What just happened in Vancouver?
Seemingly overnight the Vancouver Titans went from being league runners-up to scrambling to figure out how they were going to play their matches this weekend. So what happened that led to an entire roster of top tier Overwatch League pros and coaches to be released? Well, on the surface the answer seems pretty simple, but in reality there was far more that led to this unfortunate event. This article will break down everything you need to know from the controversy in the Great White North.
It is fairly clear what region has the best Overwatch talent, South Korea. So in order to amass a roster that is competitive immediately most teams just sign the entire roster of a talented tier 2 Korean team. The Titans first roster was comprised entirely of a fan favorite Korean tier 2 named, Runaway. While the talent is great, it can only be properly turned into an organization if proactive steps are taken to ensure language doesn’t get in the way. The director of esports for the company that is in charge, Tim Holloway, has stated if he could go and redo things he would ensure that the players and coaches had English lessons and the staff and trainers had Korean lessons. Language barrier meant that communication between the players and the organization was bad to begin with. Players have also stated that the organization had bad communication with messages or email often taking weeks to be responded to.
Corona Virus Response
At the heart of this issue is how the players and organization handled the Covid-19 pandemic. Vancouver’s original plan was to have the players return home and be with their families during this difficult time. Since all the players were Korean they were to play out matches for the foreseeable future in the Asia Division. This presented the organization and players with a brand new set of challenges that was the nail in the coffin. Time difference made the poor communication even worse. It also presented a challenge to the fan-base as matches were at such a different time that it made it difficult to watch. The organization also cited that it was unable to meet the expectations of players during this time due to complications. In the end the decision was made to move the team back to the North American Division and release their roster.
Not only did the Titans lose a top 3 roster in the entire league, but now the players must struggle to find homes. Vancouver has already moved on absorbing the Contenders team, Second Wind. This has come with little success as in their first 3 matches they have won a meager 1 map and are 0-3. It is clear that this new roster is not Overwatch League ready. Only a few former Titans players have found new homes. SLIME is going to the Seoul Dynasty and Stitch and JJANU have joined the Washington Justice under temporary 14-day contracts. With the leagues new roster construction rule changes players can now sign two week contracts. This could lead to many other Titans players getting signed, but only time will tell.
This entire controversy has become a model for how not to incorporate a Korean roster into a North American organization. The big picture is that this controversy has brought to light the ever growing list of issues the Overwatch League is facing. At this point the phrase, “Overwatch League is dying”, has sort of become a meme. However, any league can’t last forever if they keep seeing teams fall apart and top talent exiting the scene.