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The global Overwatch finals solidified Philly’s esports cred

The global, ABC-broadcasted Overwatch League Grand Finals were held last night at the Wells Fargo Center, and organizers and local fans showed up to represent.

The 2019 Overwatch Finals at the Wells Fargo Center. (Photo by Chris Wink)

In the same week that the Philadelphia Fusion broke ground on its new esports stadium coming to the Philadelphia Sports Complex in early 2021, thousands of Overwatch fans came to South Philly to watch the San Francisco Shock challenge the Vancouver Titans.

The international Overwatch League Grand Finals were held in the City of Brotherly Love Sunday night, and while it was solidly a worldwide celebration of the game itself and esports as a growing industry, organizers and fans brought some local flavor to the scene.

The match was streamed on Twitch, broadcasted nationally on ABC and sold out the 12,000 tickets available for the event at the Wells Fargo Center. (The arena can seat 20,000 but it reconfigured its space for the finals.)

Attendees seemed to be rooting for the game itself: The enthusiastic crowd soaking up the techno-blasting, strobe-lit spectacle of it all purchased tickets long before knowing which two teams would be competing. Even so, scores of Fusion fans represented their not-yet-locally-based hometown team by donning their orange jerseys.

Here’s what happened:

Some of the players, fans or team reps had never experienced Philadelphia before, or had never seen so many Overwatch fans in one place.

[Editor’s note: Is this the first time a visitor has described feeling “cozy” upon entering our city? Hats off to esports for making that happen, if so.]

But there were plenty of Philly Fusion fans in the arena, too.

EDM artist Zedd performed for the 12,000 fans (and for everyone streaming on Twitch or on television).

But organizers made sure to bring in Philly-grown Questlove to DJ the event, too.

After hours of game play, the Shock defeated the Titans 4-0, and player Choihyobin was named the match’s VIP.

The event’s a nod to Philly’s standing as a city that’s taking esports very seriously. At the Fusion Arena groundbreaking last week, Dave Scott, chairman and CEO of Comcast Spectacor, which owns the Wells Fargo Center, called the event a “Super Bowl moment” for the city.

While the arena is still more than a year from opening, there’s plenty of esports events throughout the city coming up. Home games for the Overwatch League will be held at The Met in February and May, and at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City in June.

“We like this space — it’s young, digital, diverse and global,” Scott said. “It’s a space we really want to be in.”

Companies: Wells Fargo Center / Philadelphia Fusion

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