How the Overwatch World Cup sends unknowns into stardom

People from all over the world know what the World Cup is. Most people correlate it with soccer, but just recently the Overwatch World Cup just ended. And much like other sports, the World Cup is a great way for people who work hard to make it big. With soccer, you have examples like James Rodriguez, playing amazingly in the 2014 World Cup for Columbia. Just after, Real Madrid bought him. But he wasn’t an unknown, playing for large French team AS Monaco beforehand. With esports, some people can become more popular while others can come out of nowhere. The best example of this is the most recent Overwatch World Cup, where each team had an unknown standout player. In this article, I’ll go over how this competition always will bring new players to the forefront, and how the older examples of this have turned out.

Overwatch World Cup: 2017

Felix ‘xQc’ Lengyel

To start this, lets go over some of the most popular players from last years World Cup, starting with two players considered the best at that time. To start off, the fan favourite and the MVP in the tournament: Felix ‘xQc’ Lengyel. While his attainment of MVP was controversial, his play that tournament made him a hot commodity for the Overwatch League. While he was extremely popular in the competitive scene before the World Cup for his streaming, this competition solidified him as the best Canadian main tank. I found a video by a YouTube channel focusing on his highlights during that world cup here:

While he didn’t win gold at the competition with Canada, they finished an admirable second place, with him receiving the MVP award after the final game versus South Korea. Even he admitted to not expecting to receive the award, but his large fan-base and clear skill got him more votes than other great players. Felix ended up signing up for and playing with the Dallas Fuel of the Overwatch League for part of the season. While I don’t know for sure. I imagine it wouldn’t have been as easy to make it to Dallas if he didn’t show himself on the international stage.

Yeon-oh “Flow3r” Hwang

Speaking of other great players, the best example out of the 2017 World Cup of a star rising from relative obscurity was Yeon-oh “Fl0w3R” Hwang. While people in Korea knew him as a young talent for team LW Red, he really sprung into everyone’s minds as the MVP in this World Cup. Being part of the South Korea team that didn’t lose more than one map to any team that year, his Widowmaker play and extreme flexibility led him to be the true MVP of the tournament in most people’s minds. Here is a great video by Akshon Esports that shows how he played during that World Cup:

But much like xQc, his transition into the Overwatch League wasn’t an easy one. Flow3r was just simply too young to start on an Overwatch League team. The minimum age to live in Los Angeles and be on stage was 18, and Flow3r didn’t come of age until May 14th of 2018. So, when the New York Excelsior team took Flow3r into their lineup, they were forced to send him to play with their Contenders team: XL2 Academy. This wasn’t uncommon though. Other teams such as the San Francisco Shock picked up a lot of great talents that didn’t start at the beginning of the season due to age. But, unlike most others, Flow3r showed inconsistency and trouble adapting in the first season with XL2. After the second season, he improved a lot and helped his team reach 2nd place in North America.

While people were still a little unsure about his play, it seemed like enough. Specifically for the New York Excelsior to promote him to the second season of Overwatch League. Along with fellow Korean star Yeon-kwan “Nenne” Jeong, they both want to prove their worth.

Will Flow3r return to his glory days in 2017? Or will he fail to live up to the hype? These questions always arise from players who achieve greatness on the world stage. Flow3r has a lot of time to regain his great form.

Overwatch World Cup: 2018

This year was very entertaining to watch with many major upsets happening over established teams. This led to many players who people underestimated being brought to the forefront of avid viewers. Similarly to how xQc and Flow3r were for last years World Cup, breakout stars. But this year, the breakout stars came from completely different teams. While last year we had players from the top two teams, these stars came out of gigantic upsets. To start:

Cameron “Fusions” Bosworth

The United Kingdom beating tournament favourites the United States by three maps to one. People are quick to point out how good Fusions’ teammate Finley “Kyb” Adisi was for this match, but Fusions impressed. His Reinhardt plays not only completely shut down the United States, but also surprised South Korea. Also, he helped take Canada to a very close game where he barely lost. Europeans knew him as a great main tank for London Spitfire feeder team British Hurricane. Due to that, he got picked up by Overwatch League team Boston Uprising on a two-way deal, as Lawrence wrote about earlier.

People were quick to point out that the deal was two-way for a reason. He’s most likely going to play on Boston’s feeder team Toronto Esports. While the London Spitfire have one of the best main tanks in the world with Jae-hee “Gesture” Hong, they also are a full Korean roster. Even though Fusions might not make it into the starting lineup of Boston over main tank Young-jin “Gamsu” Noh, there is a much larger chance in the more diverse roster. Will we see Fusions in the second season of the Overwatch League? Only time will tell.

Xu “Guxue” Qiulin

After the first season of the Overwatch League, many people expected the country of China to not play well at the 2018 World Cup. How could they? The only team that even had Chinese players in the league was the Shanghai Dragons: the team known for not even getting one win in their first season. Then came the World Cup, and Xu “Guxue” Qiulin.

Photo: Blizzard Entertainment

When my friend who cast Chinese Contenders told me Guxue was great, I was skeptical. But oh boy did he prove my Canadian self wrong. Guxue’s main tank play was essential to his team’s success, helping them not only upset dark horse Finland but completely stomp on Canada to make it to the finals against South Korea.

Similarly to Fusions, his entire team played out of their minds to make it as far as they did. Some honorable mentions of other breakout stars were Huang “leave” Xin and Li “Yveltal” Xianyao. And while China did lose in an anti-climactic final game to South Korea, they accomplished what they set out to do: surprise everyone. And Guxue was many viewers MVP for the tournament, with popular casters and analysts giving rave reviews about him. Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykles tweeted about Guxue’s performances in a great light.

But even more interestingly, caster Mitch “Uber” Leslie compared his elite play to another reinventor of the main tank role, Jin-hyuk “Miro” Gong.

As of November 11th, Guxue still hasn’t been officially signed by an Overwatch League team. Most people think he will sign with one of the new Chinese teams joining the league for season two. Either way, his stock in the competitive Overwatch market has skyrocketed.

Honorable Mentions

Teams that caused these upsets deserve to be studied. Players like Kyb and Harrison “Kruise” Pond from the UK impressed, with the latter being signed to the brand new Paris Eternal team. Along with the Chinese players who I mentioned earlier, the entire roster deserves a shot in the Overwatch League. But even the teams that got eliminated in the first round such as Australia, standout players such as Ashley “Trill” Powell deserve chances in the big leagues.

To conclude this article, the Overwatch World Cup is something that creates superstars out of nothing but hard work and playing for your country. While it isn’t the greatest thing to determine future success, it makes people rethink their choices. It makes some players dreams a reality. I cannot wait to see these players play in the Overwatch League and try to continue their legacies.