Enter the Tournament Realm
OGN’s Overwatch APEX Season 2 tournament entered playoffs recently, and along with it came the introduction of a tournament realm, a separate environment which is intentionally behind on patches that are live on the release version of the game. This is to give tournaments some form of consistency, and preventing meta changes from suddenly giving teams a massive advantage at arbitrary points in time, like one could argue happened with Team EnVyUs at the start of APEX Season 1 playoffs.
In League of Legends, the patch version is featured very prominently in the overlay during competitive matches, and each league (LCS, LCK, etc…) has rules in place as to when patches go live on their tournament realm. In Overwatch, patch versions aren’t as prominent as they are in LoL. The patch notes on Blizzard’s site tend to refer to the date the patch was published rather than the version number, and I haven’t seen APEX make any reference to what patch they’re playing on outside of commentators occasionally mentioning they’re on an older one.
This is especially confusing given the state of the game right now:
- APEX is running the tournament realm, which as far as I can tell is playing whatever “the last season 3 patch” was (126.96.36.199?)
- The current release of the game is 188.8.131.52a, and features notable changes to Bastion, D.Va, Mei, Mercy, Roadhog, and a bugfix on Torbjörn that are not in the tournament realm.
- The Public Test Realm of the game has a whole new hero (Orisa), and additional balance changes to Junkrat, Sombra, Winston, and Zenyatta.
As a player, the version of the game I get to play feels very different in play from the one being played at APEX, and it’s frustrating that they’re behind because I am dying to know what the impact of these changes is going to be on professional play. What makes this even more infuriating is that Blizzard mandates rules for tournaments with a prize pool above a certain threshold, and the rules are based around the premise that Blizzard wants the “Overwatch experience” to be consistent across esports matches and what players experience when they play ranked. Having a tournament realm with delayed patches definitely doesn’t help maintain that consistency, and it doesn’t even circumvent the issue of a meta change suddenly giving a team the upper hand, it merely delays it.