There are only two tournaments running right now. Apex and Overwatch Contenders. Contenders is the Blizzard sanctioned tournament that is running in North America and Europe whereas Apex is in South Korea and has probably the best four teams in the world competing in it. Both of these tournaments have different formats. Which is better?
Season 0 of the Overwatch Contenders has been a bit of a gong show so far. The qualifiers for it were open to everyone and forced teams to play a grueling 12 hour day of constant games; those who didn’t qualify on day one were forced to play yet another 12 hour day to get to top 8. Then, once we had the groups, we couldn’t even see all of the games. Each group would play games at the same time but only one would be streamed, which sucks. We would miss massive matches like Cloud9 vs Kungarna or Misfits vs Laser Kittenz.
Frankly, the tournament is nearly a failure. Luckily, Overwatch is an entertaining game to watch and the NA group stages pulled over 20,000 viewers at its peak. A respectable viewership. The problem with this is that it wasn’t a good representation of Overwatch as a game.
However, we missed the most important part of a tournament: story line building. Going into the tournament we had several story lines brewing; Cloud9 vs Kungarna had its fair share of trash talk on Twitter beforehand. The game went to a 2-2 draw and apparently was an exciting game. We wouldn’t know because it wasn’t streamed. One of the best games of the year and it wasn’t even streamed, which is a huge shame.
Another high stakes and story-building game was Misfits vs LaserKittenz. The teams have taken potshots at each other on Twitter before. Specifically, between Reinforce and Alicus. Though, both have begun making their statements more professional making it, at least for me, all the more entertaining. This is how fans are made and retained.
OGN has set up their Overwatch tournament in a completely different style to the Overwatch Contenders. It is exclusively a LAN with every match being televised with lots of time in between games. Season 3 has been running since April 26th and we are just now getting to the Semi-Finals. Having this massive amount of time between matches, four matches a week, has certain advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that every team gets more time to prepare for their upcoming opponent and cater their strategies to them.
This is part of the reason that Rogue were so unsuccessful there. When you are trying to separate the top teams in the world, it often comes down to things beyond mechanical skill. Out-skilling Lunatic-Hai isn’t an option, so you have to try to out-think them. The Koreans proved that they are the superior strategists. One could almost say that they are better at thinking about the game than the west. We do not have enough evidence to make that claim. All the evidence has shown this though, with a few exceptions.
This means that Apex gives coaches even more importance than Overwatch Contenders, because you have a week, or more, to prepare for a single opponent. You can craft individual strategies, such as the Rogue-busting strategy, for each team and each match.
OGN Apex has done a wonderful job of building up story lines. EnVyUs has been in the tournament every single season, winning the first one, and is looking strong once again. Whereas, you also have teams like RunAway pulling off a Cinderella run to the finals last season. Every team is so chock full of superstars and the fact that we get to see every single match has given us great rivalries. Lunatic-Hai vs nV is a big one but there are other smaller ones within teams such as Flow3rs’ wrist issues.
Undoubtedly, Apex is a better tournament than Overwatch Contenders. If you want to watch the best Overwatch the world has to offer then you need to watch Apex. If you want the best story lines you need to watch Apex. The only thing that Overwatch Contenders has going for it is time of day it takes place, and the western teams.
Contenders could take a page out of Apex’s book. Stream all matches, and if you can’t do that, then you need to stream the high profile ones. Make teams earn their chance at the spotlight. Sure they beat a bunch of plebs to qualify, but I would rather watch Misfits vs Laser Kittenz than Team eSporters Cyberathletes take on Ninjas with Attitude. The latter match was to determine who would get last in the group whereas the former was to determine first; AND Misfits and Laser Kittenz have a history together.
We did get to see EnVyUs vs Lunatic-Hai, and have seen that match every time it aired. We all also got to watch the nV vs Rogue matchup in season 1. When Rogue was a totally different team. Rogue and nV got invited for season 3, generating a lot of excitement. Excitement was generated through the hope that they would play against each other, a rematch of last year. OGN developed the story line throughout their seasons.
Contenders didn’t do everything badly. The group stage seeding was a lot better than the seeding of Apex this year. Seriously, Rogue, KongDoo Panthera and Lunatic-Hai all in the same group. Shame OGN, shame. Whereas with Contenders it was a genuine surprise that Cloud9 didn’t make it out of group stages.
If Blizzard takes the criticisms to heart, which it seems they are, then the tournament can have a long lifespan. Blizzard has already responded to people complaining about the times the tournaments took place by moving the times up three hours.
Contenders is still young and while they should have a better starting place, there is hope. Whether the tournament is a success is entirely up to Blizzard and how they respond to the community. Which looks promising. Granted, we haven’t seen a lot of reactions from them about other criticisms such as streaming.