Getting into Esports: Overwatch
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October 11, 2019

Getting into Esports: Overwatch

Jumping into esports can be daunting, especially with Overwatch. There’s a lot happening all the time and it can get overwhelming. This guide will ease those anxieties and help new players learn about how the game is played.

The best thing anyone can recommend when trying to get into a new esport is to simply play the game. Gaining an understanding of the basics—different maps, characters, abilities and a myriad of other aspects—is crucial to grasping and enjoying the gameplay. That’s tip No. 1!

The Overwatch League

The next thing to understand about competitive Overwatch is the professional league called the Overwatch League or OWL for short. The OWL is the most popular aspect of Overwatch esports.

During regular-season games, viewership typically ranges from 80,000 to 110,000 viewers on the official Overwatch League twitch channel.

The OWL is set up like most traditional sports. There are 20 teams set up into 2 divisions: a Pacific Division and an Atlantic Division.


Each match consists of four maps and inside of those maps there are games. A good traditional sports parallel is tennis where the sport has games, sets, and matches. Inside that tennis “match” are “sets” and inside those sets are “games”. The same concept applies to Overwatch with the match, maps, and games.

There’s the overall match, the maps inside the match, and games inside each map. The OWL plays four matches regardless of the outcomes of the first three.

Understanding the different types of maps and their objectives is the best foundation one can have for understanding Overwatch esports. There are four different kinds of maps – Escort, Control, Assault and Hybrid. The victory condition varies in each type of these map.

A list of maps can be found here on Blizzard’s official page

Escort Maps

In Escort maps, the object is to escort a “payload” to the end of the map within a certain time limit. Each team gets a chance of offense and defense. There are checkpoints throughout the map that add additional time to a team’s “time bank” once they pass them. Banked time will be important if the map goes into overtime.

The payload only moves forward if one or members of the team are within the vicinity of the payload.The victory condition for escort maps is to escort the payload the farthest.

If the first two rounds end in a tie – each team tries to get the payload the farthest with their banked time that was mentioned earlier.

When a team leaves the vicinity of the payload and time expires – this is referred to as a “C9” – deriving from the team “Cloud Nine” who lost a major game because of that exact act.

Another good example comes from the more recent 2019 playoffs in the first round when San Francisco Shock lost and dropped to the losers bracket after C9-ing the payload against the Atlanta Reign.

Control Maps

Control maps can be likened to King-of-the-Hill. Each team aims to gain 100% control over a specific point on the map, called an objective. Each team starts at 0% and the percentage increases after a team “captures” the point by being the only team on the point.

There are checkpoints as well, generally at 33% and 66% that lock the corresponding team’s progress. The victory condition is the team with the highest percentage at the end of the timer.

If there are players from either side on the point – the match will go into overtime until one team remains.

Assault Maps

The best way to think about assault maps is offense versus defense. Each team has one turn at attacking, and one turn at defending. The object of the map is to take over the point as the attacker, and to defend the point as the defender. The “point” is identical to how points work in Control maps that were mentioned previously.

Hybrid Maps

The last kind of map is the Hybrid map. Which is a hybrid between control and escort. The victory condition is the same as escort. Get the payload to the end of the map, but in order to unlock the payload, a team must take a point, like in control maps.

If knowing maps is the foundation for understanding Overwatch esports, then knowing the roles are the walls.

Entire articles could be written about individual characters and what all bring to the table. For now, understanding the three different roles will be an important aspect of understanding what a new player is looking at.


The three main roles in Overwatch are Tank, Support, and Damage.

First off – Tanks. The best way to describe tanks are the protectors, they have high health and some heroes have shields and other abilities to help keep their team alive. The quote often heard when referring to tanks is “hey attack me, not the other guys!”

All of the different tank heroes can be seen here.

Secondly –Supports. The healers. They keep players alive in a game. Support’s abilities are aimed at healing their teammates and preventing teammate deaths. One of the OWL’s finest, Sung-hyeon “JJoNak” Bang streams on Twitch and his flawless mechanics in his role can be seen here.

Finally – Damage heroes. Their job is to eliminate the other team and their abilities allow to do just that. Seem pretty simple right?

The best of the best, Jay “sinatraa” Won, when it comes to damage characters, is a player that examplifies great use of this particular role.

Here is sinatraa’s 2019 OWL MVP  play on his Twitch channel.

We hope this quick guide gets all new players off on the right foot, we will try to have more in-depth guides coming out in the future to further help readers and players improve and learn more in Overwatch esports!

Written by Michael Schwartz

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