The Overwatch League has announced the initial schedule and structure of its return to competitive play.
On the league's official show "Watchpoint," Vice President of Overwatch Esports Jon Spector said the structure of the league's groups will change. Instead of Atlantic and Pacific conferences, teams will now be organized into three groups based on geography: Atlantic (10 teams), Pacific (6 teams, including the Seoul Dynasty) and China (4 teams). The teams will geographically be on the same coast, in an effort to reduce latency during online matchups, and matches will be played within the geographical groups.
Spector officially announced that play will resume on Saturday, March 21, with the Seoul Dynasty facing the San Francisco Shock at 11 a.m. PT. The goal will be to catch up on all games missed in March and April, so that, by May 1, the league's schedule is back on track. This will be accomplished by playing more games, all broadcast on YouTube, including adding a Friday slate of games for the month of April. A full schedule is anticipated to be released early next week, with the design to be having all teams get to play their previously-agreed-upon number of matches, i.e., 28. It was noted by Spector that all players on Chinese teams are safe in China or South Korea and are able to compete.
As it pertains to All-Stars and the Mid Season Invitational, Spector revealed that All-Stars will be moved to the end of the season, with specifics and timing to be determined. However, because not enough games have been played by all teams, and given the geographical concerns in the current climate, the Mid Season Invitational will not happen.
Spector also announced a change to hero pools: Heroes will now be weighted based on usage in Overwatch League the week before. Previously, all heroes had the same level of chance to be banned if they had over a 10% usage rate -- now, heroes will get anywhere from one to four tickets based on their rate of usage.
Spector also noted that the league is listening to concerns from players, coaches and fans to further refine the system if necessary.
"Just looking at the matches last week, we saw a ton of different strategies come out. A ton of innovation going from Saturday to Sunday. Those were the chief goals for us. I thought the games were amazing, they were action packed. Really fun to see the teams counter each other," Spector said in the video interview on Watchpoint.
Spector went on to explain that the reason the heroes with the highest usage were not auto-banned for the next week was because the league wanted to avoid two metas forming that simply swap back and forth every week.
A new map pool will also be introduced in Week 7, with the intention to run four map pools throughout the entire season as initially planned. The next map pool will be:
Control: Ilios, Oasis, Busan, Nepal, Lijiang Tower
Assault: Hanamura, Volskaya Industries, Paris
Hybrid: Hollywood, Eichenwalde, Numbani
Escort: Rialto, Route 66, Dorado
Spector briefly talked about the homestands that Overwatch League had been able to complete before the coronavirus outbreak caused them to cancel all homestands for March and April.
"We've been thrilled," Spector admitted. "Looking at all these events, seeing thousands of fans come out, seeing their passion, with all the players and teams competing in front of their home crowds, in many cases for the first time ever, this is something that we've been working towards for years now, ever since the league was announced. This was really the vision. So it's been incredibly gratifying to see all the support from our fans. My hope remains that we're able to get back to competing on the global stage and bringing live events to fans as soon as it's safe to do so."