Instead of encamping in France, as was intended, the league’s Paris franchise will instead be based in New Jersey at the start of the season, according to two people familiar with the team’s operations and housing situation. It is not yet known what city in New Jersey the team will make their base of operations. The team will conduct its home matches in Paris as originally scheduled.
Inquiries made by The Washington Post to Overwatch League officials had not been answered at the time of publication.
Paris Eternal is one of just two European franchises in the 20-team league. It is not yet clear where the London Spitfire will be based. Inquiries to the Spitfire were not answered as of the publication of this article.
The Overwatch League has been touted by its operating company, Activision Blizzard, as a potentially revolutionary esports enterprise, breaking from the competitive video gaming standard and assigning teams to 19 cities across the world to develop loyal fans and business partnerships in their geographical regions. Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick has previously told The Washington Post he wants the league to look like the NFL, except on an international scale.
For the first two seasons, teams lived and played in Los Angeles. Starting Feb. 8, each franchise will host weekend competitions called “homestands” for a portion of the 20-team league. It’s a hybrid model of the home-and-away structure seen in traditional sports. Players will compete in one or two matches every homestand weekend with bye weeks interspersed throughout the season.
The sheer amount of travel — with matches to be held in Asia, North America and Europe — this year compared to last makes for new and challenging logistics for front offices across the league. Teams are preparing multi-week tours in China. Coaches are debating whether to fly into cities early to help players get acclimated. Players are thinking of ways to stay hydrated and healthy through the long flights, so they don’t get sick or fatigued.
The decision by the Eternal to make its temporary base in New Jersey appears to be related to its travel schedule, but other more game-specific reasons also may have factored in the decision.
Alban “Albless” de la Grange, a former Overwatch League French caster who’s now a manager and assistant coach for the Toronto Defiant, said he believes Paris had to move to the United States for the third season to make sure they’re able to get “a decent practice.”
“You can’t sacrifice quality of practice just to make sure you remain in the city that is in the name of your team,” de la Grange told The Post.
Quality practice includes playing Overwatch without lag, delays in the response time from the controls to the game. Players want to perform with as little delay as possible between their inputs and what’s executed on screen. A scrimmage against a team across time zones places one team farther away from the server the match is hosted on, opening up matches to split-second delays that could cost a team a win.
With a home base in New Jersey, the team will benefit from being closer to other franchises to practice against — there are six on the East Coast.
“They won’t scrim you if you’re in Western Europe because the ping is too bad,” de la Grange said. “These cities have to move to the U.S. in order to have good practice.”