What is Overwatch? A betting guide

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Overwatch is a team-based first-person shooter (FPS) video game that was developed and published by Blizzard entertainment back in 2016. The game is built around a concept that mixes the strategy based gameplay of multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) type games along with the mechanical skill ceiling found in an FPS thus creating an environment that unlocks one of the highest skill ceilings in any competitive esports title. 

This combination of concepts into a single game was exceptionally alluring to the esports scene because it is a proven pairing that covers the flaws of each type of game. While the skill ceiling in an FPS is typically very high, they generally lack a reliance on teamwork since a single player may be able to outplay an entire group (games like CSGO lean this way) and so games can feel clumsy. With MOBA titles, teamwork is the main ingredient to success but the mechanics are typically leaving something to be desired as the precision skills are less important (League of Legends falls this direction) and therefore individual players can feel underpowered. Games like Team Fortress 2 have had massive success with a mix of these styles and Overwatch, with the fantastic dev support offered by Blizzard, stood to maximize the idea in the competitive leagues.

There are a couple different game modes to be played, but the core concept of every competitive game starts in the same way. Two teams of six players queue into the map to be played and choose their “heros” to be played. Each hero in the game comes with a unique set of abilities and baselines of offensive and defensive statistics that can be utilized in a multitude of ways and are split into three general roles: Damage, Support, and Tanks. The objective of the game varies depending on the map to be played, and is either a variant of king of the hill or escorting a payload. Both game modes involve one team attacking and one defending, with the attacking team aiming to sequentially secure points across a path on the map with the eventual goal of securing the enemy team’s base. Throughout the course of the game, players will die and respawn an unlimited number of times, and must utilize their abilities effectively while managing cooldowns and positioning in order to find success.

Overwatch has been very successful in the western hemisphere thanks to it’s relatively short games and fast paced action. It takes the teamwork of Dota 2 and the speed of Call of Duty and embraces excitement, which is something that younger audiences love. The brutal skill ceiling is offset by the non-stop action and fantastic event based gameplay as well as the cartoonish design. Though it hasn’t been a top esports title for a while, it’s an ever present competitor on the global stage for competitive FPS players to test their hand in a unique way.

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What is Overwatch league?

The Overwatch league (OWL) is the competitive leader in North America for overwatch players and teams, and was designed to mimic the North American model for traditional sports in terms of teams, season structure, and playoffs. Teams are based in cities across the country with players being signed like traditional athletes as it forgoes the typical esports structure of teams being relegated and replaced with lower tier squads.

The Overwatch league was launched in 2018 and maintains 20 teams across four different regions.

  • North region – Boston Uprising, London Spitfire, New York Excelsior, Paris Eternal, Toronto Defiant
  • South Region – Atlanta Reign, Florida Mayhem, Houston Outlaws, Philadelphia Fusion, Washington Justice
  • East Region – Chengdu Hunters, Guangzhou charge, Hangzhou Spark, Seoul Dynasty, Shanghai Dragons
  • West Region – Dallas Fuel, Los Angeles Gladiators, Los Angeles Valiant, San Francisco Shock, Vancouver Titans

Teams would generally play through 40 matches in the regular season which lead into elimination style play in the playoffs. The top prize for the 2018 season was 1 million dollars, which is minuscule in comparison to the prize pools of more established esports leagues like Dota2 (20 million+) and League of Legends. The championship in the Overwatch league should not be confused with the Overwatch World Cup, which is a separate event that shuffles the players of teams for what is more akin to an All-Star weekend in traditional sports.

The teams also follow a similar scouting process to traditional sports with a minor league (Overwatch Contenders league) that feeds into the major league. Minor league players come from multiple regions across the globe for a chance to be picked up by the professional teams in the Overwatch League. This process allows for a steady stream of upcoming stars to get exposure to the league through not only the contenders league, but also through “Academy” teams, which are a common part of all esports leagues and are akin to the farm system in Major League Baseball.

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Gameplay basics 

The game is played between two teams of six players each, and those teams are split up into different roles for the players to adhere to throughout the match. The three roles are Damage, Support, and Tank, and each hero within the game is built to fit into each of the roles either individually or with a flex into one of the others. Some damage heroes can also provide support, while some tank heroes are able to provide sustained damage. The synergy of the teams, based on each hero’s unique abilities and how they work together, is a massive part of the way the game is played. Typically, there will be a handful of heroes in each role that are particularly effective in the game’s current state (the “meta”) which will be used in almost every competitive matchup. 

As briefly discussed in the introduction, Overwatch is played based on an attack and defend system with one team on offense and one team on defense. The offensive team will work to secure sequentially spawning checkpoints throughout a predetermined route that begins just outside of their initial spawn point and eventually ends with a point that spawns directly outside of the defending team’s initial spawn point. All the gamemodes are essentially sequential king of the hill games, so things like kills, assists, and deaths are only relevant in terms of gaining number advantages for either side.

The game is built to provide nonstop action from the minute it begins, with the offensive team having to fight for an objective directly outside of their spawn point, and teams must work together and use their abilities effectively in order to push the other team away long enough to secure a point. When engaging in team fights, both teams must be wary of the ultimate abilities that each hero has available as they are exceptionally powerful and can drastically alter the way a fight happens. The combination of teamwork, mechanical skill, and ability management that goes into the length of a match is what makes the games so exciting and unpredictable.

Each side is over either when the time limit is up or the offensive team secures the final checkpoint, at which point the teams switch sides and the map is replayed with the offensive team now on defense and vice versa. In the Overwatch League, a match is a best of five format where at least three separate maps will be played. This means that there will be at the very least six total games played with capacity of up to 10 in a match. With so many games to be played that each have their own micro environments and objectives, there are no shortage of wagers to be made when you start the journey of Overwatch betting.

Hero archetypes and differences

To say that there is no shortage of diversity in Overwatch heroes would be an understatement. There are currently 32 heroes available to play in the game, each serving their own purpose and filling a role that no other can do quite as well. There are eight tanks, seven supports, and 17 damage types with multiple of each being relevant parts of the competitive meta. 

Some heroes, like Genji (damage) and Reinhart (tank), excel only within their role as they don’t have any abilities that can cross over into another. Heroes like these are typically exceptional in their individual role, but can be countered heavily since they don’t have a lot of flexibility in the game. Other heros like Moira (support), Zarya (tank), and Ana (support) all offer meaningful contributions to multiple different roles. Moira can both heal teammates and damage opponents depending on the ability used, and Zarya is able to provide a shield to teammates which, when damaged, increases her damage output.

Maps 

The maps in Overwatch are a bit different than those found in other competitive titles and take a bit of getting used to, but the purpose behind the map decision is genius. Typically you think of maps as arenas, with either symmetrical or asymmetrical layout that allows for players to roam freely with no dedicated position. In overwatch, the maps are built in two ways: Either symmetrical arenas that are made for equal distance to objectives, or along a path that allows for sequential points to guide an attacking team to a defending team’s base. The maps are built to maintain specific game types and thus are mainstays in the game throughout a dedicated period until they are removed and replaced by another. 

The map pool for competitive play in Overwatch is generally seasonal, but was reset before resuming play during the 2020 season of the Overwatch League. There are 14 total maps in rotation in a season that are split up to represent the various game types available for competitive play. Currently, those maps are as follows:

  • Control – Ilios, Oasis, Busan, Nepal, Lijang Tower
  • Assault – Hanamura, Volskaya Industries, Paris
  • Hybrid – Hollywood, Eichenwalde, Numbani
  • Escort – Rialto, Route 66, Dorado

For each series, the maps are picked at random, so bettors have no way of knowing the maps beforehand (neither do the teams) thus there is no edge to be gained in digging as deep as map based statistics. However, understanding what maps are in rotation and how teams play on each one is helpful for attacking betting sites with live wagers, as knowing the map being played and adjusting for each team’s efficiency on that map can give you an upper hand on picking the winner.

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Game types 

There are four game types offered in the Overwatch League, each one being a variation of controlling various points across one of the maps in rotation. The game types are designed to put an emphasis on zoning and teamwork where managing map positioning and ability usage is key to victory. Instead of focusing on kills and deaths, the game modes are centered around each team’s ability to effectively block the other squad from positioning themselves together for a team fight which would likely wipe them off the point.

  • Assault – The defending team is given an allocated amount of time to set up their team and defenses outside of the offensive team’s spawn point with the goal being to stop them from capturing a point in close proximity. The offensive team always has four minutes to capture the first point, and should they secure it, they then get an extra 3 minutes added on to capture the next point. This continues until the offensive team either captures the final points, which spawns outside of the defending team’s spawn area, or the time limit runs out, at which point the teams swap sides and play the map again.
  • Control – The only game type that doesn’t not have an attack and defend format, Control is a traditional version of king of the hill where both teams fight to secure a point on the map that is an equal distance from the spawns for either side. These games are played on the symmetrical maps in the pool and are best of three.
  • Escort – Escort is a combination of the control and assault game modes, whereas the defending team will set up defenses around checkpoints that spawn sequentially across the route of the map and the attacking team must then break the defenses and secure zones while keeping the defending team away from the payload. The more players of the offensive team that are near the payload, the faster it will move, and it also comes to a stop if a defender is near it, so there is a balance between players within the payload zone and those pushing forward to clear out enemy defenses. The game ends when the attacking team either reaches the final checkpoint outside of the defenders spawn or the time limit runs out, at which point the teams switch sides. If the time ran out, the new offensive squad must just beat the distance that the first team was able to complete in order to win. Likewise, if both teams are able to reach the final point, the team that finishes fastest wins the map.
  • Hybrid – Hybrid is a game that combines Escort and Assault. The team on offense must capture an initial point on the map which will then spawn a payload that must be escorted through the remainder of the map. This game type follows the same rules as the others involved, and when one team either reaches the final point or time expires they will switch sides.

From a bookmakers point of view, the games themselves matter a lot less when developing a money line or a spread and only really come into play when live betting and prop betting are involved. As a bettor, your main goal in understanding these game types is to better prepare for certain instances as they unfold. If a team is playing a Hybrid game, for example, and they are able to secure the initial capture point quickly, they will be in a good position to push forward and set a difficult to beat time for the other team to have to pass. 

Like in other esports betting scenarios, understanding and exploiting key situations known to specific maps is a great way to maximize the betting odds offered. Knowing, for instance, that the average map duration of Paris is 13:02 can allow you to make bets on the over or under of the time based on the completion of the first map point. Knowing that the lowest distance traveled for a payload on Watchpoint: Gibraltar is 57.39 means that you can start making assumptions about a team’s chances to win after they have reached that point. There is valuable info that allows you to live bet effectively.

How do you bet on overwatch league

Plenty of different sportsbooks will offer a plethora of bets on the Overwatch League ranging from match level bets like money lines and handicaps down to game level bets like individual map winners. Some sites will offer all the way down to individual player props like kill and assist totals as well as objective time, but those bets are typically a bit more rare as bookmakers don’t have the level of data necessary to create confident medians. Unfortunately, when it comes to wagering real money on Overwatch league, a lot of books offerings are lacking relative to the other major esports titles like counter-strike:global offensive and League of Legends. Let’s go over those options with some basic strategies on exploiting what the books put together:

Money line

A staple of sports betting in any form, you’ll be able to find money line bets available for Overwatch at any reputable sportsbook. Money line bets can either be match based, and dependent on the match winner, or applied to individual games or maps within the series. Money line bets are the majority of the action taken by books and the easiest wagers to make, but the ROI on them isn’t fantastic due to heavily juiced lines and efficient bettors pushing the odds offered towards a thin margin. If you plan on attacking money lines often, the best advice is to do your research on teams that are strong offensively and ignore a lot of the defensive statistics. In Overwatch, it’s an understood rule that it’s not about if the offensive team will secure all the objectives, but how long it will take them. Teams that are better offensively will secure objectives more quickly and be in a better position to win.

Handicap

Also called a “spread” in traditional sports, the handicap of a game is making a wager on how many games or maps one team will win in comparison to the other. For example, an underdog might have a handicap of +1.5 maps, meaning that the wager you are making is that they will lose by more or less than two total maps in the series. Handicaps are a solid bet to make if you have a good understanding of the skill difference between two teams, especially in a game like Overwatch where teamwork is so vital to success. Another important statistic to know for betting on handicaps is sweep rates. For instance, if you know that the London Spitfire has only won 3-0 in a series three times this season, it’s likely a very good bet that they won’t win by more than two maps very often, making their opponent a very good bet to cover +2.5. 

Map total

The map total is the amount of total maps that will be played in a series of Overwatch and ties in well with the logic behind betting handicaps. You are betting on lines like over 3.5 maps or under 4.5 maps, which directly tie into sweep probabilities for the favorites. When you are betting on the under of 3.5 maps, you are betting that one team is going to sweep the other (typically betting the favorite to do so) but at a worse payout to do so than betting the -2.5 line offered on a handicap. For example, the Guanzhou Charge are +324 to sweep the New York Excelsior, but the under on 3.5 maps for the game is set at +182. likewise, the Excelsior are +646 to win by 2.5 maps (sweep) which is significantly better odds than the under on the total maps played. The only reason you are taking a bet like this is if you don’t know the winner but think that it will go over 3.5 or 4.5 maps because the teams match up well, and you will very, very rarely be taking the under because of the worse payouts.

Hopefully this breakdown of the Overwatch League and how to bet on it is helpful for your esports betting future! 

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