Blizzard have announced a development league, entitled Overwatch Contenders, which the developer is terming a league for “aspiring Overwatch League professionals.”
At the mention of Overwatch League, Blizzard reference the elephant in the room: Overwatch League is still being put together, and the vacuum in its absence is causing major issues for the competitive scene of the game, with 5 teams leaving Overwatch over the last few weeks.
The problem, according to those ejecting from the scene, was that there wasn’t enough of a chance to actually compete, meaning organisations were struggling to win money or even fans with a regular tournament cycle seen in other, better developed, esports.
Blizzard are taking the concerns seriously it seems, with Overwatch Contenders looking to address both concerns. The is kicking off with North American and European team registration opening today, with the first season, dubbed Season Zero, as an online-only qualifier for both NA and EU. The regions will have separate tournaments to determine the top eight teams from each, with winners sharing a chunk of a $50,000 prize pool.
Following this, the top six teams from Season Zero in NA will be joined by returning Apex season three teams Team EnVyUs and Rogue for a six week bracket of round-robin play. Then, the top four teams from this contest will advance to an offline playoff bracket to fight for the lions share of $100,000.
In Europe, the same will happen, although the top 8 teams from Europe will go on to compete themselves.
Alongside this will be the Overwatch Open Division, a series of tournaments in regions around the world which will kick off in 2018. The aim of the Open Division, in addition to giving teams some playtime, is to offer up sports to the Overwatch Contenders league.
From Blizzard’s point of view, it makes a lot of sense – teams that aren’t keen to commit to an Overwatch team due to a lack of real structure or real prize money should find both of these issues resolved, although it might take a little bit of a work before endemic organisations that abandoned Overwatch are won back over. The prospect of regular competitive play is a boon for those keen to get involved in the business of watching the sport too, however.
“Over the first year of organized Overwatch competition, we’ve seen an incredible exhibition of skill at Overwatch APEX in South Korea, the Overwatch Pacific Championship in the Asia-Pacific region, and the Overwatch Premier Series in China,” said a press release.
“It’s time to bring that level of competition to the West.”
NA qualifying runs June 3-4, with EU taking place June 10-11. Playoffs take place on July 1 for NA and July 2 for EU.