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Overwatch retiring map pools, uniting competitive play and Overwatch League heroes

Overwatch will now feature the same hero pools in competitive play as in Overwatch League, the professional circuit for the hero shooter. Blizzard Entertainment introduced these limited selections of playable characters to the team-based multiplayer title in March after implementing a similar feature for maps last year. It’s now making significant changes next week, and getting rid of map pools, based upon player feedback.

Previously, hero pools changed what characters were selectable from week to week, and both competitive play and the Overwatch League had different selections. Blizzard says this was confusing for e-sports fans and that it will now have a unified hero pool starting on April 13.

Blizzard will determine each week’s hero pool by measuring how often high-level competitive players select specific characters over the previous two weeks. An unspecified threshold is then set, and characters that go over the limit may be removed. Blizzard will randomly eliminate one Tank, two Damage, and one Support character. All characters that receive a ban will gain immunity the following week, so nobody’s favorite hero will be gone for too long.

The selection will be made at the end of the weekly Overwatch League matches on Sunday. The unified pool will then go into effect on Monday morning. Once the Overwatch League regular season ends, Blizzard will use the same data to determine the hero pool each week.

Map pools were initially introduced to give each competitive season a different feel and to limit the number of games played on the Paris and Horizon Lunar Colony maps. Following complaints about the lack of variation, Blizzard will remove the feature on April 14. Now, all maps will be available to play competitively, excluding the Paris and Horizon Lunar Colony variations, which will get changes before returning.

The Overwatch League, like the Call of Duty League, recently moved its live events online as a safety measure in response to the spread of the coronavirus, officially named COVID-19. Teams were split to three groups based upon region in order to minimize lag. The city-based matches that fans have come to expect from the professional circuit will return to arenas as soon as it is safe to do so.

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