For the first time in its three-year history, there will be no arena full of screaming fans Overwatch Grand finals of the league. Since the league has moved online due to the ongoing pandemic for 2020, they had to consider what their championship tournament would look like. And today Blizzard provided some details about the upcoming playoff format.
Essentially, at the end of the regular season, all 20 teams will compete in a playoff tournament that begins on September 3rd. Sowing is based on their performance over the course of the year. The format will be similar to the tournament structure that the league adopted in mid-2020, with two competitions: one for teams based in Asia and one for North America. The two best teams from each of these tournaments then compete against each other in a double elimination competition that culminates in the championship game. (Detailed information on the game schedule can be found on the league̵
Blizzard says the two best North American teams will fly to an unknown location in Asia before the final, with a few weeks off to prepare for travel and logistical challenges. The entire competition will continue to be conducted online, with players, coaches, broadcasters and producers working remotely. At least that’s the plan.
“Every time we search two or more months in the future, it’s impossible to predict,” said Jon Spector, VP of Overwatch esports, tells The edge. If travel in September is out of the question, it is planned to crown two regional winners instead of one overall winner. It’s not an ideal situation, Spector admits, but the league is trying to plan every opportunity. “It is important that we have this backup plan available,” he says.
Big esport championships live from the spectacle; the League of legends World Championships are known for their elaborate musical performances, while OWL’s first two major finals were prominent events that took place in sold-out arenas in Brooklyn and Philadelphia. It’s impossible to replicate this type of energy online, but Spector says the league is planning some things to make this year’s championship special – but what exactly that might look like remains to be seen.
“We want to do everything we can to give fans who can’t be with us an impressive entertainment experience,” explains Spector. He says the league is likely to work with the four best teams to make sure their remote rooms are as broadcast-friendly as possible, which could possibly mean adding things like robotic cameras to make players more dynamic. OWL has also looked at some creative ways that traditional sports deal with stadiums without fans to be inspired. However, all of this remains in flux from now on.
The main concern, he says, is to ensure the safety of players and staff, which is part of the reason the finals won’t take place in a studio setting, although several esports leagues in China and Korea have reinstated studio spaces as social distance restrictions canceled. “We don’t want to take unnecessary risks,” says Spector.
OWL’s sister league, the call of Duty League also announced its revised playoff format yesterday, and it is similar to the one it is used for Overwatch. The CDL playoffs begin on August 3rd. All 12 teams take part in a double elimination competition. The four best teams will then advance to the championship weekend, which will take place on August 29th and 30th. The playoffs come at a time when the CDL is aiming high. According to Activision, the league had the highest number of spectators during the last tournament. 115,000 spectators tuned in to see Atlanta versus Chicago.