The Overwatch League is ready to begin, at 3pm ET (or 9pm CEST), with some changes to how it's going to run.
Week One consists of over 15 matches, you can view the full schedule here.
Hero Pools will be used for two of the four tournament cycles: the June Joust and the Countdown Cup. That includes all of the qualifier and tournament matches for each of those cycles. There will be no Hero Pool for the May Melee, Summer Showdown, or in the playoffs.
For the two cycles where Hero Pools are used, four heroes will be removed from play: two damage, one tank, and one support. Heroes are randomly selected from a group of eligible heroes based on play-rate data from the previous tournament cycle of Overwatch League matches. Only heroes that are being played regularly—10% or more—can be pulled out of Hero Pool rotation. No hero can be removed more than once during the season.
Each Map Pool will be played with 14 maps and the same four game modes (control, hybrid, escort, and assault) in each tournament cycle: 5 control (all of them), 3 hybrid, 3 escort, and 3 assault. The game mode order will change for each tournament cycle and for the playoffs.
The May Melee tournament cycle map pool includes:
Control—Lijiang Tower, Busan, Oasis, Nepal, Ilios
Hybrid—King’s Row, Blizzard World, Eichenwalde
Escort—Dorado, Watchpoint Gibraltar, Havana
Assault—Hanamura, Volskaya, Temple of Anubis
During the four tournaments, the first map will be chosen by the higher-seeded team, though it must be a control map. The loser of each subsequent map will select the next map within the confines of the predetermined game mode order for that tournament.
For reasons unknown, the Overwatch League will stop celebrating the Most Valuable Players with an honorary skin.
In 2020, the pandemic forced the OWL to move online, pausing the dream of a global esports league with teams spread across continents. It also meant fans could not see the teams as they competed.
The league was split into two divisions, one for Asia and one for North America. Due to latency, these regions never faced each other until the grand finals in Korea.
2021 faces similar problems, but now has a solution - Hawaii.
This season, the Overwatch League will feature monthly tournaments within each region. At the end, the best teams will move on to face each other, with North American teams flying to Hawaii to compete with squads based in China and Korea.
Hawaii is part of the US, meaning visas aren't necassary. The island has been safe and healthy throughout the global pandemic, and it is close to Asia so latency concerns are reduced.
While not a perfect solution, it does mean that the West and the East will be able to play each other more often. If new restrictions come in, or an unforeseen obstacle approaches, the plan is to return to a similar structure as last season.
The 2021 season consists of four tournament cycles, with teams playing four matches each cycle to determine qualification and seeding for each of the tournaments: May Melee, June Joust, Summer Showdown, and Countdown Cup.
Teams from both regions will compete in the four tournaments. In the West, the top six qualifying teams will first play a round of knockout matches, with two teams advancing to tournament weekend. In the East, the top four qualifiers will play down to two teams. The top two teams from the East and West will then play in a double-elimination bracket to determine a tournament champion.
Each team plays 16 qualifier matches throughout the season, and each win is worth 1 League Point. Teams that qualify for and win at tournaments can acquire additional points as follows:
1st place = 3 League Points
2nd place = 2 League Points
3rd place = 1 League Point
Within each tournament cycle, any wins during the three weeks of qualifiers will accrue League Points to determine seeding and qualification for that specific tournament. So a team might not qualify for the May Melee tournament but can qualify for the June Joust tournament if they perform well during the qualifier matches for that tournament cycle.
This season a total of US $4,250,000 is up for grabs, with prizing split between tournaments and the playoffs. Here’s how it breaks down: