Overwatch League Announces 2021 Format and Changes

Armed with lessons learned from 2020, Overwatch League Vice President Jon Spector updated fans through a new YouTube video to explain what’s new for the league in 2021. According to Spector, the league has made several changes in order to “improve the quality of competition and the fan experience…”

First, the 2021 season will begin in April and sees teams divided into two groups: East and West.

The East consists of eight teams competing in China and South Korea: the Chengdu Hunters, Guangzhou Charge, Hangzhou Spark, Los Angeles Valiant, New York Excelsior, Philadelphia Fusion, Shanghai Dragons, and Seoul Dynasty.

The West includes the twelve teams competing in Europe and North America: the Atlanta Reign, Boston Uprising, Dallas Fuel, Florida Mayhem, Houston Outlaws, London Spitfire, Los Angeles Gladiators, Paris Eternal, San Francisco Shock, Vancouver Titans, Toronto Defiant, and Washington Justice.

Perhaps the biggest change in terms of league structure is that instead of a regular-season traditional league schedule, such as the one Major League Baseball uses, teams will play in regional qualifier matches that will seed teams for the four standalone tournaments that will see the top four teams from each region compete in one bracket.

Additionally, the league has stated that all regular-season matches will count towards qualification for the 2021 Season Playoffs. However, only the top teams will qualify for and compete in the four main tournaments. There was no word on how teams will qualify for tournaments, but that information is said to be coming soon.

For now, matches will still be played online, but the league will be using a new tool that establishes minimum latency connections so that teams “anywhere in the world can scrimmage against one another or conduct practices if players are apart.”

That being said, the league does hope to “welcome fans back to live events if health and safety conditions improve in 2021,” noting that the season could be played entirely online and that the league has plans to facilitate offline and online competition.

The fan experience was also on the mind of Spector as he talked about how the league is working with YouTube to “level up” the quality of the match streams. Fans will see a new virtual set, a redesigned graphics package, and changes to the show format that place even more emphasis on match play.

OWL is also developing a new video series that will give fans more inside views of their favorite players with player and team spotlights as well as featuring pro Overwatch tips, and gather the best analysis from league experts.

The league also hinted that it is working on a “spoiler-free viewer mode and new integrations with partners like IBM that are going to significantly enhance the way our fans interact with players, teams, and stats.”

Lastly, the league has asked fans to “join them” next month for BlizzConline taking place Feb. 19-20 that will feature an exhibition match labeled as the San Francisco Shock vs. the World competition. 

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