The third season of the Overwatch World League (OWL) got underway in New York on Saturday with the home team New York Excelsior, abbreviated to NYXL for simplicity, provided clear evidence that having an arena packed with your own fans, can provide OWL teams with a huge advantage.
The fixture at the weekend made history in the Big Apple as NYXL became the first-ever esports team to host a game on what will be their home venue of the Hammerstein Ballroom. Another set of games, at the home of the Dallas Fuel, the Arlington Esports Arena, also featured five of the 20 OWL teams kicking off their season at the weekend.
Two Wins and Two Commanding Performances
Buoyed on by partisan support, NYXL played their opening two games of the season across Saturday and Sunday, winning their opening game against the Season 1 Champions London Spitfire 3-1. The game began slowly for the home team with London taking the opening map 2-0, but after that New York produced a fine display to win the next three maps to earn the victory.
This was followed on Sunday by an even more emphatic victory over the team many would class as NYXL’s natural ‘local’ rivals, the Boston Uprising, with the home side romping to a 3-0 victory to get their season off to a flying start.
Other results in New York saw Paris well beaten by Toronto 3-1, but on Sunday the French-based team bounced back to earn a 3-1 victory over the disappointing London Spitfires who have now lost their first two matches of the season.
Speaking through an interpreter following his team’s victory, New York Excelsior player “JJoNak” said that he could hear the cheers and boos of the crowd through his headphones during the game. He also admitted that he feels home advantage will be crucial for teams to perform at their best in the OWL this season.
While the action in the Atlantic League got underway without a hitch, the teams in the Pacific League based in China have moved their players to South Korea temporarily due to the Coronavirus outbreak affecting that part of the world at the present, although the knock-on effect of this on schedule is not yet known.
It is a blip in what has been a promising start for the Overwatch League in having teams play games at home over the course of the season, which has been a long-held ambition for the organizers. The competition has been organized to try and minimize the number of trips and travel that players need to make over the course of the season.
As Pete Vlastelica explained “There was a reason we were the first to try this [teams having home venues to play]. That reason is it’s hard.”
However, with the New York crowd chanting their support of their home town NYXL team, that decision appears to have been vindicated.
The next three week’s scheduled round of games scheduled to take place in Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Hangzhou have all been canceled due to the Coronavirus, with the next fixture set to take place in Washington in March, although Blizzard may elect to move around the schedule to avoid a lengthy period without any games.
OWL Results Week One
- Toronto 3-1 Paris
- London 1-3 New York
- London 0-3 Paris
- Boston 0-3 New York
- L.A. Glad. 2-3 Vancouver
- L.A. Val. 3-1 Dallas
- L.A. Val 0-3 Vancouver
- SF Shock -3-1 Dallas
Photo credit: steadyprime