Philadelphia Fusion’s Overwatch rebrand leaves behind more than just a city

One of esports' most passionate fanbases has been eradicated.

Philadelphia is known for its passionate sports fans. They’ve got a reputation for being pretty intense, even to their own teams, but it’s mostly because they care so much about them. The Philly fanbase was no different for the Philadelphia-based Overwatch League team.

Starting as one of the inaugural teams in 2017, the Philadelphia Fusion quickly gathered a fanbase almost immediately after it was announced. In the following years, the Fusion would grow its community into one of the most passionate in OWL, just like other Philly sports teams. 

Fast forward to 2022. Teams are gearing up for the 2023 season. Behind the scenes, players are negotiating contracts, staff members are fielding opportunities, and teams are solidifying their strategies for the upcoming season. Fans expected the Fusion to stay in Korea for a third year, but what they didnt expect was a complete rebranding of the team, which will effectively delete everything they know and love about its history in one fell swoop.

In 2023 the Philadelphia Fusion that fans know and love will be no more. Comcast Spectacor, the team’s parent company, put out a press release on Dec. 30 letting fans know the Fusion would be transforming into the Seoul Infernal, and that theyd remain in Korea going forward.

The move isnt surprising considering the company also owns Korean League of Legends team T1, but the outrage over the decision was near-instant. Fans immediately voiced their displeasure with the decision on social media. Now instead of a home team to root for, theyre left with a feeling akin to a parent that went on a vacation without them and brought back a souvenir that says my Overwatch League team moved to Korea and all I got was this T-shirt. The rebranding is a slap in the face to anyone who has ever supported the Fusion and especially insulting for those who reside in the city and were proud to have their own esports team.

Philadelphia Fusion leaves behind a passionate fanbase

Before the pandemic, in the height of the Overwatch Leagues popularity, the Fusion connected its fans to its players by holding two homecomings in Philly where fans got the opportunity to spend time with their favorite pros. Fans would also gather at Wahoos, a restaurant the Fusion partnered with, to watch the matches each week and cheer on their local team. 

After the pandemic hit, the team moved operations to South Korea. The move disappointed fans, with many saying the decision made them lose all interest in the team and, in some cases, OWL as a whole. Twitter responses are filled with a variety of negativity, some providing constructive criticism about the way it was handled, and others downright angry that the Fusion name is no more. 

The relocation makes sense, considering the teams ties to T1s already established esports facilities in Korea, something Philadelphia hadnt been able to establish yet. But the decision to completely rebrand the org seems to be the point of contention among many on social media.

Fans constantly asked when the team would be moving back to Philadelphia from Korea. After two seasons of fans waking up at 5am ET to catch the matches and support a team all the way across the globe, they got their answer: never. 

Fusion fans have every right to be mad

It doesnt matter that the Fusion could never finish in first place. It probably wouldnt matter if they finished last every season, either. The fanbase supported the team and its players that came and went no matter what, a typical practice for Philly sports watchers that bled into its esports team. But the Fusions rebrand to the Seoul Infernal has removed all motivation for Philly fans to stick around.

No doubt the Seoul Infernal will pick up its own fanbase and be just fine, but Philly fans are left in limbo while Comcast Spectacor goes on its merry way to Korea, likely for financial reasons along with practical ones. But those reasons will never make Fusion fans care about this new team. 

If the reaction to the news on Twitter is any indication, the Infernal will have to start from scratch; although many of their fans might have been scattered around the country, their most passionate fans were based in the Philadelphia area. This was shown by the absolutely packed events at the Xfinity Live venue where the team hosted events, and the loud and proud fanbase that showed up to many of the homestands before the pandemic hit. 

Many of the teams previous players reacted to the news, and Isaac Boombox Charles, one of the original members of the team, said the move was sad for the fans to lose their team.

The Fusion rebrand has fans wondering what the point of franchising really is for OWL

In the beginning of the OWL, the goal was to create fanbases that mirrored traditional city-based sports franchises. Now, fans are beginning to wonder if thats still the point. After the Paris Eternal announced its move to Las Vegas, and now the Fusions move to Korea, fans have one question: Whats the point?

City moves arent a foreign concept to traditional sports teams either, but sports are also often based in their respective countries, meaning attending a match might be a half a day of travel, as opposed to the massive around-the-world venture it would now be for Fusion fans to attend an Infernal match.

With the pandemic significantly shaking up how the Overwatch League is formatted and how it runs in-person events, the original vision of OWL now seems like it’s been left in the rearview mirror.

The OWL provided something new for esports fans. Typically in esports, fans will follow the players they like, but the OWL seemed to successfully create an environment where fans could stick with a team and still support the players that moved on from it. Even fans that werent Fusion supporters are starting to wonder what the point of franchising is if teams can just completely change their identities and leave their fanbase behind. 

Theres been no additional information from Comcast Spectacor on whats happening next with the team, but the rebranding has already commenced on social media. The Fusion’s image and identity have been stripped from its social media since all branding has changed over to the Seoul Infernal. Fusion fans are mourning their team now that it has been deleted from existence, and with it, their love and support.

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