The Overwatch League's second tournament is here, and we can only hope it'll live up to the excitement of the May Melee. Our writers have some questions they want answered leading into the Summer Showdown.
Will the Summer Showdown be as much of a viewership success as the May Melee?
Jacob Wolf: Possibly. I generally think viewership is better for tournaments versus regular-season matches due to the stakes involved. Regular-season matches, especially between two less popular and/or bad teams, don't garner as much interest, whereas in a tournament every match counts for something. I've heard that same train of thought from a few Overwatch League owners and I wouldn't be surprised if we see more tournament-style events happening in 2021, presumably after COVID-19 subsides and we're able to have live events again in esports.
Emily Rand: Tournaments are almost always better than league play in my opinion, so I certainly hope so. Despite the fact that the seeding is a bit wonky because it's based on a select few league matches from this month, there are a lot of interesting narratives going into both of these tournaments and a lot of potential upset winners outside of the two favorites (the San Francisco Shock and the Shanghai Dragons). May Melee was so much fun and had better viewership, and I hope the same for Summer Showdown.
Arda Ocal: I say yes. Tournaments are fun. The first one popped off in terms of intrigue, so that will carry. This is the format that I hope Overwatch League permanently adopts. It makes things interesting. I think if the viewership holds this time around, we will hear an official announcement pretty soon that it will be made the standard going forward.
Was June the last time we'll ever see hero pools in Overwatch League again?
Wolf: God, I hope so. I believe the onus should be more on the Overwatch game balance team instead of the esports side of Activision Blizzard to police the meta. It should be that way and honestly, I thought the Overwatch meta was in a pretty good spot before hero pools were first implemented. GOATs had gone away and with the release of Echo, the meta shifted even more. So I hope, heading into Overwatch 2, the balance team stays on it because more than any other game, balance means a ton for esports interest in Overwatch.
Rand: I sound like a broken record but YES, PLEASE. Let the meta develop more organically without removing heroes and balance accordingly.
Ocal: HELL YES.
Who's the biggest dark horse in either region?
Wolf: If we define dark horse as a team whose record or recent performances are really awful, but they have the ability to punch above their weight competitively, for me it'd be the Washington Justice in North America and the Seoul Dynasty in Asia.
The Justice have looked rough the past few months after starting off their season hot. They lost star Corey "Corey" Nigra and fellow DPS Ethan "Stratus" Yankel, and had some nasty, sudden management changes. The team is 0-3 in regular matches in June, but I still believe they can be competitive in tournament format. Maybe that title should go to the Fuel, who seem to have some semblance of life after beating the Toronto Defiant recently, but I still believe the Justice can fend for themselves.
As for Seoul, I'm still a homer here. I know Emily may give me grief for it -- because we've both hedged our bets on them, only to be continually let down. But Seoul placed second in the May Melee and despite their regular match record for June, I feel they'll benefit in a tournament with no hero pools. Don't let me down, Seoul.
Rand: Jacob no! Step away from the Seoul Dynasty. (Honestly, I kid, because I love Seoul, and while they do let me down almost every time, I can see why betting on them here isn't a terrible idea, especially given their May Melee run.) That being said, my dark horse pick for the Asia bracket (if they can be considered a dark horse at all) are the Guangzhou Charge. Nam "Cr0ng" Ki-cheol has recently been putting on Sigma clinics on top of what was already consistent off-tank play for the team. Although Chengdu always makes things messy, I think the Charge should be able to get out ahead of them and whoever comes out of the Excelsior/Spark match to make it to the finals.
In North America I have my eye on the Paris Eternal. If the Los Angeles Valiant or Florida Mayhem go far, I think it would be less of a surprise since they've both been recognized by the community as dangerous opponents, but a truer dark horse, in the spirit of the label, is the Eternal and Kim "Sp9rk1e" Yeong-han.
Ocal: The Toronto Defiant in both regions. Somehow Toronto will also win the Asia region. Congrats to them.
Who's your pick to win the NA tournament?
Wolf: How can it not be the Shock? The Shock are undefeated in June, they won May Melee, they're the reigning champions of the league and it seems their momentum isn't going away anytime soon. The Shock are a powerhouse chock full of talent, and I'll bet on them any day.
Rand: If your pick is anyone other than the San Francisco Shock then you probably haven't been paying attention. They're not a slam-dunk to win, but they're as close to one as possible given how well this team has weathered several roster changes and an ever-volatile meta driven by hero pools to remain at the top. Jay "sinatraa" Won's move to VALORANT hasn't slowed them down and neither has the loss of Park "Architect" Min-ho to the Hangzhou Spark.
Ocal: If not the Shock, give me the Florida Mayhem in a stunner. I know Philadelphia isn't a solid pick especially based off what happened the last time San Fran and Philly met. I like the idea of the Mayhem winning a tournament.
Who's your pick to win the Asia tournament?
Wolf: Also another repeat for the Shanghai Dragons, but maybe not as easily. I've been impressed by the Guangzhou Charge in their June regular season matches. They're a good team and they performed well in May Melee too. So don't be surprised if the Charge can finally pull this one out. But given the Dragons' consistency, I have to pick them here.
Rand: I'm also going to have to go with the Shanghai Dragons. Shanghai aren't infallible, but they have this amazing ability to bend without breaking. If they cede maps to their opponents, they somehow come back stronger to win, including their performance in the May Melee finals and their more recent series against the Chengdu Hunters, who always make things interesting, especially against other Chinese teams.
Ocal: SHANGHAI BABY LETS GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! But seriously, remember 0-42?