The Monthly Melee tournament series will come to its end this month.
In April of last year it got its start as a $500 tournament, with only seven teams, casted by an esports journalism pariah and some dude that made Heroes of the Storm content. The former, Slasher, quickly shifted to between-game analysis, while the latter, ZP, would be joined by Hexagrams, a volunteer writer with no prior casting experience.
Fast forward to today and ZP and Hexagrams are one of the foremost casting duos in Overwatch. The Monthly Melee will field its third $10,000 prize pool and its second qualifier day (this time with eight teams competing for two spots). It’s the biggest tournament series in Overwatch, both in reputation and in viewership. In fact, several times over its run, the Melee attracted significantly more viewers than other tournaments – with larger prize pools – running at around the same time.
The Melees were where Kingdom (now Renegades), Hammers (now LG Evil), and Selfless (still Selfless) made their names. It’s where we learned how good Immortals could be (they won the December Melee, and then went on to take two major tournament victories in a row). It was a place where upsets were the norm. East Wind (now Evil Geniuses) took out NRG and Selfless in last month’s event. Spicy Boys beat Rise (twice) and FaZe in January. It was never boring or predictable.
And throughout its run, even as the prize pool increased and more casters were brought on board to ease the burden of eight-hour casting stints, the series never lost its campy charm. The casters played to the audience, incorporating gags and memes and calling on Twitch chat to spam emotes. The Melees were frequently plagued by technical issues – disappearing portraits, accidental mutes, stream disconnects – but the casters took it in stride. The series became celebrated as a place where the giants of North American Overwatch faced off struggling tier 2 teams, Koreans, and in one Melee, some Rly Cool Guys.
The legacy that the Melee leaves cannot be overstated. It made careers. It made teams. It brought together 30,000 people that wanted to spend sixteen hours on a weekend watching Overwatch. And now that magic will be gone. Blizzard recognizes that there needs to be more to the competitive ecosystem than just a premier league, there needs to be an outlet for the Kingdoms, Hammers, and Selflesses of the scene to have their breakout moments in. They’re planning for it – we might even see some familiar faces working it – but it won’t be the same. Blizzard won’t stand for the technical issues. They might not even stand for the off-kilter humor and Twitch chat pandering. It will be polished, but it’ll be missing a little bit of its soul.
There’s no need to panic over the future of competitive Overwatch. There’s no need to wring hands over ZP and Hexagrams’ futures. In fact, we shouldn’t even treat the May Melee as a memorial. The series has given us a year’s worth of laughs, facepalms, and some of the best Overwatch content to ever be cast. And we should celebrate that.
Image credit: GosuTV_OW