Today the Dallas Fuel will host the first live North American Overwatch League game since March last year.
When the Overwatch League began in 2018, the plan was to have live games in one central location and eventually work towards having live games (called “homestands”) in each of the 20 teams’ home markets. 2020 should be the year that the league has been transformed from its soundstage in Burbank, California to places like Dallas, Paris and Shanghai. In the first five weeks of the 2020 season, OWL made this dream come true. She held games in New York, Philadelphia, Houston and Washington before concerns about the fast-growing, runaway pandemic forced the league to focus on distant games.
In 2021, Dallas Fuel became the first North American team to host a live event Overwatch Game in over a year. It wasn’t a typical life Overwatch Experience. For starters, Dallas’ opponents, the Houston Outlaws, weren’t there. Instead, the team took the stage at Arlington Esports Stadium in front of a live audience, but played an online match against their Texas rivals.
It’s poetic that Dallas hosted the first North American homestand in 2021. In 2019, the Fuel hosted OWL’s first homestand in the Allen Arena. It was the first time the Overwatch League community saw the idea of the Homestands, and it was a great example of its potential to excite fans. Neither Dallas nor Houston were particularly good at the time, but because of the infectious energy of the crowd, it didn’t matter. Here is a video that tells the story of. retold Overwatch
Though Dallas is the first North American team to host a live event, the revival of the Overwatch League homestand has actually stood took place in China in June. The Hangzhou Spark has set up the first live home stand since the pandemic closed last season. It was the first live Overwatch League event in Asia since the pandemic stopped homestands last year before an Asian team was due to host.
The return of live events marks the return of an energy that was lacking in OWL games. Live events allow teams to flex their creative muscles on the music and media packages they use. Yesterday my Shanghai Dragons had their first homestand with an absolutely fabulous walkout video that I have to share here.
Though Dallas’ homestand was an oddly one-sided event, I can’t deny the smile on my face as I saw the players amid the roar of the crowd. Being able to hear the crowd break out with every Dallas kill made the not very competitive game (Dallas beat Houston 3-0) more exciting.
As more people get vaccinated and states resume pre-pandemic operations (perhaps unwise given the prevalence of a new variant of Covid), the Overwatch League has slowly worked its way back into LAN-based competition. As announced earlier this year, Project Aloha has qualified North American teams flying to Hawaii to compete against Asian teams to take advantage of Hawaii’s low latency connection to Asian servers. It is not yet known if other North American teams will host homestands again.