the 2021 overwatch League play-offs hit a minor glitch. Yesterday, the League announced that it will no longer host live playoff games in Dallas and Los Angeles.
“Due to significant environmental changes affecting travel for some teams, we have decided to deviate from the originally planned live events in Dallas and Los Angeles,” the League wrote in a statement on Twitter. “Instead, the league will return to Hawaii for playoffs after the season.”
The move is likely in response to the wave of COVID-19 delta variants spreading around the world and the declining ability for travelers to obtain visas to and from the United States.
Last season, the League split into two regions: North America and Asia-Pacific, or APAC. The regular season game and playoffs were segregated within the regions, with each sending their top team to Korea to play in an online televised LAN final. This year, the League decided to introduce interregional play by sending qualifying NA teams to Hawaii. dubbed “Project Aloha,” the overwatch League partnered with the University of Hawaii Manoa to provide facilities and support for visits overwatch League teams to play against teams in Asia on servers designed to reduce game latency.
While Project Aloha was a great way to introduce cross-regional play – something the overwatch League community highly desired during the 2020 season – it was not a perfect solution. Teams still had to travel to Hawaii, a problematic solution as COVID numbers rise there and the governor is currently urging visitors to stay away. And while teams played on servers with the lowest possible latency, latency cannot be completely eliminated, which affects the quality of the game.
After the announcement, overwatch League players voiced their concerns on social media, saying it was a shame because they believed the set-up was hurting North American teams.
The edge asked the overwatch League why it decided to send teams to Hawaii for matches. A source with knowledge of the situation confirmed that visa problems and the constantly changing situation with the delta variant necessitated a solution that reduced international travel.
Esports organizers are finding it increasingly difficult to schedule live events as the world opens and closes due to the delta variant. League of Legends’ World Tournament and dota 2‘s The International has both made changes to their locations as countries restrict international travel and live events.
The overwatch League’s decision to suspend live events comes amid Blizzard’s ongoing legal battle against the state of California for allowing harassment and discrimination. Earlier this week, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) accused Blizzard of “withholding and suppressing evidence.”
The League is currently taking a short hiatus as it prepares for the play-offs starting on September 4.