The Overwatch League’s second tier of competition, Contenders, will be scaling back slightly for its third season, Blizzard announced today.
The first of these announced changes is a shift in the way the competition’s prize pool is given out. For the 2019 season the Contenders prizes will more heavily focus on the top teams. The goal of this change is to help put more money in the hands of players that are attempting to reach the professional level.
Also changing about Contenders Season 3 will be the teams competing. Last season, the event featured a mixture of Academy teams, sponsored by current Overwatch League organizations, and amateur teams that qualified for the tournament. For the upcoming season, only the Academy teams will maintain their current spot guaranteed. Depending on how many Academy teams accept Blizzard’s invitation, some other teams will be invited to the leagues they were a part of last year, while the rest of the teams will have to qualify through the Trials tournament.
The region that will be most affected by this is North America, but Blizzard is also changing some things around to make the new format a little more manageable. Instead of one region, like it was in 2018, North America will now have two separate Contenders regions. Thanks to another new change that shifts the total number of teams in all regions — except maybe China — from 12 to eight, that means there will now be 16 total North American Contenders teams.
The final shift for teams coming in the 2019 Overwatch Contenders season is the addition of a soft region lock on rosters. This means that teams will only be able to have up to three non-residential players on their rosters. This is to help build roster talent in each region and for teams to focus on developing talent rather than importing it. However, there are no details yet as to what exactly qualifies a player for “resident” status in Contenders.
Finally, Blizzard announced that the Contenders season itself will look different in the upcoming year. Instead of three shorter competitions, next year’s Contenders tournament will feature just two seasons each a little longer than last year’s. There’s also a possibility of cross-region play a specific events though, according to Blizzard’s announcement, no plans for anything like that have been finalized yet.
Overwatch Contenders is the second tier of Overwatch competition and features a mixture of both Academy teams for professional organizations and amateur teams that have entered the tournament from the Contenders Trials competition. While Blizzard has yet to announce an official date, Contenders 2019 is likely to start early next year, around the same time as the Overwatch League.