After over a year of online play, the Overwatch League is set to return to an in-person setting starting this June in Hangzhou, China. The league announced the live events Tuesday evening to a slew of happy international fans. This is one, if not, the first step for the return to full-time offline competition for the OWL.
— Hangzhou Spark (@Hangzhou_Spark) April 14, 2021
The three planned homestands are set to take place in Hangzhou, Shanghai, and Guangzhou throughout the season. Hangzhou’s Homestand will take place during the June Joust tournament cycle. Shanghai will host the Summer Showdown in July. And the live event in Guangzhou will coincide with the Countdown Cup in August.
We’re doing (some of it) live!
There will be three live events in China this season for #OWL2021
— Overwatch League (@overwatchleague) April 14, 2021
The OWL did also explain that the five Chinese-based teams of the league–Chengdu, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, L.A. Valiant, and Shanghai–will all be featured on stage during these events. The non-Chinese organizations–New York, Philadelphia, and Seoul–will still play during these events but over the league’s cloud servers.
With the situation improving in China, the OWL is ready to start testing Homestands once again at a reduced capacity. This will also all culminate during the end of each tournament cycle with “Project Aloha”.
As reported on by Forbes’ Senior Contributor Shlomo Sprung, The May Melee, June Joust, Summer Showdown, and Countdown Cup will all follow the structure of a “six-team knockout style tournament to determine the two best teams during that span” in each region. The two best North American teams will then fly to Hawaii where Sprung explains has a “direct internet cable that runs to Tokyo”. These two squads will then play against the East region’s best under a low-latency environment.
OWL Vice President Jon Spector provides some insight on why that line is so important.
“Connecting directly from Hawaii to Tokyo is a fast enough connection speed that the gameplay is going to be high quality, the players don’t report any issues and they’re all excited to do it.”
Not only is connection important but also, logistically, Hawaii is a perfect destination for the OWL. The Verge’s Andrew Webster explains that Project Aloha means that “players based in the US would already have the necessary visas to travel.” This means any unnecessary headaches from pandemic travel issues should be all but forgotten with the Hawaii loophole.
Both the announcement of the Chinese Homestands and Project Aloha are two small but very crucial tentpoles towards the future of the Overwatch League and its vision of traditional live events. On top of the ongoing developments of esports stadium plans around the world, the OWL has started back on the road to the league’s hopes of the world’s truly first “international league”.
The Overwatch League kicks off the 2021 season this afternoon (April 16) at 3pm ET/noon PT.
Featured Image Courtesy of The Overwatch League.
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