In its first season, every match in the Overwatch League took place at Blizzard Arena in Los Angeles. But the big-picture promise for the league is that of home and away matches, where each team plays games out of arenas in their respective cities, much like in professional sports leagues like the NBA or NFL. That ambitious goal likely won’t be fully implemented until 2020 or later, but next year we’ll get a preview of what it’ll look like.
For season 2, Blizzard is introducing something called “homestand weekends,” where select teams will play a handful of matches in their home cities. The first clubs to participate are the Dallas Fuel and Los Angeles Valiant, along with expansion side Atlanta Reign. The Fuel will host matches at the Allen Event Center from April 27th to 28th, and the club says that “the event is expected to draw the largest spectator crowd ever to watch a live regular-season Overwatch League match.” The Valiant will hold their home matches at The Novo by Microsoft at LA Live in August, while there’s no word yet on where Atlanta’s July matches will take place.
“Pretty much all we think about in the office these days is figuring out the operational complexity of operating a home-and-away e-sports league,” OWL commissioner Nate Nanzer told The Verge back in November. The new homestands should be a good test for the league, though all of the games will be held in the US despite the fact that OWL has global ambitions, with clubs spread across North America, Europe, and Asia.
And while these new homestands will be the first official home matches to take place in OWL, a number of clubs have experimented with exhibition games played in cities around the world. On December 29th, for instance, the Seoul Dynasty will host the Guangzhou Charge in a friendly match at the Paradise City Hotel & Resort in Incheon.
The news comes alongside Blizzard’s reveal of the schedule for season 2 of OWL, which kicks off on February 14th with a championship rematch between the London Spitfire and Philadelphia Fusion. In addition to the new home matches, the league will now also have a larger overall prize pool ($5 million compared to $3.5 million last year), a revamped playoff system, and eight additional teams participating, including the first OWL clubs in Canada and France. Each team will play fewer games and have more breaks, in an attempt to ease the strain on players. Players will now also have the option to play as a hamster.
You can check out the full schedule on the league’s official site.