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For its first three years of existence, the Overwatch League has kicked off early within the 12 months. However that’s going to vary in 2021. Immediately, Blizzard introduced that its bold esports league will start play in April. It should even be the primary season during which the league is performed solely on-line — and there will probably be some massive adjustments to accommodate that. “To take full benefit of what was realized final season, we’ve made a number of adjustments that may enhance the standard of competitors and the fan expertise for this coming season,” Blizzard says.

First is a structural change. Blizzard says the 20-team league will probably be cut up into two divisions — one product of groups from China and Korea, the opposite North America and Europe — and so they’ll play in opposition to different groups of their area through the common season. The highest groups from every division will then qualify for 4 main tournaments that may occur all through the season. (Full particulars and scheduling aren’t out there simply but.)

OWL options groups from 19 cities which are unfold throughout North America, Europe, and Asia, and Blizzard says that it’s growing a brand new device to make it attainable to play throughout areas. It’s described as “a brand new system that establishes minimal latency connections in order that groups anyplace on the earth can scrimmage in opposition to each other or conduct practices if gamers are aside.”

The league’s first season was in 2018, however final 12 months was anticipated to be an enormous one for OWL; the league was going to move to a home-and-away format, much like conventional sports activities leagues, with groups enjoying out of venues of their house cities. These plans had been disrupted by the pandemic, with Blizzard eventually shifting to an online format, which continued by to the championship game.

The opposite controversial change in 2020 noticed the league shift its broadcast from Twitch to YouTube, after Activision Blizzard signed an exclusive streaming deal with Google. The change got here with a decline in viewership, although OWL says it’s planning to enhance broadcasts for this upcoming season:

For our followers, we’re working very intently with YouTube as we enter the second 12 months of our partnership. There are a number of issues within the works that we will’t reveal but, however we will say that we’re going to stage up the standard of our match streams, add extra worth to watching reside matches, and enhance the discoverability of reside Overwatch content material.

We’re additionally improving our match broadcasts with a brand new and improved digital set, a freshly redesigned graphics bundle, and adjustments to our present format that place much more emphasis on match play. We’ll have extra to share on this later within the offseason.

And whereas the league is planning for a season of largely distant competitors, Blizzard additionally isn’t ruling out a return to reside matches sooner or later. “Whereas we can not predict the long run, we hope to welcome followers again to reside occasions if well being and security situations enhance in 2021, however which may not occur, and it won’t be at each location the place groups compete,” the league mentioned in an announcement. “Our prime precedence stays to maintain our gamers, followers, and workers secure.”

Yesterday, Activision introduced that OWL’s sister league, the Name of Obligation League, would begin play in February.

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