The Overwatch League will host its first homestand in over a year in China this weekend. The Hangzhou Homestand kicks off on Friday at the Hangzhou Future Sci-Tech City Academic Exchange Center. The event at the venue will reportedly take place with reduced capacity due to COVID-19.
Leading up to the delayed 2021 OWL season, it seemed doubtful whether the Overwatch League would return to homestands anytime soon. However, in April the League announced a hybrid model Live Event coming to Hangzhou for the June Joust, wherein Shanghai, Chengdu, Valiant, Guangzhou, and Hangzhou will all be in live attendance, while the teams in Korea will play online.
The 2021 Hangzhou Spark Homestand will be the first live event for the Overwatch League since the onset of the global pandemic forced Blizzard to cancel the majority of the homestands planned for 2020. It is one of the earliest events in all of esports to feature a live audience at their LAN since the start of the pandemic.
Shanghai and Guangzhou will host their own homestands this season as well, with Shanghai hosting the Summer Showdown on July 11th and Guanzhou hosting the Countdown Cup on August 7-8.
A cautious return to live esports events is becoming more widespread. Riot Games recently hosted MSI 2021 and the VCT Masters 2 championship live in Iceland. Players and staff flew into Iceland and quarantined for the required two weeks before the competition, and the venue featured no live viewers. So in that way, the Hangzhou Spark homestand is unique. It will be interesting to see what a live audience at a venue looks like in 2021.
While most of the esports events remain online for now, this weekend's homestand and other events like MSI hint at the return to live venues that we can look forward to in the near future.
Aaron is an esports reporter with a background in media, technology, and communication education.