It was a history-making night for esports in Philadelphia.
On Saturday night at Lucky Strike in Center City, the Fusion hosted their Homecoming Showmatch, the first-ever Overwatch League exhibition match in the city, facing New York Excelsior in a best-of-five tilt.
“We always wanted to do an actual match in Philadelphia,” said Fusion president Tucker Roberts. “We had an opportunity to give the fans something to see live. The magic of esports is when you get to go and cheer.”
And cheer they did. Surrounding the players, the fans crowed over every elimination and point taken. They stood arm’s length from the Fusion players, who sat on six computers just steps away from the dimly lit bar.
The sold-out venue had a Fight Club feel to it. Even Gritty was there.
“It’s amazing, it’s surreal,” said Elijah Hudson “Elk” Gallagher, an upstate New Yorker and only American player on the Fusion roster. “It’s cool to come to this event to see people here for us. Their support is one of the things that help teams. It’s hard not to be happy.”
Led by their usual starting six of Jae-hyeok “Carpe” Lee, Alberto González “Neptuno” Molinillo, Josue “Eqo” Corona, Su-Min “Sado” Kim and Gael “Poko” Gouzerch and Isaac “Boombox” Charles, the Fusion came from behind two maps but fell short, 3-2.
“It’s one thing to hang out with the players,” Roberts said. “But when you get to see them pop off, that’s when it becomes fun.”
Although the Fusion, who made the Overwatch League finals, are moving into their second season, the club, which visited the city last season for autograph signings and meet-and-greets, had never played a competitive match in Philadelphia until Saturday.
If that seems strange, it is. As it stands, all 20 international Overwatch League teams reside and play matches in a centralized area in Burbank, CA. However, that could change as early as 2020, when teams are expected to relocate to their home markets.
“It’s motivating for all of us,” Roberts said. “When you’re away in Los Angeles, it does feel like a virtual thing. Once you’re here playing in front of people and they’re grabbing your shoulders and thanking you, something does change.
“We’re excited to move here full time.”
Roberts noted that the Fusion have started plans to build a state-of-the-art esports arena in the city. It would be the first of its kind.
“We are adamant about coming here as soon as we can,” he said. “We’re gearing up. We’re working on our own arena, which will be a step up from what people have seen in North America for esports. We’re very much gearing up for a move to Philly.”
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