Blizzard has announced plans to launch a new Overwatch "development league" in North America and Europe this summer called Overwatch Contenders. The league will serve two purposes: It will give aspiring players and teams the opportunity to compete at a consistently high level—and earn some bucks while they're at it—and also expose them to top-tier Overwatch League teams on the lookout for talent.
"Over the first year of organized Overwatch competition, we’ve seen an incredible exhibition of skill at Overwatch Apex in South Korea, the Overwatch Pacific Championship in the Asia-Pacific region, and the Overwatch Premier Series in China," Blizzard said. "It’s time to bring that level of competition to the West."
"Season Zero" of Overwatch Contenders will be an open, online-qualification tournament which will determine the top eight teams in each of the two regions. The top six teams from North America, plus Apex teams Envy and Rogue, will take part in six weeks of round-robin play in Contenders Season One, with the top four teams advancing to an offline playoff bracket with a $100,000 prize pool. On the European side, the top eight teams will undergo the same six-week challenge, with the same playoff and prize pool awaiting at the end.
"Of course, there is more than cash on the line," Blizzard said. "With organizations looking to fill their rosters for the launch of the Overwatch League, all eyes will be watching this summer’s competitive showcase."
Later this year, up-and-coming teams will also have the opportunity to strut their stuff in the Overwatch Open Division, which will include tournaments in regions around the world and, beginning next year, "a path to Overwatch Contenders seasons" in each region.
Here's how Season Zero will break down:
- May 22: NA & EU team registration opens
- June 2: NA team registration closes
- June 3-4: NA Open Qualifier
- June 9: EU team registration closes
- June 10-11: EU Open Qualifier
- June 17: EU Group Stage
- June 18: NA Group Stage
- June 24: EU Group Stage
- June 25: NA Group Stage
- July 1: EU Playoffs (Quarterfinals, Semifinals and Finals)
- July 2: NA Playoffs (Quarterfinals, Semifinals and Finals)
Unfortunately, there's still no word on the status of the Overwatch League itself: A Blizzard rep said they "don't have any additional info to share right now." But I feel fairly safe in saying that they're not going to set up a feeder league for the Big Show unless the Big Show is actually on the way, so hopefully we'll be hearing more about that soon too. For now, you can dig deeper into the details of Overwatch Contenders at overwatchcontenders.com.