Esports fans from all corners of the globe have had to accept that the structure and overall format of many events this year have dramatically changed, given the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to sweep the world. The Overwatch League is one of many prominent events that has had to “adjust” to deal with the changes, and members of the staff along with the teams themselves have had to rapidly adjust their plans to allow the event to go ahead – somewhat as planned.
Finally, the details of how the Overwatch League will play out have been revealed, and it’s clear a significant amount of work, time and dedication has gone into adapting the events to fit today’s challenging environment. According to the Overwatch League’s most recent announcement, teams will all participate in regional brackets in a way that mimics the initially-proposed monthly tournament structure.
North American teams will then fly into South Korea, undergoing a mandatory two-week government-ordered quarantine in Seoul before they can then participate in the Grand Finals. While it’s a very different approach than we saw last year in 2019’s Grand Finals, it’s clear the tournament organizers have had no choice but to adapt, and it’s refreshing to see that the event will still go ahead.
Safety Must Come First
Speaking on the organizational challenges of structuring the new event, Adam Mierzejewski – the senior manager of competition operations for the Overwatch League – said that he and his team have been working “round the clock” alongside teams and other general managers to ensure the event can take place in a way that’s fair, and – in his words – most importantly, safe.
He said: “Planning this postseason has been a group effort for months as we constantly solicited feedback from all 20 teams. We have been in constant communication with [all the teams] during this transition to hear each of their own unique situations during these unprecedented times,”
The lead strategy manager Aditya Rudra backed up his statement, noting that the team had taken feedback from all teams in the league to ensure that the competition could go forward in a way that didn’t compromise safety – while maintaining the integrity of the event itself.
The two senior organizers made it clear that players were most focused around wanting a “clear path to the playoffs”, regardless of how grueling or tough that route looked. Because of this, Rudra noted that single-elimination “knockout” brackets with the event’s low-seeded teams would take place before the double-elimination bracket event begins, ensuring that every team – regardless of their seed or position – has a chance to make it through to the latter stages of the event.
It’s undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges the event will ever face – and while the new plans are a far cry from what we’d all have expected after seeing the success of last year’s event, it’s clear the tournament organizers are keen to regain some sense of normality – whatever that may mean in today’s strange and unprecedented world.
Cover Photo Editorial credit: Steven Hook / Shutterstock.com