Now, obviously the world of esports is filled with conflict – competitions, group-based or otherwise, even disagreements and other types of conflict are common…this, however, is something else entirely. There are two teams involved here – the ‘Toronto Esports’ Team, and Overwatch’s new ‘Toronto Team’.
Overwatch has recently added a few more city-based teams to its League line-up. One of them was Toronto. In and of itself, there’s really no problem with that…except that the addition of the second team caused huge problems with the first.
A naming dispute began – in an interview, Toronto Esports president explained that there were issues with the recent changes to the Contenders rules that went against core values of their companies. So far so good. Toronto Esports had been managing the Contenders team of the Overwatch League’s Boston Uprising. Unsurprisingly, that team was called ‘Toronto Uprising’, a combination of both names.
That name was what ultimately caused the real problem: “We have been informed by Blizzard that we will be forced to remove ‘Toronto’ from our brand in only 6 weeks. Mid Contenders season 3,” the official Toronto Esports Twitter account stated. “The reason cited: Toronto Defiant have purchased ‘exclusive naming rights.’ We will be leaving Overwatch effective immediately. Good riddance.”
Toronto Defiant is operated by OverActive Media and the esports organisation Splyce. It won’t actually start competing until next February when the second season of the Overwatch League begins.
Like any other League team, Toronto Defiant is also allowed to field a Contenders team, in other words, an ‘academy’ team…if they want. They don’t have to, of course. Still, the inclusion of the new team meant that the old one would have to rename itself…they chose not to.
In fact, president Ryan Pallett actually challenged Toronto Defiant to a show match…despite the fact that Defiant is a League team and Uprising is a Contenders team. Defiant ignored the challenge entirely. A few days later, the Toronto Esports Twitter account repeated the challenge along with a few questionable comments, accusing Defiant of being ‘scared’.
Other League teams weren’t too impressed with the move – London Spitfire social media manager Mateus Portilho wrote: “Can this team stop tweeting cringe stuff, it’s reflecting really bad for them and for the OW competitive scene.” Pallett DMd Portilho in reaction and when the message was ignored…he called him a coward.
All in all, the Toronto Esports organisation really isn’t doing itself any favours at the moment. All of this went down over the last few days, and last night, ultimately, Toronto Esports announced it’s complete withdrawal from the game. Fans and competitors alike were shocked by the move…and so were the players of the actual team.
Tweets from some of the players suggested that they weren’t informed in advance, or really, at all. Charlie ‘Nero’ Zwarg tweeted: “Damn, I guess I’m goin home boys it was a good run.” Despite this, the League team Boston Uprising (the parent team, so to speak) will NOT be withdrawing. President Chris Loranger has gone ahead with some damage control, by reassuring people that his organisation still holds the Contender team’s player and staff contracts as well as the Contenders slot afforded to them by their spot in the League.
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All in all, it’s quite a complicated situation…one that Toronto Esports seems to have caused all on their own. “I do not have the ability at the moment to address the recent or current decision out of Toronto Esports, and we were not part of the decision at all,” Loranger tweeted. “We will continue to compete as a team, but obviously under a new brand. That is all I can say at the moment but will provide further details at a later date.”
Pallett responded to a request for a statement by popular magazine Kotaku with the following: “Yes, we felt we were loyal to Blizzard and Overwatch. We stayed and helped scout and develop players in tier 2 in the early days, prior to Overwatch League, at a time when most other organizations were abandoning Overwatch. We felt that given this, in the very least should have been able to keep our original brand, which we hold very dearly. We also feel that the recent changes to the Contenders rules are creating unnecessary barriers that are harming the talent development ecosystem. This is against our core company values.
We did challenge the Defiant to a show-match, we felt it would be a great local event, and many of our fans really wanted it to happen, so we continue to represent them in pushing Defiant to answer.
We plan on entering new titles and continuing to compete in esports and help young players. I think it is unlikely we will continue to work with Kraft group. However, I would like to state that Chris Loranger and Uprising and Kraft Group have been incredible partners. We have nothing but the utmost respect for them and their leadership in sports.”
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