With the recent end of the inaugural season of the Overwatch League, fans might think that they’ll have to wait. Season 2 of the League is more than half a year away and people are itching to watch some competitive play. While you are going to have to wait until next year to see your favorite teams fight each other all over again, that doesn’t mean that you have nothing entertaining to see. The Contenders leagues are the development leagues for the Overwatch League. How do the Contenders leagues work?
Blizzard announced they created a path anyone could take to play professionally back with the reveal of the Overwatch League. While people didn’t really care too much about this, the Contenders league was announced with the Overwatch League. This secondary league was designed as a middle-ground between players and the major teams that rule the major league. The first step into getting into the Overwatch League was playing in open divisions in their ‘Path to Pro’ program. These players would then eventually enter the Contenders league. While there are a lot of teams that are clearly feeder teams into the main league (such as Fusion University), there is a decent amount of player or coach made teams.
Ranking in Contenders is identical to the Overwatch League, based on wins and losses. The addition of groups within these leagues add better competition and mix things up. The groups separate the teams and make the league more fast-paced.
Is it really as entertaining as the Overwatch League?
No question. While there isn’t as much slick production quality on the streams, the gameplay is great. Even one of the most infamous team setups can originate from Contenders teams (such as the infamous GOATs composition). At the same time, people from all around the world can understand the game easier with the expansive teams.
Not only are there more teams because of the restrictions of owning one is lower, but there isn’t as much of an age issue in this league as there is in the Overwatch League. Players have to be eighteen or older to compete in the Overwatch League. This leads to young prospects usually being sent to Contenders to practice and prove their worth. For most major teams in the main league, this means sending them to their corresponding Contenders team. This is a major contributor to why this league is so fun to watch. This means that Overwatch League-quality players are playing with different teams and working as hard as they can. This idea of proving your worth can lead to some amazing games and some interesting player stories.
At the same time, there just is more fun matches to watch in Contenders. Not only are there more teams, but the Contenders brackets stretch all around the world. There are multiple Contenders leagues, much like how there are multiple soccer leagues across the world. While the North American Contenders league hosts most of the feeder teams to the main Overwatch League, the other regions consist of: the Pacific region, South America, Australia, China, Europe, and lastly Korea. In each of these leagues, there are twelve teams competing to win.
As an added bonus, the main Overwatch League is going to expand next year, with the rumored 6 teams being added by the start of Season 2. These teams are apparently going to be all over the world, as I mentioned in a previous article. This makes sense with the confirmation of Atlanta, Paris, and Guangzhou getting teams. This means that there is a very high chance that the best teams will become a future squad.
Why should I watch it now?
While jumping in now will leave you confused on plenty of things, the games of Overwatch are simply getting better. While there are tiers of teams here in Contenders too, the gap between the best and the worst isn’t that big. This mainly has to do with the regular season only being five matches long, putting a lot of pressure into getting wins. The playoffs are shorter, with there only being one winner-takes-all game per series.
Right now, playoffs are underway in almost every Contenders League. These leagues start their playoffs in the month of August, broadcasting on the Overwatch Contenders Twitch channel. But, starting in two days on August the 8th, the North America Contenders playoffs start for Season 2. These teams have the easiest connections to the major teams right now, leaving a lot on the line for these players. Losses can lead to cuts and dropouts, but wins can lead to future superstars.
A lot of topics of conversation have already risen from the North American division of Contenders in Season 2. The XL2 Academy along with Fusion University are in different groups in Season 2, but both teams have managed to get perfect seasons of five wins and no losses. They are both currently the top dogs in North America, but will they even reach each other in the finals? And if they do, who will win? The storylines aren’t only on teams though, with players themselves having their own struggles. From the idea of the controversial player Felix ‘xQc’ Lengyel rejoining Contenders permanently to the 2017 Overwatch World Cup star Nanohana (formerly known as Flow3r) losing his form and slowly recovering, there are plenty of stories to go around.
The Overwatch League is over, with the Overwatch World Cup and the All-Star game being in-between. But the Contenders league is not only entertaining but will be an early look into expansion teams. With the multiple leagues from all over the world, accessing it is easier than ever. Contenders has plenty of content due to their worldwide leagues. All the leagues’ games are watchable on YouTube, from North America to Korea. Don’t be sad that Overwatch League is over, there is more entertaining Overwatch to see.
If you are interested in Contenders, the matches from Season 1 and Season 2 so far are on their YouTube channel and are going to be live soon on their Twitch channel. The schedule for all leagues can be found on their website.
Polish-Canadian game enthusiast. I've been entrenched in gaming for as long as I can remember, with my first game being Pokemon Yellow and my most played games being Borderlands 2 and Overwatch. I have a degree in Film Studies, but writing about esports just makes my job all the better.