It’s going to be a long winter as we wait for the Overwatch League to return in 2021. But to tide us over, the league released a video outlining some of the plans Blizzard has for this year’s off season and the 2021 season in general.
The video, narrated by VP of Overwatch Esports Jon Spector, most notably says that the league will delay opening day. For the last three seasons the League has started in January or February, but in 2021, the League will begin at some unspecified date in the spring. According to Spector, this is to allow teams and operations more time to plan due to the continued uncertainty of the covid-19 pandemic. Since there was no mention of reviving the popular “Homestand” model, which had teams hosting a weekend of games in their home cities, it’s safe to assume that, at least for the first part of the season, games will be played online.
Returning in 2021 will be the new tournament-focused schedule first introduced in 2020. Every couple of months in the latter portion of the 2020 season, teams would compete in a tournament similar to the Stage Tournaments of Season 1 and 2. No word yet on if there will be more than the three tournaments of 2020, but Spector did note that the tournaments in 2021 might feature different formats.
Regions will also be returning in 2021. Last season, the League split into two regions: North America and Asia Pacific. Spector didn’t confirm if those two regions will return or if they’ll be further split into divisions like their Contenders regions have been in the past. It’s also unknown if teams will be shuffled around to create a better balance between the regions. Right now, the North American region currently houses 13 teams, while the APAC region houses the other seven.
Though the League won’t start until spring 2021, Spector did tease some events for the off-season to keep fans engaged. Overwatch League’s semi-pro circuit Contenders League is reviving its popular Gauntlet series for the 2020 OWL off-season. Overwatch League will also feature in 2021’s Blizzconline event. Blizzcon typically hosted the Overwatch World Cup. Since the convention will be held exclusively online in 2021, Overwatch Esports will still have a presence in the form of a “Shock vs The World” Tournament, in which Overwatch League dream teams will take on the Season 2 and 3 Champions in a variety of showmatches.
While watching the video, eagle-eyed fans might have noticed a checklist behind Spector containing insider information like the “script” for 2021, suggesting the year’s storyline has been planned out in advance. While the League’s major stories are too chaotic to be plotted by a mortal hand, I do hope plans to nerf the San Francisco Shock and their coach Crusty actually comes to pass. It’s time for some new blood at the top of the standings.