It is fair to say that the start of the Overwatch World League (OWL) Season 3 has been a turbulent time. The coronavirus pandemic has seen almost all the action planned for the first stage of the season postponed. However, after moving earlier in the week to confirm that the homestand events for March and April had been postponed, there was better news for OWL followers to come.
That is because Blizzard Entertainment announced that they plan to resume Overwatch World League matches on the 21st March, by drastically rejigging the format of the event and moving all games for the season, at least for the foreseeable future, into online fixtures.
Major Changes to OWL Season 3
Alongside the move to online play, the structure of the league has also been changed, mainly to address latency issues that are a major problem in online gaming. Instead of the Atlantic and Pacific divisions, the league will now be played in three regional groups, based on where the teams reside. There will be an EasternAmerican Group, a Chinese group and a Western American Group.
In addition to this, the planned All Star Weekend has been moved until after the 2020 season has been completed, while the Midseason Tournament has been canceled to free up more space to catch up with the league games that have already been postponed.
In a follow up to the first notice, Blizzard then announced how the new groupings would look for the 2020 season:
- Western America Group (6) – Vancouver Titans, Dallas Fuel, San Francisco Shock, Los Angeles Valiant, Los Angeles Gladiators, Seoul Dynasty
- Eastern America Group (10) – Atlanta Reign, Boston Uprising, Florida Mayhem, Houston Outlaws, London Spitfire, Paris Eternal, New York Excelsior, Philadelphia Fusion, Toronto Defiant & Washington Justice.
- Chinese Group (4) – Chengdu Hunters, Guangzhou Charge, Hangzhou Spark, Shanghai Dragons
To facilitate the new groups, the planned structure of the season, with each team playing twice against those in their own conference and once against those in the other conference has also changed. Teams may now play more than twice against some opponents, while some teams will not play each other at all.
At the moment, Blizzard are evaluating the current setups to decide what is the best way to structure qualifying for the 2020 season playoffs, as well as the format of the playoffs to try and ensure it is fair to all teams.
The news that the OWL is returning is a timely boost not just for the league, but for the esports industry and also the esports betting industry, which has been unable to offer odds on a number of top esports tournaments due to them being canceled. Esports betting sites such as Betway Esports and bet365 are currently offering odds on the first couple of games set to take place on Saturday 21st March (San Francisco Shock v Seoul Dynasty and Los Angeles Valiant v Los Angeles Gladiators).
New Character Revealed
The resumption of the Overwatch World League was not the only big news this week for Overwatch fans as Blizzard also announced the release of the 32nd character in the Overwatch game.
The new character is called Echo, who was described as “an evolutionary robot programmed with rapidly adapting artificial intelligence.”
Many professionals in the OWL were delighted with the news, many of them suggesting that Echo could be a much-needed support or DPS. Echo is the first addition to the game since Sigma was added to the roster in July 2019.
Images courtesy of Overwatch League