Overwatch League Grand Finals get under way in spectacular style
London Spitfire won the opening game of the eSports league’s inaugural grand final.
The first ever Overwatch League grand finals have roared into life in New York, with London Spitfire taking an early lead in the best-of-three series against Philadelphia Fusion.
Playing in front of a passionate crowd of about 20,000 at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn, the first night of the competitive video gaming event was also broadcast on prime-time US TV, establishing the sport’s place as mainstream entertainment.
The two teams were introduced to the stage to raucous noise from the crowd, the type of reception basketball and hockey stars would expect when they enter the same arena in their own sports.
The crowd were mesmerised by the action, as Philadelphia won the first match of the contest, only to be quickly pegged back and then overtaken by their London opponents, who went on to secure a 3-1 win on the night to give them a 1-0 series lead overall.
Veteran eSports followers and newcomers alike were catered for – short information videos explaining the rules preceded every game so newbies could grasp what was happening quickly, while die-hard fans cheered and gasped at every move made by the 12 players on stage.
Add in excited commentary broadcast through the venue’s speakers, a live DJ and constant fan interaction activities, including dancers and t-shirt giveaways, and it is easy to see why millions now follow the sport.
League organisers have admitted the rapid rise of the competition and its popularity has exceeded all expectations, and as the final began even the players seemed taken aback by the passionate and partisan support inside the arena.
Speaking briefly after the match, players from both teams admitted the larger venue took some getting used to, with many of them competing on such a stage for the first time.
Ahead of the finals, Overwatch League executives spoke of their excitement at being able to hold their first finals on such a large scale, but also that they felt pro gaming deserved such a platform and recognition of its status as a real sport.
Judging by fan reaction on day one in New York, the idea of “going to a game” to watch a group of professional gamers is only going to become more common.