There are those who will say that the Overwatch League is a dying competitive tournament, or that it has well and truly had its time in the sun. On the other hand, there are those who suggest a massive $4.25 million prize pool and revised structure is exactly what the OWL needs to return to its prior victorious form. Well, from the 16th of April, the latter party may reign supreme, as the Overwatch League 2021 season structure has been revealed, and it looks pretty damn good.
Get those calendars out, we have a date 🙌#OWL2021 officially kicks off on April 16th!
— Overwatch League (@overwatchleague) February 20, 2021
Let’s face it, following the slew of professional players retiring and the controversy of the Hero Pool mechanic effectively eviscerating Overwatch, it is long overdue a fresh injection of excitement to bring fans back into the fold. With the already-successful emergence of the Call of Duty League this month, Overwatch will have to work harder than ever to draw in those high-value esports viewership figures.
However, while things are shaping up quite nicely for the League itself, fans are already complaining about the lack of new team talent in the League for the second year in a row. Admittedly, this is almost certainly due to the uncertainty of this pandemic-ridden era leading to investors refraining from purchasing $20 million esports franchises.
Right, let’s get down to brass tacks and talk about the information you’re here to read.
Introducing, the Overwatch League 2021
On the 16th of April, the fourth season of the Overwatch League kicks off, with twenty teams going head-to-head across a four-tournament schedule. It’s a duel of East meets West, with a new structure having been put in place that splits the world into two regions. Here’s the breakdown:
- Chengdu Hunters
- Guangzhou Charge
- Hangzhou Spark
- Los Angeles Valiant
- New York Excelsior
- Philadelphia Fusion
- Shanghai Dragons
- Seoul Dynasty
- Atlanta Reign
- Boston Uprising
- Dallas Fuel
- Florida Mayhem
- Houston Outlaws
- London Spitfire
- Los Angeles Gladiators
- Paris Eternal
- San Francisco Shock
- Vancouver Titans
- Toronto Defiant
- Washington Justice
As you can see, it’s a little confusing when you see that there are quite clearly some Western teams in the Eastern region. This is allegedly due to a lack of teams being based in the Eastern region, a fact that has obviously created some scheduling difficulties. It’ll be interesting to see how timezones weigh into this anomaly.
The Overwatch League 2021 unravels across four tournament cycles, capped off with an exhilarating tournament major. It’s the exact same format that many leagues, such as the Call of Duty League, adopt, and it seems to work. The four majors are as follows: May Melee (May 7th), June Joust (Jun 11th), Summer Showdown (Jul 16th), and Countdown Cup (Aug 20th). These majors will feature both regions, with the top six teams from the West region and the top four teams from the East region facing off to be the ultimate four teams total which go forward to the tournament weekend.
This is how the tournament structure will be broken down:
Ultimately, the Overwatch League has confirmed that the desired goal is for the tournaments to be hosted in a rather unique way, with the West region teams being shipped off to Hawaii to compete. This is to take advantage of a direct routed connection, which would offer much more stability where server resilience is concerned. However, this will only happen if travel restrictions have been lifted.
Also new for the Overwatch League 2021 season is the revised scoring structure, which will award OWL Points for tournament and qualifier wins. Throughout the season schedule, each individual team will play 16 qualifier matches, in which a victory is worth one (1) League Point. Thereafter, if a team also qualifies for (and potentially wins) a tournament, they’re entitled to bonus points, with 1st place being awarded three League Points, 2nd place two League Points, and 1st place a meagre one League Point.
These League Points will amass as the season pushes ever onwards, with the ultimate goal of them being used to determine seeding (and qualification) for the League playoffs. At the end of the season, the top two teams from the East region and the top three teams from the West region will qualify for the playoffs by default, with a further three teams entering the playoffs following a play-in tournament for each region.
When it all ends, the world champion of the Overwatch League 2021 season will walk away with $1,500,00, with a further $100,000 being made available for the winner of every tournament.
Getting Down to the Gameplay
Unfortunately, the Overwatch League 2021 season will feature Hero Pools, to the dismay of many competitors and fans. These Hero Pools are technically intended to make the game more enjoyable and keep competitors on their toes, but it can be massively frustrating, especially when it leads to a player-favourite Hero being stripped from the game.
These Hero Pools will be featured in two tournaments: the June Joust and the Countdown Cup, so they’re not going to be present throughout the entire season, thankfully. The League will also be structured around Map Pools, featuring fourteen maps and four game modes: Escort, Assault, Hybrid, and Control. There’s a pre-defined structure that ensures the following cycle will take place: 5 Control, 3 Assault, 3 Escort, and 3 Hybrid.
The Overwatch League has already revealed the Map Pool for the May Melee tournament, to give fans an idea of what they can expect:
- Control – Lijiang Tower, Busan, Oasis, Nepal, Ilios
- Hybrid – King’s row, Blizzard World, Eichenwalde
- Escort – Dorado, Watchpoint Gibraltar, Havana
- Assault – Hanamura, Volskaya, Temple of Anubis
Fans of the League can watch the gameplay live on YouTube as the Overwatch League enters the second year of its partnership with the broadcasting giant. Blizzard has confirmed that the entire 2021 schedule will be live, giving fans the opportunity to check out every minute of the hopefully high-octane action of the OWL.
The countdown starts now, so mark it in your calendars – the Overwatch League 2021 season kicks off on the 16th of April. Let’s see if the title can bring back a little of its lost reputation.