The 2021 Overwatch League season comes much later this year but fans are chomping at the bit to see their favorite teams compete again. Here are the dates to look out for, how fans can expect the season to be structured, and how to watch the matches.
In January, OWL Vice President Jon Spector released concrete news about the 2021 season. While the season has typically started in January or February, this year the OWL has pushed back the start of the season in order to push for in-person events later in the year.
While Spector hasn’t promised that the events will be in-person, the OWL looks forward to returning to them as soon as possible. In addition, the structure of the season will mimic the adopted that the league adopted after switching to all-online games in 2020.
Spector has told fans to expect an April start date for the 2021 season. While the typical start dates have been either January or February up until this point, the desire to get back to in-person events is what Spector cites as the reason for such a late start. It gives the league the best chance at being able to open up in-person events later in the year, although they are not guaranteed.
Although April was given as the month matches will start up again, there are still no concrete dates for when the competition will resume. Fans are hoping that matches will start in early April, but so far there is no word when exactly matches will start, or when fans will get a concrete date.
Tournaments will be the structure for the 2021 season. In 2020, Blizzard was forced to switch to an online-only model that didn’t quite fit with what they had planned for the season, so they switched to a tournament format with some regular-season games sprinkled in between tournaments. This worked out well for the league and will be continuing in the 2021 season.
There will be four tournaments that are independent of each other, but they will earn points to qualify for the 2021 playoffs. One of the biggest changes to this is that teams will be playing across regions more often this season.
In an interview with Dot Esports, Spector commented on how this would be possible with a new minimum latency tool that sets a minimum ping and evens the playing field. This allows teams from across the globe to play matches fairly. Unlike 2020, all four of the tournaments will be inter-regional, and fans won’t have to wait to predict who will be the best in the entire league.
In the off-season fans saw multiple teams moving to the East region of the OWL. The Los Angeles Valiant has moved over to the APAC region and so have the Philadelphia Fusion. The regions have been simplified, and will now sit teams in one of two regions, East and West. The breakdown of which teams are in which region is below:
Overwatch League will still be available live on YouTube Gaming. You can check here to see the full schedule for all of the matches. This year, there have been some improvements to the viewer experience such as spoiler-free thumbnails and a spoiler-free viewing mode. Spector wasn’t able to expand on any of the other improvements they are making to the viewer experience, but fans are hoping that the quality of the viewing experience will increase to near what it was when the matches were broadcast on Twitch.
One feature that is missing from the YouTube experience is the premium watching experience that fans were able to purchase on Twitch, which gave them the ability to select which camera they viewed, whether it was the live broadcast or an individual player. It was a great viewing tool that YouTube hasn’t been able to replicate so far, and one that fans are still asking for.
As always, viewers will be able to earn League Tokens while watching matches. Five League Tokens are awarded per hour, and fans will earn them based on a cumulative watch period, meaning that a viewer can watch 30 minutes at a time and still receive credit for each half-hour.
It is expected that the Overwatch League will reveal a start date within the next month or two. Teams are already locked and ready to go, with the exception of the Los Angeles Valiant, for the 2021 season.