Overwatch Contenders is making changes this year
Last year, Blizzard expanded the Overwatch Contenders series into a global tournament series that also doubled as a pathway for players to go pro. There’s no better proving grounds for players, and getting onto a Contenders team is an important step for most would-be pros on their way to the big(ger) leagues.
So far some 90 players have been picked up by OWL teams from the Contenders rosters – that’s a pretty good cut, all in all. Now, as of this year, there are going to be some pretty important changes to the Contenders series. First of all, the tournament structure is changing – the eight regions will each have 2 seasons throughout the year.
Each season for each region will end in a big final tournament that pits the top teams against each other, after which the next season begins. The whole thing will consist of four phases – first, the trials. They will act as a transitional event from the 2018 format, where 12 teams per region played. Now it’s eight teams for most of the region, meaning that teams will have to fight for their spot in the later stages.
Stage 2 is the regular season – once the teams have been decided and qualified, each region’s academy teams will receive the official invites, with the rest of the slots being filled by teams from the trials. The top 6 of each of these groups will then move on to the third stage, the Playoffs. Unlike the previous round-robin tournaments, here teams will fight in a single-elimination bracket setup. The top two teams advance to the semi-finals, and one champion will be crowned per region.
The fourth and final phase will be made up of two tournaments – the Pacific and Atlantic showdown. Each of them will feature the top teams of four of the eight regions, where, in double-elimination matches, teams will get a chance to compete against the stars of other regions. The Atlantic region will be made up of Europe, North and South America, and the Pacific will feature Australia, China, Korea, and Asia-Pacific.
That much for season 1. Season 2 will be similar – first trials, then regular season, the playoffs, followed by a slightly different fourth phase. The so-called Gauntlet will feature 10 teams competing in group stages that ultimately end in a double-elimination bracket. Only top-performing regions will get to send teams, so participation is by no means guaranteed – it’ll be the Pacific and Atlantic showdowns that will determine just who gets to go.
Timeline-wise, the first season will align with stages 1 & 2 of the OWL, and season 2 will align with stages 3 & 4, to make it easier for OWL teams to recruit out of Contenders if they want to. Another change is the prizes that are to be won – over $3 million are up for grabs in total – both showdowns will feature a $125.000 prize pool, and the Gauntlet alone twice that.
Good luck to all players and teams!