Overwatch

Overwatch community outraged by alleged plans to revamp Contenders

by Theo Salaun

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Blizzard has long endured criticism for their treatment of Overwatch’s Tier 2 scene, and recent reports of a major revamp to the Overwatch Contenders system have only heightened such scrutiny.

As it stands, the Contenders system consists of minor league teams (some affiliated directly with Overwatch League organizations), which compete in regional regular seasons and playoffs with a prize pool. Now, according to GGRecon’s sources, Blizzard is considering shifting to a new format that will break teams apart for monthly, draft-based tournaments.

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While Contenders has provided the OWL with many top players, the T2 scene has still struggled with academy teams disbanding, players exiting, and a general lack of support. Still, in 2020 alone, those teams have given the league players like Kyeong-bo ‘Alarm’ Kim, Jun-ki ‘Yaki’ Kim, and… the entire Vancouver Titans roster.

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The idea of a draft-based tournament is fun in theory, as it most popularly lent hype to the captain-drafted NBA All Star Games in 2019 and 2020 - but doing away with an entire team structure for monthly drafted tournaments destabilizes team environments that are crucial to developing pro-ready T2 talent. 

 

As noted by Florida Mayhem General Manager Albert ‘yeHHH’ Yeh, the new system essentially turns the Contenders scene into “a pug group.” He also clarifies two crucial factors that hurt the path-to-pro ideal: 1) Official tournament play being confined to drafts disincentivizes organizational involvement, and 2) breaking team cohesion and longevity disrupts intangible player growth.

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To elaborate on the rumored 2021 format, official play would be confined to monthly prized tournaments between teams drafted by captains. Outside of these tournaments, organizations would be permitted to have their teams participate in any events hosted by third parties.

Considering how dependent Overwatch is on teamwork, forcing aspiring professionals to play on randomized rosters for most of the year makes it hard for anyone who’s not a superstar Korean DPS to prove their value. A clear example of how valuable OWL teams consider a team’s cohesion to be comes through the Titans, who opted to bring in three of their six players from the same Second Wind Contenders roster.

 

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Making players draft their own teams for a tournament is spicy and exciting, albeit making gameplay sloppier. Turning that into the basis for their entire official circuit may save organizations some money, but hurts the quality of the games (as well as scrims with OWL teams), and puts too much pressure on third-party organizers.

As it stands, these changes would primarily take place in Europe and North America, with the format adjustments for the other regions presently undetermined. The Overwatch community will be actively monitoring these rumors, as they could have a major impact on the game’s professional scene.