On Wednesday, NRG Esports announced that their Contenders run had come to a close. It’s a puzzling move, given their (reasonable) degree of success and the climate of Tier 2 Overwatch in general. Contenders, for all its problems, has been growing in support and resources – so why leave now?
Many speculated after the announcement that the team would simply be rebranding. “Shock Academy” might be more in line with the aesthetic the team is trying to build, but NRG CEO Andy Miller explained in a comment to Upcomer that NRG is well and truly gone.
“We skinnied down our OWL team to leave room to add new players under the 12 player cap to develop directly under [Da-hee “Crusty” Park] and be part of the OWL atmosphere”, Miller explained. He also mentioned that the team “didn’t feel we would get a lot out of extending [the team] through a contenders program”.
The End of an Era
This move marks the end of a team whose reach extends far into the past. NRG was one of the first esports organizations to plant its flag in the tumultuous years before OWL came to be.
NRG first entered the scene by signing Mixup, a roster of former TF2 players. Many of them had come from Luminosity Gaming, before it split into its sister rosters LG Loyal (where we met Outlaws flex tank Alexandre “SPREE” Vanhomwegen) and LG Evil (the first big team for players like Jake “JAKE” Lyon, Matthew “super” DeLisi and current meme-lord Connor “Avast” Prince). The former Mixup roster cut its teeth in the Overwatch Open, APAC Premier 2016 and APEX Season 1, before the roster inevitably shifted and shifted and shifted again. By the end of its run, NRG has – had – become one of the most prolific orgs in Overwatch history.
In more recent years, the team has played in North American Contenders with a reasonable degree of success. Despite their middle-of-the-pack statistics, the team often found its way into the playoff picture – if only for a short time. Their consistency and quality of staff were a boon to the many players that passed through their doors. NRG have declared that they will be making an effort to find new homes for those players and staff, and sources tell The Game Haus that at least one player has already found a new place to call home.
Facts about NRG
In total, NRG participated in 10 qualifier tournaments, three premier events, three minor tournaments and six majors. Here’s an example of one, when the team still played under the Mixup name – the #2 March GosuGamer EU Weekly, dated March 12, 2016.
Discerning Overwatch fans might recognize the casting talents of Andrew “ZP” Rush and Robert “hexagrams” Kirkbride, as well as names like Cocco, Chipshajen, INTERNETHULK, Seagull, Enigma and Milo. This was Overwatch before the Overwatch League – a game NRG had a prominent stake in.
11 former NRG players are in or have passed through the Overwatch League at some point in their career.
- Four (Ethan “Stratus” Yankel, Riley “Fahzix” Taylor, Seong-won “Swon” Yoon and Dong-jun “Rascal” Kim) are on OWL rosters. (WAS, WAS, FLA, SF)
- Two (Seb “numlocked” Barton and Dae-min “Daemin” Kim) were in OWL and now play in Contenders. (British Hurricane and Blank OCE)
- Four (André “IDDQD” Dahlström, Brandon “Seagull”, Daniel “Dafran” Francesca and Lucas “Mendo” Håkansson) have retired and/or moved to streaming. (Dafran was only ever a streamer for NRG, and only for a short time before signing with the Atlanta Reign. Phillip “Kragie” Krag now holds that role.
- One (Matthew “Clockwork” Dias) was a player and is now a coach for the Houston Outlaws.
That’s All, Folks – For Now
With NRG seemingly gone, the Contenders picture in North America is forever changed. Five teams will enter the region via Contenders Trials (set to start at the end of May), and there will be one less academy-level organization to provide resources and support for up-and-coming players. It’s a loss for the game, and for all its fans. But one we can still appreciate, in the end.
STAY UP TO DATE
Follow me on Twitter @thibbledorkk! Ask me questions, or tell me how I’m doing!
You can also message me on Discord! (thibbledork#0282)
Featured Image Courtesy of NRG