With the Overwatch League on its way, Blizzard have decided to host another tournament to tide fans over, called Overwatch Contenders, in preparation for the launch of the company's premier esports competition.
Overwatch Contenders opens in North America and Europe with Season Zero, an open bracket competition between what will be about 600 teams in each region. Both regions have prize pools of $50,000. The tournament hopes to mix professional teams in with amateur (including a few university) teams, in hopes of expanding the competitive field of play and giving opportunities to teams that may not have the support of major sponsors or organizations behind them.
Season Zero’s first two weekends will be an open bracket for both North America and Europe as the extensive field of teams is narrowed down to the top 16 teams, who will move on to each region’s Group Stage. The exact format of the open bracket is quite a bit to take in, but if you want to you can probably piece it together in the comments with these two links.
The Group Stages will separate each region’s top 16 teams into four groups of four, which will play each other team in the group twice. The top two teams from each group will advance to the Playoffs.
The Playoffs will be formatted as a single elimination bracket, with best-of-five series leading up to a best of seven Finals.
The top six teams in Season Zero for North America and top eight for Europe will also compete in Overwatch Contenders: Season One. Blizzard has yet to announce any details about Season One yet, except that two of the strongest teams from South Korea’s APEX tournament, Team EnVyUs and Rogue, will join the top six North American teams in the competition.
Also unknown is the future of the Overwatch Contenders tournament after Season One and how exactly it might relate to the Overwatch League. As mentioned several times on the broadcast, it seems that the tournament is a sort of informal audition for teams that want to be considered for franchising once the Overwatch League actually launches.