Using Data Analysis to Understand Competitive Overwatch

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June 23, 2017

Korea vs Americas Hero Meta in Season 5

Hero metas can vary vastly between different tiers, but what about regions?  Europe, Americas, and Korean servers are separate, and they have their own hero preferences.  While preferences for some heroes have been well known in the professional scene, such as McCree in Korea, the competitive ladder scene is less clear.  In this article,  we look at current Korean hero usage rates and compare against the current rates for Americas server.

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The Differences between PC and Console Competitive Ladder

For this analysis, we look at hero usage for both Korean and Americas Server competitive ladder.  While we typically leverage 80,000 America players accounts for our analysis, we add another 60,000 active Korean player accounts for use in this analysis - and collect hero usage data for Season 5.  For simplification (and not to overwhelm with too much data), we use the average hero usage across the tiers as our dataset to compare the two regions.  At the bottom of this article in the appendix, you can see the full data including tiers Bronze -> Grandmaster.

The above chart shows the difference between Korean  and Americas hero usage.  Positive values mean that the hero is more popular on Korean competitive ladder, while negative values mean that the hero is more popular on Americas.  All in all, there are huge differences between what heroes are being played on competitive ladder in the two regions.

The top 5 heroes with the biggest differences:

The above Figure shows the top 5 heroes that are the biggest standouts and differences between the Korean and Americas hero meta. 

The most eye-popping difference is Ana vs Mercy.  Korean players clearly prefer Ana much more, with her usage rates extremely high at ~80% in Diamond->Grandmaster tiers.  She isn't being played nearly as much on Americas server, where Mercy is the #1 overall hero in competitive Overwatch.  It's clear that the Korean meta isn't finding as much use for Mercy, or may have learned to deal with successfully counter her with other meta heroes (McCree/Genji).  It's also possible that Korean's appreciate the mechanical demands of Ana much more.  In any case, Korean players are using Mercy much more often at lower tiers while Ana is played at the higher tiers (see appendix of this article).

For the remaining supports, there are also preference differences. The relative lack of Zenyatta play in Korean is likely suprising to many players.  Dive team compositions are definitely popular right now, but Zenyatta is not being seen as a key piece.  Instead, two meta differences seem to be at play: 1) supports are played less frequently in Korea - meaning more games with solo healers, and 2) Lucio is being played more in Korea, taking additional popularity from Zenyatta.  Also not that Symmetra is being played more on Americas server.  These differences may simply represent a "two support please" mentality that doesn't exist in Korea.

Similarly, Offensive hero preferences are different.  As seen in the professional Korean e-sports scene, McCree is very popular - and much more popular that Pharah.  His high burst damage and "dink" headshot sounds appear to be very rewarding.  Genji is another offense hero that is much more popular in Korea.  While Genji is viewed as a high-skill hero and mostly played only at higher tiers on the Americas server, Genji is extremely popular at every tier on the Korean servers.  Genji is more popular than Soldier at Platinum-> Grandmaster - an almost unthinkable result for Americas players.  Pharah is definitely more popular on the Americas server, but with so many counter heroes (McCree, Soldier, Ana, D.Va) being played in Korea it is pretty easy to see why.

Tank play is also quite different between the two regions.  For one, while Americas has abandoned Reinhardt and Zarya quickly in Season 5, the Korean players still play both heroes at a high rate.  Reinhardt is still the most popular tank at most Korean tiers, while Zarya competes for top tank status at the highest tiers of play.  Interestingly, Korean players don't like Orisa at all - she is the least played Overwatch hero.  While she isn't popular in Americas server either, she has been seeing significant play at the lower tiers.

One theme that bubbles to the surface when comparing the Korean and Americas scene is high-impact aim-based heroes (McCree and Ana).  Hanzo may be a surprising face to Americas players, but not for Korean players. He is being played at above 15% usage in Bronze-> Masters, making him slightly less popular that Pharah and more popular than Reaper.   He has potential for incredibly high impact, as he can one-shot kill nearly every hero in the game.  Clearly, Korean players love Hanzo.
The Two Overwatch Scenes 
It's clear that there are major differences between the Korean and Americas hero meta in season 5.  High skill-ceiling heroes appear to be consistently more popular on Korean servers, with Ana, McCree, Genji, and even Hanzo being more popular than on Americas server.  Americas server loves Mercy and Pharah with a passion (probably including Pharmacy as well), and dive team composition Zenyatta with a passion.  The hero meta differences between the two regions is certainly something to keep an eye on, as the Korean and Americas players continue to influence each other primarily through professional play.

Appendix: Difference in Hero Usage for Each Tier, Korean Usage Rates in Season 5