Here we are again. I’ve written down a rant of sorts, and you—for some reason—are reading it. But I’ve always thought that if nobody brings problems to light, they might remain unaddressed, and that would be a shame in this case with the immense amount of talent in Europe.
Europe is traditionally a strong region within esports—the phrase “European midlaners, man” will reaffirm this assertion, as will the list of major winners through Counter Strike: Global Offensive. Within Overwatch, EnVyUs, Rogue, and Misfits have two major LAN victories each, with 17 of the 18 members between them hailing from various European countries. Even elite North American teams have star European players spaced throughout, such as ShaDowBurn, Mendokusaii, and Hafficool.
Given the immense talent in Europe, it’s hard to imagine that the entire region might come to a standstill, but surprisingly, a standstill is just what the region currently faces. As of now, elite level European teams like Misfits have been unable to play in tournaments outside of a brief stint at IEM Gyeonggi, while North America receives excellent treatment from MLG, NGE, and other organizations looking to showcase top level Overwatch. REUNITED were unable to play in a tournament after falling from APEX in November. Ninjas in Pyjamas have faced the same issue ever since DreamHack Winter, which concluded at the same time.
With the rather vague announcement of the upcoming Overwatch League, many players and teams operate under the assumption that the League would run in North America for at least the first season. With no attempt to clear the confusion, Blizzard has indirectly allowed European organizations to continually pass up upcoming talent. SK Gaming, Na’Vi, Virtus.pro, G2 Esports, and other top organizations have either abandoned Overwatch until the future is more certain, or simply have not touched the game at all.
Now, REUNITED—once a top-three team in the world—is without an organization, as well as without an opportunity to compete. What’s more, many more European teams are set to move away from their home region. We’ve already seen the relocation of IDDQD as they transitioned to EnVyUs in the past, and Rogue management has promised a move to Nevada once their lineup is set in stone. Misfits now have a basis in Miami should they decide to relocate due to the Overwatch League, and Dignitas’s connections to the Philadelphia 76ers allows for their own transition should that be necessary. In fact, the only top level team from Europe that has given no indication of leaving the region is Ninjas in Pyjamas, but their hand might be forced should all the competition leave.
Many European players are worried for the future of their scene, but those without voices cannot bring their concerns to light. The amateur European players who might be the pros of tomorrow don’t have the ability to showcase their play, for there are neither tournaments to play in, nor organizations to play for. While European owners remain in the dark about Overwatch’s professional future, these very players will continue to suffer.
After listening to the concerns of many professionals, I asked some top European players about their opinions on the tournament drought, and whether or not they feel as though the European scene faces problems.
Yes, there is a quite severe absence of tournaments in Europe; however that's partly because December & January are always fairly quiet in esports. Regardless, the exodus of European Overwatch pros started months ago and will keep continuing. There are just more tournaments with that competition in North America right now, on top of how organisations seem willing to invest more into line-ups (setting up gaming houses, etc).
Ninjas in Pyjamas fragi
We heard rumours that there are tournaments in works for the European teams to participate in so that should help with the drought. It definitely is/was an issue if there's no bigger tournaments in the coming months. The obvious answer for the other problems would be all the speculations about the Overwatch League being North America-only, with European teams needing to move over there, but in my opinion, people are being too pessimistic about the situation as nothing was officially ever confirmed and plans can change a lot in the span of multiple months. Blizzard knows about the problems/concerns of European players, so I would suggest having faith in them!
Yes there is a big issue with the tournament drought in Europe. The lack of comparable tournaments in Europe to those being hosted in North America, along with American tournaments excluding European teams from participating in them, is causing many current European teams to move to North America and European orgs to think twice before investing in exceptional teams. You have top level teams in Europe still practicing every day, but with no place to actually show the progress they made to the community.
When asked about whether Europe has a viable solution to this problem, or if the money and promise of an Overwatch League were too much, Morte had this to say.
As far as I know the Overwatch League has never been confirmed as North America-only. Besides that, the money disparity (based on companies and their budgets being mostly country-based in Europe for sponsorships) is very real; you can see in any game people move overseas for a brighter future. Honestly, I do believe Europe has the most talent—just check every major event so far and you will see they have all been won by (a majority) of Europeans. North America is just a step ahead and it seems like the organisations (some with backing of major investors) are willing to take bigger risks for a possible high reward.
While Europe’s competitive scene awaits a solution, some community members are actively trying to organize tournaments to showcase the region’s talent and promote professional Overwatch. Perhaps we will see more events out of ESL and DreamHack, and perhaps teams will not be forced out of their home region in order to have a shot at success—we will just have to wait and see.