The Overwatch League viewing experience changes from year to year. For the league’s fourth season, the schedule format is completely different, mostly thanks to the pandemic halting live events early into the 2020 season.
OWL comes back this weekend and fans are chomping at the bit to see their favorite teams and players battle it out for the chance to compete in the grand final at the end of the year. How fans can watch matches this year is similar to last year, but there are some new additions for the 2021 season.
2021 OWL format changes
The most drastic change this year isn’t how to watch, but when to watch. This year, the OWL season is broken up into four tournaments throughout the season.
The tournament schedule for the year is as follows:
- May Melee: April 16 - May 9
- June Joust: May 21 - June 12
- Summer Showdown: June 25 - July 17
- Countdown Cup: July 30 - August 21
This year the league is broken up into two divisions: East (Asia) and West (North America). Tournaments will start with regional knockouts, and, if possible, the top two teams from each region will compete against each other afterward in Hawaii.
Teams will earn League Points for placement in tournaments and each win throughout the qualifier matches. The teams that are eliminated early on from the tournament will have a harder time acquiring points to qualify for the playoffs. Three teams from the West region and two teams from the East region will qualify for the playoffs based on the amount of points accumulated over the regular season.
OWL broadcast times and Encore matches
All live broadcast times for teams in the West region will start at 3 p.m. ET, and all live broadcast times for teams in the East region will begin at 5 a.m. ET.
For fans who are not keen on waking up before 5 a.m. to watch their favorite team play live matches, the OWL is re-broadcasting 24 matches featuring the New York Excelsior, Philadelphia Fusion and Los Angeles Valiant as Encore matches.
Encore matches greatly enhance the viewer experience, because unlike normal VODs, fans can still earn viewership rewards and enjoy watching together with other fans on OWL’s YouTube Gaming channel. All Encore matches begin at 12 p.m. ET and lead into Watchpoint for that day’s West region matches.
According to a press release, Encore matches will be “flagged” on the OWL website, but there are no such indications on the schedule yet.
With the Fusion playing their games in Asia this year, fans in Philadelphia can watch their games later in the day as Encore matches. Photo credit: Nerd Street Gamers
Where to watch OWL matches and how to earn tokens
Like last year, OWL matches can be viewed on the league’s YouTube Gaming channel, overwatchleague.com or on the Overwatch League app.
Rewards can still be earned on any of the platforms fans decide to use to watch matches. All fans need to do is connect their Blizzard account and link it to their YouTube account. This season, fans will be able to earn League Tokens to use on a wider selection of OWL skins and sprays, including a custom Opening Weekend spray designed by desk host Soe Gschwind.
For every one hour of matches watched, five League Tokens will be added to fans’ accounts. Rewards are cumulative, which means fans can take a break and not lose their progress toward their next five tokens.
OWL viewership enhancements for 2021
This year, a feature fans have been asking for is finally available on YouTube: clip functionality. A big part of the reason fans preferred Twitch was the ability to create and share clips. When OWL moved over to YouTube, this became a chore. Now, fans can create and share clips of up to 60 seconds of video.
Another fun feature that fans are excited about is the always-on player cameras. Camera set-ups will allow fans to see more live shots of their favorite players as they compete. There are also plans to incorporate live player comms into the show at select moments, so fans can even hear the action as it’s happening.
Also added this year is the ability to view all matches in 4k quality. Every match this season will be broadcast in 4k, and all of the on-demand matches will also be viewable at the same quality.
The last, but possibly most important feature, is the new match scores ticker, and a spoiler-free mode that allows fans to hide match results on the scores ticker, schedule and standings sections. This is great for fans who live in the West region but would like to watch matches from the East region later in the day without being spoiled.
When does OWL start in 2021?
On April 16, the two remaining teams located in California and the Texan teams will face off against one another. The Dallas Fuel and Houston Outlaws headline the opening day, and the Los Angeles Gladiators and the San Francisco Shock will go head-to-head shortly after.
There are well over 10 matches being broadcast on opening day, which means fans will get to see a lot of teams in action in the first weekend of the 2021 season. Although fans will have to wait until the handful of tournament weekends to see the West and East regions compete against each other, there are plenty of matches set for this weekend to give fans a good idea of who is going to start the fourth season of OWL strong.
Lead image credit: Overwatch League