Massive Number of Free Agents
Overwatch League (OWL) players are not having an easy off-season. After the conclusion of OWL’s third season, fans have witnessed how every team has drop several of their players. This would not be out of the ordinary for an off-season, as teams generally use this time to modify their rosters in search of better results in the future.
However, this off-season has seen the largest number of OWL players whose contracts were not renewed by their teams. According to “OWL’s contracts database”, there will be at least 102 players looking for new opportunities for the 2021 season. In contrast, last year’s offseason only had 29 players who were not renewed by their teams.
Looking at the massive difference of unrenewed players between the two off-seasons, it is important to understand certain big factors which have influenced the departure of so many players. However, there are also many reasons as to why it will be harder for them to land on other teams. In this article, it will be explored the reasons behind the departure of these players as well as why this off-season will be rougher for them.
Three Years Without Winning, Calls for Change
After three seasons of OWL, it is fair to argue that most teams have not reached their goal of being a dominant or competitive franchise. Most of the teams had spent these three seasons with the same core players, hoping that they could one day become a winning team. Nevertheless, after three seasons of seeing little progress on how the same roster performed, General Managers could have decided that it was time to look at different alternatives.
Dallas Fuel can be used as an example of this. This organization was one of the several teams whose main objective was the Overwatch League Championship. Since Season One of OWL, Dallas Fuel had a roster centered around Jonathan “HarryHook” Tejedor, Dylan “aKm” Bignet, and head coach Aaron “Aero” Atkins. These people were part of the Dallas Fuel since the beginning, but were released throughout the season. Moreover, the Dallas Fuel appear to have completely changed their mentality on the type of team they want to run. Read more on Dallas Fuel’s new strategy in our article, Overwatch League Roster Changes: From Paris to Dallas.
Like in Dallas Fuel, general managers will likely bring new faces to their team in hope of better results. Teams like Toronto Defiant, London Spitfire and Houston Outlaws appear to be following the Dallas Fuel mode as many of them have just a few or even none of their former players left in their rosters.
However, this brings several problems to the players that have been released. As they have been released, it could appear that their former teams do not think these players are valuable enough to keep them under contract. As a result, the confidence that other General Managers have in these players is likely to have considerably decreased.
The current pandemic has also affected the world of Esports. OWL’S format had to move online due to the pandemic. Because of that, the homestand events that every team used to have throughout the year were cancelled.
During these homestands, every team would host a certain number of matches in their own city. In that manner, fans would see their home teams playing on an environment surrounded by fans of the local team.The team’s homestands were not only an opportunity to connect with their local fans, but also to obtain a higher profit compared to when they played in neutral cities.
With the unfortunate cancelation of these events due to the pandemic, several teams were unable to gather the profit that they have planned for at the beginning of the season.
An example of how homestands actually have an impact on team’s earnings at the end of the season, we can look at how both Dallas Fuel and Washington Justice have managed this offseason. Both teams were one of the few that had the opportunity to host a certain number of homestand games. This offseason, they happened to be the teams that announced roster updates much earlier than other teams. Washington Justice for example, officially signed the DPS superstar, Jang “Decay” Gui-un. They also announced the signing of the Main Tank rookie, Kim “Mag” Tae-sung.
Implications For The Players
Released players will have a harder time finding new teams due to the need to reduce costs. One of their first barriers would be competing against Overwatch Contenders’ players. Teams who aim to reduce costs will be more likely to sign rookie talents from Contenders than an established player. Teams may look at an established player as one who was unable to find success on their previous team. On the other hand, a Contenders player not only has more room for development, but can also help cut down on team costs.
Finally, the fourth season of OWL doesn’t start until 2021. As a result, teams are in no hurry to start signing players and paying their wages during inactive months.
While looking at how the situation of the free agents’ players result make sure to take a look at our article “The Implosion of The London Spitfire”.