Ringo’s Rambles: Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner….

I have made no secret of my general doubts over how Blizzard have handled their approach to esports with Overwatch. Credit where credit’s due, however, we have 12 organisations bought in and the inaugural season will get underway shortly. 

The Overwatch League promised a truly global league with representation for the entire world as teams would hop to different locations and compete at each franchise’s local stadium. The initial presentation teased various franchise locations across Europe, Asia as well as the States and South America. 

What we’ve ended up with is 9 of 12 teams actually being based in the States. Then there’s a Seoul franchise (owned by a chap in Silicon Valley), a franchise in China (owned by Blizzard’s Overwatch distributor) and the London franchise – Cloud9. 

I’ll watch the Overwatch League, but like most of esports it’s unlikely that I will side with one team because I’m overly enamoured with the brand. The OWL is making a big play on the “we are traditional sports guys” card, with jerseys being sold in-game and everyone being encouraged to pick a franchise. 

I am from London. I should support the London Spitfire. My local team, representing the only European franchise in a league dominated by North America! 

Then I look at the brand. Chosen the name Spitfire, pointing to the history of Great Britain and the war. It implies that British flows through the brand. On closer examination, the “London Spitfire” currently has no presence in London. It has an extremely talented, yet all Korean roster. Half of the brand’s social media is in Korean. It almost seems as if more effort is being made to retain the roster’s previous Korean fans than to capture the tricky local demographic. 

Perhaps one of the ways that they could have made it more accessible to fans from London is opening the ticket giveaway they did to the wider general public and not just people that live in the area. By having no travel or accommodation included so there’s no way that fans from London could make it out there. It’s just bizarre. With a slot costing so much –  a couple of tickets for local fans to head out to LA could have been a great gesture to show the London fans that they truly care about them. 

As it stands, I’m currently finding it hard to associate with my local franchise. We’re not used to the American franchise system over in Europe and a global franchise system is fairly unheard of anyhow.

It doesn’t feel like, currently, the “London Spitfire” are at all representing London – but more feels like what it actually is. The folks over at Cloud9 face an inherently difficult task. If traditional sports in this country are anything to go by, it’s never an easy crowd to win over. With a slightly different approach though, it can definitely work. The players are learning English and when they eventually move over here, fans will find it easier to identify with their Overwatch heroes. 

Currently, other franchises are doing the regional representation a lot better though, and the Spitfire could do with improvement.