Philly Fusion support neptuNo steps down from Spain’s Overwatch World Cup team

NeptuNo announced his withdrawal from Spain's Overwatch World Cup team this morning.

Photo by Robert Paul via Blizzard Entertainment

Philadelphia Fusion support Alberto “neptuNo” González has dropped out of the Overwatch World Cup. He’s taking a break from competitive Overwatch after finishing second at the Overwatch League grand finals last month in Brooklyn, New York, he wrote on TwitLonger this morning. He was announced as a support player for Spain’s Overwatch World Cup team in early July.

“I made this decision long ago but did not want to make it official until I was back home [in Spain],” neptuNo wrote. “I got really burnt out during Overwatch League season one. I gave everything I had to improve as a player and make the team better. It was a good run and probably the best experience I’ve ever had in my life.”

Related: A blurred line between work and play could cause trouble for the Overwatch League

NeptuNo clarified that he notified Team Spain before making the decision public.

Former Dallas Fuel flex player Brandon “Seagull” Larned recently stepped down from the Overwatch League’s All-Star Game—and retired from competitive Overwatch as a whole—for similar reasons: burnout.  Seagull spoke on stream shortly after announcing his retirement to discuss the decision.

“That whole time, I had to sacrifice a lot of things,” Seagull said. “A lot of my personal life, a lot of my mental health. I literally put on like 40 pounds. I developed sleep apnea. I could barely sleep. I had a lot of problems but it was all worth it because I got to compete.”

Team Spain has not announced a replacement for neptuNo for their matches at the Bangkok qualifiers on Sept. 14. NeptuNo is still signed to Philadelphia Fusion, where he rose to prominence as a strong Mercy player; he was able to consistently hold a high healing rate, while taking big risks to get kills and Resurrect his teammates.

Seagull’s statements echo neptuNo’s, noting the health problems that plagued him during the Overwatch League—a kidney stone, tonsillitis, stomach acid problems, and sleep issues. “I’ve decided that the best for me as a person and a player is to not participate in the World Cup,” neptuNo wrote. “I want some free time and focus on having fun in the game I love and stop being tilted-annoyed-stressed for a while.”

It’s a trend that’s influenced the course of the Overwatch League since its inception. Multiple players have reported burnout and stress during the inaugural season, including Dallas Fuel’s Hwang “EFFECT” Hyeon and Timo “Taimou” Kettunen. New York Excelsior DPS Kim “Pine” Do-hyeon also needed a break mid-season to take care of his mental health. Many cited the Overwatch League’s grueling schedule as part of the problem, with teams playing twice a week, sometimes with back-to-back match days. Practice schedules varied between teams, but most practiced four days a week outside of game days, leaving just one off-day. (Players often found themselves back in Overwatch, whether it be streaming or for fun, on off-days.)

“It’s very hard to find a balance between a healthy amount of rest and optimal preparation, and it’s a dilemma pretty much every [Overwatch League] team wrestles with,” Florida Mayhem head coach Vytis “Mineral” Lasaitis told Dot Esports earlier this year. “I think most people in the Overwatch League are teetering on the edge of burnout.”

Shanghai Dragons, the team that scored no wins in the Overwatch League, faced the most intense schedule, with practice six days a week for 12 hours a day.

Heading into the Overwatch League’s second season, Blizzard and team owners will need to make player health a priority. This could mean a scheduling change designed to take stress off players or regulations regarding practice regimes.