Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch League has revealed more details on its competitive structure for the 2021 season.
The fourth season of Overwatch’s franchised league is expected to commence on April 16th and will consist of four tournament cycles throughout the year, with each ultimately concluded by four seasonal tournaments: May Melee, June Joust, Summer Showdown and Countdown Cup.
A prize pool of $4.25m (~£3.01m) has been announced, with the money split between tournaments and the playoffs.
This year, competing teams will be divided into two groups based on their location for the season — East and West. The East division consists of eight teams competing in China and South Korea, namely the Chengdu Hunters, Guangzhou Charge, Hangzhou Spark, Los Angeles Valiant, New York Excelsior, Philadelphia Fusion, Shanghai Dragons, and Seoul Dynasty.
The West region includes European and North American teams, such as the Atlanta Reign, Boston Uprising, Dallas Fuel, Florida Mayhem, Houston Outlaws, London Spitfire, Los Angeles Gladiators, Paris Eternal, San Francisco Shock, Vancouver Titans, Toronto Defiant, and Washington Justice.
Teams in both regions will play four matches per cycle to determine qualification and seeding for each of the tournaments. The top six qualifying teams from the west and the top four teams from the east will play a round of knockout matches. As a result, two teams out of each region will advance to the tournament weekend, where a tournament champion will be determined.
According to the release, the teams from the west will travel for tournaments to Hawaii, where they will play against the eastern team via a direct routed connection from Hawaii to Asia. If the global health situation doesn’t permit such travel, the tournament organiser is ready to pivot back to a regional online tournament model with separate champions.
In addition, the 2021 Overwatch league is shifting to a new scoring system that awards League Points for qualifier and tournament wins. Within each tournament cycle, any wins during the three weeks of qualifiers will count towards qualification for a seasonal tournament. While a qualifier win is worth 1 League Point, tournament placement is more valuable, with 3 League Points as a reward for first place.
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All League Points acquired throughout the season will be used to determine qualification and seeding for the playoffs, with the top three teams from the west and top two teams from the east directly qualifying into the playoffs.
A play-in tournament for each region will then qualify an additional three teams into the remaining spots in the eight-team double-elimination playoff bracket.
Esports Insider says: As expected, Blizzard had to put its plans for a home-and-away format aside for a little longer, as the global health situation won’t realistically allow such competitions yet. Instead, the developer polished the online format it implemented last season to what looks like a solid and sustainable ecosystem.