HP TECH TAKES /...
Exploring today's technology for tomorrow's possibilities
Joining an Overwatch League for eSports Tournaments
October 21, 2019
Do you consider yourself an Overwatch pro? Do you crush your friends online? Or maybe you’re the one who leads them to victory. In any case, if you think you’ve got serious Overwatch talent, you should take a closer look at Overwatch League.
Overwatch League is a professional eSports league that pits professional Overwatch teams against each other for a huge cash prize and championship trophy. If you’ve got a thirst for online gaming competition, it’s time for you to start your Overwatch League journey.
What are eSports?
eSports are any form of organized competition using video games. The key word here is “organized.” Most video game multiplayer modes are competitive by nature. eSports have a more organized structure to promote fair and competitive matches.
All eSports competitions have these characteristics:
All eSports competitions have some sort of governing body that oversees every aspect of the competition, from organizing the tournament brackets to making sure all players follow the rules.
The eSports governing bodies set very clear rules for how the matches will play, which game settings players use, and how you win or lose.
When you’re gaming online, you might play against people who have modded the game to their own advantage, or you might wind up playing on a buggy server that lags or crashes in the middle of a match. eSport competitions only use fast, secure servers to ensure fairness and quality gaming.
eSport competitions usually have some way for players to advance into a championship round. In tournament-style competitions, there are brackets. In season-style competitions, there are rankings or standings that determine which players will advance into the championship.
Popular eSports Leagues
Any game—even games in which there’s no shooting or attacking—can be made into an eSport, and you can even run an eSports competition at your home. All you have to do is determine what constitutes “winning” and how players can advance from one round to the next.
There are several popular eSports leagues that draw lots of competitors, sponsors, and viewers. Some of the most popular ones include:
- League of Legends Championship Series
- Call of Duty World League
- Rocket League Championship Series
But Overwatch League has one of the most organized league structures, and it also has a huge amount of money behind it - not to mention style.
The Overwatch phenomenon
Overwatch took the gaming world by storm when it was released in 2016. The term, “overwatch,” actually refers to a military tactic in which a support group backs up a fighting group. It’s an appropriate name for the game because Overwatch is a team-based shooter that’s most fun and competitive when players are working strategically with their team. It’s a game that was practically made for eSports.
Are you an Overwatch god? Does your team win consistently under your sterling leadership and tactical genius? Then maybe it’s time to aspire to Overwatch League.
What is Overwatch League?
Overwatch League is a professional eSports organization for the Overwatch video game. The league was formed by Blizzard Entertainment, the developer of Overwatch. It’s structured in a very similar way to professional sports organizations like the NFL, NBA, and MLB.
Only the best of the best can compete in Overwatch League - this is the major leagues, after all. But what’s awesome is that any player with skill and determination can climb their way up the ladder to an Overwatch League team. And when you’re signed to an Overwatch team, you’re literally paid to play - that’s the dream, isn’t it?
Let’s dig into all things Overwatch League.
Overwatch League teams
There are 20 teams in Overwatch League, and they’re organized into 2 divisions of 10 teams. The Atlantic Division sports teams that are closer to the Atlantic Ocean, while the Pacific Division sports teams that are closer to the Pacific Ocean.
Atlantic Division Teams:
- Atlanta Reign
- Boston Uprising
- Florida Mayhem
- London Spitfire
- New York Excelsior
- Paris Eternal
- Philadelphia Fusion
- Toronto Defiant
- Washington Justice
Pacific Division Teams:
- Chengdu Hunters
- Dallas Fuel
- Guangzhou Charge
- Hangzhou Spark
- Los Angeles Gladiators
- Los Angeles Valiant
- San Francisco Shock
- Seoul Dynasty
- Shanghai Dragons
- Vancouver Titans
Overwatch League is governed by Blizzard Entertainment, but each team is owned by a private ownership group - the Boston Uprising, for instance, is owned by the Kraft Group, which also owns the New England Patriots. There’s some serious money behind this league.
Teams consist of 6 players on the active roster - these players will be on the starting lineup during a match. But each team can also have up to 6 additional players who can be swapped between matches. These inactive players may also serve as trainers and team coaches.
Team membership is locked at the start of the season, so no new players can be signed once matches begin. But there’s also a mid-season signing period where teams can bring in new players or trade players with another team.
When the season ends, all teams have a short time span in which to extend player contracts or add new players.
Overwatch League teams are not region-locked, which means that you can play on London’s team even if you live in New York. Of course, you’d still have to relocate to London for at least part of the year - you need to live in your team’s home city so you can participate in daily practices.
If you want to play in Overwatch League, you’ve got to be at least 18 years old. You’ve also got to be able to travel internationally so you can go to other countries for international games.
Gamers around the world dream about being able to make a living playing video games - and when you've signed with an Overwatch League team, you can. The starting salary for first-year Overwatch League players is $50,000, and they also get health and retirement benefits. If you become your team’s MVP, chances are you’ll be able to earn an even higher salary.
But there’s even more money at stake. If your team wins a championship, you’re guaranteed a cut of the team winnings.
Just be aware of the league’s code of conduct. You can be suspended by the League or dropped from a team for bad behavior in the locker room or in matches. Make sportsmanship a habit before you land a spot on a roster, otherwise, you could lose your hard-earned spot.
Here are a few of the rules for each game:
- Every regular-season game pits two teams against one another
- One team is designated as the home team, the other team is designated as the visitor
- Each player on a team must play as a unique hero - no two players on a team can play as the same hero
- However, players may switch to a different available hero during the match
- Both control maps are played on a best-of-three format
- Assault, Escort, and Hybrid maps are played with each team getting at least one chance to be the attacking team
- The team that wins the most matches wins the game
All games are played on a custom server run by Blizzard (League players can also use this server for practice skirmishes). Overwatch frequently gets updated by Blizzard, but during the Overwatch League season, updates are limited to once every six weeks so the gameplay dynamic don’t change too abruptly during the season.
As far as equipment goes, each player is given an identical desktop computer, monitor, and noise-canceling headphones. But players can use their own keyboard and mouse. Speaking of which–Overwatch League is for the PC version only. Sorry console gamers!
The general schedule for Overwatch League run these dates:
- Pre-season: December
- Stage 1: January - February
- Stage 2: February - March
- Stage 3: April - May
- Stage 4: May - June
- Playoffs: July
- Grand Finals: July
Like in a professional sports league, the pre-season consists of a few practice games that don’t actually count toward any team’s win-loss record. The regular season lasts from January to June, and the teams with the most wins advance to the playoffs. The top two teams from each division square off in the championship game: the Overwatch League Grand Finals . Epic stuff.
How to join Overwatch League
By this point, you’re probably super-hyped about Overwatch League, which begs the question: “How do I join?” If you want to reach the major leagues, you’ve first got to work your way through the minor leagues.
You can join Overwatch League by rising through the ranks in Competitive Play, Overwatch Open Division, and Overwatch Contenders Division. If you demonstrate pro-level playing skills in Overwatch Contenders Division, you could gain interest from an Overwatch League team.
Here’s how it all works, step by step.
1. Overwatch Competitive Play
When you reach level 25, you’ll unlock the Competitive Play mode. Competitive Play is your starting point on your journey to Overwatch League fame.
In Competitive Play, there are 6 “seasons” per year in which players can earn points by winning games. You have until the end of the season to earn as many points as possible. Earn enough points and you’ll earn the “Master” rank. When you’ve earned “Master,” you’re able to enter the Overwatch Open Division.
2. Overwatch Open Division
Overwatch Open Division is an entry-level tournament where you’re able to prove your skills. But before you enter the Open Division tournament, you first need to assemble a team to play with you. Gather your best teammates and be prepared to battle other top teams in your region. Be one of the top 4 teams in the tournament and you’ll advance to the Trials tournament.
3. Overwatch Trials
Trials pit the top 4 teams of the Open Division against the bottom 4 teams of the previous season’s Contenders Division. 4 teams will be eliminated - but if you’re one of the 4 winning teams, you’ll move on to the Contenders Division. Congrats.
4. Overwatch Contenders Division
The Overwatch Contenders Division is basically a semi-pro/minor league team. This is a high-level tournament series that’s a proving ground for the best up-and-coming Overwatch players. It’s tough to get here, and it’s even tougher to win. But if you’ve got the team and the talent, you could soon find yourself on an Overwatch League roster.
There’s a single winner of the Overwatch Contenders tournament but winning doesn’t mean you’ll automatically wind up in Overwatch League. Teams can sign players whenever they want, and they don’t have to sign the Contenders Division winner. It’s like college football; you can win the National Championship, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to get drafted into the NFL.
However, League teams will pay close attention to everyone who plays in the Overwatch Contenders Division. If your skills impress someone on an Overwatch League team, you just might get an offer to join the big leagues. That’s the cool thing about the Contenders Division: you don’t necessarily need to win to prove you’re capable of playing in Overwatch League (but winning definitely helps).
Overwatch World Cup
Believe it or not, there’s an Overwatch tournament that’s even more competitive than Overwatch League: the Overwatch World Cup. It works very similarly to the FIFA World Cup. During the regular season, players can play for teams anywhere around the world. But in the World Cup, they only play for their home nation. It’s a country vs. country battle to determine the strongest Overwatch nation.
In 2018, there were 24 qualified nations and 4 qualifying rounds (6 teams competing in each). The top 2 teams from each qualifier (8 teams total) play in the Overwatch World Cup, which is held at Blizzard’s fan festival, Blizzcon, in November. This is the ultimate tournament with the biggest trophy and best cash prize: a $5 million prize pool. Only the best Overwatch League players can enter. Dare to dream!
How to watch Overwatch League
Watch Overwatch League to study the tactics of the best teams and to get a feel for how the league works.
You can watch Overwatch League games on:
- Overwatch official app and website
- MLG.com and MLG app
- ESPN app (regular season games only)
- ABC and ESPN 2 (select games only)
Just think about it: once you’re in Overwatch League, millions of people around the world could tune in to watch you and your teammates dominate the competition.
Overwatch League on Twitch
One of the best ways to watch Overwatch League games is on Twitch. Twitch is a streaming service for gamers that’s free to use (although there’s a paid Prime option that has more features). Overwatch League games are broadcast live on Twitch .
Best gaming PCs for Overwatch
When you’re playing in Overwatch League, you’re required to use the league’s mandated gaming rigs. But while you’re climbing the ladder, you can use any gaming rig you want. In fact, a great gaming rig might just be the difference between launching a professional Overwatch career and staying in the minor leagues.
You won’t find a better gaming computer than an HP OMEN desktop. There are a few different models you can choose from, and each has an awesome design that’s just as stylish as Overwatch League. Our HP OMEN gaming computers are equipped with only the best processors, and they’re designed to maximize airflow so your hardware won’t overheat during an intense match.
We’ve also got great HP OMEN gaming accessories that’ll help you dominate your competitors, from advanced gaming keyboards, to gaming mice, to state-of-the-art gaming headsets with auto-cooling ear cups.
About the Author: Zach Cabading is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Zach is a content creation specialist based in Southern California, and creates a variety of content for the tech industry.
 OverwatchLeague.com; Homepage
 Twitch.tv; Homepage