You won't find many people more excited about the start of the Overwatch League than me, but while OWL is big and right on the horizon, there are still lots of teams that are waiting for Blizzard to drop news on how the scene right below it will work. We are (hopefully) getting news about about Overwatch Contenders before the end of the month. The hope for Overwatch Contenders is that it will be a farm league for OWL and while that may happen it still needs to be a worthy investment for teams to buy in to. The tier 2 scene is in need for a rework and today I want to talk about some of the ways it can be improved upon.
expansion is key
Overwatch Contenders needs to be bigger if Blizzard's esports team wants a tier 2 scene that they control. Contenders Season 2, in my opinion needs to be at least 18 teams, bringing in teams from every region, not just North America and Europe. The winners from each Open Division region should be given a spot automatically, which would leave 9 spots for buy-ins and Overwatch League development teams, such as the squad the the New York Excelsior is creating for Flow3r. It would make winning the Open Division mean something other than $50 in your Blizzard account. It could also help bring in more teams from smaller regions as they would have a much bigger incentive. In short, keeping Contenders locked to just NA and EU is bad for the perception that anyone can make it in Overwatch because, geographically speaking, not everyone can make it in Overwatch.
The ideal schedule for Contenders would be to air on the days that Overwatch League is off-air. It would carry onto the work week but it wouldn't overshadow or overshadowed by the bigger production. The season could optimally start a bit after the start of the Overwatch League season in January and end before the playoffs in June. Doing the schedule this way would give fans a full week of Overwatch to view, and show the path to pro that Blizzard wants for the game. You also don't want to have prospective new pros waiting too long for their time to shine, if this season of Contenders will stand by until 2018 it needs to be on a large scale.
we need that schmoney
While $50 in Blizzard bucks is very tempting, and the prize for winning Contenders is a pretty good payout, the amount you get paid for playing in Contenders isn't nearly enough to show that playing Overwatch is worth following as a career path. I don't want to go into numbers but getting a living wage per play for every week is a good place to start. With the spot Contenders is in right now there is almost new use in playing if you're in last place, with a prize of $4,500 being split at least six ways.
With the Open Division and Contenders, getting to compete in a major esport has a clear path than before, at least that is the plan. Nate Nanzer, the Overwatch League commissioner has stated that Contenders news is coming soon and I for one can't wait. I am just as excited about seeing the stars of tomorrow as I am about seeing the ones playing today. Contenders gave us stories we didn't see coming, like the ones from Envision and Gigantti, two of my now favorite teams to watch. I don't want this smaller league to get pushed aside with the bigger one coming this December. Ignoring the players who could be the next Taimou or Flow3r could be a big mistake. I don't believe Blizzard will make this mistake, but with no big tournaments on the rise for tier 2 teams they are well on their way to making it. The best we can do currently is show our interest and for some of us even get in and play.
Short write up this week, Thanksgiving and all. Come talk about Overwatch with me on twitter @NoOneLovesGary.