After five weeks of matches, Stage 1 of the inaugural Overwatch League season has concluded. The top teams by match and map score were pitted against each other for a grand prize of $100,000, with $25,000 being awarded to second place. With these title matches came some ups and downs, and lessons to be learned for the future of the Overwatch League.
While the games were exciting, the playoff matches were not without their issues. A lack of media outreach led to what some would consider underwhelming viewership numbers. The Stage 1 playoffs reached a peak viewer count of approximately 163,000, in line with the high end of regular season broadcasts following the boost during debut week. With further promotion and advertisement, a better showing is expected for the next round of playoffs.
A long match day may have been an issue for teams and viewers alike. While some veteran spectators are well-accustomed to 10 hour tournament days or more, it remains an effort to devote an entire Saturday to nearly a half-dozen games of Overwatch. That's not to speak of viewers in other time zones, for whom it's often infeasible to watch through the night or early in the morning. Teams also had to deal with rapid-fire matches, with the Spitfire playing three matches in one day, including back-to-back playoffs. In the environment of the Overwatch League, this is no mean feat, and fatigue is a real concern for these players and their support staff. With all this in mind, Commissioner Nate Nanzer has spoken on this issue on Twitter, hoping to ease concerns.
Let me save you some time from tweeting @ me about the schedule: we are looking into playing Stage Finals games on Sunday starting Stage 2. That and other schedule news soon.— Nate Nanzer (@natenanzer) February 11, 2018
If you missed the matches, here's the long and short of the Overwatch League Stage 1 playoffs.
Playoff Game Recaps
Stage 1 Semifinal: Houston Outlaws vs. London Spitfire
The addition of the wildcard Outlaws made for an interesting match to say the least, a chance for the stronger of the two all-western teams to challenge the Korean dominance. Just two days prior, Houston defeated the Spitfire with a clean 3-1 victory. On the day of the stage finals, they edged out the Boston Uprising in a narrow 3-2 match, and were set to face the Spitfire with just one match's worth of downtime and preparation.
Houston came out swinging on Dorado, holding the Spitfire in the streets phase after a near full-hold on first. A blazing fast take on their attack appeared to set the stage for the best of five matchup, but it was not to be. London, making just one swap to exchange WOOHYAL out for Fury, proceeded to take Ilios, exploiting Houston's well-known weakness on control maps. The Spitfire took a further victory on Anubis, capturing both objectives before full-holding the Outlaws on point A. On Eichenwalde, the Outlaws seemed ready to fight their way back into the series, stopping the Spitfire in streets just like they had on Dorado. However, carrying their momentum from the previous assault map, London again full-held at the first point, stamping their passes to the stage finals.
Stage 1 Grand Final: London Spitfire vs. New York Excelsior
Inspiring a bit of déjà vu, the last fixture of the day—and of Stage 1—came in the form of a rematch between the two dominant all-Korean rosters. Their prior bout had gone the way of the Excelsior by means of a 3-2 scoreline, and New York had the benefit of much more rest and preparation time before the title matches, with London having a mere 30 minutes between their back-to-back games. Despite this, London was coming off a 3 map hot streak against the Outlaws, and the 12-strong roster was ready to prove their strength and fight for the $100,000 prize at stake.
New York's R&R advantage appeared to come into play early, holding Junkertown early after both teams completed their respective attack rounds. A swap from Pine to Saebyeolbe helped the Excelsior take a convincing Oasis, both rounds going 100-99 in favor of New York. With the scoreline against them, London stuck to their guns, having swapped Fury in for WOOHYAL for Oasis, while janus tagged in for Mano on the side of the Excelsior. The Spitfire fought tooth and nail on Horizon Lunar Colony, and both teams completed their attacks. London took the map after holding the Excelsior to just over two ticks.
Following this, the tide began to turn. On the back of a swap from Profit to Rascal, the Spitfire held Numbani in style, in spite of the Excelsior holding them in the streets phase. With Profit back in for Dorado, the Spitfire held New York after the first checkpoint. In an overtime push, the Spitfire narrowly took the map, and with it the title of Stage 1 champions.