Blizzard Entertainment is often criticized for their decisions about Overwatch. While there is no lack of bad faith criticism, those who genuinely want the best for the future of Overwatch have a lot to say as well. They have failed many of their fans by failing to uplift or even listen to black voices. They chose to develop Overwatch 2 instead of improving Overwatch 1 as many fans have hoped. Moreover, they have rarely done more than the absolute minimum to support Tier two of Overwatch.
Many of these points are still relevant today and should not be overshadowed or forgotten. However, at least on the last point, Blizzard has begun to listen to their fans. A hype video that was released on November 4 teased the return of the international Contenders tournament Contenders Gauntlet. On the next day, the full announcement demonstrated that Blizzard has not given up on the so-called “Path to Pro”.
Due to Covid-19, not all the regions can join together in one big tournament. Instead, there will be four regions that pool together different Contenders regions. Asia, South America, North America and Europe will all compete in a tournament suited to their tier two infrastructure.
Some crossover between different Contenders regions will still be happening. In the Asian tournament, teams from the Korean, Chinese, Pacific, and Australian regions collide. Furthermore, the winners and runner-ups of Europe and North America will face each other in show matches after the completion of their tournaments.
Support Tier Two
Most importantly, the prize pools for the tournaments will hopefully revitalize the next generation of Overwatch players to invest their time and training into the scene. With a prize pool of $150,000 in Asia, organizations might see a future in Overwatch again. Just recently, the popular team Element Mystic had announced that they are taking a one-year hiatus.
Since the prize pool is split among the contestants, even the smaller prize pools in the other regions will hopefully flow to teams that might not have the biggest sponsors behind them as well – especially in regions like South America. With the open bracket qualifiers in Europe and North America, smaller teams might gain a surprising boost. Most famously, Overwatch League MVP Byung-sun “Fleta” Kim started to gain fame on a smaller, less successful team.
Overall, it appears that Blizzard has decided to continue to invest heavily in the future of Overwatch´s esports scene. Unlike Heroes of the Storm, for which Blizzard dropped all support for the esports scene in 2018, Blizzard continues to supply the Overwatch scene with infrastructure and financial support.
Featured image provided courtesy of the Overwatch League.
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