After each season of the Overwatch League comes to its respective close, it feels like the professional scene evolves and takes massive leaps forwards. With the game in the fourth year of its lifespan, it’s clear that Overwatch as a whole is growing at a rapid pace, and the competitive scene is growing right alongside it.
And as the world of professional Overwatch moves along from season to season, the league is bound to lose some of the prominent players and personalities that helped shape the game into what it is today. This weekend, two such players retired, officially ushering in a new era for the Overwatch League.
Over the course of the past few days, the competitive Overwatch community saw two of its most notable players in it young history hang it up for good, as Jacob “Jake” Lyon and Do-hyeon “Pine” Kim retired from professional play. And while their presences in the league will definitely be missed on the surface level, there’s definitely a deeper symbol at hand here that makes their retirements much more meaningful in the broader context of the Overwatch League, as well as the game of Overwatch as a whole.
With Jake and Pine moving on from the professional scene, a new era of Overwatch is officially upon us. It seems more common, as of late, that players who have “held down the fort” over the course of the early stages of the professional Overwatch scene are either being pushed away from the game or stepping away entirely. With the game changing at such a rapid pace, it’s not unreasonable to claim that the Overwatch League is in the middle of its first major turnover period.
With traditional sports, the leagues have been established for years, decades, even centuries now, so players walk away from their respective games at a more reasonable pace, and when legends retire, they don’t retire all at once. When you take the fact that the Overwatch League is still in its formative phase into account (in addition to the unstable nature of esports combined with its heavily noted ‘burnout culture’), it’s clear as to why the scene might be a little unstable.
Whether they’re lost in droves or one at a time, the game’s most notable pros are going to move on from the game at some point. But this time, it just feels like the loss of Pine and Jake is much more symbolic and provides so much more to the conversation than just a few simple retirements. If anything, Pine and Jake’s respective retirements are representative of the fact that Overwatch is moving on into a new age – one that focuses on the game rather than the players, themselves.
Sure, there’s still room in the league for superstars. Players like Jay “sinatraa” Won and Sang-beom “Bumper” Park have proven that. But as the professional scene continues to grow, it’s clear that factors such as the expansion of the league, as well as the ever-changing meta have made the world of professional Overwatch oversaturated. Many individuals fail to stick out in a league where countless names exist only to fill the ranks.
And that’s bound to happen when the league adds 48 starting roster spots at once. With more players in the scene, the ones who were never able to reach the upper echelon of the game are easily lost in the fold. Only the all-time greats are going to experience that coveted combination of longevity and success. And only those who experience longevity and success will be considered all-time greats. The league has reached a point of dangerous stagnation, and it’s going to be imperative to its success to get out of this period of extreme turnover as fast as possible.
The fact of the matter is this: the Overwatch League is quickly becoming a place where turnover rates are high, players come and go on a whim, and not even the scene’s strongest stars are safe. Hopefully, after two of the most prominent players in its history retired in a matter of 48 hours, we can say that the most brutal portion of this transitional storm is over.
Photo Credit: Blizzard Entertainment, The Overwatch League