Overwatch League is kicking off its Season 2 on Valentine's Day 2019 but Blizzard have already shown their players some love by cutting 12 matches from each team's season schedule, so as to prevent burnout and/or potential health issues.
Overwatch League's inaugural season had each team playing 40 matches spread across four blocks of five weeks each, with a week of rest in between. However, many players apparently found this schedule to be too hectic, since not all players can or want to compete in such conditions.
While gathering post-season feedback from players, OWL's commissioner Nate Nanzer said that the chief complaint was about there not being enough breaks. Overwatch League's new format means teams will play a single match per week, with Nanzer emphasising that "mental health and wellness is something that [they] take super seriously at the league".
Even though OWL Season 1's format didn't look that bad on paper, it takes a toll on all players - it's just that some handle it better. Hitting a streak of bad results can spell even more trouble, since moar training is almost always the answer. Unfortunately, as the Shanghai Dragons paradox has proven, 15-hour training sessions at those stages can actually prevent you from reaching what you've been training for.
Doug Gardner, director of player performance at Los Angeles Valiant fears that fewer matches may adversely affect the quality of the Overwatch League in general. Even though rested and healthy players are basically his responsibility, he thinks that playing more games helps establish a more realistic picture, both subjectively and mathematically.
Now, excuse us while we go off on a tangent here - regular sportsmen make sacrifices every day and the higher the level, the bigger the cost, right? So why is Overwatch different? In fact, every highly rated league in the world maintains such standards that players of lesser abilities are cast aside in quite a cruel manner. Natural selection is brutal. But at that level - there's no other way.
Now we're not advocating the exploitation of esports players here but that "sports" in the name surely has to stand for something. How many times did FIFA, UEFA, NBA, NFL, NHL, etc. cut their seasons short to cater to tired players? How many times were we galvanised by a David's vs. Goliath scenario, even though it was David's 60th slinging match that season and he's barely standing? How many times did his sacrifice and the drama it brought brighten up our week?
Even though we're sure of Blizzard's best intentions here, removing an important competitive variable of energy conservation in a season cannot be good for the sport. At the same time, it excuses coaches unfamiliar with the concept of overworking your troops and even though it may help players, it's not exactly helping Overwatch.
You can find Nanzer and Gardner's interview in full over here.