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The Shanghai Dragons, owned by NetEase, play in red character uniforms. (Picture: OWL)

Shanghai Dragons complete epic season by losing every match in Overwatch League

The team cannot win matches but it's winning fans

This article originally appeared on ABACUS
The Shanghai Dragons finished the first season of Overwatch League by making history.

Except it’s not the sort of history anyone wants to make.

The Shanghai Dragons played 40 games -- and lost them all. It was a futile streak of epic proportions, and one virtually unmatched in pro sports.

The “trust the process” Philadelphia 76ers lost 28 games in a row across two seasons. The NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost 26 straight games, also across two seasons. And in the English Premier League, Sunderland once lost 15 straight matches in a single season.

The Shanghai Dragons, owned by NetEase, play in red character uniforms. (Picture: OWL)
It shouldn’t have been this way for the NetEase-owned Shanghai Dragons. The company is reported to have paid US$20 million just for the rights to open an Overwatch League franchise, let alone the millions spent on player salaries.
But along with the epic losing, there are also enough juicy details to fill a Hollywood movie.
Midway through the season, the flailing team added Korean players to its all-Chinese roster -- including the league’s first female player -- but had to wait for them to make their debut due to visa issues. Then the team’s coach got fired. The interim coach forced the team’s Korean players to speak Chinese. And then its best player left the team for “personal issues,” which rumours suggested was because he was caught cheating on his girlfriends (yes, plural).

For the first time, the Overwatch League has a female player

Despite all that, and almost an inhumane training schedule where players practiced from 10:30am to midnight six days a week, the Shanghai Dragons still ended up with no wins (and were statistically worse by the end of the season than at the start).
But the flipside is that the team’s losing stream is possibly the most exciting thing happening in Overwatch League, hailed as the future of esports.
Esports are huge, but their structure is usually quite different to other sports. But Overwatch League is different -- built in every way to resemble American major league sports, with city-based franchises, memorable nicknames (London Spitfire, Seoul Dynasty). And just look at the logo!
While the league has city-based teams, all games of the first regular season were played at the Blizzard Arena in Los Angeles. (Picture: OWL)

The season also unfolds roughly like other American sports, with a regular season, an all-star break and a playoff tournament. (So far though, it doesn’t look like winning teams get an invitation to the White House.)

There’s also a huge prize pool of US$3.5 million, with US$1 million for the winner.

But despite all that, the biggest thing in the league is still the worst team, as people tune in to see if they can steal a win at any point. It’s giving fans a lovable loser to root for -- and could help Overwatch League fend off competition from battle royale games.

For more insights into China tech, sign up for our tech newsletters, subscribe to our Inside China Tech podcast, and download the comprehensive 2019 China Internet Report. Also roam China Tech City, an award-winning interactive digital map at our sister site Abacus.