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When the Overwatch League season kicked off on April 27, fans were greeted with a few fancy upgrades that harkened back to its first glittering years. The Watchpoint desk got a full studio setup, graphics were vastly improved, and 4k resolution was finally re-enabled on live YouTube streams.

No one wanted the day to succeed more than Sean Miller, who has served as head of the Overwatch League since late 2021. He’s also one of the most visible parts of the esport, spending game days memeing along with fans on Twitter as games unfold.

Miller sat down with Esports Illustrated the morning after opening day to touch on a few hot topics, from the current state of the Overwatch League and the first league-run LAN event in South Korea to questions about the esport’s longevity.

ESI: How did you feel about day one and the fan reaction?

Sean Miller: It’s hard to describe how good it felt to see that reaction. I was sending messages yesterday to our broadcast team and to Esports Engine, who's doing the production, [and I was] fairly emotional. It feels so good to be back to see the joy around the community and to see the players and the trash talking. I mean, it just feels good to have people excited, you know? Like, genuinely excited about Overwatch and the competition and the big stakes that we have coming up in Korea.

What did your offseason look like? What did you do?

It's hard to believe that it was over five months ago where we were all gathered and I about fell over in the Anaheim Convention Center from exhaustion [laughs].

Since then, it's had its ups and downs. It's been a roller coaster in a lot of ways with factors outside of our control. But at the same time, we've been highly focused on this next generation of Overwatch esports and being able to create an ecosystem that is really built for the players. And you know, Liz, one thing that actually I think about quite a bit is your article that you wrote after the Grand Finals, talking about how it was the most authentic Grand Finals ever. I think that sentiment, that authenticity, and being able to deliver esports to players across the world at all levels, that's what we're trying to do here. That is my goal.

I want every player that wants to compete to feel like they have a place where they can really belong. I think we all recognize throughout the offseason why there's been such a focus on that. There's so much power and strength in these competitive communities. You can see it in Calling All Heroes; that’s turned into an unbelievable community. We see it kind of starting to get better and even more powerful in [Overwatch] Contenders and even as we're doing some of these cross-community events. The Lifeweaver Invitational was also a great example of this. It's really creating this web, this strong connective tissue between all of us that love this game so much. I think we're just kind of scratching the surface this year, honestly.

How did you decide on South Korea for the Midseason Madness tournament?

Korea is so special for so many reasons. [It’s special] to our community, to us as staff, and to its players, who represent well over 50 percent of the players in the league [every year]. We were able to go to Canada last year and we're able to go to Korea this year. We're going to be able to see these passionate fans in Korea, who I think are going to bring such an energy to this event that everybody's going to feel across the world. I think they're hungry for competitive Overwatch and we've been able to see some small morsels of that throughout the last year and then we'll even see it here on [April 29] with the two Seoul teams going at it in WD studio, live. Here’s a fun stat for you: that event sold out in 30 seconds.

No way. That’s amazing.

Yeah! There’s obviously such passion and hunger from this community out in Korea. And I think we’re gonna get there in June and they’re gonna blow all our socks off.

What was that international planning process like?

It’s really fun and interesting, actually. We're working really closely with our incredible staff in Korea who, you know, many of them have been with Blizzard and Overwatch esports for years and years now since the inception of the league. They really understand what it takes to make this event a success. They understand the kind of things in Korea that we need to do, both operationally but also culturally to make sure that it's a special event catered to the Korean audience.

I think what makes this one special is that it has such a cross-cultural, global feel to it that it’s been unique in the process. One example I can give you is that we're thinking about unique sprays or cosmetics that we'll be able to unveil later for Midseason Madness. And we’ve been able to kind of think about how we can really lean into the culture of Korea with some of those things as well.

I do have a few spicy ones for you. Do you have any comment on teams skirting the six-player minimum rule? And what consequences will they face, if any?

I think for helpful context, the six-player rule was put into place in the event that the night before a match–and by the way this has happened more than once, as I'm sure you know–a player gets ill. Say it's Saturday night and you need a sub. You can’t play with four players. I mean, I guess you could play with four players, but maybe that’s not the best idea. You need a sub, so that is why that rule exists. It’s actually a very good reason.

Just like any league rule, there will be discipline. Any breakage of a league rule or noncompliance will result in discipline. So that stands with the six-player minimum as well as any other either roster construction rule or any other rule across the league.

At the end of the day, though, rosters are up to [the team]. With the roster construction itself, who do you want that sixth player to be? Does the team want to gamble on putting in a suboptimal player in the event somebody gets ill, which happens all the time? Then it’s their call. It's their team brand and that's kind of where the league's jurisdiction, in my view, needs to end.

How confident do you feel about the long-term sustainability of OWL and what will you do to ensure it stays relevant?

I think that’s a valid question. And I'd ask it if I were you, as well. The honest truth is that it's easy for us to forget, myself included sometimes, that this is a very nascent industry. When you look across the evolution that's happened over the past three or four years–I think COVID accelerated some things–everybody's figuring this out in real time. There are going to be adjustments that we're going to have to make, that everybody's making, and it's trial and error.

I think that any claims that the industry or OWL is “dying” feel very misplaced. I keep coming back to evolution because that's what it feels like for not only OWL but for the entire space. There's been so many articles over recent weeks and months and reports of people evolving in organizations, figuring it out and trying to find the best model to make this work. I think that in any nascent industry, like esports, there's going to be challenges and we're going to have some new and fresh ideas. For me, personally, I'm pretty excited to see it come to fruition because at the core of all this, so many passionate fans want to see this succeed. They love competitive Overwatch, they love the community that's been built around it. That's not going away.

Alright, now we can have a few fun ones. If you could hold an OWL LAN event anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I mean, Korea genuinely is very high on the list for a number of reasons. For me, personally, all of Asia. I love so much of Japan, in particular. It's one of my favorite places I've ever visited. I just think there's something so special about Japan so I think that'd be really neat.

Which team has the best jersey?

Seoul, Korea.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.