After waiting almost two years since the launch of Overwatch, eSports fans can finally put The Overwatch League on their calendars.
An eSports League has been on Blizzard’s mind since the day Overwatch launched. Heck, they probably had their eyes on it long before launch day, if their purchase of MLG is any indication. But despite their hunger for eSports action, Blizzard has chosen to take their time, fostering amateur leagues such as the Overwatch Contenders while they worked quietly in the background on big deals that would make the OWL one to rival the NFL. Multi-million dollar ownership deals have been signed with the likes of Stan and Josh Kroenke (the LA Rams owners), Robert and Jonathan Kraft (the NE Patriots owners), and Comcast Spectacor (Comcast’s sports branch), to name a few. Not to mention the multi-year sponsorship deals they signed with HP and Intel.
Now that Blizzard has placed all the big-check ducks in a row, it seems it is finally time to kick off the first season of The Overwatch League.
Blizzard is not holding back. For their eSports home base, they have purchased and renovated space in the historic Burbank Studios, birthplace of NBC television broadcasts, and home to such shows as Arrow and Lucifer. Now that the renovations are complete, this venue will be a one-stop shop for Blizzard eSport fans. According to Blizzard’s website:
“Multiple broadcasts and events can be run out of Blizzard Arena simultaneously, thanks to the multiple sound stages, control rooms and player lounges throughout the facility. The on-site Blizzard store will open during events and feature a rotating selection of gear and goods based on the event taking place at the time.”
Located in Burbank, California, the league’s location-based teams will have to fly from all over the world to compete on this stage. Sorry, London fans. It seems you won’t get any home games in the near future.
Speaking of teams…
The Overwatch League consists of 12 teams divided into 2 divisions: the Atlantic Division and the Pacific Division.
While some teams tout owners from traditional sports such as the New England Patriots’ owners and the Philadelphia Flyers’ owners, there are plenty of eSports organizations who managed to secure ownerships as well, including Cloud 9, Immortals, and Misfits, to name a few.
Teams are location-based, with names and colors inspired by their hometowns. While most teams are based in North America, there are also teams from Seoul, Shanghai, and London, making it clear that Blizzard intends for this league to be international.
To kick things off, teams will warm up with a series of exhibition matches that will show off hometown rivalries such as Los Angeles vs San Francisco, and New York vs Boston
December 6th – 9th
Venue: Blizzard Arena
For the regular season, teams will play twenty games within their divisions, and twenty games outside their divisions. All forty games will be split across four stages.
Stage 1: January 10th – February 10th
Stage 2: February 21st – March 24th
Stage 3: April 4th – May 5th
Stage 4: May 18th – June 16th
Venue: Blizzard Arena
Each stage ends with title matches for each division. These titles will grant team bonuses and will put teams in a better position to secure a spot in the finals.
Once the stages are finished, the two division winners plus four runner-ups (based on overall season record) will compete in the playoffs.
Playoffs: July 11th – 22nd
Of course, after playoffs comes finals. Or in this case, “Grand Finals.” The remaining teams will compete for a trophy and $1 million.
Grand Finals: July 26th – 28th
When all is said and done, fans will vote for their favorite players to partake in 2018’s Overwatch All Star event.
All Star Weekend: August 10th – 12th
And thus concludes the inaugural season of The Overwatch League.
Where to Watch
As of this writing, Blizzard has not yet announced where they will be showing their games. That being said, a greyed out, “Videos” tab at the top of the official league page promises access to VODs once the season kicks off.
If Overwatch Contenders is any indication, games will probably be available on both Twitch and YouTube. In fact, Blizzard has already set up the official OWL YouTube page. As of this writing, there is no official Twitch channel set up yet, aside from a mysteriously blank “TheOverwatchLeague” channel.
We will update this section as we learn more.
It seems Blizzard has done well in assembling their ultimate Overwatch League, with big names and big money falling out left and right. But their unique location-based structure seems out of place in the eSports scene, especially when regular season games will be played out of their Burbank, California arena. Unless future seasons see the rise of local arenas, the location-based teams may come to feel hollow.
What do you think? Will the OWL fly or fall? Let us know in the comments, or find us on Twitter @CoinDrop_Crew.