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Overwatch League Commentators Are Jumping Ship [UPDATE]

Watching professional Overwatch matches can be chaotic. At times, team fights look less like coherent, role-driven skirmishes and more like cartoon characters punching and kicking inside screen-eclipsing dust clouds. Commentators play a crucial role, making sense of the madness to both esports fans and the uninitiated mainstream audience Blizzard hopes to attract. But with season three just around the corner, Overwatch League has lost some of its best-known announcers.

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Since the tail end of 2019, four major members of the OWL talent desk have announced their departures. Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykles, Erik “Doa” Lonnquist, Chris Puckett, and Auguste “Semmler” Massonnat have all elected to take their services elsewhere after their contracts with the league expired.

Mykles and Lonnquist, who bid farewell to the league at the end of last month and the start of this month, respectively, have been a casting duo for seven years, gaining notoriety in Korea commentating League of Legends before transitioning into Overwatch, when Blizzard kicked off its esports initiative in 2017. Puckett, who also announced his departure at the beginning of the month, casted games like Halo and Call of Duty for more than a decade before becoming the main host of Overwatch League broadcasts when the league began. Massonnat, who made his announcement today, was previously best known as a Counter-Strike caster, but quickly became one of the league’s most recognizable faces. If you’ve watched even just one or two Overwatch League broadcasts, you’ve probably heard all of these folks’ voices.

They’ve each offered their own reasons for leaving. In a Twitter video, Puckett said his wife got a promotion that landed her in New York, so he’s decided to freelance. Lonnquist said in a Twitlonger post that he’s also diving back into unpredictable freelance waters “due to some of the League’s decisions over the last year in terms of creative direction, management, and resistance to input from veteran esports [personnel].”

Speaking with The Loadout, Massonnat chalked up his decision to leave to how Overwatch has grown and evolved over the years.

“If you’ve watched me cast Counter-Strike, you’ll know I like to get excited and hyped, but also that I don’t fake it,” he said. “But that was getting more and more difficult in Overwatch. The game has changed so radically since the first season and when we first started out. There were more options for mechanical skills and big plays. I felt like it was still possible to carry a team pretty hard individually but that’s harder now after the last two years. [The new meta] slowed the game down so much that it became difficult for me to cast it.”

Mykles, frequently outspoken, has been especially vocal about his decision to part ways with the esports juggernaut Blizzard willed into existence, initially saying on Twitter that the 2019 departure of OWL commissioner Nate Nanzer “led to irreconcilable creative and philosophical differences between myself and the league’s current leadership, and all parties will be better served by parting ways.”

Speaking with The Washington Post, Mykles elaborated, saying that he couldn’t get Blizzard on board with broadcast ideas that would focus on entertainment and turning individual players into stars. He also objected to OWL’s focus on attracting mainstream audiences, preferring instead to craft something with esports fans in mind. Lastly, he was apprehensive about the travel demands of season three, which will see teams operate out of their home cities and play a series of home and away games. “Casting will never be exclusively the thing that I do,” he told Washington Post, noting that he expected OWL to have hired more casters by this point. “And with that travel schedule, it becomes difficult to do anything else.”

On Twitter, Mykles has also said that rumors that Blizzard is trying to “lowball” talent don’t apply to him, but he went on to imply that those rumors—kicked up by Mykles’ close friend, esports analyst and noted bad take-haver Duncan “Thorin” Shields—aren’t totally bunk. “Your princess is in another castle,” Mykles said.

The Overwatch League has already hired on new talent, including Overwatch broadcast veteran Andrew “ZP” Rush and former OWL players Jacob “Jake” Lyon and Scott “Custa” Kennedy.

Update 1/13/2020, 9:00 PM ET: Veteran host Malik Forté, who’s been with the Overwatch League for two years, has announced that he’s also decided against renewing his contract. In an email to Kotaku, he said he has “nothing but the utmost respect” for everybody involved in OWL, but while he’s not sure about what kind of pay Blizzard offered other members of the team, he wasn’t satisfied with the number the company proposed to him.

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