During the 2017 Overwatch World Cup, Team Japan took the world by surprise by defeating Team Spain’s stacked team of known pros on the group stage. They ultimately failed to qualify due to their narrow loss vs. Australia, but their performance was impressive enough for many to take notice, particularly of their DPS player, AKTM.
Much time has passed since and not much has been heard from them. Following AKTM to his current team, we were able to meet with Team Owner Shintaro Moriyama and Coach Jerophilip to learn more about Yoshimoto Encount and the state of Japanese Overwatch. (This interview was performed with the assistance of a translator on 4/3/18.)
Tell us a little bit about the team and how it was formed.
The team came together on March 18th with Yoshimoto's sponsorship. They are a major Japanese entertainment company.
Team Japan showed everyone in the 2017 World Cup that there are many strong players in Japan. Do you feel there is more hidden talent in Japan for the world to see?
There is plenty more to show, but it is also true that Overwatch isn’t as popular in Japan, compared to other games. Games like PUBG have been heavily advertised here and have a large presence. In addition, early problems with the ladder system discouraged many players.
What was wrong with the ladder system?
Asian servers had an abundance of account boosters and hackers. Blizzard did eventually take action against the hackers, but it was too late. We could have had a more unified Japanese Overwatch community if it was addressed sooner. Regardless, we are still doing everything we can to grow and support our players.
Yoshimoto Encount is the only Japanese team in Overwatch Contenders Pacific. There were plenty of Japanese teams that competed in JCG Master, AORUS CUP and Overwatch Open Division. Where are those teams now?
Naturals Hokkaido and CYCLOPS athlete gaming qualified for Overwatch Contenders Pacific, but they were not able to participate due to scheduling conflicts. Many Japanese players have part-time jobs and are still in school. Without sponsorships, it’s very difficult to become a full-time pro gamer.
In addition, Japanese laws have made it difficult for eSports in general to grow due to complications with prize pools. However, that is beginning to change as steps are being taken to even include esports into the Olympics.
On your match vs. MEGA, the commentators stated there was a lack of focus fire on Hanamura. Do you agree?
MEGA is one of the top teams in PAC, so we needed more time to practice against them. Although we lost, we are still proud of our performance and will continue our efforts through both Coach Jerophilip and Coach Twinkl.
Since PAC has teams from different Asian countries, do you feel a need to play a different meta compared to what’s seen in OWL, such as using Mei or Doomfist?
Coach Jerophilip was previously a cameraman for Japanese Overwatch games and formed the current roster based on what he saw of those games. He understands the in-and-outs of our players. With that, we want to build strategies that maximize what our players are currently good at.
What previous FPS experience do your players have?
Sa1nt, Mafin, and AKTM were famous players in Sudden Attack.
Have any of your players received offers to play in Overwatch League?
About half of our players received offers. Of course, we believe all of our players have the skill to play for OWL. While we would be sad to lose any of them to OWL, we believe such a move would help Japanese Overwatch as a whole due to the exposure and we would be happy to see them move forward.
There was speculation that AKTM was trying out for a foreign Academy team. Is this true?
AKTM was definitely noticed for his DPS ability. However, his communications needed to be fine-tuned and it was decided it would be best for him to continue growing with a Japanese team and help our community grow as a whole.
Thank you for your time. Please give our Western readers some final thoughts.
Many believe that Japan is weak in the world of eSports, but we are aiming to change that perception. Japanese players have the same passion and skill and we are also incorporating the Korean-style of coaching. Please continue to support and watch us into the next season.
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