The Overwatch League recently announced that they would be moving into a more tournament-focused structure. Given the success of the May Melee, I couldn’t be more excited. Let’s break it down.

For those of you who didn’t watch the May Melee, you missed out. The entire tournament, but especially the finals , showed off some of the best Overwatch we’ve ever seen. I hesitate to give any specifics in case you haven’t watched it yet, but the matches had it all. There were reverse sweeps, C9s, carries, clutches, and more. I loved every second of the May Melee. With every team theoretically able to win the tournament, every match had stakes. But, before I get too far into the reasons I’m excited, here’s what we know about the new format.

More Tournaments, Same Style

The Overwatch League is moving to have two more tournaments this season before the playoff matches. The first is the Summer Showdown, which will begin following three weeks of qualifier play with those matches starting June 13th. Following the structure of the May Melee, the tournament would be July 3rd-5th. The tournament format is exactly the same as the May Melee, with 13 teams battling it out in North America and 7 in Asia.

Unlike the schedule, the prize pool for the Summer Showdown has changed for the better. The new prize pool totals $275,000 instead of the $225,000 for the May Melee. That may not seem like a big difference, but that’s $10,000 more dollars for the winners of each tournament. Playing with more money on the line can only help the level of competition these teams have.

Blizzard has not put out any information on the name of the August tournament. This feels much harder to come up with than the other two, but I have some ideas. Fall Fight, August Attack, or even Fall Fracas if Blizzard is feeling bold. And no, I don’t take constructive criticism.

Hero Pool Changes

The other major change to the format is that hero pools are being extended. Each pool will last two weeks now, and the third week of qualifiers for each tournament will be played with no hero pools in play, just like the tournament the following week. This applies to both the Summer Showdown and currently unnamed August tournament. 

OWL Hero Pool: Weeks 19-20
Credit: Blizzard Entertainment

There will be another hero pool for the final two weeks of the regular season leading up to the season playoffs, which is mostly in place to get every team to 21 regular season matches played. Tournament matches will not count towards this number. I was curious about how Blizzard was going to handle the match disparity caused by the cancellation of different homestands at different times, but this seems like the best solution. 

Bringing People Back In

I am immeasurably excited for these changes. 2020 has not been kind to many things, the Overwatch League least of all. With the cancellation of the homestands that were set to make this Season so exciting, the league needed something to set it apart. Tournaments are the perfect way to do that. 

Talking strictly from a statistical perspective, the Overwatch League more than doubled its viewership during the May Melee, peaking at 63,000. Bringing more people back to watching the matches is a vital part of recovering from the fall that Season 3 has been. Google trends also shows the Overwatch League peak following the announcement of the May Melee, then during the tournament itself.

OWL Google Search Trends

Bottom-Feeders Rejoice

Having numbers up is good for business, but it doesn’t matter if the matches aren’t exciting. Can you honestly say you remember the Toronto Defiant vs San Francisco Shock match from earlier in Season 3? Maybe if you’re a big fan of either team you could have a vague memory of the top-tier Shock beating up on the Defiant. If you don’t remember, that makes sense, because the game didn’t happen. 

Seriously, though, who would care about that game for the competition? The Shock are clearly so much the better team that it makes it uninteresting to watch. And that’s with one top tier team playing. It’s so much worse with two bottom feeders. Besides the brutal 7 map disaster between the Boston Uprising and Houston Outlaws, there aren’t any interesting or consequential games happening between the worst teams in the league. There are no playoff implications, and at a certain point it is clear that neither team is going to do anything significant in the league.

Tournaments fix that problem. Yes, there are still sometimes those bottom-tier matchups, but at least they are important. The team who sucks the least gets to move on in the tournament. Their win matters to the teams in the tournament because, while unlikely, they could make a run to the finals. Adding in this layer of stakes with elimination is the perfect way to add excitement to the least interesting games. 

Better Narratives

Do you remember stage playoffs? The Boston Uprising’s perfect stage being cut short by the New York Excelsior in Stage 3 of the Inaugural Season. San Francisco Shock’s golden stage not quite finishing through the playoffs, but still seeing them stomp their way to a victory. I miss Stage Playoffs. They tied together and created brilliant narratives for the league. Forgoing this in favor of homestands would have worked well, but without the crowds and home matches, the tournaments bring back some much needed excitement. 

Shock Golden Stage Playoffs
Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

I’m excited for the intensity that the Summer Showdown and Autumn Aggression (or whatever they’re going to call it) bring to the Overwatch League. More narratives, more matches that matter, less hero pools, and a full plan on how the rest of this season is going to go. The Overwatch League needed to do something to bring back the excitement, and these tournaments are the perfect way to do it.

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