Just when you thought all the tears had been shed and all the candles burned out, along comes news of another org abandoning their baby on the steps of St. Jeff's Church of the Incalculable Returns. Ninjas in Pyjamas have dropped their Overwatch roster and they don't intend picking up another one in the immediate future.
The press release puts the blame squarely at the feet of Blizzard but leaves the door open for their return to the scene when Overwatch "matures as an esports title" :
"We entered the Overwatch scene last year just as the game launched, with one of the strongest lineups at the time of entry. The prospect of an emerging esport title was exciting as Ninjas in Pyjamas and other esports organizations picked up teams. As time passed we have seen a growing amount of teams release their Overwatch lineups as they assess the future of the game as an esports title. The scene has not evolved as expected with viewership being below expectations and Blizzard is yet to announce more details surrounding their upcoming Overwatch League.
Today we announce that we will be joining the growing list of organizations placing Overwatch as one of the titles to observe but not to be involved in, given the uncertainties of the scene. We remain excited for the prospectus for the upcoming Overwatch League, but are yet to understand the full scope of the opportunity as Blizzard have been cautious in their communication. As we receive more information and understand the opportunity to form our opinion on the future of the game, we will evaluate a re-entry to the title with time.
We would like to thank our Finnish Overwatch team for all their efforts during their time here at Ninjas in Pyjamas and wish them the best of luck in their future endeavors. You have been an amazing lineup, and we hope to see you return to Ninjas in Pyjamas when Overwatch matures as an esports title.
The focus at Ninjas in Pyjamas going forward will be on returning to the top of the rankings with our Counter-Strike team, and to develop our League of Legends EU LCS team to be a contender for championship titles over time. Our focus is to do less, with higher quality."
REUNITED may well have been the canary in the coalmine, a warning of what fate could befall those who delved too deeply into Overwatch. We accepted that perhaps the finances of a player-owned org weren't going to cut it in Blizzard's brave new world. But with each new round of leaks and valuations of the Overwatch League it has become more and more apparent that the pockets of your average endemic esports org might not be deep enough to cover the risk either.
That long list referred to by NiP, includes household names like Fnatic, Dignitas, compLexity, Splyce and Team SoloMid who have all stepped back from Overwatch due to the uncertainty of its future. If rumours are to be believed, then the Overwatch League is set to be a billionaires playground, but in the meantime it is the players — many of who have sacrificed over a year of their lives at this point — who must live with the consequences.
Uncertainty would definitely be the theme of my brief discussion with handsome gamer, zappis, following this morning's announcement. Regarding the future of the team he was focused on their current competitive commitments, "We decided to leave everything else behind us and just focus Contenders", but added, "What comes after we'll see". On the subject of their ongoing trials he had "no idea" what would happen without financial backing.
With regards to the status of the players he clarified, "Our contracts will be terminated soon(tm)". However, the team will continue on in Contenders under the name Rest in Pyjamas. That's all well and good, but the questions over their future remain. Will this loss of financial security light a fire under the asses of a team who have struggled to recapture the magic of their triple tank heyday? Or will we see yet another team of free agents picked apart by market forces and scavenged for spare parts?
Even zappis himself concludes with an apology, "Yeah sorry for being so vague... I really have no idea whats going on either". Only time will tell. Perhaps the only certainty is that exactly one month from now 5 of the 7 players will be Sydney-bound with Taimou as Team Finland. The World Cup is set to dominate the Summer Overwatch esports schedule, though while it is shaping up to be a great event for fans, for the majority of professional players it will just be another few months of uncertainty.
The Rest in Pyjamas roster is:
- Joonas "zappis" Alakurtti (DPS)
- Jiri "LiNkzr" Masalin (DPS)
- Joona "fragi" Laine (Tank)
- Lauri "mafu" Rasi (Flex)
- Kalle "hymzi" Honkala (Flex)
- Antti "kyynel" Kinnunen (Support)
- Aleksi "Zuppehw" Kuntsi (Support)