The Overwatch League is a huge bet that a video game can become the next big professional sport. Making its debut in January 2018, the e-sports competition features teams from around the world, backed by big-name owners from the NFL and other major sports leagues. It has managed to lure prominent sponsors like Toyota and Coca-Cola, and netted broadcast deals with Twitch and ESPN. Along the way, the league signed its first female player, others were suspended for toxic behavior, and the drama of season 1 culminated in the Grand Finals at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Keep up with all of the latest developments right here.
Overwatch League season 6 is bringing massive changes
The sixth season of the Overwatch League will be its biggest yet, literally. With Overwatch 2 in its first full year and finally in the hands of players worldwide, the League is making sweeping changes to accompany this new state of things.Read Article >
To start, the Philadelphia Fusion and the Paris Eternal are no more. Paris has “relocated” to Vegas to become the Vegas Eternal, and the Philadelphia Fusion have undergone a complete rebrand, relocating to Seoul to become the Seoul Infernal. The Paris to Vegas pipeline had been in the cards (heh) for a while, as the Eternal’s Call of Duty League sister team, the Paris Legion, had rebranded to the Vegas Legion at the end of the 2022 season.
Nov 11, 2022
At the Overwatch League grand finals, a candy bar was the real winner
The Overwatch League 2022 grand finals were last week, concluding a season that was one of OWL’s most successful. Fans broke viewership records, there were several successful live events, and on the whole, folks were simply jazzed to see competitive Overwatch played in a brand-new game. And though the San Francisco Shock were thankfully (blessedly, praise Jesus-ly) kept from a third championship, the real winners weren’t the triumphant Dallas Fuel but, curiously, one of the worst candy bars on the planet: Butterfingers.Read Article >
Before this season’s playoffs, the Overwatch League was going through a bit of a rough patch. After the news broke about Activision Blizzard’s lawsuits surrounding a seemingly pervasive culture of harassment and discrimination — advertisers, predictably, pulled camp. What was once a broadcast filled with Coca-Cola, State Farm, Cheez-It, and Toyota ads became a ghost town.
Nov 2, 2022
How (and why) to watch the Overwatch League grand finals
The Overwatch League playoffs are already underway, but it’s not too late to catch the first live grand finals event in two years on Friday, November 4th, broadcast on YouTube. (Get the full playoff schedule here.) We don’t know yet which two teams will be competing in the final match, and any attempt to predict the participants is an act of monumental hubris.Read Article >
Depending on your perspective, the Overwatch League has this either frustrating or exciting tradition of introducing balance patches right before the playoffs. When that happens, the game’s strategies, known as metas, that have been solidified over the last few weeks of the season are tossed out, and teams have to adapt quickly to a new style of play.
Aug 26, 2021
Overwatch League cancels its in-person playoff events
The 2021 Overwatch League playoffs have hit a slight snag. Yesterday, the League announced it will no longer host live playoff matches in Dallas and Los Angeles.Read Article >
“Due to significant changes in the environment affecting travel for some teams, we’ve decided to pivot away from originally scheduled live events in Dallas and Los Angeles,” the League wrote in a statement on Twitter. “Instead, postseason competition will return to Hawai’i for playoffs.”
Apr 15, 2021
The key to the Overwatch League’s 2021 season is a trip to Hawaii
When the Overwatch League shifted to online play last season, it meant that the dream of a global esports league — one with teams spread across three continents — would have to wait. It also meant that fans wouldn’t be able to see the best teams compete against each other. The league split up into two divisions, with some teams based in Asia and others in North America. Because of issues around latency, those regions never competed against each other until the Grand Finals, which took place in Korea and featured some of the best matches of the season.Read Article >
So when the league start thinking of ways to make the 2021 season better, figuring out a way get teams from Seoul and Shanghai to face off against San Francisco and New York was paramount. The solution was Hawaii.
Apr 14, 2021
The Overwatch League is bringing back some live matches with a trio of events in China
The Overwatch League kicks off its fourth season this week, and while the majority of matches will be played remotely, today the league announced plans to hold multiple live events in China.Read Article >
There will be three events spread across three cities — Hangzhou in June, Shanghai in July, and Guangzhou in August — and the league says they will take place in venues with reduced capacity “in order to comply with local safety requirements.” The events will be something of a hybrid between online and in-person competition. Here’s how OWL describes it:
Jan 14, 2021
The Overwatch League’s 2021 season will start in April
For its first three years of existence, the Overwatch League has kicked off early in the year. But that’s going to change in 2021. Today, Blizzard announced that its ambitious esports league will begin play in April. It will also be the first season in which the league starts off with remote matches — and there will be some big changes to accommodate that. “To take full advantage of what was learned last season, we’ve made several changes that will improve the quality of competition and the fan experience for this coming season,” Blizzard says.Read Article >
First is a structural change. Blizzard says the 20-team league will be split into two divisions — one made of teams from China and Korea, the other North America and Europe — and they’ll play against other teams in their region during the regular season. The top teams from each division will then qualify for four major tournaments that will happen throughout the season. (Full details and scheduling aren’t available just yet.)
Oct 7, 2020
After a rough 2020 season, the Overwatch League aims to end on a high note
This year has been a tumultuous one for the Overwatch League. It wasn’t supposed to be this way: the 2020 season was slated to be a breakout year, a chance to finally realize the ambition of having a truly global league with teams traveling all over the world to compete against one another.Read Article >
That dream was halted due to the ongoing pandemic and the inability for teams and players to travel. To make matters worse, viewership dropped after a shift from Twitch to YouTube, and the rapid rise of Riot’s team-shooter Valorant kicked off an exodus of big-name players, led by 2019 OWL MVP Jay “Sinatraa” Won. At one point, the second-best team in the league dropped its entire roster.
Sep 9, 2020
When the Overwatch League moved online, fans found new ways to connect
Marie Blanquart had big plans for 2020. As president of The Rooster Club, a supporters group for the Overwatch League’s Paris Eternal, she spent a lot of time thinking about what the fan group could do for the new season, where each of the league’s 20 teams would host home matches in local arenas for the first time. The group worked with the Eternal to have their own seating section during games in Paris so that they could lead chants and cheers. They also planned trips to watch the Eternal play in London and Toronto, and they hoped to organize watch parties for fans all across France.Read Article >
But then the pandemic happened, and all of those plans went away. “We took a hit,” Blanquart tells The Verge. “For a few days we were a bit shell-shocked. After that first hit we got back on our feet and started thinking ‘Well this isn’t happening, but what can we do?’”
Jul 15, 2020
The Overwatch League’s Grand Finals championship will take place online
For the first time in its three-year history, there won’t be an arena full of screaming fans to go along with the Overwatch League’s Grand Finals. As the league has shifted online for 2020 due to the ongoing pandemic, it has had to reimagine what its championship tournament will look like. And today Blizzard provided some details on the upcoming playoff format.Read Article >
Essentially, at the conclusion of the regular season, all of the 20 teams will face off in a playoff-style tournament kicking off on September 3rd, with seeding based on how they performed during the year. The format will be similar to the tournament structure the league adopted midway through 2020, with two competitions: one for teams based in Asia and another for North America. The top two teams from each of those tournaments will then face off in a double-elimination competition, culminating in the championship match. (You can check out full details of the schedule on the league’s website.)
Jun 8, 2020
The Overwatch League shifts to tournament format to boost 2020 season
The Overwatch League’s third season has been a bumpy one. Like every other professional gaming league, OWL has been forced to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic by shifting to an online format in lieu of in-person games.Read Article >
Meanwhile, viewership is down after the league moved from Twitch to YouTube, star players like Jay “Sinatraa” Won have retired and moved on to other games (most notably Riot’s just-released team shooter Valorant), the once-dominating Vancouver Titans dropped their entire roster midseason, and the ever-changing hero pools have been taxing for teams trying to refine their strategies.
May 20, 2020
YouTube’s Activision partnership finally leads to Call of Duty and Overwatch drops
The Call of Duty League (CDL) announced on Tuesday that you’ll soon be able to earn in-game rewards, or “drops,” for watching CDL broadcasts, and the Overwatch League has detailed its plans for drops as well. The announcements follow Activision Blizzard and YouTube’s multiyear deal announced in January that made the Google-owned video platform the exclusive streaming partner for Activision’s esports leagues.Read Article >
To earn the rewards for watching CDL, you’ll have to watch live matches on the CDL website or the Call of Duty Companion app while logged into your Activision account, according to a CDL blog post. The rewards will include team emblems, sprays, and animated calling cards, and they’ll be cross-platform.
May 6, 2020
The Overwatch League’s troubles continue as top team drops entire roster
Heading into 2020, the Overwatch League’s Vancouver Titans were heavy favorites to avenge their 2019 grand finals loss — but that now seems incredibly unlikely. Today, the esports club announced it has dropped its entire roster midway through the season.Read Article >
The issue seems to stem at least in part due to complications around the league’s shift to an online-only format due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While players and staff were originally based in Vancouver, the players relocated to South Korea, where the entirety of the Titans’ roster is from, once the league moved online.
Apr 28, 2020
Overwatch’s biggest star is moving to Valorant
Overwatch’s top professional player is moving on to a new game. Today, Jay “Sinatraa” Won left the Overwatch League’s San Francisco Shock, and ESPN reported that it’s so he can switch to a different title: Riot’s new team shooter Valorant, which is currently in closed beta.Read Article >
Won will compete for esports organization Sentinels, the team announced today. Sentinels is also home to Fortnite World Cup champion Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf. Earlier, Won confirmed his departure from the Shock and that he’s moving to Valorant. In a post on Twitlonger, Won said he retired from Overwatch because he “straight up just lost passion” for the game.
Apr 22, 2020
Inside the Overwatch League’s remote production studio
The third season of the Overwatch League was always going to be a production challenge. After spending two years in the comfy confines of the Blizzard Arena in Los Angeles, where the league could perfect its broadcasts, OWL then shifted to a home-and-away format in 2020 with teams based in 19 cities spread across three continents. But that structure didn’t last long: just five weeks into the season, the league was forced to shift to an online format due to the pandemic.Read Article >
That meant figuring a way for everyone — from the actual players and coaches to the broadcast team — to work from home. In the case of the production team, the solution was to create a new cloud-based software system that allowed producers, casters, and other personnel to do their jobs from virtually any computer. “Our truck is now in the cloud,” says Blizzard live operations director Corey Smith.
Apr 9, 2020
Blizzard is making changes to Overwatch’s hero pools
Back in March, Blizzard introduced hero pools to Overwatch, a rotating list of heroes that would be banned from competitive play. The idea was to shake up the game and keep any one character or team composition from becoming dominant. Now, the developer is making some changes that it says are aimed at making the feature more straightforward and easier to understand.Read Article >
“We’ve received a lot of helpful feedback since hero pools came to competitive play that the system was achieving our goal of shaking up the meta from week to week — but we’ve also heard that some aspects of the system are confusing or unclear, including why certain heroes or roles are rotated each week, or why the exact number of heroes available is inconsistent from week to week,” the developer said in a blog post. “In addition, having separate hero pools for competitive play and the Overwatch League in the same week led to a confusing or disjointed experience for players who follow the league.”
Mar 13, 2020
Call of Duty League and Overwatch League are shifting to online-only games
The city-based Call of Duty League is shifting to a new format amid the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic. In a statement, the league said that upcoming matches will be played online as opposed to large events hosted by cities across North America and Europe. “Call of Duty League has seen firsthand the power of our live events in our inaugural season, and will return to city-based competition in front of live audiences as soon as it is safe and logistically possible,” reads the statement.Read Article >
The league says that upcoming games will still be broadcast on YouTube for fans to watch, although it’s not clear when they will take place. The CDL says that “dates will be announced shortly.” The CDL is a relatively new league, which is attempting to merge the city-based structure of traditional sports with high-level Call of Duty play. So far, matches have been hosted in Minnesota, London, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. The Atlanta Faze and Chicago Huntsmen currently sit tied atop the league standings after the first four events.
Mar 11, 2020
Blizzard cancels all Overwatch League events in March and April
The Overwatch League is going on hiatus amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. Today, Blizzard announced that the league was canceling all events scheduled for March and April. The league says it’s still working on determining when and where those games will be made up in the future.Read Article >
“We are working hand-in-hand with our teams to see that all matches are played when it’s safe and logistically feasible, staying as close to our originally planned schedule as possible,” the league said in a statement. “We are considering the various options available to esports in this effort, so that all teams — including those previously impacted by scheduling changes in China — can get back to doing what they do best.”
Mar 5, 2020
Overwatch’s first banned heroes are Orisa, Hanzo, Mei, and Baptiste
As part of its newfound quest to keep Overwatch fresh, Blizzard debuted hero pools today, which will see a number of popular characters banned temporarily from competitive play. The first victims of the new system — Orisa, Hanzo, Mei, and Baptiste — are out of rotation as part of the game’s 21st competitive season.Read Article >
Blizzard first announced hero pools back in January, alongside a new experimental mode where the developer could try out new ideas. (The first was a triple damage mode that debuted at the end of February.) The idea is to constantly change the game so that no single character or strategy becomes dominant for long. The pool of banned heroes will change on a weekly basis; no hero will be out of rotation for more than two straight weeks. “What we’re trying to address is the feeling that the game isn’t changing rapidly enough,” principal game designer Scott Mercer explains. “This is one part of — along with more aggressive balance changes — helping make Overwatch an ever-evolving game.”
Feb 24, 2020
Overwatch League games in South Korea canceled amid coronavirus concerns
Blizzard has been forced to cancel even more Overwatch League games in Asia following growing concerns around the coronavirus outbreak. The company has canceled a series of matches that were set to take place in South Korea between February 29th and March 22nd “in order to protect the health and safety of our players, fans, and staff.”Read Article >
This includes a number of makeup matches that were moved to Korea following the cancellation of games in China as well as home games to be hosted by the Seoul Dynasty at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza on March 7th and 8th. “We are working with the league on rescheduling these matches and will share more information through the league when it is available,” the Dynasty said in a statement. Dynasty parent company Gen.G Esports previously said that it would be donating 100 percent of the proceeds from the event, along with merchandise sales through March, to coronavirus-related charities.
Feb 14, 2020
Blizzard moves previously canceled Overwatch League games from China to Korea
Last month, Blizzard announced that all of its scheduled Overwatch League games in China during February and March were canceled in the wake of the coronavirus. Now the publisher has revealed its plan to reschedule the games — and it involves moving them out of the country altogether.Read Article >
According to Blizzard, all of the canceled matches — which were set to take place in Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Hangzhou — will now take place in a studio in Seoul. The matches will be played during the sixth and seventh weeks of OWL, which take place on the weekends of March 14th and March 21st. Previously scheduled games in Miami and Atlanta that were set to take place those weekends will be unaffected, according to Blizzard. Specific match times are expected to be announced “soon.”
Feb 6, 2020
The Overwatch League’s new season means travel, YouTube, and a constantly changing game
The third season of the Overwatch League will arguably be the most important one yet for Blizzard’s ambitious esports venture. For the first time, the league’s 20 teams — which are scattered across six countries and 19 cities — will host matches in their local markets. That’s been the plan since the league kicked off back in 2018, with the 2019 season serving as something of a test with select home games in three US cities. But the 2020 season will be a strong indicator of whether the city-based structure so familiar in traditional sports can actually be successful in competitive gaming.Read Article >
That’s not the only change. Activision also revealed last week that it’s swapping broadcast partners, moving over from Twitch to YouTube. At the same time, the game of Overwatch is shifting in a big way with the introduction of new hero pools, a system that will see certain heroes banned from play on a weekly basis. For the pros in the Overwatch League, this means regularly changing strategies as they adapt to whatever that particular week has in store.
Overwatch’s next patch adds experimental mode and League of Legends-style hero pools
Blizzard’s colorful team-shooter Overwatch is getting some big changes next month. Today the developer provided some details on the game’s next patch, bringing Overwatch to version 1.45, and it includes two major shifts. One will add a more experimental flavor to the game, while the other concerns which hero characters players can choose from.Read Article >
To start, there will be a new feature called the “experimental card,” which will be available right in the main menu. Essentially, it’s a way for Overwatch’s developers to toy around with ideas that might not actually make it into the main game. That could mean anything from balance changes to brand-new game modes. Overwatch already has a PTR, or public test realm, which serves as a sort of beta for incoming features, but the new experimental card will be different.
Overwatch League cancels February and March games in China following coronavirus outbreak
The Overwatch League’s plans for a truly global e-sports league have taken a major hit. Today, Blizzard announced that the China-based games taking place in February and March planned for the 2020 season have been canceled following the outbreak of the coronavirus. In a statement posted this evening to Twitter, the league explained that the decision was made to “protect the health and safety of our players, fans, and staff.”Read Article >
“We hope fans have a safe and happy Lunar New Year, and we remain incredibly excited to play Overwatch League matches in China later this season,” the statement reads. “We’ll share more information about when and where the matches will take place at a later date.”
Jan 24, 2020
YouTube signs exclusive streaming deal for Activision e-sports like Call of Duty and Overwatch
Video game publisher Activision Blizzard has entered into a multiyear partnership with Google that will see the search giant’s cloud platform power all of Activision Blizzard’s game hosting and other technical needs. But more importantly, as part of the deal, YouTube will become the exclusive streaming partner for all of the game publisher’s big e-sports titles, including the upcoming season of the Overwatch League and the Call of Duty League, which kicks off today in Minneapolis, Minnesota.Read Article >
The deal is a huge win for YouTube, which has struggled to compete with game streaming leader Twitch, despite YouTube being the largest video site in the world and the second most-visited website on the planet behind only its parent company’s search engine. Twitch was the exclusive streaming partner for Activision Blizzard’s first two seasons of the Overwatch League, and Twitch has long been the go-to destination for live gaming entertainment.