happy monday system

Farewell, Monthly Melee

Last night was the grand finals for the last Overwatch Monthly Melee. Or so we thought, until technical difficulties caused the event to become unwatchable by audiences on stream, and the event was postponed twice to Tuesday evening. So what exactly went on?

The Monthly Melee is a long-running series of monthly online Overwatch tournaments held by Curse and sponsored by Alienware. Aside from the long Overwatch Open qualifying tournament last year, the Monthly Melee is probably the tournament with the highest visibility in North America, and is often used as a platform for Tier 2 NA teams to demonstrate their talent against Tier 1 NA teams when they’re not off competing in Apex in Korea.

This is the last Monthly Melee because any Overwatch tournaments above a certain prize pool threshold need to obtain a license from Blizzard in order to operate legally. In the ramp up to the Overwatch League launch in Q3 of 2017, Blizzard has stopped handing out licenses not only to offline events, but online events as well, and for that reason, it was announced that May’s Overwatch Monthly Melee would be the last one in the series. Presumably, licenses were being withheld to avoid conflicting with the just-announced Overwatch Contenders tournament taking place over the summer.

There had been occasional stream issues during the evening, and ZP, the caster hosting the stream, decided to bring the bit rate and resolution down to try to make things better. Unfortunately, it quickly became obvious that that wasn’t enough, and during the lower bracket finals between Counter Logic Gaming and Selfless Gaming, frame rate dropped to an unacceptable low. The game was completely unwatchable, and the Twitch chat was filled with people spamming “This stream is unwatchable. This stream is unwatchable. This stream is unwatchable. This stream is unwatchable. This stream is unwatchable.”

The culprit seemed to be Comcast. Monthly Melee was held on the same setup for its entire run and this was the first time they were encountering issues of this scale. To me, it looked like ZP’s connection was being heavily throttled as to prevent even a 720p60 stream from being viable. The viewership dropped by almost 15 000 viewers over the course of the lower bracket finals.

During the second round of the lower bracket finals, tournament organizers told chat that the stream would end after the current round and postponed to Monday 5pm Eastern. It soon became clear that Twitch chat were the first to be notified of this; players were still in-game and weren’t notified or asked when a convenient time would be for them, and they were visibly angry when they first heard about it. Sinatraa from Selfless said in the game’s chat that they didn’t want to reschedule, and xQC, tank player for Yikes! which was set to face off against the winner in the grand finals, said he’s “actually done with this fucking OW game, what a joke.”

A few minutes after the stream ended, it was announced on Reddit that the lower bracket finals and grand finals were postponed yet again until Tuesday 5pm ET, presumably following discussion with the teams about what time would work for them.

What a disaster. The organizers probably wanted the last Overwatch Monthly Melee to be memorable, but they definitely didn’t intend for people to remember it because of issues like this.

edit 2:20pm: It seems like the Monthly Melee finals have been re-re-rescheduled to Thursday 5pm. Not sure why, but this constant shifting of the date is sure to negatively impact viewership.

Another thing I forgot to bring up in the original post is that patches go live every Tuesday, so postponing the tournament to after Tuesday means there is a chance of unexpected balance adjustments taking place. Being an online tournament, it isn’t held on the tournament realm used for offline LAN events like APEX, and therefore this could have an impact on the results.