The casting duo that has shaped South Korean esports for English audiences for more than five years is returning to the United States. Their next destination? Blizzard's Overwatch League.
Christopher "MonteCristo" Mykles and Erik "DoA" Lonnquist, who have 11 years of casting experience between them, have been South Korean gaming channel OGN's primary English casters since the pair arrived to commentate for the country's premiere League of Legends competition, Champions. Since then, the two have traveled the world casting for various games, but have maintained residence in South Korea. Last January, they moved away from League of Legends to take up the introduction of OGN's Overwatch League, APEX.
After casting the first two seasons of the league, the duo will take their leave after Saturday's OGN APEX finals, which will feature RunAway and Lunatic-Hai competing from Korea University's Tiger Dome. Mykles and Lonnquist will then move to the U.S. in preparation for the upcoming Overwatch League.
"Obviously we will serve as broadcasters for the Overwatch League once it begins in Q3 of 2017, but we're also excited to serve as consultants to Blizzard as the broadcast and shoulder content takes shape," Mykles told ESPN. "One of the most compelling aspects of moving back to the States is the opportunity to help build a show from the ground up that resonates with fans as an authentic esports product rather than overreaching into outmoded models from traditional sports."
Mykles and Lonnquist will leverage their knowledge and experience to help Blizzard shape the Overwatch League so it "resonates with the millennial generation" that occupies the esports demographic.
"We're the people who like Archer and Rick and Morty, not the traditional sports generation whose content caters to people with different tastes in entertainment. I think producers often forget that and rely too much on mimicking the success of other industries without asking why the content is made that way," Mykles said.
While the pair will be departing from OGN APEX, both reassured fans that OGN is committed to continuing an English cast for the tournament, which has become popular domestically and abroad.
With the Overwatch League expected to kick off later this year, Blizzard hopes to create something just as successful as OGN's endeavors into the game, and that starts with Mykles and Lonnquist.
"It's been awesome working with [Mykles] and [Lonnquist] at the Overwatch World Cup and at APEX," Overwatch League commissioner Nate Nanzer said. "As one of the best casting duos in the industry, their professionalism and knowledge of Overwatch and the esports space made it an easy decision for us to bring them over to Blizzard in an official capacity as we continue preparing for the Overwatch League. We can't wait to see them behind the desk."
Over the years, the pair has become synonymous with South Korean esports and the rise of its viewership on platforms such as Twitch. From League of Legends, StarCraft II and Overwatch, Mykles and Lonnquist have adapted and shown a versatility that has made them the Swiss Army knife of casting duos. The sheer volume of events even awed Lonnquist a little bit.
"I'm actually surprised when I look back at how much I've actually casted since coming out here in 2011," Lonnquist said. "For me, the 2013 Champions Summer finals will probably always be my most memorable casting experience. Getting absolutely torrential rain dumped on me and [Mykles] while casting the first game. The SKT reverse sweep and the Faker vs. Ryu Zed duel at the end of it all. Amazing day from start to finish."
To Mykles, the years working for the gaming channel were a dream come true.
"Working at OGN was always my dream," Mykles said. "I grew up watching the Ongamenet Starleague not knowing a word of Korean but admiring the skill of the players and the polish of OGN production. When I received the opportunity to move to Korea, it was a life-changing experience and OGN has been a wonderful employer and supportive of my rather outspoken personality."
And although they're leaving the APEX for Overwatch League, it might not be the last time they're casting the top talent in South Korea. Mykles said he believes some domestic talent will follow him abroad, noting that the lack of a region lock in the league makes it possible for six-man South Korea teams to play for teams in North America.
"I think that there will be new Western owners that come into Overwatch League without a contracted roster and will be looking to form competitive teams, which will drive them to look at Korean talent. I see no reason why a new owner wouldn't offer large salaries to the top Korean players if they have a desire to field the best possible team," Mykles said.
After a middling start in the game, South Korea has begun taking over the new competitive gaming title, with OGN's APEX being a big factor. While major tournaments in the western region have stagnated with the Overwatch League on the horizon -- and the uncertainty of how established brands will be handled in that realm -- APEX has become the destination for top competition in Overwatch for the first few months of the year.
Blizzard's Overwatch League wants to change that.
Before departing, though, Lonnquist and Mykles had some final words they wanted to share with OGN and the faithful viewers who have stuck with them throughout the years.
"I'd like to thank all the fans from the OGN Legion who have supported us throughout the years and grown to love Korean esports," Mykles said. "Even though I'm leaving, I'd like to think that I've helped kindle the same lifelong love of Korean esports in others that I carry within myself. OGN is being left in good hands with Papa, Achilios and Atlus, who will keep the fire burning after DoA and I return to the States."
"It's been an incredible pleasure and privilege to work with OGN since 2012," Lonnquist said. "From the wonderful ladies that have been doing my makeup every cast for years, to the floor staff who have always been patient with my Korean skills while they're conveying info to all the producers who have included us in helping build global reach for these events, it's been a dream come true and I can't thank them enough."