Happy esports season! Summer is the ideal time to sit back (with a glass of lemonade in one hand and a burrito in the other in an air-conditioned room) and watch the best video game players in the world battle it out for millions in prize money. However, diving into this digital world can be daunting, since each game has its own schedule and unique set of rules.
Here we offer a handy viewing guide for upcoming matches in five major esports titles: Overwatch, League of Legends, Fortnite, Arena of Valor and Call of Duty. It's nearly championship time for most of these games, so matches are primed to be extra exciting.
Sit back, take a big ol' bite of that burrito, and watch some esports with us:
This is the inaugural season of the Overwatch League and things are heating up just ahead of the grand finals at the end of the month. The Overwatch League is the first international esports league that ties teams to cities, much like traditional sports. This means teams like the New York Excelsior and Los Angeles Valiant face off against each other, but they also compete against the London Spitfire, Seoul Dynasty and Shanghai Dragons throughout the year.
The regular Overwatch esports season began in January and the grand final will be held on July 27th and 28th. There are two weeks of playoffs before the final matches and we're currently in week two, the last chance for players to land a spot in the $1 million championship. Four teams remain: Philadelphia Fusion, New York Excelsior, London Spitfire and Los Angeles Valiant.
All games are streamed live on the Overwatch League Twitch page, OverwatchLeague.com and MLG.com. The games will air live on television as well: The July 18th game will be on Disney XD and ESPN3; the July 20th game will be on ESPNEWS; and the July 21st game will be on ESPN2. Day One of the finals (July 27th) will air on ESPN proper starting at 4PM PT / 7PM ET.
League of Legends
The Summer Split sounds like a delicious ice cream treat, but to League of Legends fans, it means one thing: Worlds are right around the corner. The League of Legends World Championship kicks off in South Korea in the fall and the Summer Split is the final chance for professional teams to prove they deserve a spot on the global stage.
The League of Legends Championship Series is divided into two splits, spring and summer, with a handful of other tournaments lined up throughout the year. Teams compete regionally and internationally, and the North American and European groups rack up Championship Points with each win in a bid to make the cut for the finals. Each region's winning team in the Summer Split automatically secures a spot at Worlds, which will be held in South Korea this year. In 2017, the overall Worlds prize pool was just under $5 million.
The Summer Split is about halfway done: It lasts for nine weeks and we're currently on week five.
Say hello to the plucky newcomer. Fortnite has exploded on the esports scene and beyond, with Epic Games promising to pay out $100 million in its first year as a professionally played title. Following the game's first tournament, a $3 million Pro-Am charity event held in June, Fortnite is currently in the midst of a Summer Skirmish series worth $8 million over eight weeks.
The Summer Skirmish got off to a rocky start on July 14th -- matches were plagued by lag, and the tournament rules forced players into a build-and-hide strategy, which didn't make for very exciting viewing. The format will change each week, though, so there's hope for a smoother experience going forward.
Epic isn't sharing a set schedule for the Summer Skirmish, but the first event took place on July 14th at 1PM PT / 4PM ET. Following that precedent, we expect the second week to begin on July 21st at 1PM PT / 4PM ET. However, the best way to stay up-to-date on the Summer Skirmish is via its official page or the Fortnite Twitter account.
Don't discount mobile esports. Arena of Valor is a prime example of the power of professional handheld gaming -- it's a free iOS and Android title, but its first World Cup has a prize pool of $550,000. Arena of Valor is similar to League of Legends, meaning it's a team game rich in strategy and communication, just on a slightly smaller screen. The Arena of Valor playoffs even took center stage at the E3 ESL Arena.
Group stages for the Arena of Valor World Cup began this week, and the finals are set for July 27th and 28th, starting at 5PM PT / 8PM ET each day.
Where and when to catch the next games
Arena of Valor World Cup Group Stages (Full schedule here)
Ah, the grandaddy of all shooters. The Call of Duty World League is in full swing, with the finals scheduled for Sunday, July 29th. It's currently week eight of the group stages, with just a few more days of matches left before playoffs begin. Division A has already crowned its champions -- Red Reserve, Team Kaliber, Echo Fox and Faze Clan -- while eight teams in Division B are battling it out for the final four spots.
Call of Duty is a powerful title in the gaming world, and it's had time to cultivate a robust esports scene, but it's lagging behind games like League of Legends and Overwatch in terms of establishing player protections and providing stability for teams. This year, the CWL is offering a prize pool of $500,000 for the playoffs, and a total of $4.2 million across the 10-month season.
Where and when to catch the next games
Thursday, July 19th starting at 11AM PT / 2PM ET
Friday, July 27th starting at 1PM PT / 4PM ET (Playoffs)