Game Tech: Overwatch this space for world cup

The Overwatch World Cup looks to determine who is best at turning a fun game into something far too serious, writes Ronan Jennings

In what version of the World Cup are China seeded number one, with Brazil seeded number 19? In what World Cup are Thailand the favourites in a game against Argentina? In what World Cup are Vietnam and Portugal evenly matched?

The answer is the Overwatch World Cup, the second annual global competition to determine who is best at turning a fun game into something far too serious. The Overwatch World Cup isn’t about winning points — it’s about taking points, holding them, defending them and escorting payloads to them.

At least there is one consistency between this nascent international competition and its football equivalent: Ireland didn’t qualify. The Overwatch qualifier rankings listed the top 50 countries earlier in the year, based on the best individual players in those countries. With only the top 32 countries making it to the finals, Ireland didn’t make the cut. With just 25 days to go before that cut was made, Ireland was ranked number 49.

Still, perhaps Ireland are better off not attending this particular World Cup. China and France, the first two teams to qualify for the finals at Blizzcon later this year and among the favourites to win, both came close to upsets at last weekend’s round-robin Shanghai playoffs, proving the standard to be particularly high this year.

Thailand pushed China to the brink on the Hollywood map, with the round ending in a tiebreaker. Meanwhile, France didn’t look too confident in their earlier matches, with Denmark giving the French team some trouble. Failure wasn’t really an option for the French team, considering the French National Assembly itself had provided its backing.

“It’s an honour for me to cheer for the team’s national success in Overwatch,” a translated letter from politician Denis Masseglia read. “Secretary of State Mounir Mahjoubi joins me in wishing you luck at the Shanghai qualifiers.” In a scene familiar to football fans, the French team reportedly had ‘communication’ problems during their dicey match with Denmark.

The World Cup qualifiers continue this weekend, with the Sydney showdown in Australia. Sweden, Australia, Italy, and Portugal will face off in Group C, while Finland, Japan, Spain, and Vietnam will compete in Group D. The last two qualifiers take place in Poland and the US, with the overall finals taking place in California at Blizzcon later this year.

Overwatch is one of the first games to run a proper ‘World Cup’ in e-sports and for that reason, this is an exciting insight into the future of the industry. For once, supporting your e-team is a matter of national pride.

Let’s hope Ireland make it to the finals next year. Come on you boys who stream!

Disney’s kingdom

Meanwhile, by the time Kingdom Hearts 3 is released, three football world cups could have taken place since the previous series entry. Incredibly, it has been over a decade since we last continued the story of Sora, Mickey, and Donald, as they travel to various classic Disney worlds infiltrated by darkness.

At Disney’s recent D3 event, however, we finally caught our first real glimpse of the game in action — along with a surprise. Toy Story will be one of the playable worlds in Kingdom Hearts 3. The characters from Toy Story looked amazing in game, with Woody and Buzz identical to their big-screen counterparts.

Ten years has been a long wait, but the gameplay looked fantastic and graphics some of the best we’ve seen on consoles. With Hercules and Big Hero 6 also among the worlds we’ll visit, we’re Sora excited.

Prize gamers

Finally, the Overwatch World Cup might be one of e-sports’ most exciting events, but it’s not a patch on The International.

Last year, this global DOTA 2 competition topped $20m in prize money, with five people becoming instant millionaires for a weekend of gaming. Now, 2017’s event has officially surpassed that figure, becoming the biggest payout in gaming history.

What’s incredible is that The International in entirely crowd-funded. Developers Valve put in the first $1.6m but the rest is raised by fan donations, partly thanks to rewards tiers that include in-game bonuses and a guidebook.

The International takes place on August 2 in Seattle. (And, yes, parents — maybe it’s time to buy little Johnny that professional mouse.)



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