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After the grand finale of the Overwatch League, the competition is preparing to finally become global

The Vancouver Titans will compete against the San Francisco Shock in the Overwatch League grand finals next Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The championship is a big day for the fast-growing e-sports league, where the two most dominant teams in the competition are set against each other.

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But earlier this week, a demonstrably even more important milestone took place – this one took place across the street. On Wednesday, the Philadelphia Fusion – the city's OWL team – held a groundbreaking ceremony for Fusion Arena, a $ 50 million e-sports complex that will eventually become the home of the team.

It is the first purpose-built facility in OWL, but it will probably not be the last. The finals are only a few days away, but the competition is already preparing for the next season, in which teams will host matches in their own cities for the first time. All in all, 52 events will take place in 19 cities and three continents, and there is already a lot of work to be done. "From where we are here in September, 2020 looks like it's going to be great," says Jon Spector, senior director of OWL.

Having teams in the city was always the ultimate goal for OWL, but it took some time to get there. During the inaugural season of the competition, all games were played at Blizzard Arena in Burbank, California. For season two, most competitions took place at Blizzard Arena, but the competition also experimented with three & # 39; home stand weekends & # 39; where teams in Dallas, Atlanta and Los Angeles organized competitions at locations ranging from a minor league hockey arena to a concert hall. For the third season in 2020 it goes one step further, because all competitions follow this home stand model, with teams that each organize at least two weekends and in some cases even five competition matches.


A view of Fusion Arena.
Image: the Philadelphia Fusion

It is not entirely true home and away games as you would see in the NBA or NFL, but it is a start. Thirteen of the 20 teams in the competition have started selling tickets, and the current range of home locations varies a lot. The Toronto Defiant plays from Roy Thompson Hall, a concert hall with 2,600 seats, while the Titans play from the Rogers Arena with 18,000 seats, home of the NHL's Vancouver Canucks. (The Canucks and Titans are owned by the same company.)

Spector says that the demand for tickets has been very good so far and that, although some teams do not have to announce a location or sell tickets yet, everything is running reasonably smoothly. "There is no situation where we are nervous here on the competition side," Oh they have an event in a few months and they are not behind it, "he explains." But we are in a good place today teams work on specific plans. "

The goal of the three home stand weekends this year was for the competition and teams to learn about the logistics of organizing OWL competitions at different locations. But 2020 offers even more challenges – and not just because there will be so many more games. Until now, every OWL competition has taken place in the US. But season three also includes games in China, Korea, Canada, France, and England. "There is a lot that will be a logistical challenge next year," says Spector. "Traveling becomes a challenge, and with travel comes immigration and visas and customs."

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Spector says the competition has specifically designed the season 3 schedule to give teams more time to meet such travel requirements. They also had to come up with a solution to practice. If a team from Seoul lands in London a few days early, how should they participate for the weekend? According to Spector, guest teams will all have to come up with a solution and offer a training location for visiting teams. And those are just two expected examples of the competition's challenges facing getting ahead, with many more unforeseen obstacles likely to occur in the run-up to and during the launch of season three.


Overwatch League

Photo: Patrick Dodson for Blizzard Entertainment

Of course, OWL is not the only competition trying to attract a traditional city-based e-sport model. The following Duty World League, which falls under the same Activision Blizzard company umbrella as OWL, will also be launched in 2020, with 12 teams playing from 11 cities in four countries. The two competitions not only share similar ambitions, but also many of the same property groups and locations. That is why Spector says that the two competitions will work together when and where it makes sense.

"In many cases, it is even the same people who work on both in places with clear economies of scale, such as travel issues or IT issues," he explains. “Both competitions face very similar problems, and so many IT professionals support them Overwatch League also lends their talents and supports the efforts Duty League. We as a company do everything to create opportunities for those different competitions to learn from each other, but ultimately to build properties and competitions that are specific to their games and their fan bases. "

The 2020 season will be an important season for OWL, but it is also only a step, because the competition is not yet at the end goal of real home and away games. And it is unclear when that will eventually happen – although much of it probably depends on how season three goes. "We still have our northern star of what we want to build, and 2020 is a big step in that direction," says Spector. "But it is premature to speculate about how we continue to develop."