computers. One burst into tears as the Spitfire was poised to accept Blizzard's trophy. The event was a success. As for the season — we'l find out as plans for the next are made.

After a well-deserved break, the Overwatch League's second incarnation will look a little different, with rumoured new teams from Paris and Guangzhou, China. There will be new winners, new crowd favourites and an ever-changing game to contend with.


Comments

    For once could you guys at Kotaku NOT put the damn spoiler/result in the title of your article? Kills any sort of tension when you know how it ends.

    Good to see such fine British lads taking it to those American ruffians, what ho!

    Errr.... wait a moment....

      Doesn't matter where you're from, especially in eSports.

        While I agree in terms of personal affiliation, OWL has shown that it is literally just corporate shenanigans of taking people from anywhere. It isn't like the German football team where you have people who have spent most of their life in Germany and are citizens. The team names are a joke and locking only certain locations in is just a means for them to argue why the buy in is so high.

          Fair point, but it's far more complex than that. The team locations were planned ahead of any buyouts by organisations in order to secure a broader audience interest instead of focusing solely on US based teams. Cloud9 won the rights to London and went from there. The goal for the future was to run the competitions out of each city over the course of a season, not unlike a Super Rugby comp or something similar.

          But let's be honest, the best Overwatch players are out of South Korea, that's a given. Every team, even the Chinese based Shanghai, eventually had South Korean players on their squad, with a splattering of European and a few other continents mixed in. Cloud9 went with the best squad under their umbrella of teams at the time, and the rest is history.

          As for the German team comparison, that's a better reflection of the Overwatch World Cup than the OWL. This is far similar to an English Premier League setup, where the majority of teams consist of overseas players.

            The EPL does have a homegrown player rule that requires each squad to have something like eight people in the squad who are 'homegrown' and qualified to be selected for the national team.

            Admittedly they can still be outnumbered 2:1 by foreign players but the requirement is still there.

              Agreed.

              If the rumours of an Australian team in next season of OWL are true, then if the team doesn't have majority Australian players then I won't be supporting them. I'll continue to support LA Valiant as they have an Aussie player (currently the only one in OWL).

            EPL players still live and train in England, though.

            All OWL teams live and train in Los Angeles. Makes the whole city portion of the team name even more of a moot point.

            They really should just drop the city part of the team name and just go with the flair - Spitfire, Dragons, Dynasty, Valiant, etc.

            I fail to see the point in celebrating a "London" Spitfire victory when the team is London in name only.

            Now if they lived & trained there, then that'd be a different story.

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