University of Hawaii to host international esports league this summer

UH Mānoa students train with Overwatch League employees as part of the top Esports event holding tournament events at the campus. (Photo courtesy University of Hawaii)


HONOLULU (Eagle News) – The University of Hawaii (UH) will host the Overwatch League (OWL), in which up to 20 teams from North America, Europe, and Asia are expected to participate in a series of four tournaments at the UH Mānoa campus between May and August 2021.

OWL is the world’s first city-based esports league and features the game Overwatch, a team-based action game developed by Blizzard Entertainment.

UH describes the competition in the Aloha State as an effort to bridge the gap to bring safe and online interregional play from its best teams. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year, OWL teams were rarely able to play head-to-head matches between teams in different regions because of the online latency difference.

The upcoming tournaments will each feature two teams from its West region playing from UH, while teams from East region in Asia will connect virtually and play head-to-head in real-time. Matches will take place May 6–8, June 10–12, July 15–17, and August 19–21. They can be viewed live and on demand from the Overwatch League YouTube channel. The winning team for each of the four tournaments at UH will take home a $100,000 prize.

“For the university, there’s unprecedented opportunity for students to get as close as they can with a publisher and organizer to see how the tournament runs and how a publisher organizes events because this is basically a new form of worldwide entertainment,” said Nyle Sky Kauweloa, a communication and information sciences Ph.D. student and head of the UH Mānoa esports Task Force in the College of Social Sciences.

“I’m most excited about getting to work with professionals in a sense of how to run a large scale tournament where everyone in the world is watching,” said Alexine Niro, a UH Mānoa mechanical engineering senior and Overwatch player on UH Mānoa’s esports team. “Another thing is that my teammates and I get to meet the gaming professionals that you see around the world as well, so it’s a surreal experience for Hawaii to be a part of.”

“Working with the University of Hawaii has helped solve one of our biggest challenges as we continue to safely compete in online competition,” said Corey Smith, director of broadcast technology for the Overwatch League. “Playing from Hawaii unlocks online play between our East and West regions, which makes our competition stronger and our matches more exciting for fans globally. We’re thrilled to be teaming up with Hawaiʻi and local students to help make it all happen.”

Overwatch is just one of many games propelling the esports industry. A new global esports and live-streaming market report projects global esports revenue will reach $1.08 billion in 2021, up 14.5% from 2020; and $833.6 million of those revenues will come from media rights and sponsorships. The global live streaming audience will also hit more than 728 million in 2021, growing 10% from 2020.

Students investing in esports in addition to their traditional majors have described the benefit of gaining experience in business management, events planning, media production, and web development.

(Eagle News Service)