After a year of taking its games online, the Overwatch League is making a tentative return to live matches when season 4 kicks off later this month.
Granted, most matches will still be played remotely. But the five Chinese Overwatch teams will attempt to play games at three on-site events in Hangzhou, Shanghai and Guangzhou—running at a "reduced capacity" to comply with current Covid-19 regulations.
"Due to improved health and safety conditions in China, we are excited to announce the planned return of live events to three cities during the 2021 season, honouring our commitment to reintroduce offline competition while still prioritizing the safety of our players, fans, and staff," Blizzard wrote in the announcement.
Not all of these matches will see both teams on stage, mind. While the five Chinese teams will play each other face-to-face, three Korean teams will play remotely via the Overwatch League's tournament servers—their opponents playing alone to what I can only imagine would be a very one-sided crowd.
Beyond cancelling in-person events, the coronavirus pandemic has had a more sinister affect on OWL players overseas. Dallas Fuel player Lee "Fearless" Eui-seok last week spoke out about the escalating racism and harassment he and his fellow Asian players face while living in the US.
The Overwatch League's fourth season begins on April 16th, with a packed schedule of matches kicking off its opening weekend.