According to an article published on DailyEsportsKR, Blizzard is assuming control of the Korean tier 2 tournaments, like APEX, that were so far organized, executed and presented by OGN. It is still undecided whether the latter will handle the production of the tournament, though.
The information shared so far reveals that the tournament, which is set to start some time in March of 2018, will change name and be called Contenders APEX, APEX Contenders or just plain Contenders, like his fellow brothers in the West. The format and the rules will undergo changes and will be announced later. Prize money will increase, compared to previous APEX seasons and its structure will be more similar to that of the Heroes of the Storm Global Championship (HGC), with 12 teams in total.
While we still wait for news regarding Contenders to be officially announced, since Nate Nanzer promised us that it will be close, if not before the end of the month, let’s discuss a bit the implications of the above.
If Blizzard intends to homogenize the Contenders tournaments globally, whose goal is to be a breeding ground for talent to be developed that will later be available to be picked by Overwatch League teams, that means that all tournaments will have the same rules and the same structure. On one hand, this is reasonable and helpful. With the same structure, a lot of uncertainty factors are discarded and it’s much easier to measure the strength of teams from different regions. On the other hand, depending on what the structure is, how it allows teams to enter, if there is relegation or not, the level of competition will follow accordingly.
Another aspect of the APEX tournament, hosted by OGN, which I am not sure how Blizzard will handle if the studio does not get the production rights, is the LAN matches. All matches were played in the company’s studio. Does Blizzard intend to keep hosting live matches if they don’t arrange a deal with OGN, or will they move to a model of online group stages and only the playoffs will be offline? Depending on the answer, again the level of Korean competition may vary, because getting used to the crowd, the pressure and the LAN client is definitely something that helps players grow faster and be more prepared for the Overwatch League competition.
Still, what I find the most problematic piece of information is that the tournament will start in March 2018. Season 4 of APEX concluded on October 21st. Nexus Cup is an online competition that will feature both Chinese and Korean teams and will last two weeks in December. What are teams supposed to do till the March of 2018? Only scrim? And this goes for the Western teams that expect Contenders news, as well. There is a high possibility that all Contenders tournaments will start at the same time. Can players sustain their enthusiasm and keep grinding all the way till March? The ranked environment is not the most suitable for players to hone their abilities and pro PUGs is no long-term solution either.
Like everyone else, I hope that Blizzard’s announcement concerning Contenders will clarify and address the community’s concerns.