Overwatch League: Everything You Need to Know

Fans can represent their favorite teams with in-game skins.
Where fun and competition come together for a shot at the $3.5 million total prize pool.

Overwatch League 101

Skeptics didn’t believe that the Overwatch League was going to see a lot of success, but the league is currently thriving. If you are new to OWL, read on to learn more about this revolutionary eSports league.

When Blizzard announced the Overwatch League at Blizzcon in 2016, they promised to revolutionize the eSports industry. Up for grabs is a total $3.5 million prize pool for the entire first season. That’s certainly no small chunk of money, especially since most of the players are still teenagers. Cue the jealousy over these teens making more money for playing video games than a good majority of adults.

What is the Overwatch League?

The Overwatch League (OWL) is an eSports league based on the very popular Blizzard game Overwatch. OWL currently features 12 teams, primarily from the U.S. with 2 teams from Asia and 1 from Europe. What makes this league so different from other eSports leagues is that it was designed to more closely resemble traditional professional sports leagues.

In traditional eSports leagues, teams get switched around higher/lower divisions depending on their performance. In OWL, teams are permanently organized into divisions. Every team in OWL is backed by an owner and receives a minimum salary with benefits and revenue-sharing. (Sinatraa is the highest paid player currently, making a cool $150,000 at just barely 18.)

Players in OWL have to be at least 18 years old to participate and must be able to travel to other countries. They also have to abide by Blizzard’s Code of Conduct, otherwise they face fines or suspensions. Players are expected to represent the league even when they’re not on the stage, including on their personal Twitch streams.

The Code of Conduct is a lengthy rulebook, but the main idea is to not do anything that would embarrass or tarnish the reputation of anyone associated with the league. They can’t be sponsored by “morally questionable” companies or endorse any politics. The Code of Conduct is especially strict about memes, Twitch behavior, and other internet activities that are deemed inappropriate or offensive.

The Overwatch Format Explained

The league is run by Major League Gaming, which is owned by Activision (the parent company of Blizzard). Teams play matches against other teams according to a set schedule to fight for a coveted playoff spot.

Like professional sport leagues, there is a team of commentators and analysts that break down the action for fans. There is a “pre-game” show and halftime shows at the halfway point of each match. These are experts in the league that genuinely love their jobs and don’t seem to take themselves too seriously.

Each day, there are 3 matches that are played, starting at 4pm PST. Each match has 4 maps unless there is a tie, then there is a 5th map. The map pool changes every stage to make it fair and give the games variety.

Overwatch League Schedule

Each team will play 40 matches, divided in half between teams within their division and outside of it. The first season had a month-long preseason before the season began. The format for this first season is to have 4 stages, which would last 5 weeks each. The matches take place from Wednesday-Saturday, with 3 matches each day. The stage playoff takes place on the last week of the stage on Sunday.

The stage playoff format changed since the first stage of the inaugural season. Originally the top 3 teams would play in the 2-match playoff. The 2nd and 3rd place in the stage would face off, then play the #1 seed in the final match of the night on the Saturday after the regular season matches were completed. The playoff matches were moved to Sunday the next stage, so the players and viewers could rest.

In Stage 3 of the first season, the playoff format changed. The top 4 teams would make it into the playoffs. The top seed would get to pick the team they want to face in the first round of matches. The other two seeds would then face off. The winner of both of these matches plays the final match for the championship prize of $100,000 with the runner up taking away $25,000.

The regular season goes from January to June, with the post-season playoffs and All-Star weekend occurring in July. The Grand Finals are set to take place on July 27 and 28 at the Barclays Center.

There are tiebreakers in place when needed to determine the league standings. These include map differentials, meaning that every map win counts in case there is a tie in the standings.

The Overwatch Teams

There are currently 12 teams in OWL, but they hope to add more in the future. They are focusing on trying to get more European and Asian teams in the league, since 9 of the 12 teams are American.

The current teams are:

  • Dallas Fuel
  • Los Angeles Gladiators
  • Los Angeles Valiant
  • San Francisco Shock
  • Seoul Dynasty
  • Shanghai Dragons
  • Boston Uprising
  • Florida Mayhem
  • Houston Outlaws
  • London Spitfire
  • New York Excelsior
  • Philadelphia Fusion

These teams are divided into 2 divisions: Atlantic Division and the Pacific Division.

The teams are based out of Los Angeles, California where the Blizzard Arena is located. Currently all the matches take place here, but they hope in the future to add travel to home arenas as they would in other professional sports leagues.

Overwatch League Tickets

The Blizzard Arena seating can hold up to 450 fans. To purchase Overwatch League tickets, visit the Overwatch League official page. The tickets tend to sell out fast, costing $20 for weekday matches and $30 for Saturday games. There are other packages, including a season pass for $600.

Overwatch League Skins

If you are an avid fan of the game, you can purchase OWL away skins in game to show your support. To do this, you need to purchase OWL tokens from the Blizzard Shop, which you can redeem in-game. Every character has their own OWL skin.

OWL created an “All-Access Pass” where players can get additional content for the league for $29.99 every season. If you sign up, you can get home skins for select characters.

Overwatch League Merch

The Blizzard Gear store also has OWL merch that you can buy. You can purchase OWL league merch or merch to support your favorite team. This includes player jerseys. You can even purchase jerseys of your favorite player for an additional $10.

Where to Watch the Overwatch League?

The Overwatch League streams live on Twitch, with reruns occurring when matches aren’t on. OWL also has weekly recap and preview shows that fans can watch on off-nights. If you play Overwatch and want to get OWL skins without paying money, you can accrue tokens from watching OWL on Twitch. You need to link your Battle.net launcher and only get points for first run shows.

You can also check out OWL on Reddit through the /Overwatched sub-reddit. You can avoid spoilers watching the reruns here.

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Brianne, First of Her Name and Breaker of Dog Chains, hails from Massachusetts. She has a weakness for adorable game characters and gets a stamina boost from unhealthy doses of coffee.
Gamer Since: 1996
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: Overwatch, World of Warcraft, World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth beta
Top 3 Favorite Games:World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor, Borderlands 2, Team Fortress 2
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