OWL 2020 Updates
Hi OWL fans,
It’s been a couple months now since I last shared my thoughts on our season and how things were going more broadly for OWL. I’d like to provide another update on a few primarily format-related topics we’ve seen be the focus of discussion recently as we head into the final stretch of the 2020 season.
With two tournaments in the books, we’ve been thrilled by the results. The matches have been incredible, producing instant classics and creating some amazing storylines. Viewership for those matches has been encouraging too. The May Melee and Summer Showdown Asia region finals were our most watched matches of all time in Asia, and viewership results were strong in other markets as well. I’m psyched for the Countdown Cup in August.
We are still working on 2021 format concepts and the uncertainty around the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has made that really challenging. It’s clear that monthly tournament cycles are compelling, and we want to do something similar next year too. Ultimately, we want to find a way to blend the excitement of homestands around the world with the monthly tournament structure we’ve developed for online matches. We will need more time to set and share specific 2021 plans, though, as we need to account for many different scenarios. Expect to hear more in the offseason.
I’ve seen some commentary of “make every weekend a tournament – why even have regular season matches.” I believe that a lot of what makes these tournaments special is that they are not happening every weekend and we have a few weeks leading up to each tournament to build the hype. We also know that tournament weekends with that many matches are taxing on players and coaches and like giving them time between tournaments to rest and reset.
We’ve spent a lot of time talking with all teams and exploring different options for a revamped playoff structure this season. While we’ve done our best to balance out things like strength of schedule for teams over the course of the full 2020 calendar, trying to update the playoffs format in a way that feels fair to all teams and is operationally viable has been very challenging. Our planned structure will give all 20 teams a path to make it into the playoffs, although teams that are higher in the standings will receive meaningful advantages. We believe this approach is the best way to acknowledge the specific challenges of the 2020 regular season while appropriately rewarding the teams that performed best throughout the year. We should be ready to share specifics very soon.
While we’ve set the approach for the rest of the 2020 season and believe this is the best iteration of the system so far, as we plan for 2021 we will take another look at hero pools (together with other related format decisions). I believe the current system is responsible for a lot of the fluidity we have seen in the meta recently, and that rotating Hero Pools every few weeks coupled with balance changes (e.g., Genji dramatically returning to action for the Summer Showdown) has worked well. But we are open to revising the approach here and plan to review all the data we have gathered from this season and experiment with other ideas in the offseason.
I hope everyone is staying safe wherever you are in the world. Thank you for your continued engagement and support. Mark your calendars for our return to action next Friday!