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Overwatch World Cup 2019: Blizzard freshens up format

International competition in esports has always been a tricky thing, but the Overwatch World Cup is one of the few events to buck that trend, and it’s back again for another iteration. Taking place in Anaheim, California, the fourth version of the Overwatch World Cup is set to be one of the crowning jewels of BlizzCon, Blizzard’s annual celebration of just how amazing Blizzard is…

BlizzCon 2019 takes place on November 1st and 2nd but Overwatch World Cup 2019 starts before doors open with preliminary rounds, which fans can watch online.

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The main problem Blizzard has with the event is the dominance of a single nation, which in this case is South Korea, and in traditional competition that would hurt the appeal of the event after the nation won the first three World Cups. However, the level the Koreans play at is so high, and the reverence many esports fans hold for Asian players is so extreme, that fans are just delighted to see their heroes in action, and playing for a different team than they normally would in their franchises.

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In terms of the prize money, it can only be called "modest" if you’re trying to be polite, with the logic being that players are enjoying the honour of representing their nation. This in itself is an interesting attempt to move away from generating hype with sheer numbers, and would have a lot more potential if the game was as popular worldwide as a game like football, for example. Sadly, the honour of representing your country is going to be more or less important from individual to individual, so this is not necessarily the biggest event of the year in Overwatch.

Selection issues

All the details of entrants, seedings and so on can be found on the official post here, and there are a few oddities in how teams are picked for the event. In the absence of "associations" that are common in traditional sport there is a new way to find the team that will represent each nation, and the Blizzard system seems more suited to the countries with a developing scene, rather than nations such as USA and South Korea, with many pros already in place.

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For those looking to have a little flutter on the action, there is only one team to recommend, and that is of course the all-conquering Koreans. In their three finals, they’ve beaten Russia, Canada and China, who are almost certain to be their closest challengers again this year. A new generation of USA stars led by Sinatraa and Super will be hoping to overcome the disappointment of last year's first-round elimination against the United Kingdom and challenge for a final in front of their home fans.

Team selection and chemistry will also be an issue, with players that are rivals in the OWL season asked to come together and win as a unit.

Whatever the outcome, this should be the best World Cup Overwatch has seen yet, with the game and scene so young and still very much in development, and it will be fascinating to see how the play differs from the regular league action. Stay tuned for all the updates as qualification and selection unfolds, and we can’t wait for BlizzCon to see who is crowned winners of one of the few true World Cups in esports today.

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