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Does Overwatch League Have A Representation Problem?

41% of the entire OWL is South Korean. What do fans think about rooting for a local team in name only?

South Koreans live and breathe video games. Their culture and media focus on it nowadays and their esports players become one with the games they play. All-in-all, South Korea is by far a haven for gamers. Players that come out of South Korea are some of the best, brightest gamers in the entire world.

Source: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment
Source: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Take a look at that picture above. This is one of the best Overwatch teams in the entire world, the Spitfire. This is one of twelve teams in the Overwatch League that have become nearly overnight stars in esports due to Blizzard’s exquisite marketing. Now, what if I told you this was the England-based London Spitfire? Yea, you heard that right: the London Spitfire.

This concern is cropping up in the Discord servers and Twitter threads of the Overwatch League teams. The problem doesn’t stem out of bigotry or hate. We absolutely want to see these players dominate with their incredibly surgical skills. We’re even likely to root for them, no matter what team they’re on, because we know just how incredible these players are. Other websites have covered the lack of females, but watching the first two days worth of Overwatch league, something else has stood out.

The problem is that taking a look at the rosters of most of the OWL teams, it’s making many fans unsure of who to root for and are saddening fans that local Overwatch players weren’t included at all in their home team in most cases. The announcement of a "British Consultant", Stylosa, to the London team yesterday raised even more concerns to the nationality issue that Spitfire faces.

The Overwatch wikia has made explaining this much easier. There are twelve members of the London team. Twelve of those twelve members are 100% South Korean. All eight of the New York Excelsior is South Korean as well. Out of the 11 players on the South Korean-based Seoul Dynasty, all of them are (rightfully) South Korean. That’s not counting the players on other teams. Out of 108 total active players in the Overwatch League, 44 are South Korean. That’s 41% of the entire active roster of the Overwatch League, for those counting. For comparison, only twenty-four (22%) of all of the players are from North and South American combined, although nine of the teams are based in the USA. Thirty (28%) of the players are from Europe, outnumbering all of the American players by far, yet none of them reside on the London team. 

For some additional statistics and numbers, seven out of the twelve teams include at least one person from the nation that is represented. The Chinese-based Shanghai Dragons is entirely Chinese and Seoul Dynasty is completely South Korean. The Houston Outlaws come in third with six out of their ten members being from the USA and then the San Francisco Shock with five out of ten.

Source: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Blizzard created a precedent by allowing two Los Angeles based teams, the Valiant and the Gladiators. They also allowed Houston and Dallas to have separate teams. This showed that they were not afraid to have multiple teams in a single place. The question really sits on Blizzard and why they didn’t just allow Seoul to have multiple teams in the league, knowing South Korea was so into Overwatch.

The belief among the community is that things will even out a little more as seasons go, but some think it could take up to five years for this to happen naturally. Some believe that by the second season of OWL, Blizzard may have a plan in place to neutralize this problem and bring in more local players for each team by adding more teams to the lineup. This is just a first attempt and even with these concerns, the games are absolute fire. As we head into day three of the first season of Overwatch League, no matter who is on what team, I know I’m watching each match with bated breath.

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