Another big tournament is over in the Overwatch scene and for the Western audience, it could be the last tournament this year we see Western non-OWL teams playing. Envision was one of the lucky few to get an invitation and be in a position to participate. Nothing has been announced as of yet for after Blizzcon, apart from the exhibition matches for the OWL teams in December. Players who have not been picked up for OWL are looking forward to participating in Contenders Season 2, the tier 2 tournament of Overwatch. There is still no official information available when the second season will start or what its structure will look like and this is a bit worrisome. Nate Nanzer just briefly addressed the issue on the last day of the Contenders S1 tournament, promising that Blizzard is working on it and will make an announcement in due time.
Despite the lack of information, however, many are right now building rosters, scrimming and trying to find sponsors so as to be ready to participate and rise to the top. Names like CrusaDe & mowzassa, that played with Cloud9 in Contenders S1 and almost managed the upset against Misfits in the semifinals; uNFixed, Kruise & Vallutaja, seasoned veterans of the scene from eUnited, but also players that were out of the spotlight for quite some time, like Vonethil and Grego, are looking to get back into it.
LFT CONTENDERS S2
— Oliver Lager (@Vonethil) September 28, 2017
Based on the two previous seasons, one can predict how some aspects of the tournament will unfold, in my opinion. First of all, let me remind you that Season 0 was a glorified qualifier to decide which 8 teams will battle it out in S1. In the case of North America, Rogue and EnvyUs were instantly promoted to S1 due to previous achievements and results, and them participating in APEX S3. Teams like Cloud9 were given a bit of a headstart but not an instant promotion to the bigger event and they still had to go through the qualifying process of season 0. The most interesting part of that event was the open qualifier in the beginning, where everyone having an Overwatch account could participate by forming a team with friends or other players of up to 9 players (initially was 8).
With the Overwatch Open Division announced just days earlier, one would have thought that the Open Qualifier of S0 would have had the same rule for entry, requiring players to be of Masters or higher rank in-game. Blizzard, however, had a different opinion and they allowed everyone in, probably to attract more viewership and engagement. These elements (open qualifiers, skill-based) must definitely be present in S2. They had also created a graph (see below) that they were promoting throughout Contenders about the path to pro that starts by reaching the Masters rank in-game, then moving on to play Open Division matches and finally entering Contenders. So, reading through the lines, Season 2 should host an open qualifier with teams that participated in previous seasons of Contenders alongside newly formed teams that meet the skill-based criteria. For Season 2, especially, the teams can not be limited to the ones climbing out of Open Division. From Season 3 onward a relegation system must exist allowing teams from Open Division to enter the competition and challenge the lower bottom teams, much like the APEX system with Challengers and Promotion divisions.
Season 1 had rosters and teams that have since moved on to participate in OWL. For their spots, there are probably two solutions. Since endemic orgs participate in OWL under a new brand, they can hold the spots, assemble a new roster and then compete in the next season. Or, they return the spot for new teams to claim it through the qualifiers. I deem the second choice better, but the Cloud9 moves lately (merging with Kongdoo Panthera, acquiring Laser Kittenz to participate in EU Contenders) have me wondering. For teams that do not participate in OWL, team captains or orgs should keep their spots and lose them only if they can’t assemble a roster in time. In short, if there are 16 teams (a good number, in my opinion) to play in the group stage of S2, some of the spots will be given to teams that participated in S1, leaving open at least 8 spots for new teams to fill through qualifiers.
The final thing that Blizzard needs to address -and from what I hear they are working towards that direction- is to make sure there are two different circuits for North America and Europe so as to allow for better management of the broadcast’s schedule, enable talent in Europe to evolve and also avoid the visa issues for playoffs that affected Season 1. We all know that they have very high standards for the broadcasts and a very specific philosophy and I hope that they will make some adjustments, since there haven’t been many tournaments in Europe to allow for the needed talent to be developed and meet the standards they want. At the same this will allow for the implementation of LAN playoffs. Teams and players need to experience the LAN client and get accustomed to it if they are to be picked for Overwatch League afterwards.
All in all, everyone is looking forward to some announcements made during Blizzcon addressing all these issues and at least give us an estimated date when the next season will start.
Images are courtesy of Blizzard