Olivia R. January 1, 2020
The Overwatch League's third season is a little more than a month away and it's looking to be the most interesting season yet thanks to the first true global schedule. Teams will be traveling the world, competing to dethrone the San Francisco Shock and become the new OWL champions.
With an entirely new format, it feels like almost anything can happen in the OWL this year. But we are making some predictions for 2020 based on what we know about the upcoming season and what's taken place in the last two seasons, along with the trades and roster changes in between.
San Francisco Shock and Vancouver Titans will start off strong
After beating the Titans 3-0 in a surprisingly one-sided grand final match, the Shock will be coming into 2020 confident and ready to defend their title. But the Titans, who remained the Shock's biggest rivals all season, will be looking for redemption. Expect these two teams to dominate the other 18 right from the start.
In the new OWL format, the Shock and Titans are part of the Pacific Conference's West Division. This pits them against Dallas Fuel, Los Angeles Gladiators, and the Los Angeles Valiant.
Week 1, which begins February 8, will see the Titans face off against the Dallas Fuel, who finished the 2019 regular season in 15th. During the offseason the Fuel signed popular tank Noh "Gamsu" Young-jin, along with two other promising Korean players. While they will most likely improve later in the season, we predict they will have some growing pains at the start and lose to the Titans.
The following day, the Titans will face the Valiant. This is another team that finished at the bottom of the pack in 2019 and made some roster changes for 2020. But most of the roster changes the Valiant made were frowned upon by the Overwatch League community, who felt the organization's strategy was to save some money rather than better compete. We predict the Titans will easily sweep them.
The Shock will have a match Sunday as well, also against Dallas Fuel. This will most likely be another beating for the new Fuel squad, possibly even an easy 3-0 for the Shock. This momentum will probably continue for Shock and Valiant when they face the Pacific Conference's East Division in Week 3 and Week 4.
Dallas Fuel will make a mid-season comeback
As stated in the previous prediction, the Fuel will most likely lose to the San Francisco Shock and Vancouver Titans in the first week of Season 3. This is not only due to the two opposing team's seemingly unstoppable skills and momentum, but also the Fuel's own growing pains.
Going into 2020, the Texas team added Gamsu along with DPS players Kim "Doha" Dong-ha and Jang "Decay" Gui-un. While losing Hyeon "EFFECT" Hwang in April 2019 was tough for the popular squad, it seems as though they're going into 2020 with their strongest roster yet, mostly thanks to the addition of Gamsu.
At the start of OWL Season 2, Gamsu's former team, the Shanghai Dragons, continued their record-breaking losing streak. They looked to be the bottom organization once again after a disaster of a first season.
But Gamsu reportedly helped the team break that losing streak at the end of February, and he was very vocal about how they turned it all around: morale. WIth the help of a dog and Gamsu's positive attitude, he was able to lift the struggling team's spirits and make them believe in themselves and each other. Soon, the Dragons were proving themselves to be a top contender, even becoming Stage 3 champions.
The Dragons went from last place to one of the best teams in the league, and there's nothing stopping Gamsu from doing the same for the Fuel in 2020.
Philadelphia Fusion's ChipSa will barely play
The Philadelphia team caused some controversy in the offseason when they announced they were adding Doomfist one-trick Phillip "ChipSa" Graham. This was a decision that even polarized hardcore Fusion fans, who felt the addition was not only an insult to Contenders players but possibly blatant nepotism since ChipSa's brother is the team's head coach.
While there's no denying that ChipSa is an entertaining streamer and a beast on Doomfist, there doesn't seem to be any possible scenario where it would make sense to bring out ChipSa for more than a map here and there.
The Shock's Jay "Sinatraa" Won hyped up the OWL crowds when he dominated with Doomfist, but overall the hero has been somewhat ineffective in the Overwatch League. Even though the double barrier meta has made Doomfist a bit more viable, since he can melee his way past all of the shields, Doomfist has yet to make an impact on team comps and competitive metas overall.
There's just no way ChipSa can go head to head with Sinatraa when it comes to Doomfist, so it's unclear what Fusion's plan is for adding the specialist to their roster. Maybe they know something we don't know about potential Doomfist-heavy metas coming later in 2020.
Overwatch 2 will introduce an entirely new meta
While we have no idea if Doomfist is involved, there will most definitely be a new meta coming to the Overwatch League in 2020. At the start of December 2019, Florida Mayhem's analyst opened up about possible metas emerging after the latest update.
After her powerful precense in one half of Season 2, it seems that Brigitte is finally out of the meta despite some armor buffs. This seems to be due to Hanzo's ability to easily wipe out opposing Brig's. That points towards teams most likely experimenting with variations of dive comp, featuring Winston and D.Va, or double barrier, which relies on Sigma and Orisa.
It's likely that Season 3 will start out with a lot of double barrier. But that will most likely change once Overwatch 2 is released, whenever that proves to be. Overwatch 2 has promised at least two new heroes, Sojourn and Echo. It's unclear what their abilities will be, but if they're viable in any way then fans can expect to see pro teams experimenting with them.
Teams like the Chengdu Hunters will most likely thrive during this transitional period. This Chinese team proved themselves to be quite unpredictable as they implemented entirely new strategies that analysts had never seen before in some of their matches.
The global schedule will effect OWL team performances
In 2019, almost every Overwatch League team called Los Angeles their home during the regular season. The city was full of expansive and impressive team houses where all of the players practiced and bonded together. This made it quite easy to take a short trip to the Blizzard Arena for matches, unless we're talking the Florida Mayhem, who didn't even have a driver during Season 1.
While the global schedule in 2020 is exciting for viewers and event attendees, it's been the cause of major concern for players. In press conferences, the teams' travel schedule has become the constant topic of conversation, with the Overwatch community wondering how players will handle the traveling before almost every game and how they will fit in practicing with other teams with such a hectic schedule.
"We're making sure to take a collaborative approach for everyone's best interest. We are making sure they have facilities we can utilize, so we can both get those hours to scrim appropriately. We want to make sure we're ahead of the game when it comes to Visas as well. I triple check that now, to make sure everyone is ready to go," Los Angeles Valiant's general manager said at the end of Season 2.
It's more than likely that teams playing in their home base will have a bit of an advantage, which likely why the Overwatch League has each conference playing within their own division at first. This lessens travel requirements for the teams since they will generally compete against teams within their own time zone.
But as time goes on, it seems that the global schedule could get quite hectic. For example, Week 17 at the end of May has the Washington Justice hosting three matches in Washington DC. That means that the Shanghai Dragons, Chengdu Hunters, and Seoul Dynasty have to fly from China and South Korea to compete in these games. That same day, New York Excelsior is hosting matches in New York City, meaning Paris Eternal would have to make an overseas trip, while Dallas Fuel and San Francisco will have to fly domestically across the country.
Overwatch League Season 3 will break viewership records
Last season, the OWL saw their viewership go up and down. Despite introducing new ways to view the matches on Twitch, Stage 2 of the OWL saw viewership declining. Leading up the playoffs, Stage 2 viewership was down 30,000 from Stage 2 in 2018. This was most likely due to GOATS meta, which many Overwatch fans complained was boring to watch. Despite this, the final playoff match of Stage 2 had a major spike in viewership.
This year, the Overwatch League could blow those numbers out of the water. This is thanks to the global schedule, which has teams competing all over the world. In previous seasons, every match was held in the Blizzard Arena in Burbank, California. Now teams will be hosting matches in the cities they represent. This will greatly increase viewership since these cities and countries will feel much more of a connection and a sense of pride when those matches are taking place.
China and South Korea have huge esports audiences. Since matches will be held in cities all around these countries, it seems likely that their citizens will be inclined to tune in and support their home team. Matches will also be held in local time, meaning fans that often couldn't watch the live games will now have the opportunity to stream their home team's matches at a more reasonable hour.
The Overwatch League will still not be close to Dota 2 or League of Legends when it comes to viewership, but expect Overwatch League Season 3 to be the most viewed OWL season yet.