After six years of operation, the Oceanic Pro League (OPL) has been dissolved. On Oct. 6, Riot Games closed their Sydney office, ended the league, and left the future of the Oceanic region in a dark cloud of uncertainty. "We do not believe that the market is currently able to support a professional league," Riot stated.
In the wake of OPL's death, Inven Global sat down with one of the region's most successful exports, former Origen/Astralis support Mitchell "Destiny" Shaw. Destiny shares his opinions on why the league shut down, what this means for the teams which competed in it until just weeks ago, and whether there's a silver lining in all of this.
I wanted to ask you about your year in review and then your free agency and where you wanted to go, but then just last night, the OPL exploded. But now, let's start with you joining Origen in 2019. What were your expectations about playing in the LEC?
Coming off with a pretty successful run with MAMMOTH, moving from Oceania and into the LEC was very exciting, very nerve-wracking. It's obviously a massive jump in skill difference and I was on a pretty stacked team. Coming into the year, we were pinned as one of the top 3 teams, so I'd say a lot of people had their eyes on me.
In review, though, in spring, I felt overperformed. I had one bad game against G2 and maybe just a couple of misplays here and there. But overall, I was quite satisfied with the split, even if we didn't hit our goal of top 3. We didn't show our maximum potential but we were on a good path and I felt like I improved a lot during that time.
What did you learn in the LEC as opposed to the OPL?
In Oceania, at least in 2019, we were in a gaming house with a coach that we had known for a very long time. Obviously, our resources and solo queue are very limited. In terms of scrims and practice options, we didn't have many — how do I put this — ways of perfecting our craft in comparison to Europe. [In Europe], there's a huge population, there are people from different countries, it's full of competition with eager and hungry players. The drive to do well and the amount of resources that Europe has is exponentially huge.
To come here and experience the solo queue and experience an environment where I have an office, I have two coaches. Culture-wise, European players are a lot more direct and a lot more focused on their goals, compared to Oceania where only one team goes to Worlds, and these players are usually known good players. But in EU, you can have a random player that could be the next Jankos, the next thing. The level is a lot higher here.
"If [Riot] could find ways to make it functional, I just think they might've gone the wrong way abound it. Maybe they were a bit too optimistic about the funding of the teams. I think they just might've pushed it too hard."
Why do you think that the OPL failed?
Personally, I'm a bit mixed. In my eyes, we have a low viewer base, one of the lowest ones in the world. But saying that, I don't think Riot had that many expenditures. They cut funding in 2019 or end of 2018. They weren't paying teams anything, they were kind of operating themselves, probably at a loss, but I could be wrong.
But obviously, it's a long-term thing, right? And Riot is making tons of money elsewhere in the game itself. The OPL was actually still performing quite well, even after the exodus when a lot of the players left overseas. This year was one of the best performances OCE has had. It was quite a surprise that Oceania was still able to perform despite the funding cuts and the players leaving.
It's kind of odd to see them pull the string, but it was expected, I'd say. It really sucks, because I think the league is very passionate. A lot of people had to work to get where they are today, a lot of people had to do more than what they were given in terms of resources. It's quite sad, but in saying that, if they could find ways to make it functional, I just think they might've gone the wrong way abound it. Maybe they were a bit too optimistic about the funding of the teams. I think they just might've pushed it too hard. I don't think they were as innovative as they could've been.
What do you think this is going to mean for the future of competitive League of Legends in the region? You mentioned it was already hard to find teams to scrim with and now I'm assuming there will still be teams around, but they will compete in smaller tournaments.
I'd assume someone's taking over the league, such as ESL Australia. This is just an assumption. I think most people won't be living in gaming houses, I'd be quite surprised, maybe just the top 4 teams. I'd expect four teams to at least try it, but the other four would probably stick back and play and study online, on very low salaries.
I'd hope most of the top OPL players can go to NA. This Legacy line-up definitely over-performed. It's unfair to them to not find teams after what they did. That'd just feel wrong, but with the COVID situation, it could be hard.
"We're a lot more attractive to American teams right now, which is obviously the region everyone wants to go to if you are an OCE player."
Well, now OPL players don't take an import slot in the LCS, so I'm sure you guys will be a lot more attractive to the orgs there.
Yeah, obviously there are some negatives on the changes, but there are positives on the flip side. We're a lot more attractive to American teams right now, which is obviously the region everyone wants to go to if you are an OCE player. The culture is very similar, the competition is a lot better, there are a lot more teams to scrim with. You can scrim Latin America and all the academy teams.
There's a lot for OCE to learn from NA. For myself, Fudge, FBI, Ryoma, k1ng... there are a lot of players who will benefit from this change, and to be fair, a lot of the OCE players have been operating on very little. It feels like a blessing in disguise to be an NA resident now. If anything, I feel about the regional OCE players who've been playing for very little for very long, while we got NA residency kind of random.
Now, to you. You are a free agent, and now this happened. Were you expecting to go back home? What's gonna happen?
I would've loved to go home and see my family. I haven't seen them in a year, and I kind of missed Christmas, so I feel kind of bad. But if I go back to Australia, I can't leave, due to the COVID lockdown. I am kind of staying in Denmark for another month and then hopefully by then I'd be signed to a team and I can move in with them. Obviously, I am looking at LEC and LCS offers right now. I just want to find that appeals to me. It might take some time, but I'm sure I'll find a good home.
"I'd assume someone's taking over the league, such as ESL Australia. This is just an assumption. I think most people won't be living in gaming houses, I'd be quite surprised, maybe just the top 4 teams."
What would you say you're bringing to a team?
I have a lot of experience, motivation, and drive. I've been playing for quite some time now. I turned 23 this year, but this has been my first year in a major region. I learned so much in this one year that I did in the past two or three. My view on the game has definitely changed. I've realized I have a lot more to improve on. Playing against Mikyx and Kaiser, and Hyli... coming here and playing against these guys gives me hope that I have a goal. I feel these players aren't that far off and that I can actually get to that level.
I'd say playing in Europe has been a very big eye-opener for me. Mechanically, I've gotten so much better since coming here. I'm grateful that Origen gave me the chance and it sucks how we ended up in summer, despite having a good spring.
[...] I should also probably clear the air. Obviously, it sucks to be replaced in summer. I'm not sure how to approach this, to be completely honest, because I think the result kind of speaks for itself. The roster with and without me kind of says how things went down. I just hope people still believe in me. I might be an OCE player, and even though I'm an old player, I still feel very young in this ecosystem and I want to show very good results. I am still very hungry and could continue playing for a couple more years.