Confirming rumours and leaks that have surfaced over the past couple of days, Blizzard has announced changes that have hit Overwatch Contenders for the overall 2019 season.
Overwatch Contenders was devised to be a “path to pro” for budding competitors who want to compete in the Overwatch League, Blizzard’s premier franchised league.
North America will now be split into two regions, each containing eight teams, meaning the amount of regions in the Contenders league now totals to eight. In the overall 2018 season, each region had twelve teams that competed against each other. The reasoning behind the amount of teams being changed is to “better hone Contenders players and provide more entertaining matches”.
Any academy team for an Overwatch League franchise that isn’t currently participating in Contenders will be offered a spot in Season One in 2019. From Season Two, these Academy teams will be subject to the standard relegation rules for the regular season.
“Soft region locking” is also being introduced, in an effort to ensure teams are developing local talent from their particular region. This means Contenders teams will now be able to field a maximum of three non-resident players on their rosters.
Seasons throughout 2019 will be longer, too, meaning there will only be two seasons across the year instead of three. Players who represent teams in both Overwatch League and Contenders will still be able to do such a thing.
One of the bigger changes that will affect teams is that the prize pool distribution will now be more top-heavy, simply meaning those who perform better will receive more money.
Blizzard made sure to note that Contenders China has yet to be decided upon, so the aforementioned changes may not apply to that region as of writing.
Esports Insider says: These changes are definitely indicative of budget cuts over at Blizzard, which is a shame as amateurs and budding professionals lack opportunities as it is. We’re just glad there is still somewhat a “path to pro” for players who aim to reach the Overwatch League in the future.