The Fusion are about to make history.
When the freshly minted club takes its seat at Blizzard Arena Thursday night against the Houston Outlaws, not only will it be the first-ever Overwatch League match for the team, but it will mark the first geo-based team from Philadelphia to play in any competitive esports league.
“Our team, players and staff are very excited for the season to underway," Fusion coach Yann "Kirby" Luu said. "It'll be our first time on stage for an official Overwatch League match, so the players are impatient to show what they can do."
After missing the preseason as a result of a delayed visa process for players, Thursday will be the first time the Fusion will be in public view and in meaningful competition. That’s also what makes the first match such a unique opportunity.
"I don't think we'll be at our peak just yet, but that most likely applies to all teams in the league," Luu said. "Our fans can expect to see our guys ready to play and hungry to compete."
What is the Overwatch League?
Overwatch League is a seasonal esports competition based on the multi-platform video game Overwatch. Think of it like the NHL, and Overwatch, the game, as ice hockey. Overwatch League is in its inaugural season, which begins on Jan. 10 and runs through mid-June.
This season, the league is broken up into the Pacific and Atlantic Divisions, where 12 teams from around the world will compete twice on a weekly basis at Blizzard Arena in Burbank, California. Like hockey, the matches are six-on-six but played exclusively on PC in a LAN setting (they all sit in the same room using the same equipment).
There will be standings, playoffs and roster alterations, just like any other team-based sports league. And if you haven’t followed esports and wonder how a video game league is sustainable, just look at the team ownership: Robert Kraft, Jeff Wilpon and Stan and Josh Kroenke are all well invested.
The season one Overwatch League champion will pocket $1 million.
Who are the Fusion?
The orange-and-black Fusion are an Overwatch League franchise owned by Comcast-Spectacor, which also owns the Flyers. The Fusion are the most international of any team in the league, made up of 12 players from around the world (only six can start) and a full coaching staff.
While the Fusion feature talented and well-known players like Jae-Hyeok “Carpe” Lee, Georgii “Shadowburn” Gushcha, Isaac “Boombox” Charles and Gael “Poko” Gouzerch, they are considered an unknown entity because of a visa procurement slog.
On paper, the Fusion have the required talent to compete. The spine of the club (Carpe, Shadowburn and Joe “Joemeister” Gramano, come directly from FaZe Clan, a successful club team that made the Overwatch Contenders finals last season. Managed by the same people, Contenders predates Overwatch League and will work like the AHL to Overwatch League’s NHL.
But if you were to prematurely grade this team in NBA terms, the Fusion won’t likely be the Warriors, Celtics or Cavaliers this season, but be somewhere between the Timberwolves, Sixers, Bucks and Hornets.
What to expect.
At 7 p.m. Thursday and at 2 p.m. Saturday against the Spitfires, the Fusion will kick off their season at Blizzard Arena. Each human player on the team selecting one of 26 characters with a specific set of skills. Those skills range from DPS (offense), which takes out the opposition, to tanks and support (defense), which keep teammates alive through blocking and healing.
Think of it like basketball: How a power forward, center and point guard all have unique abilities and all work in tandem toward an objective. And in Overwatch League, teams design strategies to fit their situation into the game, and their strengths.
Each match features a four-map set, all predetermined and all with unique objectives (control, escort, assault, hybrid). The team that claims the most objectives will win the map. It’s kind of like tennis, but with each game taking 20-30 minutes.
Where to watch or see them
Unlike traditional sports, you won’t find Overwatch League on TV. But you can find all of the league’s matches for free online at OverwatchLeague.com or on Twitch at Twitch.tv/overwatchleague.
If you want an in-person experience, you can watch the Fusion’s match with other fans at Wahoo’s Fish Taco in University City Thursday at 5 p.m.
If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can catch the Fusion live from Blizzard Arena in Burbank. Tickets are on sale for about $30.