If you are into eSports, what's going down in Houston?
Over the past couple years, Houston has really become a leader in the eSports community. The Houston-based Clutch Gaming is a team in probably the most popular eSport, League of Legends, playing in the League Championship Series (LCS). Additionally, Houston has an Overwatch team, The Houston Outlaws, who just finished the inaugural season in the Overwatch League (OWL).
League Championship Series – Clutch Gaming
Prior to 2018, the League Championship Series (LCS) was an open league similar in style to England’s most popular soccer league, the English Premier League, which relegates the worst teams to a lesser division.
Starting with the Spring Split (season) in 2018, the League of Legends developer, Riot Games, decided to franchise the league’s teams and move toward a more American sport league style. This move incentivized investment into the sport and created a market where teams would be operated out of a city.
Bursting into the LCS in 2018, Clutch Gaming (owned by Tillman Fertitta) is one of several North American LCS teams affiliated with the NBA. In one of the more interesting intros into the LCS, Clutch turned in an average regular season, beating the teams they were predicted to beat and losing to the teams that were projected to beat them. They did squeak into the playoffs and ended up matched against the LCS perennial favorites Team Solo Mid (TSM), in the quarterfinals.
TSM, who has more wins in the LCS than most teams have appearances, had never missed an LCS final; they handily won the first game of five. Then one of the biggest upsets in the history of the LCS happened: Clutch won three straight and was the first team to keep TSM from making the LCS Finals. After falling in the Spring Semi-Finals in five games, Clutch was supposed to be an up-and-coming team in the Summer Split.
However, Clutch never seemed to get going in the split, appeared generally indecisive, and lost on the new popular style of play, commonly referred to as meta. After firing their coach mid-season, and being eliminated from playing in the World Championships, Clutch enters the offseason looking for answers. Who will be the new coach? What lineup changes are there in store before the spring split? At least it will be an interesting offseason.
Overwatch League – Houston Outlaws
The Overwatch League is a relatively new addition to eSports; 2018 was the inaugural season. Twelve franchised teams around the world compete in this six-vs-six objective-based shooter. Owned by an eSport conglomerate, Optic Gaming, the Outlaws represent Houston. The Houston Outlaws played really well in the first stage of the season, finishing in second place.
The meta shifted towards a more aggressive style in stages 2 and 3, and the Outlaws struggled to keep up. They seemed to get it together a bit more in stage 4 by making a roster change, but it was too little too late. The top six teams make the postseason, and the Outlaws finished in seventh place. Hopefully, with some more roster building and more practice during the offseason, the Houston Outlaws will give us something else to cheer about in Houston.