The 2017 Overwatch World Cup has begun with qualifying rounds in four different countries. Since Overwatch released just over a year ago, players have anticipated seeing its most skilled players go head-to-head. Now, in preparation for BlizzCon, teams of talented players are meeting up to prove their might.

Commentators analyze the competition in Sydney.

Let’s break it down

Most esports competitions feature clashes between known esports organizations. But the Overwatch World Cup is different — instead of professional teams, the World Cup is comprised of competitors nominated by the community from the Top 100 to represent their home country.



Thirty-two teams from all over the world have been selected to compete in this year’s qualifying rounds. Each stage — Shanghai, Sydney, Katowice, and Burbank — will feature four competitors. After a four-way red-robin to determine rank, the teams face off one-on-one. The two victors in each stage will give us eight teams in the playoffs. These eight teams will be our 2017 BlizzCon finalists, and will duke it out in Anaheim this November to become the 2017 Overwatch World Champions.

Each qualifier is hosted “LAN” style, with each team going head-to-head in front of massive crowd with live commentators. The qualifiers are streamed online on the Overwatch Esports YouTube channel or on Twitch — this article will be updated as more winners are decided.

Shanghai: July 14-16

  • Featured teams:
    • China
    • Norway
    • Hong Kong
    • Romania

 

Shanghai was the first qualifying round of the World Cup, and with an audience of over 80,000, it didn’t disappoint.

As the home team, China was a favorite to win — and win they did. Their first matchup against Romania went 3-0. Though the Romanian team had several good moments, their inability to surprise China or disrupt their team coordination proved fatal. China’s victory was so decisive that they completed their final set in only forty-four seconds.

After that overwhelming victory, there was some hope that underdog Hong Kong would be able to put up a stronger fight. But the team fared badly against China’s excellent communication and team composition — Genji player Eileen was especially effective, quickly devastating Hong Kong’s backline match after match.

Hong Kong, though, did have one thing going for them: variety. After a thorough stomping in the first few matches, the team began to switch it up in truly surprising ways. Three maps in on Horizon, Hyper was able to get several kills and earn Hong Kong their first match point by switching to the oft-maligned Widowmaker. The team proceeded to switch off to characters who are far outside the meta, showing off their ability and precision with characters like McCree, Reinhardt, Zarya, and Pharah.

Norway was the second team to qualify. Their face-off with Hong Kong was a scrappy back-and-forth with many long, drawn out firefights. They ultimately won the matchup 3-1, awarding Hong Kong their only victory during the qualifying rounds. Although Norway didn’t manage to score a match point on China, they were the first team to present them with a real challenge, leaving many on the opposite team visibly sweating. It’s no surprise that when then presented with Romania, Norway won handily, going 3-0. With more time to study China’s strategy, Norway could easily become a serious contender — and if their steadfast success in their own bracket is anything to go by, they definitely have a shot at the title.

Team highlights: As Genji, China’s Eileen is truly unstoppable. But he was well-supported by team leader Undead, who proved a strong partner in DPS as Reaper, Tracer, and Soldier, and by teammate Shy, who played Ana and Zeyatta with surgical precision. Norway’s Invision, too, showcased masterful DPS play and ult usage with Tracer. But Hong Kong’s Hyper brought the fun back by switching off to unexpected characters mid-way through the match-up, which made the competition feel a little more friendly.

Sydney: July 21-23

 

  • Featured teams:
    • France
    • Thailand
    • Denmark
    • Argentina

 

Like China before them, France went 3-0-0 in their qualifying round. This comes as little surprise — France’s team is a professional esports organization known as Rogue, based in Las Vegas. With AKM on DPS as Soldier 76, uNKOE on heals as Zenyatta, and NiCOgdh on zone defense as D.Va, they took the round with little resistance from the other competitors.

However, when it came to entertainment, no team was more fun to watch than Argentina. DDX has already received quite a bit of praise for his razor sharp, innovative Sombra play. But his teammates showcased similarly interesting and dynamic playstyles. While France played predictably, Argentina’s Leviatan rotated characters and playstyles match-to-match. Klaus, too, matched France’s Soon in skill as Tracer — no easy feat.

When it came to determining the second team to graduate to the playoffs, the competition was much less predictable. Both Denmark and Thailand made a strong showing. Denmark’s Fischer was practically unstoppable as Soldier 76, while Thailand initially struggled to contest him. But when D.Va main Mickey got his groove back — and his M.E.K.A. — so did his team. Denmark and Thailand both managed to go 1-1-1. With a scant two extra wins in their pocket, Thailand managed to claim their spot in the quarterfinals.

Thailand, after all, did manage to hold France at bay — barely. A consistent lack of team coordination left Thailand scattered, with several critical failures to deliver on important kills. But they did manage to present France with a real challenge, and eked out a few surprising victories over them that surely left the legions of Mickie fans in the audience happy.

But the Argentina-Denmark face off was the one to watch. Denmark’s Krytox proved a formidable foe to Klaus’s Tracer, as Genji. Argentina’s Nekta and BeastxZuken rose to the occasion as a formidable Reinhardt-Zarya pair. In the end, though, the fireworks display of two equally matched, exciting-to-watch teams ended in disappointment when both failed to qualify for the playoffs. We can only hope we’ll see more from them in the future. In the meantime, Thailand and France will need to sit back and learn what they can from each other, and from their opponents.

Team highlights: The true MVP has to be Argentina’s DDX, who played one of the best Sombra’s many of us have ever seen. His teammate Battletoad also played an excellent game as Lucio — his boops even earned him POTG. Denmark’s Krytox and Fischer were incredible in DPS roles. Fischer even went on to emulate Thailand’s Mickie, switching off to D.Va when Denmark played Argentina. But France’s AKM definitely holds championship belt as Soldier 76 — although his play isn’t as explosive as Fischer’s, his ults are unparalleled both in execution and timing.

An artist rendering of an Overwatch battle.

To come: Katowice and Burbank

The next two rounds of qualifying matches will be hosted in Katowice, Poland (August 4-6) and Burbank, California (August 11-13). As the teams of competitors prepare for what will no doubt be a battle of wits, wills, and wiles, those who’ve already shown their stuff will no doubt be watching with the rest of us. If the qualifiers in Sydney and Shanghai are anything to go by, it’s sure to be an Overwatch World Cup for the ages.