Blizzard introduces changes to the Contenders , but is it enough?

January 19, 2019 | 0 | 1076| |

The Overwatch Contenders is in a very difficult place right now. The past year saw the massive success of the premier Overwatch League. However, at the same time, it also showcased the various problems with the Tier 2 Contenders. Teams in Contenders were not getting enough remuneration, the lack of viewership and money in Contenders provided little incentive for teams.

Let’s take a look at the recent changes implemented by Blizzard for the Overwatch Contenders.

Overwatch Contenders to have three new LAN events

Image Courtesy: Tech Girl

Blizzard announced the addition of three new LAN events for Overwatch Contenders 2019. With the Overwatch Contenders 2018 Season 3 Finals coming to an end in January, 2019 Contenders will start very soon.

We’re dividing the eight Contenders regions into two divisions, consisting of four regions each, to inform invites to our new Showdown live events. Four regions will send their top teams to the Atlantic Showdown, while the other four regions will send their top teams to the Pacific Showdown. We’ve positioned these live events during the Overwatch League mid-year break to maximize viewership potential and player recognition from Overwatch League scouts!

There will be two matches in the mid-season break of the Overwatch League. They are divided into two different categories: The Pacific Division and the Atlantic Division.



From May 24–26, 2019, top teams from Australia, China, Korea, and the Pacific will face off in an intense double-elimination bracket.

Dates: May 24–26

Location: China

Tournament format: Double Elimination

Teams Invited:

  • Top 1 from Australia
  • The Top 2 from China
  • Top 2 from Korea
  • Top 1 from Pacific



Top teams from Europe, North America, and South America will meet in a double-elimination showdown between May 31–June 2.

Dates: May 31–June 2

Location: Europe or the Americas

Tournament format: Double Elimination

Teams Invited:

  • Top 2 from Europe
  • The Top 3 from North America
  • Top 1 from South America

However, there will also be a Grand Showdown of the Contenders post the completion of the Overwatch League. The final LAN event, called the Gauntlet will take place from October 10-13, 2019.

The Gauntlet

Envision Esports in action; the players had problems in receiving their salaries for a long period of time.

The pinnacle of the season will be the Gauntlet, which will be held from October 10–13 in a location to be announced soon. All top-performing regions will send their teams from Season 2 to the Gauntlet. Performance in the Pacific and Atlantic Showdowns will determine specific invites.

Dates: October 10–13

Location: TBD

Tournament format: Groups to Double Elimination

Teams Invited:

  • Teams invited based on Atlantic and Pacific Showdown results.

You can find more information on the new LAN events on their official webpage here.

Are the changes enough to help the Tier two scene?

The British Hurricane Lineup before their Contenders Match.

The Changes to the Contenders is definitely an important step in the right direction for Blizzard. These changes will ensure that the Tier two scene fills the gap after and during the Overwatch League. The long duration of the off-season is in addition to the elongated player break mid-season during Season 2. In terms of scheduling and format, this is great news for the Tier two scene. However, for Blizzard to be able to revive the grass-roots of Overwatch they will need to ensure more viewership and benefits for Tier two players.

You should check out this Reddit post by former XL2 Academy coach IOstux. He mentions the various problems involved in the Contenders scene. Ranging from lack of money to problems in acquiring sponsorships; the avenues for Contenders teams making money was severely limited. He also mentioned Blizzard’s lack of advertisement on multiple platforms for the Tier two scene. It essentially results in very low viewership and exposure for the Contenders teams.

The breaks between seasons are very long, so players who didn’t win Trials, for example, need to wait months until they can next prove themselves.

There is a  lack of replay features in the game and lack of features for coaches to help improve the team. As such it becomes impossible for teams to improve their performance. Most of the Contenders teams essentially import players from Korea. Since Contenders is supposed to be the growth drivers for local Overwatch; this approach definitely raises questions.

The Viewership problem

Image Courtesy: ESC Watch

Adding more LAN events essentially means better prize pool and hopefully better viewership. However, it is not something that is a guaranteed aspect of these changes. The Overwatch Contenders is supposed to be the path to reach professional Overwatch players. But for most of the Tier two scene, even winning the Contenders can mean nothing for your future.

One of the Contenders players, Tuomo “Davin” Leppänen who is a DPS player for Team Gigantti expressed his frustration. He mentions that winning the Contenders can mean nothing for the future of a player. He still has to worry about the next few months and whether he will still be on a team or not. It is not a very promising look for the Overwatch league which promises players with job security and salaries. The Contenders is supposed to be the feeder to the Overwatch League talent. But with low success rates and extremely low viewership numbers, the Overwatch Contenders is a huge failure.

Adding more events is a boost, but not enough


Blizzard announced three more LAN events for Overwatch Contenders. It creates a storyline to hold the interest of the fans and viewers. However, with the lack of any decent advertising and exposure by Blizzard themselves, the Contenders seems woefully neglected and without much support. As we head into 2019, it is the year that investors and venture Funds will be looking at the OWL. They want to see the return on their investment by the third year, which is when they will decide their future involvement.

If the Grass-roots of the League is in dire straits, it does not bode well for the future of the Overwatch League.Increasing viewership for the Contenders can be a solution for many of the problems including lack of funding and sponsorship. This can be done either via drops for watching the games, increasing the prize pool for the Contenders.

Adding more events does not seem to be solving the problems for the scene. They need to ensure that fans have a stake in watching these matches. The Contenders teams are not really city-based and as such, many fans want to support only their regional OWL teams. The new LAN events have many details withheld from the official announcement. We do not know whether there will be a prize pool for winning the Gauntlet.

Increasing Prize Money and conversion of viewers

The increase in a number of matches, the new LAN events definitely add a storyline to the Contenders scene. The hype and the excitement around the three LAN events concluding with the Gauntlet in October will draw new viewers. There are many fans who keep wondering when OWL will return during the off-season. For these fans, the Contenders LAN matches is a way to keep watching Overwatch after the conclusion of the Overwatch league.

The timing of these matches and their schedule is impressive. Overwatch fans will always have something to look forward to. The conclusion of the Gauntlet will see the Overwatch World Cup at Blizzcon 2019. With December and January being two months which will truly not have many matches. However, a two-month break is just enough for most of the players and fans.

Do you think the timing of these LAN matches and the Gauntlet will be enough to lure more viewers for Contenders? Or does Blizzard need to significantly increase the prize pool and the exposure for Contenders? Let us know in comments.


The author

Esports journalist. An esports fan, former wannabe pro and occasional angry young man. You can find him trying to climb the Dota 2 MMR or just chilling in Rocket League. Or maybe building an entire city in Cities: Skylines. The current mood is always a surprise.

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