Esports competition the Overwatch League has announced that it will switch to a full home-and-away format for its third season, creating a series that is staged on a global basis.
Owned and operated by US video game developer Blizzard Entertainment, Overwatch League is currently engaged in its second season and to date has staged all its events at the Blizzard Arena in Los Angeles, California.
This strategy was put in place as the League sought to establish itself and it has now been confirmed that from 2020, its city-based franchises in North America, Asia and Europe will begin hosting half of their matches at home.
This is set to make Overwatch League the first professional sports competition to create a regular season held across three continents. Commissioner Nate Nanzer said teams are likely to confirm details on venues and ticketing later this year, but the change is set to see franchises engage in overseas trips taking in multiple cities before returning for a series of home fixtures.
“Scheduling is an incredibly complex problem to solve when you add venue availability and travel times and wanting to make sure that you’re minimising player fatigue and travel recovery time and things like that,” Nanzer said, according to the Associated Press news agency.
“It’s something we’ve been working on for quite some time and feel like the schedule we’ve come up with that we’ll be announcing in the coming months, we think does a really good job of satisfying a lot of those conditions around making sure everyone’s playing everybody but we’re minimising impacts on teams and players.”
He added: “The vision of the Overwatch League was always to get teams in their home markets. We know there are millions of fans that want to engage with this content live. It’s a huge step forward not just for the Overwatch League but for esports.”
The League is currently split into Atlantic and Pacific divisions, with 10 teams in each. Blizzard is planning to introduce an early taste of its 2020 plan through a series of ‘homestand weekends’ this year. These will begin with an event in Dallas next month, followed by Atlanta and downtown Los Angeles in July and August, respectively.
Nanzer said the switch to standard home and away games should allow teams to build their fanbases.
“The same reason it’s more fun to go to a (Los Angeles) Dodger game than to watch a Dodger game on TV is the fact that you’re there with 40,000 other people that also love the Dodgers, and you have that shared experience and connection from cheering on the team,” he said, according to the USA Today newspaper. “And esports are no different.”