The Overwatch League announced a new stats webpage Tuesday for viewers who want the nitty gritty details of team and player performance.
When I first heard the news, I was ecstatic. It took almost four stages of waiting, but the league finally made public all the juicy tidbits and telling stats that it had been hoarding for its casters and analysts. Now, us plebes in the audience would get our chance to truly understand the game we were watching.
But I was wrong to be excited. Although the new site does list some useful information, such as hero play time for each player, by and large it is a mess of unclear and incomplete data.
The first problem is the data comes from only Stage 4. The casters have been using the type of information available on the page and more since the preseason. If that info exists, why is it still being withheld? How are fans expected to choose an MVP for the season if we only know how players performed in the most recent stage?
The site also tracks only five stats, each per ten minutes: damage, healing, final blows, eliminations and deaths. Those stats are helpful, but they don't tell the full story. There's no information at all about how quickly players earn their ultimates, or how efficient they are when they deploy them. Those stats are vital factors that decide matches in Overwatch.
But perhaps more egregious than the omissions, the site groups all of a player's heroes under a single set of stats. When I look at Seong-hyun "JJoNak" Bang's stats, I'm not interested in how he did in the 31 seconds of Mei he's played in Stage 4, yet those numbers color the data shown for his performance in the stage.
The stats also lack proper context. Instead of allowing me to see how JJoNak's final blow numbers stack up against other healers, all I can see is how he fares against the entire league. That artificially deflates the ranking the site displays, making him appear worse than he really is.
On top of all of that, the site lacks valuable quality of life features. There's no built-in way to make a head-to-head comparison. Nor does it allow users to rank players within a particular role. This information can be wrung from the site manually, but it's a tedious process that can be avoided with a little extra work from Blizzard and the league.
This might sound like a lot of bellyaching from a certified nerd, but the truth is stats matter, and not only for dedicated enthusiasts. More and clearer stats means more engaged fans. It's much easier to argue with your friends about who the best Widowmaker is when you can point to stats.
By the same token, better stats means better fantasy leagues, another major avenue for fan engagement.
Finally, better stats means more legitimacy for Overwatch, its analysts and for esports more generally. Every major sport has an enormous amount of data available to its fans. If Overwatch wants to reach that same level of staying power, stats will be a crucial part of the journey.
So please, Blizzard. Fix the stats site. For all of us.
Cover photo courtesy of Blizzard